So the plot thickens. The terrible team that had everyone dreaming of high draft picks has reeled off 4 consecutive wins. It certainly puts a through-and-through die hard fan hoping for a transformation (both physically and philosophically) in a tough spot.
Its been fun as hell to watch this team over the last few games. I absolutely love the fact that Alexei Emelin had nine hits against the Leafs. I beyond love the fact that Max Pacioretty has 14 points in his last 13 games. I’m over the moon with how good Carey Price has been since the All-Star Game. That goal that Larry Eller scored on Saturday night had me high-five-ing the dog.
As a fan of the team you want them to succeed. As a student of the game – you just don’t want that success to come at the expense of their ability to turn a bad year into a few high draft picks.
All of this winning has been wonderful. But its starting to become a problem. Montreal currently sits 11th in the Eastern Conference. 7 through 10 in the standings have all struggled of late. Ottawa is 2-6-2 in their last 10. Toronto has lost their last 3 games. Washington is 3-4-3 in their last 10. Winnipeg is 4-5-1.
Even though Montreal is 7 points back of a playoff spot – the recent winning streak has pumped life back into the playoff aspirations among some in the fanbase which had only recently come to accept that this would not be a playoff season. Most of us were resigned to cheering for high picks and an offseason of house-cleaning.
In some ways this was the worst-case scenario – a winning streak just before the trade deadline. What could the recent results mean to a team that by all rights should be sellers at the trade deadline in exactly 2 weeks? As fun as it is to cheer on a team that is firing on all cylinders – they’re starting to creep into that no-man’s territory that resulted in a panic move to trade Jaro Spacek’s expiring contract for a guy who ranks 200th in the league in scoring, while collecting a $4.25M for two more years after this one. In terms of building sustainable success, these types of trades hurt more than they help.
While I’ve enjoyed the current success, my sole opinion on this matter is that Montreal should be attempting to stockpile players and prospects while dealing veterans who do not fit into long-term plans. This means hard decisions on players like Hal Gill, and Andrei Kostitsyn, and easier choices with guys like Gomez or the aforementioned Kaberle. While I always hope for a win, my fear is that Montreal will fall short of the playoffs – and not reap the benefit of a high draft pick.
Alright enough lamentation for one day.
Ryan White is on a mission to destroy. In 4 conditioning games in the AHL this past week, White had 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist), and 26 penalty minutes. You think this guy wants to get back to his life in Montreal? Montreal is desperate for the gritty 4th line energy that White gives when he’s in the lineup. Its been a tough year for White so far having suffered a difficult injury in training camp, but he seems determined to make up for lost time.
In one of the more interesting moves this season, Ian Schultz was called up from Hamilton. The move caught me off-guard, as most indications were that he still had a way to go before he would be ready for the NHL. I wonder if we’re about to see the same type of thing as when Ryan White was called up. Remembering back, White was called up long before most thought he would make the team – seizing the opportunity with such gusto – that he’s been with the club ever since. He didn’t have any stats to support his call up – and yet, when given the opportunity he produced.
Schultz has 13 points in 36 games, acting in an enforcer role for the Bulldogs. The question is – if he can stick with the Habs – how does that Jaro Halak trade look. A promising young scoring centre, and a 6’2 4th liner who can fight is probably EXACTLY what most Habs fans would have hoped for a couple years ago when that deal was made. If Schultz has done enough work on his game to where he contribute to the team outside of fights – Montreal will be sitting pretty come next season with a roster including these two.