It's unfortunate that Andrei Markov went down with injury. It's going to cost us some wins. But unlike my hockey pool, where the guy with Markov has to hope for days spent in the hyperbaric chamber, a hockey team can adapt. Signing, call-up, trade, there are ways and means to fill the hole.
Bob Gainey has moved. At first, it seemed like Ryan O'Byrne (the call-up option) was going to be the solution. After he got injured, Bob went down the signing route: Marc-Andre Bergeron.
My question is this: On the Montreal Canadiens, with an expectant fan-base and a suddenly very accommodating salary cap hole, is it good enough?
To say nothing of Marc-Andre Bergeron himself, my suggestion is that it is not. not even close.
What has been lost
What is puzzling from Gainey here is that we know from history what is lost when Markov goes down. Only PP efficiency, defensive cohesion and effective shadowing. In other words, the hole he leaves is a big one.
But aside from that what also has been lost is the luxury of playing a 2nd defender as a 2nd, a 3rd as a 3rd, and so on. His loss means everyone gets bumped to a level where they might manage for a game, or in some cases (like Gorges) where they make an improvement in what they can deliver.
Losing the clear first defenceman on a squad with no question marks would be bad enough. Losing one on a team with Hal Gill, Paul Mara, Ryan O'Byrne and Weber as the question marks there already is extra distressing.
The salary cap
The Montreal Canadiens make money, they make a lot. For a team like the Habs, the salary cap has given cost certainty, and a guarantee on the operating profits they will make.
So when a $5.75 million player goes down for 4 months on this team, this (unlike in Nashville perhaps) is money in the pockets of the owners. In fact, if the current situation stands (with Bergie as the stand in), we're talking multiple millions in beer money.
As I said before, I don't wish to speak ill of Marc-Andre Bergeron, but I am not aware of him being a 1st defender, are you? I think a generous assessment of the guy who just made it through the whole summer without a contract would be a 4th defender with some very very nice skills on the PP. To go higher than that would be to bring into question the judgment of a lot of managers leaguewide.
In effect then, what gainey is floating here is the idea that Hamrlik replaces Markov, while Spacek replaces Hamrlik and Gorges replaces Jaroslav. Marc-Andre then replaces Josh and the guys beneath are in holding pattern. It's a better sell than Beregeron for Markov, but there's a couple of stretches in there, aren't there? Haven't we tested Hamrlik's stamina in that role? Haven't we experimented with Gorges abilities out of his depth before? Spacek's a nice insurance policy to have, but isn't he still an unknown?
The net effect: Vastly worse teams, vaster profits
Personally, as a fan I don't think I can accept all of this, not again. It's one thing to vaunt the development of Yannick Weber as he steps in to replace Hal Gill some time, it's quite another to sing the praises of bringing in a youngster like that when there's a lay-off of known length to the top player on the team.
For me, nothing less than Gainey putting in some hard work and organizing a suitable replacement will suffice. I think we were patient with him when he tossed Streit without replacement, when he did nothing to replace key injured parts for large portions of last winter. I think this time we deserve a better plan, a medium-, not short-term, solution.
Looking at the prospects and then at the free agents (not even all available anymore), I've alighted on the fact that creativity must play a part here. I think we have to make a trade.
If only there were a team dying to get rid of a top offensive defender so they undergo a face lift and possibly restock their cupboard; if only there were a GM harebrained enough to crave players just like Gregory Stewart, and those forwards we have in abundance.
Are you with me? What do you think? Try Bergeron and see how many games we have to make up by February?
Even forgetting our defence for a minute, it would be criminal for the Molsons to walk off with Markov's cap room in insurance payments, wouldn't it?