Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Last Remnant of the Gomez Trade

OK, so we don't need to shed another tear for Scott Gomez, the league and players' association that were stubborn and stupid enough to squander a whole half season, have grasped their rush of common sense to make a very common sense fix to the Gomez problem (and for others like him: Redden).

Instead of having to sit for this season, they have made a scheme whereby a player can be bought out now and released from all the clauses that tie the buyout to health, etc. For the team and the salary cap, the effects are the same. The sole purpose of this new move is to be kinder to players like Gomez.

OK, so that changes lots. I think now we can say without question that this was the right move. And that with no player shuttled to the curb, the Canadiens can remain on their high horse a bit longer. All is well.

But with Gomez going, this may be one of the last good opportunities to make complaining about Gainey's Gomez acquisition into a topical piece of writing. I wouldn't have done it, but a quote on Francois Gagnon's recent op-ed really caught my eye:

"Si McDonagh portait le chandail du Canadien et non celui des Rangers, le spectre de voir P.K. Subban rater le début de la saison et prolonger sa guerre des nerfs avec la direction du Tricolore pour obtenir le contrat à long terme qu’il revendique serait beaucoup moins inquiétant"
Roughly: "If McDonagh were with the Habs and not the Rangers, the thought of PK Subban missing the beginning of the season in a contract battle would not be so worrying..."

Nothing wrong with this statement. But hang on a minute.

The ties between Ryan McDonagh and PK Subban are real. McDonagh was tradeable because of Subban's meteoric rise. The two were drafted in the same year, and the two would have provided some interesting contract math for the Habs had they been on the same team this summer.

While Ryan McDonagh is an entry contract player now, he will be due a pay day come this summer. For a team like the Habs -- almost inexplicably against the seiling of payouts -- this would have led to choices. One of the possible choices, and one that Gagnon's comment alludes to is Subban vs. McDonagh.

Let me be clear. Ryan McDonagh may be a fine player and he seems to be turning in some good hockey in New York. But he is no PK Subban. What PK Subban has done in his short time with the Habs is nothing short of generational by the standards of our prospects. He went from late season call up to playoff hero to primary option for all situations so quick our heads should be spinning. For a player that was drafted for his dynamic skating and PP potential, his superior defensive effectiveness has been a bonus revelation. He shouldn't be done yet. Given the chance and some stability, I think there are surprises that still await the fans patient enough to put up with his extra personality.

PK Subban isn't just a good defenceman, he is the kind of player that only comes along once in a while -- and that's if you're lucky. And make no mistake, the Habs were lucky to get the second best player in a draft at pick #43.

So would having Ryan McDonagh have made PK Subban less necessary in team plans? Not if I was running the team. But I'm not. The guys running the team think that adding Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong to a 15th place team that lost Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn is a relaunch. I dread to think what they might have made of the choice.

While it's a lovely romance, that of McDonagh, Subban and all the other players we'd have had if trades always went this team's way. It's also fraught with the problems of salary. And given the Canadiens ability to overpay an extremely mediocre group to the point of their detriment, I can't imagine that adding effective players back in would have been very helpful.

In a strange way, Gainey and his Gomez trade may have saved the Canadiens from making an even worse mistake than staring down the "No NHL players for Ryan McDonagh" trade of 2009. Perhaps it's far fetched, but judging by what this management views as adequate on other dockets, I'm happy they have less say on the relative value and importance of Subban. Better their hand is forced here.

Good luck Scott.

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