Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Will the real Montreal Canadiens please stand up?

That appears to be the question on everyone's lips as the offseason sets in and everyone tries to digest the extraordinary ride the Canadiens took us on in the post-season.

Pierre Gauthier was asked point blank in the post-mortem, which is the team you use for evaluations, the one that squeaked into the playoffs by losing in overtime to the second-worst team in the league in the final game of the season, or the one that did what it did in the playoffs?

Personally, I would say neither extreme was a valid representation of what this team really is, but if I had to go one way or the other, I would lean toward that team you saw knocking off the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Habs regular season was a mishmash affair, a group of players coming together from different points in the league to play under a coach with a rigid style that takes some getting used to. Leadership had to established, relationships forged, chemistry developed. None of that ever happened over the course of the regular season, thanks to a series of long-term injuries to key players, but also because that rigid coach was still getting to know which players he can trust and which ones he couldn't stand.

That story of chemistry was repeated several times over the course of the playoffs as reporters from all over the league were wondering how such an ordinary regular season team could be so extraordinary in the playoffs. Heard often enough, it could easily be mistaken as an excuse. But I believed it.

Why? Because Josh Gorges said so, that's why. I don't pretend to know much about what goes on behind closed doors in that dressing room before we're allowed in to ask our probing, often times annoying questions. What reporters are privy to is usually just a facade, a show meant for mass consumption.

But if there is one player on that team I have grown to trust as being a straight shooter, one that says the things that need to be said and never lies, it's Gorges. When that whole thing with Andrei Markov and Carey Price broke out in January, Gorges never denied it, he simply addressed it and correctly identified the most troubling aspect of that story - which was that it got out in the first place.

Gorges spoke very candidly after the season ended about the metamorphosis that took place on the Canadiens. He spoke about how Hal Gill and Scott Gomez butted heads for almost the entire season on how the game should be played - in Gill's conservative way or in Gomez's freelancing, loosey-goosey offensive way. Gorges described their locker room debates on the subject as "bickering matches," until they ultimately took each other aside and realized they both just wanted to win (clearly, Gill won the argument).

"It took us a full season, all 82 games, until we got to the playoffs. Actually, it was probably after Game 4 against Washington, but then it clicked," Gorges said. "People stood up and said this was the way we were going to play, and if you weren't willing to do that, you weren't accepted in the group. You were an outsider. And as those outsiders became fewer and fewer, it became harder for the ones that were left not to buy in."

That is something that the Canadiens have not had in forever, a leadership group that shows real leadership. Gorges was very quick to point out that the previous teams he played on in Montreal were all fine and dandy, but this was indeed different. This was special.

"I know that this is a different group than we've had in the past," Gorges said. "Not to say that we haven't had good groups in the past, because I've played with a lot of good players, a lot of good teammates in Montreal over the past couple of years. But more so this year than any year I've been playing in the NHL, this team played for each other. When you lose you take it a little more personally, because you feel your teammates all showed up and did everything they could to play for each other."

So, why this trip down memory lane so long after the Habs have been eliminated? Simply because I feel that management, the coaching staff and the players all believe in their core group of guys. And that core leadership group is the same one Jacques Martin gathered at centre ice just prior to the Eastern Conference final for a 10-minute pow-wow: Gorges, Gill, Gomez, Brian Gionta and Michael Cammalleri.

Those five players will still be in Montreal next season, that's a guarantee. Beyond that, however, not much is guaranteed at all.

So who's missing from that summit on the ice? Andrei Markov would be one, because he was obviously injured at the time and will remain so until at least November. The fact the Canadiens managed to beat Pittsburgh without Markov was astonishing, but also perhaps a bit eye-opening as well. Maybe this team has grown out of his imposing shadow. Maybe this team doesn't need him as much as it once did.

That's nonsense, of course, but with Markov entering the final year of his contract it's a question that needs to be asked. 

He remains the most talented player on the team, in my opinion, but he's also someone that would probably fetch a hefty return in a trade. His injury makes that possibility a bit dicey, but I'm sure a team would be willing to take that risk on a player that has as high a reward as Markov does in the end.

Gauthier, when asked about it away from the cameras, said that Markov's injury has no impact on any potential talks of a contract extension, which were originally planned for this summer. Markov simply didn't want to talk about it.

“I’m not thinking about the contract right now," he said. "In my mind I have to step back on the ice and just play the game. It wasn’t easy, especially in the playoffs, watching those games on TV or by the ice. Those are the kind of games you want to play. I’m going to do my best to be back as soon as I can.”

We've seen what happens with lame duck players in Montreal, and I don't think the team will get a significant enough return if Markov were to be traded at the deadline. So either he needs to be signed at around the same salary figure he's earning now, or he needs to be traded this summer. If the return is diminished somewhat by his injury then so be it, because it will still be better than the return he would fetch at the deadline.

