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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier; between a rock and a hard place

by Willey

Without a doubt the NHL trade deadline is the most exciting part of an NHL season with the possible exception of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It is the time of year where we all play arm-chair GM, while dreaming of the possible acquisitions of players who have long been rumoured to be destined for the Bleu Blanc Rouge.

This year in particular, with the almost constant dissatisfaction with Scott Gomez and Andrei Kostitsyn and with more than $4 million in cap space available, the stars seemed aligned for Pierre Gauthier to not only make his mark as GM but ultimately transform the Habs from a pretender to a contender.

Unfortunately, the consistent aspirations of adding that elusive power-forward did not come to pass. When all was said and done the Montreal Canadiens decided to do little more than to boost the depth at the goaltender position with the acquisition of Drew McIntyre; now destined for the Hamilton Bulldogs.

From a fans perspective, this lack of movement from Pierre Gauthier is quite disheartening. With more than $4 million in cap space—potentially more available with the LTIR to Jaroslav Spacek—and with glaring holes on offense, we were expecting much but received little.

When you hear of players like James Neal or Chris Stewart being dealt just prior to the trade deadline, you have no choice but to cringe and ask why these sorts of deals are not made by Montreal.

Take a quick glance at Twitter or any hockey discussion forum, and you will see the passionate pleas of fan base crying for the immediate resignation of Gauthier and Jacques Martin.

Is this discontent just? Did Gauthier miss out on an opportunity or did the market just not transform, as was predicted from within the organization?

Seriously folks, sit back, put your feet up, take a deep breath and just relax for a minute.

Asking Price was Simply Too High

Take a quick glance at any one of my other blogs and you’ll notice a consistent message: The Montreal Canadiens need to get bigger and they need to get tougher. It is a philosophy which is likely shared by the majority of the Habs fan base around the world.

Gauthier could have very easily acquired Zenon Konopka or Chris Neil or Dustin Penner if he so chose to, but the market at this year’s deadline was a seller’s market.

Out of 30 NHL teams only about six of them are truly out of playoff contention. That translates into 24 teams trying to feed off the jettisoned players from Florida, Edmonton, Atlanta, St. Louis, Colorado and Ottawa.

The market for players was, in my opinion, dictated two weeks ago when Tomas Kaberle—who is a good puck moving defenseman but far from being considered an elite player—was traded for a top prospect, a first round pick and a second round pick.

At yesterday's trade deadline this kind of mind-bogglingly high price continued to be demanded.

The asking price for a fourth line center with less than a handful of points, in Konopka, was a second round draft pick. Better yet, a 6’4 forward who will net you only around 25 goals a year, in Dustin Penner, was dealt for a top rated prospect, a first round pick and a conditional third round pick.

Are you serious? Talk about overpaying for what's out there!

Let’s be honest here ladies and gentleman, it was a classic case where supply was much lower than the demand which ultimately allowed the seller's to dictate their own terms.

Too Many Injuries

When Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and now Jaro Spacek all go down with injuries, it takes assets to maintain a competitive line-up. I hate to paraphrase but Gauthier said it best; “You save and save for a great vacation but then ultimately dip heavily into those savings to fix a leaky roof”.

Our second round draft pick was sent packing in order to secure James Wizniewski. Our fourth round pick and Ben Maxwell was used to secure a Brent Sopel and finally our fifth round selection was used to secure the depth of Paul Mara.

Had injuries not been a factor in the current season, Gauthier could have easily parted ways with these assets to secure a player like a Brad Boyes or possibly a Jason Arnott for instance, but circumstances required him to act early to allow the team to maintain its course to the playoffs.

Where do we go from here?

I have previously stated that when Gauthier was originally named GM of this team, my rage was expressed throughout every possible hockey forum I knew about.

My feelings however have done a complete 180 and I now stand by Gauthier because I like what he has done.

It started with the 2010 Entry Draft.

Some GM’s take the best player available when their turn comes around, but Gauthier targeted a player he wanted and moved up in the draft to secure that pick for Jarred Tinordi.

