What was expected for a long time but never seemed to materialize finally happend Saturday evening.
Bob Gainey traded underachieving Canadiens Centre Mike Ribeiro to the Dallas Stars for Janne Niinimaa.
Ribeiro had been the subject of trade speculation for a long time after his poor performance and even worse attitude and work ethic. It was no secret that Gainey and management were displeased with him but after surviving the trade deadline last year and over the summer most thought they were giving him one more chance. The timing was a bit of a surprise but the fact Mike Ribeiro is out of Montreal is not.
Doing it now means that the Canadiens are dead serious about this year. Addressing their weaknesses quickly and correctly (hopefully) means they are taking a run for it it this year.
There was a hole on defense and they addressed it with a veteran blueliner while getting rid of a room dividing team cancer.
Mike Ribeiro went from popular local player with tons of potential to virutally hated by almost all fans. He won’t be missed by many and that is a pretty sad legacy for him to leave.
Is Niinimaa the answer? That remains to be seen but adding a big mobile defenseman with over 500 NHL games experience to the Canadiens blueline surely won’t hurt. As a 4th 5th or 6th defenseman he should fit in well.
Another way to think of it is that Tomas Plekanec forced this to happen. The Canadiens love Plekanec who had a strong campaign last year and a strong camp this year. They obviously believe he is the one to be a top center for the Canadiens now and for the future.
Getting rid of Ribeiro is a promotion for Plekanec who will now get plenty of ice time on a line with Samsonov and Kovalev. How is that for speed and skill?
The Canadiens will ice a drastically different team from one year ago. The NHL season begins Wednesday, the Habs first is Friday and they haven’t looked this good in ages.