Then there's Tomas Plekanec, a real conundrum for Gauthier this summer. I took a bit of heat from blogger Robert Lefebvre, someone I respect, over something I wrote for the CBC on Plekanec's unique situation this summer. But I think what comes out of both Lefebvre's story and my own is that Plekanec is a difficult player to price when it comes to his next contract. Appropriate comparables are very minimal, something I've examined here on this blog numerous times, and his offensive reliability that was astonishingly consistent in the regular season wasn't there in the playoffs. Again.

I will go on record here to say that I feel Plekanec is a tremendous player. The number one reason I feel that way is because I know he cares with every ounce of his being. He wants to win, he wants to contribute, he wants to be better. But his story once again comes down to price. I've heard callers on radio shows say the Canadiens should let him walk. I disagree if Plekanec comes to the negotiating table with reasonable demands. At $4 million a season, that's a great signing. But at that price Plekanec would clearly be leaving a lot of money on the table.

For a guy who has been under-estimated practically his whole career, I think Plekanec sees this situation as his one opportunity to get the recognition he richly deserves. And unfortunately for the Canadiens, that recognition comes in the form of a dollar sign.

Plekanec didn't want to talk about his contract situation at all when he faced the media on locker room clean out day. He was asked every which way whether he felt he'd be back with Montreal, and other than saying that was his top option, Plekanec wouldn't spill the beans.

I managed to talk to him after a lot of the other reporters had left that day, and I presented the conundrum Gauthier is faced with to him. How do you quantify Plekanec's all-around abilities on a salary figure? How is his penalty-killing skill properly compensated?

"I think that's a better question for my agent or the GM," Plekanec responded.

I took one more shot and asked Plekanec whether he saw July 1 as the most important day of his career, and whether he'd be willing to sacrifice that day and opportunity to shop his services around the league for the security of a long-term deal with the Habs, even if it was for less than his market value.

“I’ll be turning 28 years old in October, I’m in the best years of my career and I’m sure I can play even better in the next few years,” Plekanec said. “I like it here, but it doesn’t mean I will look just for security.”

After the formal press conference, I tried as hard as I could to pin Gauthier down on how he will handle Plekanec. I presented him with the Ryan Kesler comparison of a $5 million long-term deal, with the idea of Plekanec's multi-faceted value to the team, with thew difficulty he faces in negotiating a deal based largely on intangibles.

"It used to be a puzzle with 100 pieces," he responded. "But then you add the piece of the salary cap and the pay vs. performance that you're referring to, and that affects every other piece. It makes it exponentially complex."

My two cents? With Gomez still on the cap for $7 million-plus, Plekanec can't make more than $4.5 million on this team. Like it or not, he's too similar to Gomez. They both kill penalties, they're both playmakers first, they're both similarly (under) sized. Having a one-two punch like that is too easy to defend. The Habs are stuck with Gomez only because of his contract, which means Plekanec may be expendable, and is far from vital in the coming years.

But where will his replacement come from, you ask?

That's where the real puzzle comes into play for Gauthier this summer: can he turn Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak into a legitimate top-line centre or power winger?

Judging from both goalies responses on getaway day, they don't want to be competing for ice time anymore. They want a number one job, and Halak's earned it while Price still might, no matter what a large majority of the fan base believes.

Price turns 23 in August, a baby in goalie years, and has the physical tools to be that franchise goalie everyone saw him as for years. Halak is 25 and in the prime of his career, a known commodity who will fetch some pretty major dollars this summer.

For me, the danger in trading one or the other is equally high for Gauthier. He could just as easily be trading away a franchise goalie in either scenario. So the lone option available is clear in my eyes: go to auction and take the highest bid.

I have to believe the lot that will fetch the highest return will be Halak, even though Price still appears to be seen by many as the prime catch. The reason is that Halak has proven something, not only in these playoffs but on the Olympic stage as well. He's a winner, there's very little doubt about that anymore even though he showed a little dip in the conference final.

So my belief would be to turn that winner into another winning asset, a forward the Canadiens desperately need to complement the solid core that's been assembled, and roll the dice on Price. I saw a different man on getaway day in Brossard, one that realizes that hockey glory will no longer be handed to him on a silver platter, one that has seen Halak work his ass off to get where he's gotten, one that knows he has not done the same.

But where would this team be without Halak, and perhaps even Plekanec and Markov? Depending on what came back for Halak and Markov, I would venture to say the team will be fine, and even more than that.

It will be a second year under a coach who is somehow being bashed but who won the respect of his players. A second year with that established leadership group in place from the beginning, without the bickering associated with what amounted to a massive blind date. A second year of fine-tuning instead of building from scratch.

