Friday, February 22, 2008

To Trade or Not to Trade

The Habs have just one more game to play before the trade deadline. That game is against Columbus on Saturday night - a team that just did us a huge favour by beating Ottawa. The busiest man in town over the next 4 days may very well be Bob Gainey. Not only is he going to be in the spotlight come trade day, but, on the 23rd, he will also become the 14th (or 16th - still unknown) player in Habs history to have his number raised to the roof. It will no doubt be a hectic few days for one of the most well respected men in hockey.

We have all heard the rumours that we are involved in talks for absolutely every player in the NHL. If you ever visit Eklund's site you will have noticed that in order to bring in readers (especially readers from big markets like Montreal) the Habs are involved in a new rumour daily. This genius has a great system for announcing a trade - he reads it on TSN then quickly posts it on his site. He claims to be an insider with a lot of knowledge about hockey, but if you read his site you would realize that he is not close to being that at all. The Habs of course have not made a trade every day this year and wouldn't you know it haven't made a deal since last February. This doesn't mean some of the stuff on his site won't come true, because after all he has posted every possible trade that could be made so if one does go down I am sure he can find some sort of reference to it - likely posted in August.

Habs fans, thanks to too many unfounded rumours, are a bit too excited this time around about the prospect of us landing a big name player. People are having a hard time seeing that we have 75 points, that we are 1 point out of first and that we are having our best season in years. In typical Montreal fashion the mob wants more, more, more. Ryder only has 12 goals, but we have 75 points - trade him. Koivu isn't following up a career year with another career year - trade him. Higgins scored most of his goals in the first half - trade him. Kovalev is and always was my favorite player, I never booed him - un-tradeable. Unfortunately Habs fans are like kids in a way - they always want something new and exciting, they can't remember anything beyond a month ago and they will more often than not do what everyone else is doing; whether that means booing certain people or getting off one bandwagon and onto another.

We have to be extremely careful with what we hope for and we should all realize that in order to get someone good at this stage in the year you are going to have to give something up, something big. Most fans can't understand why a package of Dandenault, Smolinski, Ryder and Brisebois wouldn't be enough for Hossa, I mean it's 4 for 1 why wouldn't Atlanta do it? If getting a big name player is going to cost us a star or a potential star then it is something we should think long and hard about. We don't want to fall into the trap of trading away our future just because we think this is the year. Teams like Atlanta, Toronto and Edmonton have all made deadline deals in the past few years that were intended to make them better. It may have made them slightly better than they would have been in that year's playoffs, but beyond that we all know what happened to those teams. Smart teams are teams like Detroit and Ottawa who stick with their guys and stick with a plan, even if it takes years, occasionally making minor adjustments.

Not all trades are bad of course and sometimes there can actually be 2 winners in a trade. The last time we won the cup we sacrificed players like Courtnall, Chelios, Corson and my all-time favorite Skrudland to get the missing pieces - Damphousse, Savard, Leaman and Bellows. So it is tough to say - trade or not. At least 18 teams make deals at the end that think give them a shot, but at the end of the day there can only be one winner, thus only one GM can look like a genius. I would probably chalk all of that up to luck rather than strategy as the 'missing piece' is often not what you think it is. Last year it wasn't Tkachuk, Comrie, Guerin, it may just have been Brad May.

Whether the Habs land Hossa, Jokinen, Sundin or Tanguay or stay absolutely still may make no difference at all. If we are going to have to give some of the future for to gain a bit in the now then it is a very risky game to play. We have the makings of a great team with great chemistry, not just for this year, but for many years to come. Any deal that we make now could be one-step forward for 2008 and 2-steps back in our overall development. We have been putting this team together for 15 years now and I think that we finally have the team that we all had hoped for. With a little patience and trust in Bob then I am sure we will come out of next Tuesday's deadline bonanza with a team that will not only be competitive this year, but will indeed challenge for the cup in the very near future - and, that may very well mean no moves at all.

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