Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick comments on the Kostitsyn Trade

It's Trade Deadline 2012 and I will be quickly running down my thoughts on any Habs trade that comes our way.

First up is Andrei Kostisyn for a 2nd rounder in 2013 and the conditional pick we gave up in the Hal Gill/Blake Geoffrion trade.

Terrible deal for one simple reason - the number '2013' - I refuse to believe that a perennial 20 goal scorer rental could not have netted a draft pick from this calendar year. Beyond that, I think we couldn't have expected much more from Andrei's apathy. It might have been nice to see him packaged for something that actually helps our future next year, but oh well.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thank you, Hal Gill.

He was probably never the best player on the ice, but what he brought will be hard to recapture. Today Pierre Gauthier sent Hal Gill to Nashville for a second round pick, and Robert Slaney. Oh and also Blake Geoffrion, who I'm sure will love the pressure of being descendant from both Boom Boom Geoffrion and Howie Morenz while being on the habs. Hope he likes fighting Aaron Palushaj for a spot in the lineup.

Instead of breaking the trade down, let's just say thanks. There was no way Hal Gill was going to stay a Hab forever, especially as 37 looms, and his status as an unrestricted free agent beckons. But we can still reflect on what he brought, and what he did, especially related to his mentorship of P.K Subban - teaching a young prospective star some ins and outs of the game, as well as key locker room lessons like not letting your jersey drag on the ground. And lets not forget his strong performance knocking off Pittsburg and Washington in the playoffs a few years back - a key piece in one of the absolute highlights in recent habs memory.

This isn't the place to ask who will fill the leadership vaccuum that is left by his absense, or whether this means we will finally start dressing 12 forwards. This is simply a thank you to the kind of hard working player who brought his best every night and are rarely as remembered as your stereotypical stars.

Thanks for giving it your all, Hal. Have fun in Nashville, good luck wherever you land.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Cammalleri Trade.

As the dust continues to be kicked around (because it has surely yet to settle) on the trade that sent Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames, I feel that there are a few things people are missing when they offer their opinion on the trade.

If you are unlucky enough to be learning about the trade from my blog, here it is:
To Calgary: Michael Cammalleri, the rights to Kari Ramo (currently playing in the KHL) and a 5th round pick.
To Montreal: Rene Bourque, 2nd round pick and Patrick Holland (Flames 7th round pick in the 2011 draft.)

Without a doubt, the Calgary Flames got the better player. With their win Thursday night, they move 2 points out of a playoff spot. The trade improves their level of skill within their top 6 and brings in a familiar face that has had great success with their franchise player, Jarome Iginla.

Just as assuredly, the Montreal Canadiens assessed a massive need (pun intended) in obtaining some size amongst their forward corps. With Desharnais moving up the depth chart, alongside Cammalleri, Gionta and Plekanec. There was just not enough size amongst the offense.

Both players should benefit from their new assignments with their respective teams. Cammalleris skill will be highlighted by a bigger and stronger offense where he can once again be the trigger man, while Bourque will be given a bigger role amongst Montreals top 6 and struggling Powerplay.

Looking at this deal by itself, you have to think Calgary won the trade. Only if Montreal can draft an excellent player with their pick, or if Patrick Holland ever makes the NHL can you say they got full value for a player of the calibre of Cammalleri. So until then, the jury should remain silent.

Where I think people tend to waver off is the money saved by the Canadiens in this trade. Cammalleri had never once, during the regular season, lived up to his 6 million dollar pricetag. Yes, Cammalleri is clutch in the playoffs, but right now we need players who can actually get us to the dance.

Rene Bourque has outscored Cammalleri in the past 2.5 regular seasons, with a cap hit that is 2.7 million dollars less, in a reduced role.

This money is going to be extremely useful come Summer. The Montreal Canadiens have an incredibly important off-season ahead of them. Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Lars Eller, Andrei Kostitsyn, Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin are all due for new contracts. This list literally contains the entire young core that currently forms the Montreal Canadiens, minus Max Pacioretty (who will need a new contract the following summer.) All make good (if not great) cases for a raise.

Without the cap space saved with this trade, the Habs would likely not been able to sign Andrei Kostitsyn. He was pretty universally accepted as the odd man out, and has recently been the talk of trade rumours. I found this perplexing as he seems to have finally found consistency in his game. No one has ever denied his skill, but because of the position he was taken in his infamous draft class, he's always been the subject of scorn. He's a perennial threat to score 25+ goals, and a big body.

So in one trade, we've assessed a need for size, gained a potential 20 goal scorer, and now have the space to keep another player of a similar skillset. Add a likely top 50 pick (an underrated part of the deal) and a prospect for a goalie who will likely never again play in the NHL... and I think the Montreal Canadiens were able to come away with some success in this deal.

Trading away a player in the mold of Cammalleri definitely implies what we've all been hoping: the Canadiens are going to start rebuilding. Look for players like Travis Moen, Hal Gill and Chris Campoli to be on the move.

Kaberle and Gomez? Don't hold your breath.

P.S. While i've been on the side of trading away Mr. Cammalleri*, I feel as a fan it is my duty to thanks him endlessly for the time and effort he put into our organization.

