In the collective vent, it came to light that many (myself included) were not very happy with Gainey's performance this season, specifically since the fall of Markov. My sentiment was that he should have done something to replace the best player on the team, who he knew would be out for 50 games. Others thought that was unreasonable for some reason.
Towards the end of the conversation, MathMan laid down what I took to be a challenge when he said:
It's easy to say "think outside the box", but without some inkling as to what that thinking would entail, it's a pretty empty demand. And allow me to doubt very much that Philly would have made a move by now if Pronger went down... for fear of crippling their cap situation even more.
He was talking in response, of course to my plea that Gainey could have done more than sign the available French Canadian UFA on D. To be absolutely fair, I did ask Gainey to think outside the box, claimed that's why he was paid millions and then came up with something like: "Why didn't he keep Dandenault?"
Not very out of the box, I'll admit. So with the challenge down. And despite the fact I have to do it for free, I'll put some effort into the out-of-the-box thinking for Gainey. Maybe he can give me a ten minutes of his wage or something...
Poach a Russian
They wouldn't hesitate to do it to us, there's no transfer agreement. What's the problem?
It might finally show the KHL that the NHL means business.
Not, perhaps the best idea from outside the box...
Pay a transfer fee for a European or a Russian
On a more serious note, why not ignore the fact there's no transfer agreement in the strictest sense and come to an agreement team-to-team with a partner in Sweden or Russia. All that money being saved from Andrei Markov is only being mothballed otherwise.
How about $500,000 to Frolunda for Christian Backman? A few rubles for Valentenko?
These transfers happen all the time between Euro leagues and it's normal operating procedure. Just because the NHL is backwards in its thinking doesn't mean the Habs should be.
Bettman would be angry, but would he have recourse? Probably. Maybe shelf this idea?
This is no longer an out of the box idea, this is a press-reported strategy. Chelios, even at 47 would probably offer a lot more savvy than #47 ever could. And he'd probably be able to last a game, as he's likely more fit than all 6 of our current group.
He's playing in Chicago now with the AHL Wolves and is doing a pretty decent job of it. Unlike all the options listed to now, he's the only one to have played on a defending Stanley Cuo champion team last year.
We've tried this route once, and look where it got us right? But imagine this time, we don't take the RDS suggestion and look for a player who actually plays defence.
I mentioned Dandenault, who we know isn't great, but also know is better than the cross-crease pass every other time he touches the puck. Greg DeVries isn't signed, probably because of his 2008-09, but has had some decent efforts in past years, including 2007-08, so might not be terrible. He's also not 5'9", but 6'3" and could probably handle a much diminished role.
Waiver pick up
The day after Markov's tendon was bisected, the Thrashers picked up Christoph Schubert off waivers. Since that time only one defenceman has been exposed (Randy Jones), but he was claimed by the LA Kings.
Randy Jones is nothing special either, but let's face it, at this point we're talking about replacing some pretty unspecial people on the blue line. 6'2", 205 lbs and NHL experience on a better team than ours, that's something. There's no telling if he would have helped, but then we'll never know if we sit here satisfied with the status quo.
People go through waivers all the time. We've had Begin off waivers, Beauchemin was lost off waivers. Most recently we claimed Metroploit off waivers – there are worthwhile players to be had. I'm sure Gainey's on it, though.
We haven't mentioned him at all, but Bob Gainey signed Andre Benoit from Sweden in the spring to play for the Bulldogs. He's not an old man, but already has a lot more experience than say Weber or Subban and has played very well for two seasons in Europe in pro leagues there.
He wouldn't be a much better option than Bergeron, but he may be. Bulldogs fans?
A forward on D
Our problem is a forward stuck in a defenceman's contract. Maybe the solution is a defenceman stuck in a forward's body.
You asked for outside the box, you got it. Chipchura has been an off and on pretty good performer this season. Most nights he's been invisible, which is an improvement on a sometimes painful 4th line. At times, he's been quite good on the puck.
But even with all that, let's be honest, he's never really looked like scoring a goal. Perhaps with better linemates he'd have some points by now, but even a generous soul wouldn't be allocating him more than a couple. In short, Chipchura as a forward isn't really working out for us. He's just not a great asset to the team. And this blogger can't see how he holds off Ben Maxwell, if the younger centre shows any improvement at all this season.
I say why not? He has some skills that I'd value in a defender – some decent puck control, a decent basic sideways pass and legs that might appreciate waiting around a bit on a shift. I don't know how he skates in reverse or whether he can rap a puck off the glass first before sending it into the stands, but he's in the NHL, so he might be able to put something together there.
Obviously rolling out this move is a practice only experiment for a few weeks. But he really wouldn't have to be that good to stand in as a 7th for us right now. If things clicked, he might overtake MAB in a week or two.
If not him, how about Pacioretty? Goodness knows it wouldn't cost us a single goal for.
OK, I'll admit, most of those are bit wacky, and were I not going through an exercise, I'd have scrapped them long ago. The real option is, and probably always was: trade.
The minute Markov went down was the minute I thought Gainey should have been working a trade. A lot of people assume that I intend to replace like with like here, something in the ilk of Brian Campbell, but really I don't. In fact, I think a 3rd defender to help alleviate the pressure on the top 4 would be fine.
I'll get into trouble if I go through too many scenarios, but one I'd explore if I were GM would be the possibility of acquiring Aaron Ward from the Hurricanes. They need a change, we need a defence first defenceman. He's not the answer to the world's problems, but you can ask Boston if they're happy about opting for Derek Morris instead. He's adequate and has been for a long time. He makes mistakes, but also makes sound plays once in a while. In short, he's now a 3/4 Dman.
Beyond Ward there are many candidates if Gainey frees the grip on the "prospects". Having seen a few camps now, I don't see why anyone but Subban and maybe Weber shouldn't be up for discussion. If someone thinks Ben Maxwell is worth a defender, it's a great blessing for us, as the chance of him blossoming into something we'll regret losing is pretty minimal at this point (he once score 28 goals in junior!).
Thinking outside the box on the trade front is really what Gainey needs to be doing at this point. If you want to know what I mean, it's something like this:
– When the Wild lose Sykora and Bouchard, they need scoring
– Fletcher scours the league and homes in on Chuck Kobasew, 2-time 20 goal man for the Bruins in 2 years
– He completes the trade for Kobasew in return for Craig Weller (minor league, non-scorer), the rights to Alex Fallstrom (a 2009 4th round pick) and a 2011 2nd round pick
It's just an example of how you can get something (a new 20 goalscorer) for pretty much nothing if you find the right partner and the right trade. It's been a month, time for Gainey to unearth one of these soon.
Those are the possibilities as I see them. I wonder what you crazy guys can come up with...