So count me among those who feel the real Montreal Canadiens are closer to the ones we saw in the playoffs, the ones that "clicked," the ones that nearly shocked the world.

Next season, we could very well see them stand up.

NOTE: I forgot to mention that Markov has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to designate seven teams in each conference he would accept a trade to, according to 


Olivier said...

They now have chemistry. Ok, fine. But they did take an awful beating, shot and chance-wise against Pittsburgh and Washington; especially against Washington.

And then the Flyers (an allegedly weaker opponent) took them out like there was nothing to it. The whole chemistry thingy didn't got them very far once Halak went from God-like to excellent (because, despite the many goals, he was excellent against the Flyers IMHO).

But Markov out? I don't see it.

It'll be an interesting summer in habs-land.

Wren said...

Funny that you suggest/ envision a trade of the three arguably best players on each position on the team - Markov, Halak, and Plekanek. That's our core - our best goalie, defenceman, and forward. The team would feel very different without those guys. I guess it demonstrates that performance is only one factor, alongside contracts in a cap era and the notion of selling high for future return. But still - we have an awesome season and then want to trade our three best players. It's funny, is all.

Leila said...


What surprised me the most about the leadership group meeting (at centre ice) was the absence of Plekanek. If anyone seemed to put the team on his back during all the injuries, it was him. Is he more of a leader by action, much like Gionta? But Gionta was there, why not Plekanek?

MathMan said...

Unfortunately, the two faces of the Habs are of a lousy team with good players that gets beat and a lousy team with good players that gets carried with otherworldly goaltending. One was the regular-season Habs, the other was the series-winning Habs, but the difference isn't that great.

There is a lot of work to be done on this team, and I'm seriously worried that the ECF finish will mislead the Habs brass into thinking they're in a spot they are really, *really* not. It already gave undeserved immunity to some people (esp. the coaching staff) that are more liability than benefit.

I think the Habs have to do some serious offseason work to have a shot at the playoffs. If the goaltending falters even a bit, a lottery pick is a definite possibility (and in a weak draft year, of course). The ECF finish on the shoulders of Halak and Lady Luck is not the real Habs; the real Habs, I fear, is that squad that barely made the playoffs in a terribad Eastern Conference and was one of the worst 5-on-5 teams in the league.

The Habs are presented with a huge opportunity to make massive mistakes here -- letting Guy Boucher go would be Exhibit A.

Kamal Panesar said...

Great piece, Arpon.

It's hard to argue against anything you have said too. Markov, Halak, and Plekanec represent three huge assets that could fetch a lot in the way of return for the Habs.

I wouldn't heistate to make a move involving all of any of them IF we could get a solid #1 center back in the package.

That would be a must, if not, who is going to play center on Cammy's line?

As you said, both Plek and Gomez are essentially the same player: a second line center.

As for Markov, the Habs have to be careful about moving him since Hamrlik is on his last year in Montreal, as is Gill.

Who knows what the D squad will look like going forward but suffice it to say that IF you move Markov to a contending team, you have to get a young, #1 D-man back in the trade.

Tough decisions loom for Mr. Gauthier.

This summer should be as interesting as last year.

Anyone else think the Lecavalier to Montreal rumours will heat up again heading into the draft?

Anonymous said...

like when are people going to wake up in montreal--who are in the finals--flyers vs. hawks--2 teams that have skill and size and play in your face hockey--the habs are 2-12 against the bruins and flyers in the playoffs for the past 3 years--this euripean does not work--plekanc/kostistyn brothers are a waster--they disappear in the playoffs--i'm getting tired of going for this team--this pretty boy hockey is bs

and by the way--Gainey was on the worst GMs montreal has had--they play over their heads this year and all of sudden he is a genious--plekanac/gomez/kostisyn--how many goals did they get in the past 15-16 games--get rid of them foer crying out loud


Arpon Basu said...

@Olivier - Everyone saw what you did in the first two series in terms of chances for and against, but somehow it worked, and I don't think it was solely because of Halak. He was a huge part, emphasis on huge, but I think the game plan was built around him and worked. Someone deserves credit for that, aside from the obvious credit to Halak.

@Wren - That's the sad reality of hockey now, contracts and salary are the main determining factor in player personnel decisions. So yes, it's funny, but it's reality.

@Leila - I think Plekanec is more of a lead-by-example guy. He is not very vocal and doesn't charge up his teammates. I think that's why he wasn't there in that famous meeting. But he definitely has the respect of his teammates, even if I don't get the impression he's buddy-buddy with too many of them.

@MathMan - Serious offseason work? That was done last summer. I think some tweaking is in order, but serious offseason work is overstating it a bit. They need an impact forward and they need to deal with their contract situations. That's about it.

