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.