Sunday, January 31, 2010

Could the Leafs pass the Habs?

That was my first reaction to today's news that Brian Burke basically traded his whole team for two guys, two guys who are far better than the six they were traded for.

I don't know about you, but I would take a top-four on defence of Dion Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek, assuming of course Bruke holds true to his vow not to ask Kaberle to lift his no trade clause. Meanwhile, Giguere is re-united with his muse, goalie coach Francois Allaire, and could very well find his game playing closer to home.

So, why should Habs fans care? Aside from the fact that Burke has produced more excitement in one day than Bob Gainey has in six months, this trade could have a definite consequence for your Habs, a positive one as far as I'm concerned.

We still don't know if Mike Cammalleri's injury from Saturday afternoon is very serious, but it sure looks that way. As of today, Toronto only has 11 fewer points than the Habs in the same number of games. Carolina has the same deficit to make up but with two games in hand. I don't know about you, but considering the Canadiens have lost three in a row and six of their last eight while scoring only 19 goals over those eight games (six in the same game) with Cammalleri in the lineup, what do you think the Habs will be able to do without him?

When you add in that Andrei Markov appears to be saving himself for the Olympics with the way he's playing and the only reason the Canadiens remain in playoff contention right now is Jaroslav Halak, I don't see much of a surge up the standings on the horizon. I do, however, see a quicker pace to what was an inevitable slide down the standings as the other teams in the pack caught up to the Habs in the games played column.

Montreal is 24th in the NHL in points percentage right now, which would amount to a No. 7 pick in the draft. The Habs are at .500, the Hurricanes are at .417 and the Leafs are at .402 to sit 28th and 29th.

Let's just say those three teams swap those percentages for the rest of the season, since Carolina has picked it up of late winning four straight and the Leafs got much better today. If the Habs finish the season picking up 40 per cent of the points available, they would have 76 points at the end of the season. Conversely, if the 'Canes pick up 50 per cent of their points they'll have 73 points, while the Leafs would have 71.

So clearly, the Canadiens will have to be monumentally bad down the stretch and the Leafs and Canes will have to be marginally better than .500 clubs for them to finish ahead of the Habs. But it's not outside the realm of possibility, and while no self-respecting athlete would ever start tanking games, there's nothing saying the general manager can't try to give his team that final little push off the cliff with a nice little firesale.

If only the Habs had some interesting pieces to sell off.


Arjun said...

I'm not a big Phaneuf fan and I like Ian White. I don't know. Phaneuf in Toronto will be a test of his character because he's suddenly the most popular athlete in town or soon will be. Giguere is more interesting. He gets to be #1 with an obvious goalie of the future as his #2. The Leafs are a lot like Montreal now (upfront) - except worse. There's no one to score except for Kessel. Burke is looking ahead to next year. And I get the sense he's going to keep going to keep trading as long as he has bodies to trade. He's blowing the team up but he's doing it in a different way than Bob. The media here are going to have a field day with this. I bet the Bruins are bumming too.

MathMan said...

Toronto didn't get better this year with the Phaneuf trade. Their forward depth is completely shot, and Burke yanked his team in the wrong direction again by deleting puck-moving speed and replacing it with belligerence. Toronto's blueliners are individually good, but the unit as a whole was already sorely lacking in puck-moving skill and removing White, an underrated blueline if ever there was one, is not helping. Phaneuf is erratic defensively, so he's not going to solve TO's biggest problem (bleeding goals against).

Assuming Burke adds some puck-moving skill to the blueline over the next few years (tougher than it sounds), this trade could benefit Toronto in the long run, but it makes them a weaker team in the short term and they weren't very good to begin with.

The goaltending swap is more likely to have an immediate impact, as Giguere ought to be able to stabilize that position... although some of the Leafs' goaltending woes were caused by their poor defense, so it's an open question how much the team will actually improve. Still, acquiring Giguere is aimed squarely at the Leafs' problem and will give them short-term impact.

The Habs were sellers before the Cammy injury, so all that does is remove any romantic notions from the public. Montreal needs a re-tool, and a new coaching philosophy, rather than a rebuild, so there's no need to sell tons of stuff. They can get by perfectly well with a top-5 pick, hope to get lucky at the lottery, and if not, they can draft a very good young guy or dangle a #4-5 pick and a goaltender to trade up. It is not the worst thing ever to happen to the franchise.

john deere said...

Montreal should start by trading Plekanec, Halak and Spacek. People aren't going to like this but it's time to put Markhov out there and see if there are any reasonable offers. Montreal has to get younger and faster, start looking forward instead of backwards.

kyleroussel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kyleroussel said...

