Tuesday, June 09, 2009

No Emelin: The Implications For A Weak D

Dreams of not seeing O'Byrne toss a few into Carey and Jaro's net?

Dream no more. It seems that the Canadiens have spent one of their more realistic chances at getting a professionally experienced replacement for the fumbling giant.

Emelin calls the Canadiens on their low ball
Marc De Foy of Rue Frontenac cites Don Meehan, who says his client was simply offered better remuneration and guarantees in the KHL. Read: the Canadiens low-balled Emelin with an AHL/NHL contract and he called them on it.

The immediate response is, oh no, too bad. My next response was to ask why?

Not why Emelin rejected the Canadiens low ball offer – that seems clear enough to anyone who can't count in dollars and rubles. Rather why the Canadiens didn't make a better offer. After all, this team was dismal on defence and need all the help they can get from guys not named in their 2008-09 media guide. The Canadiens also have a track record at coming up ludicrously short at free agent time.

The possible answers vary from:

1) The Habs management don't think Emelin is that good


2) The Habs management have a better option in place (i.e., Beauchemin or Oduya)

to the downright scary

3) They never expected him to turn them down

We probably won't know the definitive answer to this question for at least another month, but if a year in which Pavel Valentenko was allowed to fly and where Alex Henry played, a trade was made for Doug Janik and Brisebois played more than 50 games, then you might be forgiven for leaning towards option 3.

In principle, I agree with the policy of paying for value, and to avoid overpaying for unknowns. However, experience has shown me that the Canadiens are willing to pay for unreliable defence in the form of Dandenault, Patrice and even O'Byrne. I find myself asking why our managers couldn't take a chance on a young Russian known to be quite adept at defending with a rugged and tenacious reputation; why they couldn't commit to giving him a 1-year chance as one of their 5th/6th/7th defencemen.

Emelin would have been a rookie, but a mature one. Instead of promoting Subban who has played against juniors or Weber who has honed his skills against Jason Krog and the Manitoba Moose, Gainey could have employed an option who had faced Jagr, Radulov, Morozov and other grown men for seasons now. The signing would have been on a par with signing another team's 5th defenceman. The risk being that Emelin might not adapt. The benefit that he might in fact step into a bigger role.

This must surely be the end of this prospect.


The implications for the Canadiens defence do go beyond Emelin. The team currently has 4 defencemen with NHL experience under contract. One more (Weber) who could be tried. That leaves 2 spaces to be filled, and likely 3 for cover of injury.

My guess is that Gainey and co. will be signing some marginal defencemen to cover the work. After a good look around, it's more than likely that the managers will opt for familiarity and we'll be seeing Defence 2009 Edition once more.

The implications are wider than that, though. As others have suggested, this will likely leave a sour taste in the mouth of the contract makers. In other words, we shouldn't be expecting to see many Russian names come up during the draft in Montreal for our Habs. This might not be such a big problem, were it not for the fact that Russia have been perennially hanging around medal podiums in junior, youth and senior international tournaments; or that the very best players in the league at this point in time are coming from Russia – look no further than game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.

What's more, as if the Canadiens need another geographic restriction to rule their draft day decisions – they already practice massive bias for an area that produces less hockey players than the attention suggests – Minnesota...

I have a feeling Gainey will have to shape up with his pitches, and indeed his offers, and quick if we are expecting a 100th season of play to exceed our 100th season in operation as a business.

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