@Kamel - Pleks, unfortunately, is no longer a trade asset. He was earlier in the year, but now all you would get for him would be a pick. That's why, if he is allowed to walk, Gauthier has to be certain to get a big return for one of his goalies and/or, if he goes that route, for Markov. But Markov will not get you an impact forward and a young #1 d-man, he'll get you one or the other. Not both.

Anonymous said...

Gomez around 7 million a year--Gainey put the habs in a bad position with his contract--i say take a chance on subban b/c he is cheaper and gamble a trade with markov and get a power forward b/c montreal has no power upfront whatsoever--they flyers manhandled them in the playoffs--no forward on montreal wanted to touch the puck--they killed against the boards and nobody wanted to go in front of the net

this lineup gainey got is made is for european hockey not NHL hockey--thats the bottom line


Huck said...

I wonder if Edmonton might be the team Gauthier should be looking at. Khabibulin seems to be a bit of an enigma, and with the team rebuilding on a very solid core, a young goaltender might be a commodity they are very interested in. Moreover, if there is any team in the League that is willing to take SK74 from us, it might be them. Young, and a very positive experience with Sam Gagner. So a whichever goalie we are getting rid of, SK74 and AK46....would that be enough for someone like Ales Hemskey, who mightn't be in their plans because he is a bit older? Or am I dreaming? Hemskey is a steal at 4.1 million a year. He has size, consistency and has been to the Stanley Cup Final. All reasons that might make him untouchable in Edmonton as well...but if they are rebuilding, does he fit in?

Anonymous said...

I think Hemskey would be a great addition to montreal--I'm not sure if this is feasible but Huck I agree with you about Hemskey

he won't disappear like plekanac/kositsyn in the playoffs--we don't need goons, we just need harder players--way too many soft players on the habs

MathMan said...

@Arpon: I guess I've just become exceedingly pessimistic because I have seen the Habs' underlying numbers all year and they are so lousy. I think the fact that they made the playoffs obfuscated the fact that they only did so because the East was so ridiculously weak, and I think the fact that they made the ECF obfuscated the fact that they were carried there by unsustainable goaltending, generous helpings of luck, and practically nothing else. In a normal year, the way they played, they aren't anywhere near to being a playoff team and they only got to where they are because of goaltending.

I think people don't realize how absurdly lousy the Habs' underlying numbers are. Not quite Edmonton Oilers bad, but this is a team that was two goaltenders away from basically being the Maple Leafs.

But it actually is a good team playing lousy, or at least so I feel. They have good players. Roster-wise, I don't think they need huge work, certainly nothing like the 10-man turnover from last season. I think it's a good roster, but I think it tremendously underachieved.

Unless they comprehensively change their philosophy or address the issues that make a team of good players in such a lousy, goaltending-dependent squad, I don't think this is a playoff team, and I don't think roster changes, an impact forward or whatever, will make any big difference. The issues with the Habs are systemic really; guys who come here actually do generally become worse, and become better whan they leave, which is why a club led by such strong 5-on-5 players as Gomez and Gionta can end up so awful at even strength.

Major work DOES need to be done on this club. I don't think it needs to be done on the roster, but if they just tweak, reload, and stay the course, and goaltending goes from unearthly to merely excellent, this team won't get a sniff of 8th. 87 points isn't going to cut it most seasons.

I also don't really expect those major issues to be addressed this off-season, so I'm mentally preparing for an exceedingly tough season on the Habs next year. I think we need to cherish this playoff run; I think it's very likely it will have to make up for the lack of one next year.

Kamal Panesar said...

Agreed, Arpon. Re: Plek, for sure, all we can get is a pick at this point.

How high? Who knows. Late first, but likely second rounder, I'd think.

Re: Markov, yep, he'll get the Habs one or the other. However, IF the Habs are planning on moving Halak, Markov, Plek or any combination of the three, they would be wise to try and put together a package for a young #1 D man and a #1 center.

Given all the constraints of the cap, that might be a pipe dream to think you can get BOTH from one team. Move likely, moving Markov will get you either or, then perhaps packaging Halak and Plek get you the other.

The Habs, surprisingly, have options but need to try and get themselves some cap space going forward too.


MathMan said...

And another thing: unless the Habs are going for a mid-term rebuild, dealing Markov would be all but insane. This is the sort of player teams tear up their roster to acquire. Top #1 D-men are exceedingly rare, and the Habs do not have anyone who can come close to replacing him in the short term (they'll be lucky if Subban does so in 4-5 years). A #1 D-man is the most critical player on any roster and I cannot think of any conceivable deal that sees the Habs deal Markov and improve.

