So the Canadiens have now lost 6 of 7 games, with another one coming up against the league’s best team in Vancouver. Losing 7 of 8 is a distinct possibility. A distinct probability given the way they’re playing lately. The timing couldn’t be worse with the trade deadline about a week away. Now there’s a sizeable portion of Habs fans thinking that Pierre Gauthier absolutely must to do something to improve this team. I can’t put up much of an argument, because the Canadiens do need serious upgrades, but what can he be expected to do with the assets he has, and considering the state of the team on the ice? Not one, or two, or even three trades would fix all that ails the good ship Canadien. Besides – and this may be a well guarded secret that I’m about to expose – other General Managers around the league have cable TV (and satellite, too!), cell phones, and perhaps most shocking of all – internet access! Given all those top-secret tools, the rest of the league can effectively eavesdrop on the Habs and figure out just what the Habs troubles are. They also know what expectations are in Montreal, and can squeeze Gauthier even harder. Here’s another secret: there isn’t a General Manager out there who wants to help the Canadiens get better. They know the Canadiens are in dire straits, and they’re sitting back waiting for Gauthier to talk turkey with them. Within seconds they will have Gauthier over a barrel because they know he’s in dire straits. They probably wouldn’t know if they didn’t have all of those high tech gadgets like TV and internet. Damn them! This is precisely why Gauthier needs to disconnect and restrain himself. Any General Manager will be all too happy to pluck away the Canadiens best remaining assets to assist Gauthier in plugging just enough holes to make the playoffs.
If Gauthier is not planning on making a huge splash that helps shape the core of the team for the foreseeable future, then he may as well take a vacation. Just so that we’re clear, any moves that will affect the core of this team for the future will cost Gauthier assets that already represent the present and future: Pacioretty, Subban, and high-end draft picks. Are you ready to part with them? I thought not. And if you are, I’m glad you aren’t the General Manager. Andrei Kostitsyn, as the most moveable among the top-6 forwards will not fetch a productive power forward in return. And no, packaging Kostitsyn with a 3rd round draft pick isn’t a clever way to pry Rick Nash out of Columbus. “Sweetening the pot” with Yannick Weber or Lars Eller blows you like a stiff breeze in to “poor asset management” territory. Face it, the Canadiens are now living through the bumps in the road that come from poor drafting, injuries galore, and unproductive forwards with gigantic contracts. Father Time is the only one that can fix this, and only if he’s joined on the ride by better drafting, better player development, better coaching, and players that do what they’re paid to do.
The trade deadline is not the place where you transform yourself from bubble team to an intimidating, high-powered, well-oiled machine. That’s never been the intention of the trade deadline, nor will it ever be. The trade deadline is for teams that want to add the last pieces to what they believe is a Stanley Cup puzzle (see: Bruins, Boston). Many Habs fans are pulling their hair out because a hated rival continues to aggressively load up for their shot at glory. The Flyers are also looking primed for their swing at the fence. But guess what? Only one of those loaded teams will get the chance to play for the Cup, let alone win it. To do that, they still need to beat the Western Conference Champ, which is no guarantee either. I suppose some of you will say “but at least they’re trying while Gauthier does nothing”. If viewed in a vacuum, you’re right. But what you aren’t taking in to consideration is the fact that the Bruins and Flyers built slowly through the draft and have made shrewd signings over the years. They are in a position to make this final push for the Cup. The Canadiens aren’t there yet. Regardless, now you want the Canadiens to make a bunch of trades to keep up with the Flyers and Bruins at the top of the East? Sorry, I’m not buying it. There’s nothing Gauthier can do, or should do right now to try and keep up with the Joneses. With the system Jacques Martin has in place, any big-name acquisition is not likely to have the desired effect anyway. If you want real, lasting change for the Habs your best option is to wait for a regime change. Martin is still basking in the glow of last year’s run and probably has immunity for the foreseeable future, especially with his buddy calling the shots. A good place to start would be to have the guy who Bruce Boudreau called “one of the smartest coaches in the league” to alter his philosophy. Stop relying on power plays and goaltending. Implement a system that sees the forwards forecheck hard and keep the puck in the opponent’s end. Force them to chase the Canadiens speedy forwards.
Gauthier should not make moves at the deadline to puck up short-term fixes at the cost of the future. Instead, his best investment is a set of “jaws of life” to pry Martin’s philosophy out of the pre-lockout era.