Thursday, July 2, 2009

A man with a plan

Say what you will about that plan, no one can argue that Bob Gainey was not focused on the opening day of free agency.

Gainey obviously had a vision of the type of team he wanted, and he went out and got it.

Yes, the Canadiens needed to add size, and Gainey failed in that regard. Yes, the Canadiens needed to re-sign Mike Komisarek, and Gainey failed in that area as well. And yes, the Canadiens have been a speedy, small, skilled team for years now, and all Gainey did Wednesday was perpetuate that theme.

But really, if this was a day on which Gainey would be judged for his time as Habs GM, I would say he passed with flying colours.

Not necessarily because this Extreme Makeover version of the Habs is guaranteed to succeed, because that certainly is not the case. But Gainey is a winner Wednesday because he identified a need for change, he identified players that were not necessarily the most sought-after free agents, and he executed his plan.

Over a 24-hour period, Gainey spent $104.5 million of the Molson brothers' money, and while grabbing Scott Gomez's fat contract from the Rangers was perhaps not the greatest of initial moves, now that it is being seen in context I think it becomes a good one simply because of what Gainey accomplished Wednesday.

Gainey decided to surround his prime acquisition with like-minded and like-skilled players. Gomez and Brian Gionta already have that chemistry from their days with the Devils, and Mike Cammalleri's speed and hands make him an extremely underrated player.

Yes, that makes for a tiny front line, and that has been a running theme for the Habs for quite some time now. But when you have the skill that those three forwards represent, maybe size isn't that important. Maybe talent, which is what Gainey said he was after, can win out over brawn.

On the back end, Gainey grabbed two defencemen who are essentially a poor man's version of the players they replaced. Actually, that's not entirely fair, because getting Jaroslav Spacek to grab Mathieu Schneider's spot is essentially a wash, which makes Spacek the more favourable of the two since he's five years younger than Schneider. Of course Hall Gill is no Komisarek, but as far as replacements go, you could do much worse.

So, overall I would be tempted to give Gainey a solid grade today, because if you looked at his moves individually they could be laughed at, but looked at as a whole they demonstrate a vision for the team. And if Gainey is going to put his neck on the line, better he do so with a team he believes in.

Here's how I see the Habs lineup playing out:

A. Kostitsyn - Gomez - Gionta
Cammalleri - Plekanec - D'Agostini
Latendresse - Lapierre - Pacioretty
Stewart/Laraque - Metropolit - S. Kostitsyn

Markov - Spacek
Hamrlik - Weber
Gill - O'Byrne

That is a fast team, with tons of potential for two lethal power play units. Going small may not be the way to go in the Eastern Conference right now, and this may all blow up in Gainey's face. But I have a feeling it won't, and that Gainey will be looked upon as some kind of genius for becoming perhaps the first GM to successfully re-shape a team almost completely out of free agency.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Arp,

Where's Gorges in your lineup? He's still around, isn't he?

pl

pierre said...

The UFA market is a though place to go shopping and to bring the beacon home when the final destination is as highly taxed as it is here makes it that much more difficult..... we had trouble there even when our needs were tiny by comparaison to what they were today..... I never thought that Gainey's ambitious and complex plan to find an entire first line and to change the " spiritual " face of our team would have any chances to succeed under such a situation.... to my amazement he pull it off.... in two days.... and it should work just fine for the reasons explained by Arpon previously.... quite a tour de force by Bob.

Anonymous said...

Bob did a great job. You really have to admire this effort given the circumstances.

There are still lots of things that can go wrong here and I don't think his work is quite finished... I would love to see another proven defenceman... but it's a helluva start.

And like everyone (most everyone) else, if this is the end of the road for Koivu, it's too bad.

pfhabs said...

Arpon:

-Gainey got skilled guys no question but they are small and how will they do against guys like Pronger and all the beef in Toronto including Komisarek.

-how all this will work out we will have to wait to see on ice but here are some other factors to include in your analysis

1. we lost Komisarek to the Leafs for $500,000/year
2. we are older and softer on defence
3. we gave up a 1st and a 2nd to rent Tanguay for 1 season
4. we gave up/gave away top defense prospect
5. we treated the captain as if he was a pyriah
6. as of yet no real backup, as opposed to a competitor, for Price

-does any of that make a difference, does it matter ? to some yes to others no. be your own judge

-can't wait for the first Leaf game..for the first time in my life I will actually be cheering for a Leaf player

btw Arpon no idea why you have him there but S. Kostitsyn is not a 4th line guy ...that would be wasting his talent nor developing it

moeman said...

I disagree Bob failed to resign Komisarek who made his own decision to take a few extra dollars and be a traitor in toronto.

jkr said...

Didn't BG say in his press conference that his offer to Komisarek was the same as the Leaf offer? If so, he didn't really fail to re-sign him - he offered market value. It was Komisarek, for wahtever reason, that decided to leave. Frankly I'm surprised he didn't go home to Long Island.

AC said...

i like the moves...we'd all be bitching even more if he hadn't done anything....the key for me is that Latendresse, Pacioretty, D'Agostini, Lapierre and Stewart/Laraque are going to have to consistently throw their weight around every game to keep the opposition in check. Love the fact that Gionta is a righty too...we really missed that when Lang went down last year

Sliver24 said...