Dealing Markov is a sign that the Habs aren't planning on being competitive for at least the next 3-4 years. Spacek and Hamrlik have done yeoman's work in his absence, but there isn't such a thing as an elite club without a strong-to-elite #1 D-man.

It may be fun to think about what the Flyers gave up to get Pronger and what that might do on the Habs, but without a Markov-type D-man on the roster and the Habs already terrible in transition, that answer is going to be "not very much". The Flyers broke the bank on acquiring Pronger because without him their D has been a major, highly exploitable liability. I don't think the Habs want to go there.

Anonymous said...

mathman--i know what you are saying about markov but salary cap is going to be an issue--who in the right mind will take gomez at 7m a year--what a brutal signing that was--we need to trade somebody or else we'll players and get nothing in return--i don't want to trade markov either but i don't think the habs a choice

gainey should have been fired 4 years ago as far as I'm concerned-he montreal he can do no wrong however

Olivier said...

@Arpon: Point taken. But Seeing Semin simply loose the net (he had a bajanormous amount of scoring chances, especially in the last 3 games) tells me we barely survived by luck. On the other hand, I think we all understimate how much of an improvment on this year's squad a Markov/Subban Spacek/Hamr Gorges/Gill squad can be.

@Mathman: Also, the Flyers got Pronger because the Ducks already had Neidermayer.

I think the team's brass focused so much on rebulding the core last summer that they sorta kinda neglected the bottom-6 forwards. Going in, this was a big weakness; retaining Moore and or signing a guy such as BĂ©langer or else will go a long way. I think they can massively improve if they can:

a) Keep Pleks; effective, versatile player who can play agains't the opposition's best in all situation. I don't care about him being similar to Gomez, you never have enough of these guys.

b) Build an effective third line who can take, if not some of the tough competition matchups, then at least soak up a bunch of defensive zone assignments and thus free up Plekanec from those chores. Moen, Moore and Lapierre would make a nice grinding line I think. Not too costly either

That mythical beast, the big power forward, most probably is beyond our price range unless we can ship Hamrlik away. Knowing that Gill is part of the team's core (to my utmost dismay; dude is by far and wide the worst of our regular D once you replace O'Byrne with PK), you have to move either Spacek or Hamrlik to free some cap space and make sure everybody fits under the roof. It's kinda annoying, because I'd love to see all of our D come back, but reality tells me we may be in for a Carle / O'Byrne fight for the #6 spot whil Hamr ply his trade elsewhere.

MathMan said...

Contrary to most people, I don't think the Habs need, or even particularly should want to, "get rid" of Gomez. He's overpaid, of course, but he is a very good hockey player who excels at even-strength, even against tough opposition.

I do think that if the Habs are going to pay him over 7 millions, however, they need to play a style that maximizes his skills, not a style that stymies them -- which IMO they are right now.

Olivier said...

@Anonymous: Hamrlik has limited NTC, he must give a list of 6 teams in both conferences where he agrees to be traded. And on Feb 1st 2010, his NTC evaporates, making him movable for the trade deadline (a good insurance for a team taking him). We may not have a big return for his services but there is a very real chance we can ship him out and come out of it with some more room under the cap.

MathMan said...

@Olivier: I think the brass kind of expected that the bottom six would take care of itself, with Lapierre/Latendresse/Pacioretty/Moen to pick from and a bunch of kids in the minors. As we know the kids pretty much all regressed and got shipped out of town, to Hamilton or other orgs, unless their name was Tom Pyatt (and you know who I blame for this) and, well, the Habs' "blackhole effect" really hurts players that weren't that good to begin with.

The squad was lousy top to bottom at evens; the bottom six, being naturally worse players, of course naturally looked worse. I think you do have a point that a stronger bottom six could've kept some of the pressure off the top six, particularly Plekanec who was really pummelled with tough assignments. I personally still think that the more concerning issue is how the roster was craptastic at evens top to bottom and that guys like Gomez and Gionta who were demons on other clubs barely stayed afloat with the Habs.

And yeah, I think people underestimate Plekanec's contribution because "handles ridiculously tough minutes" doesn't show up on a scoresheet, except by what's NOT there. The Habs would need to have an impact center to actually upgrade on him and if they downgrade they'll likely crash and burn.

