The Canadiens are back home to face the Blue Jackets (known locally of course as the Vestons Bleu – not really).
The game will be big for Louis Leblanc who (I can only imagine) will be dealing with a case of jitters that you couldn’t possibly imagine. He`ll start off on the fourth line, but if things go well for him – I can`t believe that Martin wouldn’t try him on a line with Eller and Kostitsyn given the chemistry they seemed to have together in LA. I`ll be watching with interest to see what happens there tonight.
Of course the bigger news of the day is the report that Andrei Markov underwent another surgery today to clear fluid and shrapnel from his knee which will keep him out of the Habs lineup until at least the new year.
Calls for Gauthier`s head have begun.
Its difficult not to be disappointed as a Canadiens fan – that the supposed saviour of the team`s fortune will miss more time.
Still – this situation requires one to take a wider perspective than simply saying – Montreal should have re-signed James Wisniewski.
Even if Markov is out until January, he will still have the possibility of playing for over half of the team`s regular season. If Markov comes back and is able to resume his career, this painful period will be a blip, soon forgotten once he starts contributing.
From that standpoint you have to understand the gamble (and it was a gamble) that Pierre Gauthier made in this offseason. PG was betting (with medical staff advice) that Markov would return to playing action and should not have significant danger of a repeat injury due to a successful surgery.
With this information Gauthier made a decision. His choice was that he could sign only ONE of Andrei Markov or James Wisniewski given that both of these players would command nearly $6M per season. He signed Markov who is the superior player in EVERY respect and would be signed to a shorter term – giving the team flexibility in the future.
The gamble of course was that Markov`s injury could linger and hamper the team in the short team. So far, this has been the reality.
Still, if Markov returns for the remainder of the 2012 portion of this season (+ playoffs if we`re lucky), and plays for the next 2 seasons, Gauthier will have still brought tremendous value to the team. Markov`s contract, despite the many current detractors calling for Gauthier`s head, is still a huge discount given his historical production and the other comparable players who make considerably more. Markov is the 16th highest paid defenseman in the NHL, despite being the second highest point producer (behind Lidstom) between the lockout and his first major injury. Consider Christian Erhoff`s 10 year deal in Buffalo paying him $10M this season! How about Brian Campbell making $7+M in Florida!
The fact is, if Markov comes back healthy at any point this season Montreal will add a top 10 offensive defenseman to their lineup, at a discount for the remainder of his `prime years`. Nothing in the NHL comes without gamble. But to criticize Gauthier betrays how sound this decision actually was for the Montreal Canadiens organization. The current results may not lend to a happy fanbase, but Markov remains the right choice until it is proven that he will not play for the CH.