Monday, February 28, 2011

Why The Habs Might Look The Same At The End Of Today

Most Habs fans are not fools. Most know a thing or two about hockey. They should from watching 80+ games of hockey each year.

So when we at LIW polled Habs fans for the players they would like to move, I have some confidence that the results reflect something pretty close to the feelings of members of the Canadiens organization with a say in these matters.

G: Price
D: Subban, Gorges
F: Plekanec, Gionta, Pacioretty, Cammalleri
B: Avtsin
P: Leblanc
E: 1st rounders

Proposed trade pieces
G: Auld
D: Picard, Spacek
F: Gomez, Pyatt, Kostitsyn, Moen
B: Depth forwards, defencemen and goalies
E: 5th, 6th, 7th rounders

As well as the lists of everything Canadiens fans want and don't want, these lists could also substitute for lists of what other GMs would want and not want from the Canadiens system. Interest in Price and Subban would be high, whereas interest in Auld, Spacek, Gomez or 6th rounders isn't going to make Gauthier the popular phone number of the day.

The clever fans know this, so they have keyed on Andrei Kostitsyn. He is on the list of discards, but fond memories loom close enough that peopl think he has value on the trade market. After all, he is big, he can shoot better than 98% of players in the league and he has done things worthy of note in the past. Most hopeful pundits seem to hope that other GMs might not have noticed his MO, that is scoring 20 goals each season in clusters, instead paying for him like they would a clockwork 40-goalscorer.

This isn't going to happen and it won't take too many phone calls for Gauthier to assess this information. If he intends to trade Andrei Kostitsyn, he is likely to get a player very much like Andrei Kostitsyn in return. The problem of course being that familiarity with Andrei lets us know he's already OK on defensive assignments, that he can ignore the Montreal hoopla better than many and his high points can be very high, even on a low scoring outfit like the Habs.

The alternative is an unknown.

Many would suggest the unknown is potential. It is, but it is potentially worse, just as it would be potentially better.

I think Gauthier will see what he can get for his more valuable bargaining chips and realise that he's better hoping for turnarounds in form than for integration and turnaround in form.

To those that cling to the hope that Nashville has more sentimentality than memory, consider the Predators are consistently in contention on a tight budget. This isn't because they reunite pairs that didn't really work in the past at great cost to their future plans.

The other scenario

The other scenario is that Gauthier takes the sudden view that his team will not be a big-time contender this year and looks for this year's "Ville Leino".

In this case, he'd have to loosen the hold on those middle range players (not in the Trade Now bracket) like Pouliot or Eller in order to find an upgrade.

It's also possible that a player like Hamrlik or Gill, who is key to the team's fortunes at present, and has value to a team that can fit a salary and needs a top-4 defender for some reason to make a Cup run, could be moved.

In both cases, he'd expose himself to backlash from those who think that Cinderella runs are owed to this city again. Personally, I don't think he'd be willing to face the backlash. Nor do I think he's got the eye to spot the Leino deal from the mess of other things going on today. He didn't last year.

So, with half the TSN talkfest over, a single trade to speak of and a few hours to go, I'd be pretty comfortable in sticking with the poll results together with my case here and say that the Canadiens won't be moving anything worth talking about this afternoon.

(That said, the moment I publish this, Murphy and his law might kick the smug blogger to the curb and send Gomez to Dallas for Richards).

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