You know, it's ironic -- and a very important point -- that if the East hadn't been unusually weak this year and the 8th place threshold was 92 points again, the whole blogosphere would be going on about what a disaster this season was. And in some ways, it really was a disaster, and it's best not to lose sight of that; it could hurt the Habs very much long term if the mirages of this season guide the brass's thinking.

pmk said...

personally after the run playoff run we just had I think this team has earned the benefit of the doubt and should be given a chance to show that this post season was not a fluke.
I would sign pleks at 4.5 -5 mil in a heartbeat. People just do not realize how effective he is defensively. Even when he is not producing he is helping you in other ways. I am not sure were this mythical big 1st line center to replace him would be coming from. Sure I would like one but who? and for what? Letting Plek walk would leave us a huge hole - basically we would need 3 top 6 players...
Trading Halak now would be a disaster and setting up price for failure. The pressure on price would be enormous and I do not think he is ready for it. He will falter and be ran out of town by the fanbase. You could try to trade price but ideally I would keep both for one more year. (or till the deadline)By then we should know if Halaks run was a fluke or if Price is ready to take over but the salary cap might make this impossible.
We need some size in our top six. That became quite clear in the ECF. I would look for at unloading the Bros and hammer too if necessary to make the room. I do not think the guys with size need to dominant. I am thinking along the lines of the less talent more heart types aka Ladd, Clarkson, Armstrong,... 20 goal scorers with some jam...
This combined with a solid 3rd line of laps/moen/ moore or belanger would make for a pretty solid lineup in my opinion. Not sure how the dollars would all work but PG said he was "etremely comfortable with the salary cap" so I'll let him figure out the math!

pierre said...

Plekanec managed 25 goals and 70 points last season and being a commited 2way player his effectiveness for the Club doens't stop there just as it doens't for other point producers like Hossa, Dastyuk and Zetterberg which are all a pain to play against.

How can we afford to let our best offensive player walk knowing that we would have missed the playoffs by a long shot last season without is production, knowing that our team's main weakness despite his contribution.... was our hability to score goals; lowest scoring team in the whole NHL when 5-on-5.

We have no one to replace Plek and if we can bring in a lesser alternative than him throught trade than the poor chaps still gona have to play with an unproductive AK for winger and this is no receipe to improve our TOP6 production and a shure garantie that our offensive game will remain in the basement.

Plek has been the most prominent player of our TOP 6 last season..... AK46 has been the worst and his position is the one that need being improved upon through trade if our intend is to make the playoffs next season.

A team out there will have to sacrifice a young proven TOP 6 forward to get one of our young goaly and their lost of offense for doing so could be alleviate if AK46 was made availlable to them in the same deal.

If we dont want to end next season as the worst scoring team of the NHL when playing 5-on-5 new scoring talents will need to be brought over to ADD to the ones we already have working for us like Plekanec and Markov.

Huck said...

I agree with the talk of our strong third line, but am surprised that Pyatt seems to be left out in the cold. I thought he was by far the most pleasant surprise of the playoffs (besides the run itself). I like Moen more as a fourth liner, with Darche on the other wing and Metro at centre. Pyatt was incredible during the playoffs and that speed is something to behold.

Huck said...

To weigh in on the Pleks debate: we are in a tough position in that we have a very good second line centre in Gomez and an excellent second-line centre in Pleks. Obviously we couldn't get rid of Gomez whether we wanted to or not. And it would be awfully tough to part with Pleks. But if we want a first-line of our goalies plus Pleks might be the price tag. Pleks is my favourite player on the team, so that is awfully tough to say, but I'm just not convinced he is a bona fide first-line centre, especially in the playoffs. He is a Selke type player and I hope we can keep him, but we might have to make a very tough decision regarding him...depending, of course, on what is on offer. Price/Pleks for a bona fide superstar centre, I think, would be worth it. Nothing less though.

Olivier said...


I dunno, from what I could tell Pyatt is pretty fast and very good defensively, but he sin't strong enough to generate offense. That may come in due time, but it won't be this year I think. He is a valuable 4th liner with real 3rd line upside if he ever develops an offensive side of his game. Moen does generate some offense by crashing the net and thus has the upper hand right now.

I'm pretty sure Metropolit is gone. Darche too.

pfhabs said...


-normally you are measured and present analysis that makes sense...unfortunately I think you've taken leave of them here

-to suggest the "real" Canadiens are represented by the WSHDC and Pitt series wins ignores some basic facts

1. Ovechkin himself said they thought the series was over after the 3rd disrespect a team to such an extent always results in trouble for the boastful ones. add to that an unrepeatable .940+ percentage by Halak and Cammalleri almost scoring at will and the 1-2-2 system installed by the King of the Trap and the Caps demise was coming. a convenient convergence of events not superior talent had the CH winning. do you expect this particular history to repeat itself again next year ?

