Thursday, February 17, 2011

Canadiens Fan Trade Philosophies

The trade deadline is an interesting time for Habs fans. Everyone has a whole set of ideas on how to improve the team for the impending Cup run and the fledgling dynasty of the decade.

Trades, you see are easy. Just get rid of your bad players and bring in good ones. Simple as.

We are having a good time polling the readers and compiling their thoughts on different players (forwards, defencemen and goalies). As well as the obvious trade bait, there are some subtle surprises in fan sentiment. We'll continue polling and sharing the results as we try to build fictional trades together in our discussions.

On the subject of fictional trades, I wanted to share the perspectives of two arm-chair GMs that I read yesterday. The first perspective is that of Arpon Basu - statistical acolyte and head-screwed-on-tight reporter.

Arpon's proposed plan for the upcoming trade deadline can be summed up by the following:
"I propose he do absolutely nothing, at least not of the major variety."
His strategy is founded on the underlying belief that nothing that can be done at this stage will change the fate of the team very much:
"Frankly, the Canadiens are not in a situation where the addition of one or two players could mean the difference between a Cup run and a first round exit."
He goes on to point out that doing nothing will benefit the team two-fold:

1) The team won't have to give up assets
2) The youngsters will benefit from the time in pressure situations

Some would call him a pessimist. others might think it boring to draw a line in the sand at late draft picks for depth defencemen for the most overhyped TSN moment of the year.

On that note, let's consider the other end of the spectrum. If Arpon is the sparingly hopeful conservative, he shares the Internet with some some extremely optimistic (in trade abilities anyway) radicals.

Where Arpon stretched a simple thought to a few well built scenarios. The trade mongers need more than one post to get through the complete overhaul they envision for the team. Willey, the ultimate arm chair GM who wrote on Habs Addict, describes the multiple trade strategy over two posts (Part I and Part II). I'll break it down for you trade by trade here:

1) 2nd round pick (presumably 2012) and Ben Maxwell or Andreas Engqvist for Chris Phillips of the Ottawa Senators
"One simple move that I personally feel can turn the Montreal Canadiens from a good playoff team to a team whose d-core can compete with anyone in the Eastern conference."
Or at least until Part II was conceived...


2) Tom Pyatt or 6th round pick for Zenon Konopka of the New York Islanders
"What is most appealing about Konopka, however, is that he is not a one trick pony. Konopka is one of the top-five faceoff men in the league and as we know, faceoffs are everything in the playoffs."

3) White up, Eller down


4) Andrei Kostitsyn, Yannick Weber, 2nd round pick (presumably 2013 now), and Danny Kristo or any Hamilton Bulldog (Blues discretion) for David Backes of the St. Louis Blues
"We need a top-six forward with size and a mean streak. It is time to stop the stream of bandaid and UFA players, and land ourselves an impact player."

5) Scott Gomez, 1st round pick (2011 or 2012), and Brendan Gallagher or another prospect of Toronto's choosing for Mike Komisarek of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We know what he can provide to this team in terms of a physical presence and we know what he can do in the locker room. He is exactly what this team needs."

Quite an overhaul and quite a difference from Arpon.

Willey here has traded a first round pick with second rounders from the two drafts after this one, along with our second centre (Scott Gomez), our fourth leading scorer (Andrei Kostitsyn), a young defenceman (Yannick Weber), Tom Pyatt and basically all the decent forward prospects in the system (Kristo, maxwell, Gallagher) for two underperforming defencemen (Phillips and Komisarek), Zenon Konpka and David Backes.

These trades were designed to answer the two pressing needs of the Habs (or at least the ones identified just after the Bruins game): lack of size and lack of depth. I think he addressed size, not so sure about depth.



Where should Gauthier fall?

I've made myself clear before, and through thinly-veiled amazement in this article again. I stand with Arpon.

To me, the second more radical strategy actually proves the first.

All trades starting with players a team would like to get rid of tend to become fantastic works of imagination, and you can see how draft picks get thrown around pretty quick to make up for lack of value.

I am also sure that in the long list of traded assets that you, like me, saw a few names you'd rather wait on than turn into Konopkas at this stage. And, this is an important point. There are no freebies, to get, one has to give. If the Canadiens window isn't now, then is giving Danny Kristo or Brendan Gallagher for an extra playoff jump the right thing to do? It can be if that extra jump turns into an extra series or two.

Even more than this, I look at the team at the end of the labour-intensive trading period for Gauthier here and don't see one that is greatly improved from the one before the moves.


I think there is middle ground, however, and I think there are many reasons to hope our GM will be alert to the unfolding possibilities. The Frolik trade, for example, provided the Blackhawks both the better player and the most interesting prospect. A move with a similarly sleepy GM could improve the Habs without much cost. I very much hope Gauthier comes into these conversations with serious intent, as desperate GMs are ready to be had  at this time of year. Caution, of course, in the awareness that for every good deal there will be 20 neutral ones and 10 bad ones.

To those that bemoan the Mara trade today for the 5th round pick and cap space that it cost, consider the safe buffer between this trade and radical territory. For those who bemoan it because it means we now won't be trading first rounders for Komisarek, perhaps read Arpon Basu again.

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