Mike, anyone who is anyone in the NHL, commenting on this trade says that you are one of the most dedicated players they've ever seen. I thank you for bringing that to Montreal and being so fun to watch for two and a half years. I will always be a fan of yours and wish you good luck and good health in all of your future endeavors!

*thinly veiled Gauthier pun INTENDED!*

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lars Eller - Put Up, or Put Down.

As the Montreal Canadiens resumed practicing after a welcomed 3 day respite, Lars Eller found himself as far from the pressbox as he could possibly be - centering the top line.

Sliding in between the team's top goal scorers Erik Cole(13) and Max Pacioretty(11), Lars Eller looks to be given the chance he never received under the reign of Jacques Martin. The detractors of the much-maligned former coach should feel appeased, as his methods of dealing with younger players were constantly called into question.

Eller doesn't have much of a reputation of being a prolific scorer in his career, his most successful years being his last year playing in the Swedish Elite League [where he scored 29 points in 48 games (0.60/ppg)] and his first year in North America [where he scored 57 points in 70 games (0.81/ppg)]. Since being in the NHL he has had much more modest, if not disappointing numbers... but he's never played on the first line.

Eller could certainly benefit from the timing of his promotion - and "timing" is something the Montreal Canadiens have certainly lacked in the past month. His first gig as the number one center comes across the defensively lacklustre Ottawa Senators, who rank 3rd last in the NHL with an Average Goals Against per Game of 3.33.

As the defensive woes of the Senators could prove beneifical, it needs to be said that they certainly don't lack offense. The Senators are 8th overall in the league with a Goals Per Game of 3.00. Lars Eller could find himself lining up against All-Star centre Jason Spezza, who has no problem putting the puck in the net against more proven opponents.

His point totals reflect the slow but steady increase in his level of play throughout his first 110 games as a Canadien. His off-season regimen has seen an improvement in his ability to compete with size and skill of NHL players. He's much more confident with the puck, often dazzling in his ability to maneuever his way into open areas of ice. This is often followed by a harmless shot, floated pass to no one, or a giveaway.

This could be attributed to the fact that until now, Eller hasn't been given wingers with ample enough skill to complement his own.

Every shift will be an audition for Eller, who will be looked upon to provide both sound defense against opponents with a level of skill he might not be used to facing so frequently and sound offense for a team which hasn't seen much in recent weeks.

So with the team's two best forwards lining up beside him, it's time for Eller to put up points, or be put down to the bottom lines.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Take a Step Back, and a Deep Breath.

Anyone who has anything to do with the Montreal Canadiens needs to take a step back, and a deep breath.

Fans, Players, Coaches, Management: Everyone seems to be hovering around the big red button. Thankfully those in front of fans yield no actual power, as most fans have been furiously slamming their fists down on the button for the last 5 games. The Players and Coaches feign indifference; they're just trying to do their jobs. I can't help but assume that their inabilities to do so in the last 5 games have something to do with the distinct air of panic that hangs around the Habs.

I believe it all has to do with Management.

Never pressing, but never too far from the big red button, Pierre Gauthier has certainly had his finger over it. He's affectionately stroked it with a series of desperation moves hoping for a quick fix. Instead it has now moved his team further from their unanimous goal of competing for the Stanley Cup than they have been for a very long time.

So let's take a step back.

The Fans.
Andrei Markov: Most are calling this contract a failure, with him yet to have stepped on the ice. Admittedly the contract's a little hard to swallow considering we haven't seen him on the starting roster for over a year, and there were other defensemen the team could have signed in his place... but let's (continue to) have a little patience. If Andrei Markov can play anywhere near the level he was at before his injury, it will be a major boost to the Canadiens' biggest areas of concern, those being the breakout and the powerplay. His return is set for sometime in January. If Markov can come back and healthily play out the majority of time remaining on his contract, there's no reason to call the signing a bad one.

Tomas Kaberle: The contract will almost undoubtedly hurt us in the next two years, but for right now it's been somewhat of a success. He hasn't been stellar by any means, but has been doing what he gets paid to do: put up points. There have been a few defensive miscues, but these were expected. For now, Kaberle has been a decent defenseman and should be treated as such until his production begins to seriously contrast with the size of his contract.

Scott Gomez: Just because this dead horse looked like it could use a good kicking. Yes, the contract has been bogging us down since his arrival, and yes he's been passed on the depth chart by both Eller and Desharnais... maybe even Nokelainen (sorry Scotty) but he's been sitting out with an injury for 15 games! His contract is untradeable. The only option I see is to waive him, hope he's picked up, and let him play in the AHL if he isn't. It's more likely Geoff Molson would want Gomez to be played in hopes he shows a glimmer of his former self, baiting a team into taking the contract. This is highly unlikely, and therefore we remain where we have been for some time. Give it up.

The Coach.
Mimicking his boss, Randy Cunneyworth has made several moves out of desperation in his short term as coach. None of them have paid off and they've all left me severely worried about his ability to compare risk and reward.

