Hab Fans Trade Deadline Anxiety And Gainey’s Good, Yet Unpopular Decisions



Like many Canadiens fans, I was “hook, line and sinker” convinced Bob Gainey was close to securing the services of talented winger Marian Hossa prior to the 3:00 pm deadline yesterday. Many reliable hockey people like Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie were reporting that the Canadiens and Senators were the frontrunners to get Hossa. With this information in hand, I was glued to the TV, watching TSN’s great coverage of the trade deadline action, hoping that the Canadiens could land the last piece of the puzzle to push them that much closer to a possible Stanley Cup run.

I was surprised but not shocked to hear that Gainey had unloaded UFA Cristobal Huet to Washington for a bag of pucks…….errr…….2009 2nd round pick. The shocking part of the deal wasn’t that Gainey had handed the goaltending reins to the talented yet inexperienced Carey Price but how little the Canadiens had gotten in return for Huet. The Canadiens do have one of the best amateur scouting departments in the NHL (especially with Frank Jay in the fold now) which could turn that 2nd round pick into something special otherwise it could be used as a trading chip.

Once the Huet situation had sunk into my busy little brain, my hope grew larger as I heard Pierre McGuire return to the TSN panel desk and indicate that something was possibility in the works for Montreal obtaining Hossa………..my excitement grew with this bit of news!!! The thought of Saku Koivu finally having a truly talented winger to dish the puck to was about to transpire before my eyes……..then with a glimpse at my computer, I read that Sportsnet was reporting that the Penguins were making a late offer to Don Waddell for Hossa.

The Penguins were never mentioned in media reports as a suitor for Marian Hossa and I wrongfully dismissed the report as being a typical error by Sportsnet (granted they were minus that “great” rumour guy, Eklund!!!)…….then 10 minutes passed and TSN were reporting the same reports. Could this dare be possible that another talented player slips through Gainey’s fingers yet again!!!

At 2:54 pm, TSN announced that Ray Shero had obtained Marian Hossa with a ridiculously crazy, overpaid deal. Needless to say, I, like many Habs fans, was totally devastated by the news but turned my attention to the possibility that Bob Gainey had a plan”B” in place with another deal in the works for a lesser player………..I awaited the late deals coming in after 3:00 pm and one by one was disappointed to hear that once again Gainey had come up empty to land a defenseman or forward.

I continued my blogging ways, retrieving further trade information to be posted on All Habs while wondering what had gone wrong and why Gainey didn’t pull the trigger on any significant deal to improve his team?

The more I analyzed the Hossa deal, the more I came to the realization that Don Waddell was playing teams offers against each other right until the end. He had driven the price tag through the roof with a sucker named Shero anting up a hugely inflated price tag for Hossa’s services.

In the end, Bob Gainey spoke to the media about trading Huet and not landing an “impact” player like Marian Hossa. He was candidly honest about Huet’s poor play and how Waddell had increased his demands for Hossa and rightfully refused to give up three players (plus a 2008 1st round pick) from his starting lineup for the game against Waddell’s Thrashers that night.

“Basically just to shape it for you, at a point today we spoke to Atlanta and they asked us for four elements and 3 of them were skating in our lineup tonight” Gainey stated at a post deadline news conference, “when we added it up we wouldn’t give them what they were asking for, we countered with an offer that was less than what was involved and they made a decision. We’ve spoken with Atlanta for the last 3 days. Today they changed their demands.”

Gainey made the right decision not to sacrifice the long term plan for a short term fix as Hossa would not have signed with the Canadiens beyond July 1st. Hossa’s difficult and sometimes arrogant agent, Rich Winters had already indicated to the media that his client would field offers from teams after the July 1st UFA deadline so the likelihood of him signing a long term deal with Pittsburgh are slim to none.

As far as trading Cristobal Huet, Gainey stated that under close evaluation of Huet’s play this season, Gainey came to the realization that the organization was not going to sign Huet to a long term contract.

“We have spent a lot of this year evaluating Huet long term, we were looking for something from him from his play that would’ve enabled us to keep him long term, the decision today is a reflection based on that evaluation process.”

He decided to get something of value for his former goalie before he would lose him to free agency which was good common sense. I have heard criticism of Gainey only receiving a 2009 second round pick (including myself) for Huet but there wasn’t a big market for goalies at the deadline as most playoff contending teams were set in their nets. Only Ottawa, Washington, Nashville and possibly Detroit could be considered in the market for a goaltender.

There was and will be criticism of Gainey’s decision to trade away his starting goalie and handing over the goaltending duties to two very good, yet inexperienced goaltenders.

I believe Price has shown he can handle pressure situations with a WJC and Calder Cup championships on his CV. He has accomplished more at the tender age of 20 years old than Huet has in his 10 year hockey career. Can Price handle the pressure cooker of Montreal and win a playoff series or dare I say the Stanley Cup? I certainly think he has the pedigree to do well but time will tell. Gainey will take the heat if Price or Halak (another very good goalie who proved last season that he is capable of playing well in pressure situations) can’t carry the load down the stretch.

In conclusion, Bob Gainey is playing a hunch with his decisions to give Carey Price the goaltending reins and not overpaying a king’s ransom for a rental player. He is also sending a strong message to his current roster of players: You are my team going into the playoff and I have complete faith in you so don’t disappoint me or the fans!!!. You have to give Gainey credit for his courage and vision towards the future success of his team beyond this year. He also hasn’t given up on signing other players to improve his team next year, “We’ll try to add in the UFA season, as we have the cap space to do so” stated Gainey……….give the man credit for his persistence!!!