Now he refuses to make a trade and give up more assets then this team can afford.

Gauthier determined a price for the guys he sought out to target but when the asking price surpassed his evaluations, he stood pat. This is a sign of a man in control of his emotions and who acts based on reason and not emotion.

Furthermore, it is time to finally see what we have in the AHL.

Why try to secure Jim Vandermeer when you have a guy like Alex Henry more than capable? Why acquire the rights to a declining J.P. Dumont when Aaron Palushaj appears to be knocking on the door? Why beef up down the middle with a Paul Gaustad, when the development of Andrew Conboy as a dependable fourth line center is on the horizon?

In other words, why look at what your neighbour is selling before you take a look at your own back yard.

With that I say good-day fellow Habbers, just have a little faith my friends.

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.


  1. Great read Willey,

    I knew the Habs would not make a move at the deadline. I am actually kind of happy they didnt. I don't think they have a chance this year to go all the way, so why raid the cupboard for a player that will probably only play 20 games or so. It just doesnt make sense for the franchise as a whole. They have some good prospects and are better off developing them and keeping this team competitive for years rather than just a short term fix.

    I think most of the realistic Habs fans will agree with this. The franchise as a whole is better off with the current roster as is. The only thing i wonder is if they could have brought in Brent Sopel for less and packaged Maxwell with a pick for an upgraded 2nd line forward. I dont think Maxwell was ever going to make this team, and the likes of Gallagher and Leblanc were quickly pushing him out the door. So, i dont disagree with trading Maxwell, and I dont disagree with bringing in Sopel. I just wonder if they overpaid a bit. I dont know what to think of Dawes, dont know where he fits.

    What people also need to think about is there is cap space due to injuries THIS year but the Habs also have several players who need to be resigned NEXT year. So, would you rather bring in a Penner or Arnott and potentially lose a Gorges or Markov??

    I agree with 'feet up and breathe' comment. It is great advice for ALL the agitated Pierre Gauthier lynch mob'ers.

  2. Hirky

    Thanks for the feedback. I agree 100% that this franchise is not yet in a position to off load our prospects.

    A couple of years ago when we had Halak, Valentenko, Yemelin, McDonagh, Fischer, Subban, Pacioretty, etc.. all on the horizon times may have been different but right now we are on average team with some excellent components and a limited amount of prospects in our system.

    Personally I hate the fact that we have dealt 3 second round pciks in the past 2 years but at thye same time we cannot argue against the success those picks have generated.

    IMO we still don;t know what this team can truly do as we have never seen is fully healthy. The loss of Markov replacing him with Wiz was a good thing but let's be honest here for a second, Markov is an elite D-man.

    Remove Chara from Boston or Lidstrom from Detroit or Keith from Chicago and what do you have? This is the importance that Markov provided to this squad.

    The only thing I question at this point is simple. Do the Habs have what it takes to win a cup? If the answer is no then why didn't Gauthier shop some of his talent in a year where selling could fetch a premium.

    If AK46 is not in the future plans then why did we not try to offload him for a return which likely will never be better?

    If Chris Campoli can be dealt from a roster player and a second round pick then what would a contender possibly offer for the services of Roman Hamrlik?

    ANyway, the deadline is over. Let's enjoy the next few weeks and hope for another miraculous playoff run !!!

  3. Good stuff Willey!

    I think to your point about losing Markov, take ANY team in the league and remove their top two defensemen and see how well they do.

    Then, take their top sniper out of the lineup for about 6 weeks and take out their No.4 defenseman as well, and see how well they do.

    The fact that Montreal are still in the playoffs, are sixth overall with the chance to climb higher is truly remarkable.

    Most of that has to do with Price but, as much as I'm not a fan of his, some of it has to do with Martin too.

    Montreal can't score, but can beat you in a 2-1-ish game if Price plays lights out.

    The Habs will go only as far as Price can carry them in the post season this year!