2. ask yourself who would you trade on the CH to get Backstrom and Ovechkin---the answer is any of them

3. ask the same question of Crosby, Malkin and Staal...again anybody the Habs have anywhere

-the teams they beat have superior talent. the CH outworked them, out trapped them and won with a strategy that is not a winning formula going forward because the Caps and Penns will not be taken like that again

4. they got beaten by the 15th seed using a 3rd or 4th string goalie who stoned them while those of him also used the trap. the Flyers are as talented as the CH but are much bigger and many measures meaner...they've shown the world the formula to beating the CH

5. I'll take the example of the 82 game sample over that of the 14 game sample you chose to hang your assumptions on. add in the many cap issues and an aging slowing D that are basically untradeable except for Markov and MathMan is absolutely correct---lots of heavy lifting to do.

6. what is amusing is the greatness of Gainey's moves last July are losing much of its sheen beyond Gionta and Cammalleri...a $7.37 million second line centre scoring 59 points is beyond stupid especially when you gave away your best defensive prospect in McDonagh and when you consider the centre you let walk away (Koivu) got 52 points for $3.2 million

--this is a bubble team yesterday, today and tommorow...with the Plekanec, Halak, Price, Moore, Markov (UFA '11), Pouliot contracts up plus the K boys in Martin doghouse assuming that everything is okee dokee is a HUGE stretch that makes little sense to me

DSL said...

what? Ovechkin and Backstrom are on the trading block?

Halak is a 4rth string goalie? lol more like PFHABS is a 4rth rate pundit.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you guys actually watch hockey games and deduce things from what you see or if you simply have a set of words you repeat over and over again. Tough. Grit. First-line center. Whatever.
What does it mean to say that Gomez and Pleks are "second line centers"?That there's some other player/players who are true "first line centers"who are a.) alive, b.)available and c.) affordable? I mean, sure, lets get a first line center. Exactly how? A sane approach might be to accept that Gomez is a fine player who is slightly overpaid by today's standards, and that Plekanec is a very good player indeed who wants to be paid what players like him get these days , and then build on that basis. Gainey's insight , which turned out to be exactly correct, is that some players (Gomez, Gionta, Gill,etc.) really are better in the playoffs than some other players. We still have these players; now we ought to build around them.
Similarly about the K brothers, particularly AK. Sure, it's frustrating that he's not more consistent than he is. But for all the things he did that were wrong he did many things right in the playoffs -- go check out his assists--and giving up a talented player because you're frustrated that he's not a great player is a great way to remain a mediocre team.
As for "size" , "grit" and all that ...what beat us in the Flyers series was the Giroux-Briere-Gagne line. Move them from orange to tri-color, and we have it. We lacked secondary scoring once the top line was stopped. Size, grit, sandpaper and all those words -- had nothing at all to do with it. (Imagine if Briere were with the Habs; all you would have heard for three years was that he was too small to play.) Good teams have a mix of players playing useful roles; they keep the useful ones and they search out complements. They don't go out in search of things that don't exist, and they recognize what they do do well and try to do it again.

Anonymous said...

i don't know how people can defend plekanac--he disappears when he needed the most--he does nothing in the playoffs--trade him for a 10th round and we still would win on the trade

and whoever says size doesn't matter, i say go watch the tapes again and see how the flyers controlled the boards and how their defencemen contolled the front of the net--enough of this--its the same story every year and the same excuses--bottom line is that lineup does not cut it

pfhabs said...


-sorry about the wording...thought you had gotten past your 8th grade reader...will try to be more linear next time


-"first line" centre is obviously left to subjective opinion but generally speaking they are more than a point a game player, usually in a big body--but not necessarily and easily the most offensive centre on the team. there are other criteria but think Nick Backstrom who makes $7 million and is in the 90 point category, or Marleau, or Spezza, obviously the Crosbys of the world in earlier times Sundin, Yzerman, Federov BUT not a 59 point player

-slightly overpaid ? Koivu scored 52 points and made $3.2 million ! that $4+ million more is a 1st line winger that you now cannot afford.

-is Gomer a fine player ? yes, but a stupid move at $7.37 million. Koivu is a second line centre as is do not replace the guy playing first line minutes who is really a second line centre (Koivu) with another guy who has the same stats over the last 7 years; ie, a second line centre but at more than 2x the cost then dump other assets including your best D prospect even if you get a good 3rd/4th line player in the deal (Pyatt)

-if you cannot materially improve the position with the move you intend on making you simply do not make the move especially when you give away assets and it costs you more than twice as much in salary to make the move.

-both Cammalleri ($6 M) and Gionta
($5 M) would be happy with their current salaries and playing next to Koivu and the points they would get would be the same

-further you do not make the Gomez move when it obviously will affect other signings you want to make going forward

-completely agree that Gionta brings more to the table in any part of the season than does Kovalev or Tanguay but you cannot even come close to making that assesment between Koivu and Gomez.

-as for Gill as gusty as his performance was lets not forget that Komisarek led the league in blocked shots and hits, can skate faster, plays bigger and is meaner than Gill and is about 8 years younger. I chose Komaserik who has the same leadership qualities as Hall if not the ring.

