Wednesday, March 3, 2010

If you're disappointed, don't be

Yes, I understand trade deadline day is supposed to be exciting, a time when you can potentially have new hope for your Montreal Canadiens. But you should also understand that by and large, the trade deadline is largely set up for the very best teams in the league and the very worst.

The Canadiens, as is almost always the case, falls into neither category. So Pierre Gauthier's decision to do nothing other than jettison Matt D'Agostini to St. Louis in exchange for a pretty interesting prospect in Aaron Palushaj should come as little surprise, and frankly it should be a relief.

There was absolutely no reason for Gauthier to think anything he could have done today would take his team and put it over the top. I have no idea what kind of offers were thrown his way for either Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak, but I highly doubt any of them - if indeed there were any - would instantly turn the Habs into Cup contenders.

So Gauthier sat on the sidelines, fielded calls in his Boston hotel room with Jacques Martin and Julien BriseBois at his side, and calmly said No to everything that came his way.

Good on him.

What would you have preferred? Raffi Torres? Lubomir Visnovsky, maybe? Alexei Ponikarovsky? None of the guys who changed addresses this week would have had a major impact on the Habs fortunes this season. Hell, I'm not even sure getting Ilya Kovalchuk would have made much of a difference.

I'm not saying the Canadiens are horrible, I'm just saying they aren't nearly good enough to be buying over-priced items on deadline day. Bob Gainey was in the same boat last year and decided to put the pressure on his coaching staff to take the players they had and make them play to their potential. We all know how that ended.

Gauthier took a different route to explain his neutral stance today.

“The challenge that we were going to have at the beginning of the season, to establish an identity, establish chemistry and learn a new style of play, has been pushed (back) because of these injuries,” Gauthier said. “So I told the team that any success we will have this season will come from the group being able to put it together from within. It doesn’t mean you’re telling them there’s not going to be any changes, but you are telling them you are not looking to add to the challenge.”

In my books, that's a pretty fair assessment of the situation. Plus, when Mike Cammalleri comes back about two weeks from now, this will be close to a healthy team for essentially the first time all season. I'm curious, and I'm sure Gauthier is as well, to see how that full lineup performs together for longer than a one game stretch. For him to tinker with something he hasn't even had a chance to see yet would be foolish.

There is one minor move Gauthier could have made, and that would have been to grab a draft pick from someone for Paul Mara. But does failing to make that move make this deadline a total bust for Gauthier? No. What would have been a bust would be to package Sergei Kostitsyn and a high draft pick for Torres, a role player who would bring much-needed grit and jam, but not enough to justify a price like that.

So, to me at least, Gauthier did a good job today and gets a passing grade from me. But his real test is to come in June, when he has to get Tomas Plekanec re-signed and then one of Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak as well. How Gauthier handles the trade of the goalie he doesn't sign will be the true basis of evaluation for the job he's done this season.

I will leave you with this. To prepare for my story on today's non-dealings (which you can read here), I prepared a list of all the deadline week trades Gauthier ever made with both the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. The lack of startling names (except for that big one in 2001) will also help explain why he did very little today.

- To Los Angeles: Jaroslav Modry and an 8th round pick in 1996
To Ottawa: Kevin Brown
- To Philadelphia: Kerry Huffman
To Ottawa: future considerations

To Ottawa: Mike Prokepec
To Chicago: Denis Chasse, Kevin Bolibruck and a 6th round pick in 1998.

- To Edmonton: Frantisek Musil
To Ottawa: Scott Ferguson
- To Ottawa: Per Gustafsson
To Toronto: 8th round pick in 1998 (Dwight Wolfe)


- Atlanta traded Ed Ward to Anaheim for futures.
- Nashville traded Corey Hirsch to Anaheim for futures.
- Anaheim traded Dan Trebil to Pittsburgh for a 5th round pick in 2000 (Bill Cass).

- Anaheim traded Teemu Selanne to San Jose for Jeff Friesen, Steve Shields, and a conditional pick in 2003.
- Anaheim traded Jason Marshall to Washington for Alexei Tezikov and Edmonton's 4th round pick in 2001 (previously acquired).

- New Jersey acquired center Dave Roche from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for right wings Ben Guite and Bjorn Melin. 


pfhabs said...


-totally agree...not even close to be a Cup contender so happy he did not sell the farm for a rental...a 2nd round choice for one (Moore) was too much to pay a week or two ago

Anonymous said...

my thoughts exactly - minus "Hell, I'm not even sure getting Ilya Kovalchuk would have made much of a difference" part...

How kuch of a stretch is it to get both goalies signed (whether short/long term)?

Dann said...

I'm disappointed they weren't ready to part with a few other guys. Metropolit, Spacek, Lapierre, Gill... I would have been fine seeing them leave for picks or prospects. These guys are no better than a few players in Hamilton.

Dann said...

Just to be clear, I think the team should sell every year at the deadline. And do so until they are serious cup contenders. Then they can start buying. To me, they can make the playoffs and still sell players. The only reason they're in there now is goaltending anyway.

jkr said...

It takes two to make a deal & perhaps no one was very interested in what the Habs had to offer - especially an often injured Paul Mara.

Arpon Basu said...