Overall Bob's frenzy yesterday did make me feel a little better about the Gomez trade but I'm still not convinced that the Habs will be a better team next season than they were last year.

What worries me most, though, is the size of the forwards he signed. This is not a team that will do well in the playoffs against the likes of Boston, Philly and the new-and-improved Toronto Maple Leafs.

As for Komisarek, he obviously wanted to get the hell out of Dodge and it's tough to pin that on Gainey (unless you take into consideration that Bob was the one responsible when the situation got bad enough for Komisarek to want to jump ship in the first place).

I'm afraid, though, that I can't agree with pfhabs on this one. To root for a Leaf player... well I just hope that's the frustration of not seeing things go the way you thought they should talking.

Although Komisarek has been my favourite Hab for several years, he's now among the most hated guys in the league for me.

I root for the CH sweater, not the guy wearing it (which is good, I guess, because the list of individual Habs that I would have been proud wear on my own back in the last 15 years has been pretty short - and Komi was at or near the top).

Big Mike bailed on his team and for that he gets nothing but disdain from me. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a beer with the guy, but when he's on the ice wearing blue and white he's an enemy of the worst kind - a traitor.

I will say this though: I'd trade Gainey for Brian Burke in a heartbeat. While I think he's an arrogant jerk with an ego that matches the size of his massive head, I really, really like his hockey philosophy. And it seems to be pretty successful.

In summary I'd say overall the last few days ended neither in glory nor disaster. Last year the Habs were a speedy, fairly talented but undersized bubble team that had little or no chance of going anywhere in the playoffs.

That's exactly what they are now.

Anonymous said...

interesting how people jump to conclusions. if last season proves anything we won't know until next january or so where this team is at. last year all the great "analysts" were saying habs and the cup in the same sentence. i take there "analysis"with a very slight grain of salt, including Arpon who mocked Gainey all day and then u-turned this morning

Sliver24 said...

Hey, Anonymous, I find it even more "interesting" that a person would spend so much time reading and thinking about something they find so irrelevant.

I don't know about you but I enjoy reading other peoples' thoughts and posting my own. If I didn't enjoy it I probably wouldn't do it.

Schrick said...

Gainey had a plan last year, but that didn't work out so well, did it?

Anonymous said...

hey sliver, i really don't see how we're the same team as last year. our first line is now younger, stronger and faster. the only difference i see is that they're a lot more expensive.

i'm concerned about the size but i'm also curious to see if gainey's game plan - to be a puck possession team with speed and skill - will finally pay off and size won't win out in the end. who cares how big komisarek is if he won't lean on you, right? and pronger's too tall to get the elbow up on any of our guys. lol.

nk

pfhabs said...

Anon:

-so size doesn't matter ? uuumh, hate to tell you that in every possibility it does....the smurfs will probably survive regular season but be crushed in playoffs-assuming they make it

-your point re the analysts is correct 2 yrs ago picked for 16th and last year the Cup BUT remember that January was about the time the K brothers and Hamrlik made headlines; Price played the young guns and allstar game on an ankle not fully recovered; Laraque was a question plus other "stuff" came forward

-this version should be evaluated by about 20 games in

Sliver24:

-frustrated to lose him for $500K/year and serious...hope he sticks it to a few coming down the wing...Bob should enjoy the view and us of him as a HNIC/RDS camera pans to him in his perch above the ice

-not since the days of Chelios nor Langway before him did the CH have such beligerence on the blueline...hope Beauchemin holds no grudges and comes back to the team that drafted him but gave him up in the Columbus waiver draft.

-still hate the Leafs but not Mike. sometimes loyalty to a person supercedes corporate loyalty but that's just me...

Arpon Basu said...

A few things:

- First of all, I have no idea why I keep forgetting about Josh Gorges, but for some reason I do. I should have slotted him next to Hamrlik in the top four.

- Second, about my flip flop on Gainey's moves, I admit I wasn't thrilled about the Gomez trade, particularly the inclusion of a top prospect, but I did feel it had to be looked at in context. That context wasn't complete until the Gionta signing late in the day.

- I'm going to do a blog hit on Komisarek shortly, but basically I think it's clear he didn't want to play in Mtl anymore, for whatever reason. You can't convince me he went to Toronto over 500K a year.

- Finally, I don't think anyone knows whether or not this plan will work, but what is blatantly obvious now is that Gainey is a man who can recognize his own errors in judgment and fix them when he has the opportunity. Sometimes it's a bit too late (Carbonneau), but I feel yesterday's moves was a big admission that the team he assembled wasn't any good, on or off the ice. This is his last chance, and if the Habs are battling for eighth again this year he will likely be shown the door.

TK said...

Hey Arp,

I found Komisarek's move to Toronto to be a strange one. Where did that $500k figure that people are throwing around come from. Did Gainey offer him a similar deal for 4 mil?

