Ok you party people. Time to stop the All-Star celebrations, dancing and rejoicing over the fantastic season that the Montreal Canadiens have had to this poin….. wha? The Habs are terrible? You didn’t watch the All-Star game because its a terrible sham of a hockey game????
Ok Sarcasm off.
The Montreal Canadiens will begin the final push for… (I don’t know the 7th overall pick at the draft).. tonight as they face the reeling Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre. Its hard to know what to expect from this team following a long layoff, and surprisingly good play against good teams before the break. Ultimately, I believe the Habs should be in assessment mode right now. They should be watching their own players to decide who they should keep, who might have big value in a trade, and who they will not be keeping next season. If you take these opportunities (when the team is losing) to prepare for the next season, you can drastically improve without having to suffer through years of a re-build. The line between good team and bad team in the NHL is as close as it ever has been. With a franchise goalie, and a bunch of young talented players, the Habs have many of the pieces that they need going forward. If management is smart (which may be a bit much to assume), there are only a few tweaks that need to be made this offseason to allow the Canadiens to be a vastly better team next season. Allow me to put my arm-chair money where my arm-chair mout is:
Goalie: Carey Price is everything to this team. Ask the Boston Bruins what it means to them to have consistent top-level goaltending on a good team. When Montreal finally ices a team that can score in front of him, they are going to rise very quickly in the standings. His margin for error until now has been zero. Give him some room and he’ll pile up the wins.
Defense: PK Subban, Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin are the pieces that Montreal will build upon going forward. What Pierre Gauthier needs to assess is who else may be on the blue line in 2012-13? If Markov can ever get healthy he’ll be one. To me – if I can trade anyone or more of Kaberle, Campoli, Gill, Diaz, or Weber for younger, larger defenseman you pull the trigger. From the very beginning of this year we all knew that Montreal had a lack of young, physical defenseman. Emelin has been something of a surprise (although MANY of us called for him to get early ice time). His physical game has been incredibly valuable to the Habs thus far, and in my opinion the Habs need at least 1 more defender of his ilk to play along side the offensive guys on the team.
Players you keep – Cole, Pacioretty, Desharnais, Eller, Bourque, White, Plekanec, Leblanc
Players you assess / trade if the offer is right – Gionta, Blunden, Enqvist, Palushaj,
Finally we have the offensive players you trade if a team steps up:
Gomez – obviously if any team will take his contract, you trade for whatever you get. The capspace you’ll have next season will be far more valuable than any piece that you could acquire.
Kostitsyn – I’m not in favor of trading him, because I think he’s turned into a very reliable 20 goal scorer with a good physical edge. When playing with good players he’s downright dangerous. Unfortunately, this is exactly why I believe that he’s among the most valuable trade chips on the rental market this year. If you can get picks/prospects for him you do it – because he’s likely to get a raise from someone next year based on hope alone. I cannot see Montreal matching an increased contract offer. AK46 represents a chance to improve the franchise without losing a valuable piece going forward.
Moen – Like AK, I love what Travis has brought to the club this season. So will rival GMs. Montreal rarely bargains from a place of strength because we’re always buyers at the deadline. Moen represents a chance to improve going forward. With players like Ryan White, Michael Blunden, and Ian Shultz coming up through the system, there is no need for Montreal to hang onto Moen.
Darche – I’m not sure there is a team out there that would be interested in an aging grinder.. but if they are – I have one for them.
In all, its sometimes hard to deal players that have had a good season, yet that is exactly what teams need to do to be successful. Sell high – buy low. Its a capitalist mantra that holds true in terms of professional sports. In recent years the Habs have massively depleted the AHL system by trading draft picks and bringing up young talent. Its time to re-stock the system so that by the time the Tinordi’s and Beaulieu’s of the system emerge, we have other young guns that can support them.