To be perfectly honest, when I was challenged by HabsAddict.com to come up with some suggested roster changes, the Habs were clicking as a unit and they were beginning to climb the Eastern Conference ladder.
So what did this team need?
I thought about picking up a sniper like a Martin Havlat. Maybe adding an aging veteran like an Jason Arnott, but ultimately, when all was said I had a different style of player that kept coming up in my head over and over again.
I am a firm believer that the chemistry of a locker room can overcome a lack of skill and sometimes a lack of size, but at a certain point they can only take you so far; you need to get big and mean.
Last season during the playoffs strong team chemistry combined with the diabolic play of Jaroslav Halak, led the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals. Things changed in a hurry, however, when the Habs went up against a much bigger, stronger and ultimately better team in the Philadelphia Flyers.
To date, nothing has been done to remedy the Habs' lack of size and the Canadiens continue to struggle when up against teams with an up-tempo hard-nosed forecheck. Until this is addressed, the success of the Canadiens will be judged by one or two playoff series wins.
Here is my suggestion of what I would do to make the team that much better.
They Have To Go
He is going to be a very good player in this league for many years to come but he is not yet ready for regular ice time. Before the February 28th deadline, Eller must be sent to the AHL to play top-line minutes and regain his confidence.
On a team like Philadelphia, Boston or Vancouver, Pyatt who be an extremely useful fourth line player. He is good on both ends of the ice, hustles shift in and shift out and gives his all. Unfortunately, the Montreal Canadiens are too small as a collective that Pyatt does very little to add to the success of the club.
He has a bright future ahead of him. His offensive prowess is hard to teach and the defensive side of his game has improved to the point where he can be considered an NHL regular. A result of unfortunate circumstance however, Weber is too small for the Canadiens given the fact P.K. Subban, Jaroslav Spacek and James Wizniewski are all under 6’0. He deserves a chance to play, it just won’t be in Montreal.
Like Weber, I firmly believe that this kid has a place in the NHL. He is decent in his own end and possess crazy offensive hockey sense. Given the right situation Desharnais can thrive. In Montreal, however, none of our top four centers are taller than 5’11 and the majority of our wingers are also on the small-ish side. Ideally I would love to see Desharnais as our second line center but if that's not possible then I'd give him a chance in another city.
Now if you are paying attention, then you'll notice that I just shed the salaries and roster spots of four players; three of them are forwards and one of them is a defenseman. Weber's spot, as mentioned in Part I of this series, should be taken up by Chris Phillips which leaves us with three available forward spots.
GM Pierre Gauthier has to call Garth Snow immediately because the Islanders are out of the playoffs and likely willing to deal.
The player I am looking to acquire is Zenon Konopka. Konopka is a 6’0 215 lbs center who plays bigger than he is. He won’t net you 30 points a year but he’ll provide a huge element of toughness with his hitting abilities and will drop the gloves with anyone in the league—evidenced by his near 200 penalty minutes.
What is most appealing about Konopka, however, is that he is not a one trick pony. Konopka is one of the top-five faceoff men in the league and as we know, faceoffs are everything in the playoffs.
What Will It Cost?
In an ideal world, the cost of acquisition would be nothing more than Tom Pyatt, essentially trading one fourth-liner for another. If the Islanders prefer picks then the cost should be nothing more than a sixth-rounder.
A simple one. Recall Ryan White and give him a regular shift with the team (at the time of writing this article, White was in the AHL). White is an energy guy who is good at both ends of the ice. What sets him apart from other players on the roster is his willingness to hit and hit regularly. Although slightly undersized for what he does, White combined with Konopka can form a formidable 1-2 punch for an effective forecheck.
What Will It Cost?
We need a top-six forward with size and a mean streak. It is time to stop the stream of bandaid and UFA players, and land ourselves an impact player.
For me that player has to be David Backes. Backes should have been the guy we traded for when Halak was sent to the Blues, but that mistake is over and done with. It is now time to do what we have to do make him part of this roster. I realize that the Blues will be hard pressed to part ways with this guy so we need to make it worth their while.
What Will It Cost?
An overpayment. How does Andrei Kostitsyn, Yannick Weber, a second round pick and the choice of Danny Kristo or any other player currently on the Hamilton Bulldogs Roster sound? Is it enough to land ourselves the likes of a Backes? I'm not certain but would at least listen to whatever St.Louis would ask for.
Shaking the tree
I am going to try to get creative here: what I am about to propose will not be popular by any means but it is a move I firmly believe we need to try.
I want to re-acquire Mike Komisarek.
We know what he can provide to this team in terms of a physical presence and we know what he can do in the locker room. He is exactly what this team needs.
Let's be honest here, Komisarek has been used somewhere in the 9-14 minutes per game range on Toronto and he is no longer a top-four defenseman, playing behind the likes of Tomas Kaberle, Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn and now Keith Aulie. The Leafs can therefore afford to part ways with him and his disastrous $4.5 million a year contract.
I know you are sitting there saying well Komi is a defenseman so why are you mentioning this now? The reason I would acquire him would be because of a center currently on the team.
Let me explain...
What Will It Cost?
I am proposing taking on the horrendous contract of the Leafs for their #5-6 D-man in exchange for the worst contract in the NHL: Scott Gomez's. Obviously this is not going to be a one for one type of deal, as we would have to provide some significant assets in deal to make it work. I therefore propose Scott Gomez, our 1st round pick in 2011 or 2012 and a prospect like Brendan Gallagher.
This move means taking on about $2.9 million in cap space for the Leafs, but reacquiring a first round pick that they lost in the Phil Kessel deal. Also, in Gomez, the Leafs would be getting a playmaking center to play alongside Kessel.
Our Team Going Forward
So with all of the defensive and forward moves I propose, here is what the team would look like:
Michael Cammalleri-Tomas Plekanec-David Backes
Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Brian Gionta
Benoit Pouliot-Jeff Halpern-Mathieu Darche
Travis Moen-Zenon Konopka-Ryan White
Chris Phillips-Mike Komisarek
Hal Gill-P.K. Subban
Roman Hamrlik-James Wizniewski
Tell me I am crazy with this line-up but I like it a lot!
On defense we have a double headed monster with Gill-Subban and Phillips-Komisarek and enough depth to allow a veteran like Spacek to be inserted when there's an injury. At forward we have size and grit on every line. It's a unit that can forecheck hard, protect their own and ultimately succeed as a collective.
Furthermore, with uncertainty on the back end at the end of the current season, the acquisition of Komisarek will provide some stability should the team lose players like Hamrlik, Gill, Markov and the Wiz this summer.
With that said...I am out. Jamaica bound. Enjoy the cold and let me know what you think of my moves!
Read Part I of this series here.
(Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images North America)
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.