I agree with jkr that it takes two to make a deal, and it would be difficult to unload Gill or Spacek because they have years and big $$$ left on their contracts. As for Metro and Lapierre, there's no point selling something if what you are getting back is of little value. Both those guys are in the lineup every night, so it would in fact cripple your team to lose them for mid to late-round draft picks (perhaps Lapierre would have fetched a second-rounder, but I doubt it). Mara, on the other hand, is an extra defenceman. If Andy Sutton is worth a second round pick, I would have thought Mara could have brought in at least a third-rounder, though the injury issues are a factor.

LeMatheux said...

The Habs' biggest problems are not personnel problems anyway, so it's doubtful that adding different bodies would have done much, even if said body was Kovalchuk.

I don't think the Habs want, or should, dump Spacek. I don't understand why he's the butt of so much criticism. He's facing the toughest minutes of any Hab defenseman and handling them with aplomb in tough circumstances (such as playing on his wrong side). The Habs would be counting their draft lottery balls if they didn't have him, yet people feel he's the top priority on their must-ditch list. It's a sentiment I really don't understand, all this criticism of Spacek. He's doing a crucial and very tough job very effectively on the whole, even if the occasional bad-looking play sticks out in our memories more.

Although it seems to me there is a tendency in Habs fandom to spend as much time talking about which Habs need to be "gotten rid of" as opposed to who might be acquired to help the team, as if those Habs were actual liabilities and the team would be better off replacing them with nothing.

Anonymous said...

as far as im concerned the getting rid of has been done ever since chicken george was jettisoned i see more of a group thats togeather including guys like obyrne sticking up for some of the smaller guys btw has gainey been able to recoup any of the stupid money he gave that worthless pil o crap?

pfhabs said...

-perhaps because Spacek at $3.83 for three years was supposed to bring in an offensive dimension in support of Markov which he hasn't really forcing them to get MAB who has zero defensive dimension but gets regular minutes. so two regular D not really completely bringing that which they should. just wasted cap space

-there were better options available last July...remember we were unwilling to pay a pure defensive guy $4 million well they are almost doing that w Spacek without the grit and leadership of the guy they dismissed.

-add in Mara and Gill and you wonder about the decision making acumen that said Spacek, Mara & Gill were better options than Komisarek & Beauchemin. in my view they are not and they are slower and older. BTW Gauthier was part of that decision

-as for Laraque you sign a contract you pay for it. this summer he'll be bought out of the last year saving 33% of the last $1.5 million and the remaining $1.0 can be paid over 2 years helping on the cap fiasco. BTW Gauthier was also part of the decision to bring on Laraque

-so expect more of the same until Molson wakes up and cleans house

Dann said...

The reason people turn to Spacek as a 'must get rid of' player is because his salary; and PK Subban could fill the roster spot. I don't hate the player, it just makes more sense to move his contract.

LeMatheux said...

PK Subban is not, at this time, capable of playing Spacek's minutes. Spacek plays first-pairing minutes and at this time that's too hard for PK. He'll get there, he just needs more experience first.

Spacek is having a 'meh' season offensively, but keep in mind that the Habs are by system a low-scoring team so there's not a lot of opportunity for him to collect assists. Hammer, top 10 in ES points last year among D-men, is in the same both; Martin's passive system is really hurting the team's offensive stats.

Also, the injury to Markov has forced Martin to use him in a shutdown role and he's done this very well. (Playing on his off-side also isn't helping). I don't think there were too many defensemen on the UFA market capable of playing the #2 role as effectively as he did anyway -- maybe Ohlund. Beauchemin and Komisarek would both have required to be paired with Markov to pull it off. Spacek doesn't need to be babysat.

Arpon Basu said...

I think the hatred of Spacek is largely fuelled by a certain Montreal radio personality who hasn't liked that signing from the moment it was announced. I agree that Spacek has had a huge impact on the Canadiens ability to tread water, especially the way he played in Markov's absence, logging far more minutes than he was expected to and playing on the right side for the first time in his life. The argument could be made that Beauchemin would have been a better signing, and it's a fair one, but I don't think the crticism of Spacek's play has been all that fair either. The problem, as has already been pointed out, is the salary and, more than that, the term. He signed his contract as a 35+ player, meaning that salary does not come off the books for another two years unless he's traded. He could retire and that money would stay on Mtl's cap. So my biggest criticism on that contract would be the third year, a two-year deal should have sufficed.

pfhabs said...


-Team 990 personality aside it is an easy argument to make that Beauchemin is a better choice...can play the point on PP, can log minutes as he averages 26 per for the worst team in the league, is not soft like the majority of CH D men and makes about the same and is younger and was a brain fart of a decision of which GAUTHIER was the main contributor as former GM in Anaheim with contacts still there to verify that Beauchemin's health was in good condition. and if you want to play into the chez nous stuff he fulfills that requirement for some fans

-Spacek's term at his age is insane because as you point out it's locked for being traded no one will take that contract. much like no one will take the Gomez contract...well there was one guy---oh never mind

-forget the forwards for a moment, the D is slower, older, expensive and in contradiction to last July's spin no more durable; exhibit A being Mara

-last July which was touted by CH management and many many fans as a triumph is slowing slowing its ugly obvious face. PK alone will not solve this issue