Andrei Kostitsyn was moved to start the “frenzy” of the trade deadline yesterday morning. Ok.. that was probably an overly generous use of the word frenzy.
The Habs collected a 2013 2nd round pick as well as the conditional 5th round pick that was sent to Nashville in the Hal Gill trade. While I’m comfortable that AK was essentially worth the 2nd rounder, I’m still trying to figure out why Pierre Gauthier didn’t try to wait out the market to see if he couldn’t get a 2012 2nd round pick. There was no rush to get that deal done. The trade was announced hours before any others and given how little happened with Rick Nash, there could have been teams that saw AK as a stop gap band-aid for their offense. You never know. It could be that this was the best that Gauthier was going to do – but we’ll never know.
Montreal also made a small waiver pickup, claiming Brad Staubitz from Minnesota. Staubitz is a fighter who plays an average of 3 shifts per period who has no points on the season. He can go with the best of them, and definitely punches way above his weight class. I like the pickup for a couple reasons, though not really because Staubitz can play – because he really isn’t that good.
First, Ryan White was going to take a beating if he continued to be the sole fighter on the Canadiens this season. I love what he brings to the game. He isn’t afraid of anyone – but he was the key target in every game since he was called up and the Habs need him to play hockey as well as throw bombs. He’ll be very glad to see Staubitz on the bench beside him. I am too – even if it is only for the rest of the year to make sure no team starts taking too many liberties with the Habs.
Secondarily I like this move because it gets Louis Leblanc out of the lineup and back in Hamilton where he belongs. Don’t get me wrong – I love what Leblanc brought in his time in Montreal, but there is no point in having him pick up bad habits, under media scrutiny in Montreal when he could be playing top line minutes in all situations in Hamilton where the scores don’t matter, and players are expected to work on their game. Leblanc will be a Montreal Canadien next season, so I have no problem with sending him down to finish up the year where he can focus on learning the game and not just trying to keep up with the NHL game. Consider Max Pacioretty and how he felt about playing in the bottom 6 in Montreal as opposed to playing in the top 6 in Hamilton. His development and offensive explosion this season (along with his buddy David Desharnais) is a ringing endorsement to how things can go if a kid is brought up within a situation where they can succeed.
Finally, Blake Geoffrion was called up to replace the other roster spot left by Kostitsyn’s trade, and Leblanc’s return to the AHL. The gritty centre will bring energy to the bottom 6, and should be fairly motivated considering his unbelievable pedigree within the Montreal organization. He’ll wear number 57 to honour his Grandfather Boom Boom (#5) and his great-Grandfather Howie Morenz (#7).
I have to sign off a little differently than normal. The stars are beginning to align for Montreal to be able to get the 2nd overall pick in the draft with which they could select Mikhail Grigorenko – the big centre for the Quebec Ramparts who has 78 points in 51 games this season for Patrick Roy. To help get you in the mood, here he is with a hat trick last Friday night. (That video looks as though its from 1985 – what is going on with QMJHL broadcasts!?). He had 2 more on Sunday. With the Oilers winning last night, they have pulled within 2 points of the Canadiens while holding a game in hand. There you go – I just gave you a standings race involving the Habs to cheer for!
The whole thing may be moot however – I’m not convinced the Oilers (given their organizational strength at forward, and lack of depth on defense) would take another offensive player with their first pick (although the thought of Grigorenko joining a lineup already featuring Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Pajaarvi, Gagner, and Omark is seriously troubling. Its possible, if not likely that they would take a defender (likely Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips – WHL) with their first selection – leaving the Habs with Grigorenko which would be more than fine by me. Grigorenko is exactly the player the Habs need – a centre with size and amazing abilities both as a playmaker, scorer, and puckhandler. He plays the sidewall position on the powerplay and would be the most dynamic scorer on the team since.. I don’t know.. Kovalev, Richer, Damphousse, Naslund?? I don’t know where to put Grigoreko’s ceiling. The comparison with Evgeni Malkin is the most common. He has superb vision, amazing hands, high hockey IQ, a nose for the net and that special ability that goal-scorers have to find the puck in their stick with the net open , and the moxy to bury his chances. Any time you’re being compared to the current scoring leader you’re doing things right.
So… Go Oilers go???