The hidden plus to Burke's moves today is that if they have immediate dividends, and they happen to move up the standing a spot (or 2?) then it weakens the Bruins draft choice.

On paper, the Leafs defense ought to be much better. 3 of the 6 are former "all-stars" (we all know how Komisarek got there) with Beauchemin, Schenn and Gunnarsson to round out the group. Not too shabby...on paper.

I'm pretty happy today if I'm a Leafs fan, and even happier if Phaneuf finds his game again. But the biggest reason why I'm happy if I were a Leafs fan is there's about to be a spike in the number of Elisha Cuthbert sightings in the city!

I wonder if there will be awkwardness at the first team party with wives...Komisarek...Phaneuf...Cuthbert...

Denis said...

What about Sergei Kostitsyn? Has the beginning of the year been forgot about? I really don't know but he was one of the few bright(er) spots in the Ottawa game. He's looking alot more confident in the puck and is still 22 years old. I'd rather keep him but I think there could definitely be interest from other teams.

Marc Antoine Godin said...

Hi Arpon

It's true that the Habs don't have much to offer on the trade market. But Hamrlik can definitely be an asset. I could easily see NY Islanders & St.Louis being interested in him, especially since they each got a few UFA Ds leaving at the end of the year and for whom Hamrlik is already an upgrade. In both cases, they'd get a guy helping their defence... and their chances to squeeze in the playoffs.

With those two same teams, I see Halak being a good target for St.Louis and Spacek being of some interest to the Isles.

Also noteworthy: even if Gainey doesn't have a lot to offer, he did offer Price to the Lightning last June. I'm not saying let's resuscitate that trade, but at least it tells us that Gainey isn't completely opposed to trading Price under the right circumstances. That's food for thought.

MathMan said...

Hammer has a NTC and another year on his contract. He's not an easy piece to move, and if they do move him, the Habs are going to be looking for a guy like him almost immediately thereafter. You can hope that Spacek will be that guy when moved back to the left, sure, but then that opens up a top 4 slot on the right side. I think Gorges easily slots as a top 4 D-man, but I don't see O'Byrne doing so quite yet.

The Habs need to re-tool, not rebuild -- if they deal both Hamrlik and Spacek, they'd need to rebuild their D basically from the ground up and that's not a trivial task. Montreal will be trying to be competitive next year, remember. They have enough pieces to do so and a high draftee will only make them stronger; they just need a new coaching philosophy, and there's even signs of that happening lately (though Martin really needs to prepare his team better).

Is that story about the pieces being offered for Lecavalier then blocked by Barrie/Bettman actually confirmed or is it just a strong rumor? If so, I think the Habs may have dodged a bullet there. Lecavalier's contract is a genuine abomination and to give away Plekanec and Price for the privilege of getting crushed by it... ugh. And people think the Gomez contract is bad.

jkr said...

I don't like the implications stated about Markov's play. Saying that he is not giving his all to the Habs because he is saving himself for the Olympics impugns his integrity.

As for the Leafs, well they took on a huge amount of salary. Phaneuf is a good piece & a nasty piece of work but not worth 26 million over the next 4 years. Giguere has lost his game & I don't know if reuniting him with Allaire will help or not. His cap hit next year is 6 million so I don't think they got him as a backup/mentor.

Arpon Basu said...

Hey Marc-Antoine,
Welcome to the community. Yes, Hamrlik could be a fit with the team teams you mentioned, and I guess the real value would be removing his salary off the cap. But when you only have two teams as a possible destination, is the bargaining power not in the hands of the buyers? Still, unloading him would be a huge relief financially for next year.
And jkr, I'm sorry to have offended you with my flippant Markov comment. I don't actually think he is saving himself for the Olympics, I just wanted to say that he's not playing that well these days.

john deere said...

Mathman, how is Montreal going to be a force to be reckoned with next year if we draft the second best defenseman or the third best forward in this years' draft?

I enjoy reading your observations because they are from someone who is both passionate and knowledgeable about the Habs but I am of the opinion that the Habs need to be bottom three feeder this year and next. Then we will be good to go.

LeMatheux said...

I think this roster is actually pretty strong, and underachieving badly for a number of reasons. Add an impact player to it, factor in some improvement from some of the kids (surely at least *one* of the non-goalies will develop into a NHLer, right?) and fix this year's problems and I could see them making a run -- I'm not saying they'd be Cup favorites, but I could see them doing quite well.

john deere said...

The main reason I think the Canadiens are underachieving is that we lack guys like Eager, Byfuegelin or Brayden Schenn and are forced to ask the undersized guys we have to play the physical style of game which doesn't work week in and week out. If Gainey isn't going to draft guys like that he should trade for them which will cost us skill and delay our journey to the top of the mountain.