-another note:

MAB + Mara + Gill + Spacek = $8.486cap hit

Komaserik + Beauchemin = $8.3, add in some time for Weber and more ice for O'Bryne and I think you have a much better, younger, more mobile/faster and tougher D corps going forward with Markov, Gorges & Subban

-final note: the K boys have tremendous talent and would like to see them perform under a different coaching system but the genius JM has other criteria and it doesn't look like either fit
any longer...CH will not get full value for either if traded

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Markov, Pleks, and Halak - great players all - I have to agree with this post. If those three are not in Habs jerseys next year, I believe the team will be stronger. Not by their absence, but by what they fetch in return or allow the Habs to sign. Now the Brothers K are a different story...

Olivier said...

I wouldn't be so enthusiastic when it comes to trading known commodities for bags of magic beans.

Speaking of which, I guess it would be bad form to bring up the Latendresse trade. I mean, Pouliot will break out any day now, right?


pmk said...

honestly pf i can't believe your still blabbing on still about this. Please stop I'm embarrassed for you!

You talk of cap hits and points but what about this big guy:

Koivu: did not qualify for playoffs
Komi: ditto
Beauchemin: ditto
tangauy: ditto
Kovalev: 1st round exit

Gomez: ecf
gionta: ecf
cammy: ecf
gill: ecf
spacek: ecf

This is a results oriented business and the RESULTS speak for themselves. You were wrong. Man up and admit it.

MathMan said...

Latendresse-for-Pouliot was such an obviously stupid move *when it happened* that you have to wonder about the sanity of the brass. That Latendresse was the superior player was fairly clear to anyone who cared to look -- many fans didn't, but I expect management to use a bit more information when they make trades.

It was an entirely predictable and entirely avoidable error. They call Latendresse "BTE" over on Wild blogs actually -- "Best Trade Ever". The Habs are damned lucky Pouliot gave them as much as he did, but they now find themselves without a young player who'd been one of their better even-strength scorers. After this decision, you have to question whether you can trust them with the trade of more important assets -- such as, say, Markov.

If the trade ends up being a wash, it'll be very fortunate for Montreal.

pfhabs said...


-I can handle myself no need for your intervention

-as for results you are absolutely correct; they made the argument result since 1993 and best result in the 7 years of Gainey & Gauthier...

-so although I assume you are satisfied you are missing one key element. the cost of this adventure; the July '09 signings including Gomez have yet to be paid and come due this summer when trying to sign Plekanec, Halak, Price, Moore, Lapierre, Markov early and others...pmk you seem to be suffering from premature e-celebration...when the cost comes in and Gauthier pays what he decides to or moves whomever then I'm prepared to say the EXPERIMENT was a success or not...

-remember this cowboy after they finished first 2 years ago in the conference were did they go the following year ? some (maybe you) expected the Cup to follow

-what's past is past I'm looking forward to the next 5 weeks and then next season and the cost of last year's moves...and you thought the season was over ! sorry the fat lady has yet to sing once she does then 09-10 can be evaluated

Anonymous said...

PF stop living in the past

pfhabs said...


-thanks for the reminder...I keep forgetting that some of you wouldn't know a bad from good from great team. some of you have never seen a Cup contender let alone a Cup winning club

-I suppose I've been spoiled with what I have witnessed and should understand why the CH faithful stand and cheer at the end of a game where the club backs into the playoffs on a loser OTL point to the 2nd worst club in the league.

-I should also understand why CH nation celebrates a second round win as if it was to be cherished as a huge accomplishment and a loss to a 15th seed as a foundation on which to build greatness

-I continue to forget that one person's floor is another's ceiling. then again the current crop of 'fan' chants Gui Gui Gui as if he was the next coming of #10 and 2 years later reminds him not to let the door hit him in the ass on the way out

-different expectations my friend


-got to give you your due on the Latendresse vs Pouliot trade. you sussed that out on day one...unless JM or someone gets to him it'll be a case of $1,000,000 skills and $100 brain. then again wasn't it JM's charm that ran Gui out of dodge

-I always thought it was BS the saying that 'they' come to Montreal and do worse; 'they' leave Montreal and do better...not so certain any more and no idea why

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what you are saying. The Habs "might" be able to live without Markov - especially if Suban plays as well as he did most of the playoffs, and they would be better off with a power forward than Plekanec. They need to add some size up front. BUT they have to move Price and keep Halak. I have no doubt Price could be a tremendoud goal tender. Just NOT in Montreal. The pressure of playing in Montreal has killed the careers of countless incredibly talented prospects. Price may be onther one. The best thing for HIM would be to go somewhere else and grow into the star he can be. I don't think he can do that in Montreal.