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Saturday, December 25, 2010

He Said: A Holiday Wishlist for the Montreal Canadiens

by Willey

My wife and I were sitting on the coach this week watching one of our favorite holiday movies, "A Wonderful Life", while discussing the Christmas season.

My wife and I have been together for 13 years and over that time we have seen our lifestyle evolve quite drastically. In the beginning it was all about trying to impress with both romantic and extravagant gifts to the point now where we are pretty much not buying anything for each other, but rather buying a joint gift for the house.

I am telling you this so as to get an understanding of the moment when out of the blue she turns to me and asks one simple thing, “What do you want for Christmas?”

I was certainly taken back by this as I have not heard these words for quite some time. Since moving to the Tampa Bay area seems very unlikely and since a 3,000 square foot home in the “L section” of Brossard is currently out of my price range, I could only think of a few things.

The first was the health of my family, the second was to see a smile on my daughter’s face as she opens her Christmas morning gifts and the final thing was change to my beloved Montreal Canadiens.

I am assuming that you really don’t want to me to go on and on about what gifts I have bought for my family, although I could be wrong, so allow me the opportunity to expand on the Habs.

The way I see it my wish list is three fold: First, I want to get a premier top-three forward with size, skill and toughness. Second, a true rough and tumble stay-at-home defensemen and finally a fourth line with an identity.

Top Line Winger

In 2010 the Montreal Canadiens went to the Eastern Conference Finals primarily by riding the coat tails of a goaltender playing absolutely possessed; combined with timely goal scoring and a superb shot blocking performance by the entire d-core.

Despite this success, however, the lack of physicality on the offensive side of the puck ultimately led to a five game defeat at the hands of the much bigger and tougher Philadelphia Flyers.

I know that this hardly comes hot off the presses because as long as I can remember we have all been complaining about a lack of size with our forward unit. I do, however, ask why nothing has ever been done about this problem?

Despite the common knowledge of what this organization is lacking, a collective decision is made year in and year out to simply draft the top player on the list. This means drafting guys like David Fischer ahead of guys like Nick Foligno or Milan Lucic or drafting Andrei Kostitsyn ahead of players like Ryan Getzlaf or Jeff Carter.

Instead or drafting for size, we bring in players who are past their prime and asked to carry larger roles than their bodies will allow. In the past 10 years this list includes the likes of Trevor Linden, Randy Mckay, Radek Bonk and Bryan Smolinski. The list does not end there however. Who can forget Pierre Dagenais, Jason Ward and Chad Kilger; none of which are even in the league today.

So where do we go from here?

Although I have had my doubts about Pierre Gauthier, I truly believe that we will see him address this issue once and for all. The Habs went to the ECF in 2010 and now a third of the way through the season find themselves atop the NorthEast division. What this translates in to is a team on the cusp of doing good things, assuming the right nucleus is in place.

It is a time in which the organization must make the switch from refusing to give up good young players to making that big push. It is time to bring in that big power forward, despite the high cost associated with him.

In short it is time to bring in Jarome Iginla.

There is really no need to explain why Iginla should be the Habs prime target. He is a leader who plays with his heart on his sleeve, he backs down from no one and despite being in his mid 30’s still has some good years ahead of him. In essence he is exactly what the Habs need.

It is unlikely that Calgary would want to part with the face of their franchise but with their struggles on the ice and with a system which is practically void of any and all future stars, now may just be the time to pull off a trade.

A Stay-at-Home Defenseman

Our d-core currently has a good combination of grizzled veterans and young up-and-comers alike. For every 35-plus year old Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik there is a 24 year old or younger Alex Picard, P.K. Subban or Yannick Weber.

Since the departure of Mike Komisarek however, this d-core has been missing a true stay-at-home defenseman who also possess’ the ability to strike fear in the opposition. A player who makes you keep your head up while crossing the blue line and who will clear the front of the net if you dare try to screen the goalie.