I heard it mentioned yesterday that his move to Toronto could perhaps be associated with his desire to play for the US Olympic team in 2010. What with Burke being the GM of the Americans, and Wilson the head coach, his chances of building a positive relationship with USA Hockey have greatly improved. Do you suppose that was a factor?
TK

pmk said...

"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." - Mark Twain

first - Difference I see is that though small of stature all theses boys have heart. They've won cups and they will go to the hard areas in front of net to score goals.

Secondly the way I see it chara (and Pronger too I think) lack of speed was exposed during the playoffs. Stall did his part of sure but I distinctly remeber jokinen, samsanov and other carolina smurfs making him look quite silly...

third - how can some of you (sliver, pfhabs) already write off the playoffs in july?? You also say they will get crushed in the playoffs - do you realize that the guys we added have ALREADY proven themselves in the playoffs by winning CUPS. How many cups has chara won?

fourth - I still like one more top 4 d. Preferably a righty. Beauchemin would be lovely but maybe I'm getting greddy.

fifth - sliver "burke" hockey?? really?? I'll take fast skilled hockey over that goonery anyday.

sixth- I'm excited.

TK said...

FYI,
Komisarek will be interviewed in a few minutes on Fan590 in TO.

SRS said...

So I guess Gomez is our captain? Markov deserves an A, but does he want it? And finally someone to placate the french media... Lapierre!?! What the drook!
That's some weird stuff.

Everyone's all bent out of shape over Komi. Good riddance. Worst shot in the league, slow and now injury prone. No wonder he went for the extra 500K/year. Last contract he'll see with these numbers. You served us well, but I'm not upset you're moving on.

Bye Bye Captain K. You will be missed. I hope, as predicted, you get to play with your brother in Minny or your buddy Teemu in Anaheim. Saku centering the Finnish Flash... now that makes NHL center ice worthwhile.

On a final note... predictions on where and for what price Kovy signs? anyone?

SRS

Sliver24 said...

Thanks for the heads-up TK. Listening now...

pfhabs said...

TK:
-the $500K figure: reports from various reputable sources was that Gainey offered $20 million for 5 years and he signed for $22.5 for 5

PMK:
-anything can happen but unless something else happens they still require the second line to do something scoring wise; they got younger, more skilled but smaller up front and easier to focus on; what will Carey do this year; the D got older, slower and softer; competition got stronger. for me I said they are a bubble team not out of the playoffs but fighting to get in.

as for the ring Gomez has from 6 years ago you are kidding right ? where is our equivalent D (Stevens, Ralphaski, Neidemayer, Daneyko, Teverdosky) where's our Marty Brodeur, up front where is the CH equivalent of Elias, Madden, Langenbrunner...etc etc...no comparison of that Cup winning team and the July 09 Canadiens...have a look at the supporting cast around the Cups won and compare to current CH roster. I see no comparisons pls point them out if you do

Sliver24 said...

The more I think about it the more I realize that next season's success really is dependent on the kids.

Four things will need to happen for the Habs to have any chance at sucess:

1. Pacioretty, D'Agostini and Andrei Kostitsyn contribute 70 to 90 goals between them
2. Weber and O'Byrne play the way they're supposed to (Weber offensively and O'Byrne physically)
3. Stewart does a half-decent Chris Neil impression and Laraque gets more involved
4. Price plays the we all think he can

If on top of all that the more known NHL entities can manage to have average to above-average seasons then the Habs will probably be okay.

That's a lot of ifs.

The point is if Timmins' much-vaunted stable of prospects we've heard so much about over the last three seasons don't start paying dividends, we're in deep trouble

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know where this leaves us in terms of money remaining. NHLNUMBERS.com has been down for the last two days. Does Gainey have enough for another top 4 D? If Koivu or Kovy took serious discounts... could they be in the mix? Like 3.5 mil on one year jobs... just so they don't have to move their families.

Anonymous said...

hey silver24

my comment much earlier in the day was not towards fan comments more the so called experts ie., pierre mcguire who crushed pitt for their hossa deal, said they might never recover, who said the habs had legit shot at the cup. they are so arrogant. comment away as a fan. i just can't stand when people talk as though they are certain.

pfhabs said...

Anon:

nhlnumbers.com is intermittant; according to on air folks at Team 990 they apparently have about $4 million in UFA cash.

Koivu is GONE. Anaheim or Minny are best destinations. maybe they may do something for Saku on first game back in Montreal...a 10 yr captain, a 13 yr vet through dismal teams and all he got was a thank you for your services which is still better than most francophone media gave him. v sad

Kovalev, man did his agent screw the pooch if stories are true. $9 million on the table and no answer so Bob moved to Cammalleri which is an upgrade anyway....Kovy will have to take a deep discount if he wants to feel the love in MTL again this year.

pfhabs said...

Anon:

-they have $10.454 in cap space but that doesn't include RFAs for whom the qualifying offers add to $4.7 BUT Plekanecs has arbitration rights so habsworld.net is assuming a higher number of $6.75...so a little less than $4 to spend on another D. or they can trade for size at centre

B B said...

Any news on Kovalev and Beauchemin?

I've read on-line conflicting reports about Kovy and that Beauchemin is down to Burke and Montreal.