Some things just aren’t meant to be. This season for the Montreal Canadiens the list of things going right seems to be shorter than even the most diminutive of their forwards. Injuries are more rule than exception. Chaos behind the bench, in the locker room and most of all in the front offices. The team is in desperate need of a motive force. It needs a driving personality behind the bench, on the ice and most importantly in front office. Geoff Molson has not provided that, if you feel the need to point fingers at someone for the mess that is the 2011-12 Habs, start there.
While the current Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier is hardly blameless, he didn’t start the fire. Bob Gainey who was previously at the helm did everything wrong but give away first round draft picks for future considerations. In seven years under Gainey the club achieved with one exception, exactly as much success as it deserved. Which is just about none. In his last year as general manager the team went on a spectacular run thanks to great goaltending when they shouldn’t even have made the playoffs but somehow found themselves in the conference finals.
Ladden with contracts that don’t make sense, it’s going to take a long time to fix this team. The Scott Gomez contract is only one issue. It’s the most visible given his on ice futility, but oh there are more. While surgical and therapeutic techniques have come an amazing distance in the past decade or two, knees are still hard to fix. Worse, they often don’t stay fixed. So why then, would Gauthier give a three year contract to a guy still recovering from surgery who had yet to even practice? Who wasn’t even skating? Markov wasn’t exactly known for good health and durability before this most recent set of knee issues. In the ten seasons in the NHL preceding the most recent contract, Markov had only played all 82 games once. But that coupled with hip, ankle, shoulder and back absences from the lineup was good for a three year more than seventeen million dollar contract.
Fixing the Habs will take some doing. Not only will they not make the playoffs this year, the draft is mostly lacking in the forwards they need to correct their issues. Which means they need to move defensemen and prospects between now and the draft for impact forwards. They need a legitimate #1 or 1A center, a top six winger and a personality capable of taking over and unifying the locker room. Jeff Carter could be that top center, if they can get him. He’s yet to show any inkling of high end leadership ability, but just the scoring ability would be a boon to the 15th ranked offense and 30th powerplay.
If the season ended today, assuming no surprises at the draft lottery the Canadiens would draft fifth. Yakupov, Grigorenko (who might be a better option) are almost certainly gone. It’s quiet likely that in a defense and goaltending rich draft, with little in the way off forward wealth that the pick could be more valuable as a trade piece than in drafting a defensemen who will sit behind Diaz, Subban and the rest of the young core and never get a sniff of the NHL. It’s entirely possible that the fifth pick overall, and one prospect at or just prior to the draft are enough to get Carter from Columbus.
There are other teams out there in need of a hearty application of tweaks and C4. The Habs at least have a solid defense to work with. They also have good goaltending, as long as they can convince Carey Price to stay. His contract is up on July 1st. He’s eligible for arbitration and has according to loosely sourced reports turned down contracts similar to what Pekka Rinne signed with the Nashville Predators. So on ice priorities are first sign Price, second jettison everyone who counts as baggage or a passenger, three find quality forwards. Don’t expect any of it happen until Geoff Molson wakes up and does something useful. Be prepared for Carey Price who is represented by the same agency as the well-travelled Scottie Upshall to land elsewhere.
Hockey This Week
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