Don’t Expect Gainey To Make a Blockbuster Deal……Maybe Some Fine Tuning.



    Bob Gainey maybe the general manager/vice-president of the Club Hockey de Canadien but in a hockey mad city/province like Montreal and Quebec, there are approximately 6-7 million quasi general managers who have varying opinions about the team. With the trade deadline only four weeks away, these “wannabe” GMs (especially the media,……and yes, bloggers as well !!!) will have a lot to say regarding what Bob Gainey’s coarse of action should be to improve his team.
    With that being said, don’t expect Gainey to make a blockbuster trade (no, Mats Sundin or Marian Hossa aren’t Montreal bound any time soon!!!) before or at the trade deadline on February 26th. He will be very reluctant to trade away his young talent, both from the roster and in the system unless he can get a good player(s) in return who will be a RFA or has years remaining on a contract.
    The Canadiens are playing solid hockey at the present time and have a 7-2-1 record over the past 10 games. They are getting contributions from all four lines with the back end playing very well and have drastically cut down the opponents scoring chance as well as shots on goal ( last 5 games, the opposition has only averaged 22.4 shots per game). The Canadiens are ranked fourth in scoring with 154 goals and are a +2 on 5 on 5 situations which is a far cry from last year at this time of the season when they were an incredibly bad -29. The powerplay is ranked #2 in the league while their PK is slowly improving (ranked 19th before last night’s game). Young players like the “Flying Kostitsyns”, Lapierre, Higgins, Plekanec, Gorges and Komisarek (to name a few!!) are playing huge roles on the team. There is no need to make drastic changes unless it’s to improve or tweak the roster for a potential playoff run……..addition, not subtraction, to improve an already solid lineup.

    Gainey will be hesitant to alter his team’s chemistry with the success they’re having thus far as he tends to lean on the conservative side when it comes to personnel decisions or trades. If anything, he is a very patient man by nature and will probably wait 2-3 more weeks to see where his team is in the standings, how well they are playing and assess the team’s needs. Although the Habs have avoided any significant injuries, there is always the risk of injuries to key players which could be a factor before the deadline and force Gainey into making a trade. There is also the salary cap issues that need to be addressed before a trade is made in the “new” NHL. Teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs have serious salary cap issues, thanks to poor contract decisions which seriously limit their ability to improve their teams. To Bob Gainey and Julien Brisebois’ credit, they have given themselves approximately $2.5-$3.5 million cap space to make a significant move if they desire so there isn’t a financial restraint.

    These are some of the factors that go into the thought process of an NHL general manager’s decision. It’s not an easy choice to make and will always be scrutinized by the media, fans and the players so it’s not a decision to take lightly.
    Now it’s time to put our general manager’s hat on and see where Bob Gainey can improve the Canadiens and who would be available or desirable for the Canadiens to acquire? Here is my GM wish list (I’ve highlighted the better choices):
    1. The Habs have one of the top three “group” of defensemen with Markov, Komisarek and Hamrlik but they need to have two solid/shutdown pairings for the PK and 5 on 5 play. Most teams have 2 or 3 lines that can contribute offensively so you need to have two capable defense pairings to deal with this situation. Bottom line is they need to find a #3-#4 defenseman to pair with Hamrlik. Maybe Ryan O’Byrne is that player in the future but he is still inexperienced and would be better served on the third pairing until he gains more playing experience. Possible options: Adam Foote, Rob Blake, Francois Beauchemin, Dan Boyle, Steve Staios, Toni Lydman, Brian Cambell, Jay McKee, Sean O’Donnell, Brett Clark, Garnet Exelby, Aaron Ward, Frantisek Kaberle, Tomas Kaberle , Hendrik Tallinder, Brendan Witt, Brooke Orpik, Christian Backman, Paul Ranger, Karlis Skrastins, Laroslav Spacek, Brad Stuart.
    2. A top six forward who could play with Saku Koivu and give the second line some offensive jump and take some pressure off the KPK line. I have also included natural centers in the list. Possible options: Alex Tanguay, Marian Hossa (Waddell will be asking for too much in return…..but we can dream), Alexander Frolov, Olli Jokinen (again…we can dream!!), Nikolai Zherdev, J.P. Dumont, Milan Hejduk, Jarret Stoll, Markus Naslund, Patrick Marleau, Brendan Shanahan, Jaromir Jagr (if the Rangers fall out of playoff contention. Salary could be an issue here as he will earn $8,36 million next season but the cap hit is $4,940,000 so????), Miroslav Satan, Maxim Afinogenov, Jochen Hecht, Martin St. Louis, Erik Cole.
    3. The Canadiens could add some much needed grit and/or face-off expertise on the third line. Here some possibilities: Trent Hunter, Mike Sillinger (good face-off guy), Scott Walker, Paul Gaustad, Jamal Mayers, Scottie Upshall, Jarkko Ruutu, Tuomo Ruutu, Yanic Perreault (one of the best face-off specialist), P.J. Axelsson, Sean Avery (again, if the Rangers fall out of the playoff race and can’t sign Avery), Ville Peltonen, Jed Ortmeyer, Ian Laperriere, Stephane Yelle, Eric Belanger, Matt Cooke, Mike Grier.

    Quite a few of the players mentioned above probably won’t be available especially if their team is still in playoff contention or they can’t get a reasonable return for the player in a trade offer. In conclusion, it’s always fun to play NHL general manager but as you can see there are a lot of determining factor that go into making trades so in the end don’t be disappointed if Bob Gainey doesn’t make a big splash at the deadline, just some tinkering……….and please cut him some slack as he is building something special with this good, solid young team!!!!