Starting Peter Budaj vs. the team with the best record in the league took some balls. I would assume he tried to inspire the players in front of the goalie who often seem lax playing in front of Budaj's stellar counterpart, Carey Price. If the Habs would have won, it would have been a nice feather in their cap beating an elite team with their backup goalie in net.

I feel like this was a poor decision, and Cunneyworth did not give his team the best chance to win. Beating a dominant team in the league is inspiration enough, and the Habs were in serious need of two points. I can understand not wanting to start Carey Price in back to back games (he started the next day against the Jets), but the assignments should most definitely have been switched.

Sitting Lars Eller and P.K. Subban on the cusp of losing 5 games in a row definitely took an impressive set of danglers. Your best defenseman and another promising young star vs. a team who's been almost unbeatable at home as of late. Yeesh.

I assume he tried to give two of the organization's budding talents a chance to watch from a different perspective, as well as a slight slap on the wrist in hopes it would garner better play. We've yet to see the reaction from the players, but I can't believe they learned anything watching their teammates play the worst game this team has played all year.

I feel that this was a poor decision, based on the fact that he sat his best defensemen in the midst of a 4 game losing streak that has now stretched to 5. Yeesh, indeed.

All this being said: Cunneyworth has had one practice at home with his team before embarking on this road trip. You can't help but feel for the guy being put into that position. Which brings me to:

The Management.
Pierre Gauthier is now everyone's favourite whipping boy, since he fired the last one. Up until the month of December I was never on the side of the Gauthier detractors, but it's becoming more and more obvious his sense of panic at losing his own job is forcing him to make rash decisions that have only put the team in a worse situation.

But ask yourself, do you really think another desperation move by the organization, such as firing their General Manager is going to help the Canadiens at this point? I was never a fan of Jacques Martin, and was more than vocal with my distaste... but I thought he should have finished out the year. Bringing in a new head coach is a bold move, and doing it with such poor timing has put the Canadiens into the very beginnings of a downward spiral.

Now is the time where everyone needs to take a deep breath.

The Montreal Canadiens remain only 4 points out of a playoff spot after a 5 game losing streak. This season is not over. It is certainly not in good shape, but by no means does this team need a complete rebuild. There are fantastic pieces in place, as my counterpart points out, committing to a full rebuild would only lay waste to some of the prime years of their careers. P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, Josh Gorges, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Erik Cole, Carey Price. All of these players have good years ahead of them.

The Canadiens are bogged down by a media-fueled distraction, poor timing and a few bad contracts.

Geoff Molson is the man who needs to step up. More often than not an owner should give the reins to the man he puts in charge. In a situation like this, I think it's imperative Molson create some sense of contingency among the players. He needs to reinforce whatever plan they had at the start of the season, or firmly back up whatever one has been put into place in the past two weeks.

It's become obvious that the angry maw of the media, when left unfed, will only bark with increasing fervour until it becomes a distraction for the players. Molson needs to decide and publicly state where the organization he owns sits on the issues that plague them. Then he needs to stick to them, unyielding.

This would be as good of a time as any to mention the murmurs of Bob Gainey we've all heard in the past 24 hours. This organization needs what he brings: a calm, yet stern influence. These characteristics will melt down through the organization until it ultimately reaches the players, who have not been given a fair chance to succeed since the very beginning of this season. Whether it be Gainey, Molson, or even Gauthier to take control of the chaos, someone needs to. Otherwise we can only hope that the players figure it out themselves and string together some wins, because while it's definitely been bad, it's never as bad as it seems.

So lets all take a step back. Now, a deep breath.

And move on to the next one.

Not hitting the panic switch.

First and foremost, welcome to Re-Hab Hockey. I previously wrote solo, infrequently for Hab in Hiding and expect to offer somewhat more insight and far more frequent updates on this blog, along with another, probably far more talented writer(s)

A quick look on Twitter over the last few days has had one overarching stance - That of launching an Edmonton Oilers / Pittsburg Penguins style Tank and Rebuild job.

This overlooks two crucial facts
1: Montreal is already fairly laden with young, talented prospects, with more in the pipe participating in the World Juniors right now. And we already picked up a star early-round draft player, in the same draft that gave Pittsburgh Crosby.
2: A rebuild at this time would potentially cause key prospects we've developed or are developing (Such as Subban and Eller) to stagnate working on a team with a leadership vaccuum and while not promoting a culture of winning.

That's not to say that moves shouldn't be made at this time - it's becoming clear that players such as Gomez and Cammalleri are having issues, however it's also becoming clear that the real skill of the team for the future will be coming from names like Eller, Cole, and Pacioretty. They need help, but that help isn't forcing them to become a bad team with even less support to win games, chasing a theoretical prospect that is not guaranteed to solve any problems that currently exist. Not to mention with this season going as it is, Montreal will likely be picking up a solid player in the first round regardless. Much more important is establishing a new system now that coaching has changed (and appears to be changing again in the future), playing a more physical game (Emelin, for all his defensive flaws, has been a revelation in this regard), and more focused play from the defence - Our D has a wealth of talent on the offensive side, but with Hal Gill aging, their actual defensive ability is stagnating.

Addressing these issues is important, but it's not worth costing a young core that is generally heading in the right direction, despite a recent string of losses.