Lucky for the Habs, the team now has some much needed cap relief as a result of the injury to Andrei Markov—he is on the Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR)—in a time where the league is full of soon to be UFA players. Guys like Bryan McCabe, Shane O’Brien, Ed Jovonowski and many more players with contracts set to expire playing on teams that are under-performing and on the outside looking into the playoff picture.

On a personal level, I think the selection comes down to two players.

Although I know the operator of Habsaddict.com, Mr. Kamal Panesar is not a fan of the guy; my first selection is Kevin Bieksa.

Perhaps due to my overall man-crush I have long been a Bieksa fan. He is the type of player who can play physical, stick up for teammates or provide a steady presence on the power play when called upon to do so, and most importantly provide a right handed shot.

Now I am the first to admit that his game has slipped somewhat after suffering multiple injuries the past couple of seasons, but given the fact that his contract is expiring at season's end and that the Canucks face cap restraints, he is the type of player I would be willing to take a chance on.

The second player I would target is once again from the Calgary Flames; Robyn Regher. Although Regher doesn't drop the gloves with regularity he is the ultimate playoff warrior. He is a guy who slams bodies, crushes players with thunderous hits along the boards and yet has the presence of mind not put his team in penalty trouble.

Like Bieksa, he is far from being a No.1 d-man on any team but given the current make-up of our D-core, he would be an ideal compliment to a veteran group.

Choosing between Bieksa and Regher ultimately comes down to how much you are willing to give up; an answer only Gauthier can provide.

A Momentum-Changing Fourth Line

When I think of any hockey team I think of defined roles for each of the four lines. The first two lines are your scoring lines, the third line is a defensive line and your fourth line is a momentum-changing line.

I may be an odd-ball, but since I was a kid I have always been able to relate to the fourth line pluggers of the team. I have always been drawn to the Scotty Thornton’s or Darren McCarty’s of the league.

When it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, however, I am just confused.

At center is it Lars Eller or Jeff Halpern? What about the left wing, is it Travis Moen, Tom Pyatt or even Benoit Pouliot? Is Lapierre on the third line or does that position belong to Mathieu Darche?

The fourth line lacks an identity and that pains me.

It is time to ice a fourth line consisting of some big bodies whose sole purpose is to go out and hit, hit, hit. We need guys like Moen, Ryan White and Maxim Lapierre who are all physical, defensively reliable but who can chip in with the odd goal.

How do I see my roster coming to fruition?

So I have given you all my wish list for this holiday season, the question now remains on how I see this coming to pass?

Let me say that I have no idea what goes on behind the closed doors of the GM offices so to come straight out and say this and this player will get you that player almost seems counterproductive. Suffice it to say that landing the likes of an Iginla and a Regher would certainly come with a hefty price tag.

With that being said here is what I propose:

Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regher and David Moss traded to the Montreal Canadiens. In exchange Mr. Pierre Gauthier sends Andrei Kostitsyn, Danny Kristo, Ben Maxwell, Yannick Weber, Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick in 2011 and a 2nd rounder in 2012.

We are giving up top-six talent and players who can fill the Flames roster today and for the future, in exchange for a cup run for the Habs today.

My roster as of January 1st will be as follows:

Mike Cammalleri-Tomas Plekanec-Jarome Iginla
Max Pacioretty-Scott Gomez-Brian Gionta
Benoit Pouliot-Lars Eller-David Moss
Travis Moen-Jeff Halpern-Maxim Lapierre

Robyn Regher-PK Subban
Roman Hamrlik-Jaroslav Spacek
Hal Gill-Alex Picard

Althoughi must admit that I would still inquire about another #6 dman with size to go alongside Gill.

Read the She Said counter-point.

Willey was the shinning light among the wicked growing up as the lone Habs fan in Toronto. Pray to Holy Ghosts of the old forum and all shall be answered I was told, and just like that my family was transferred back to Montreal and away from the damned. Olé, Olé, Olé!

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