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The Deadline is Just the Beginning

To be clear, your guess is as good as mine as to who is running the show as far as who is general managing the Montreal Canadiens right now. In the interest of not going off on a tangent as to who exactly is pulling the strings, I’m comfortable with assuming it’s some sort of combination of Pierre Gauthier, Bob Gainey and Geoff Molson as the organization tries to balance managing public outrage and the welfare of the hockey team. So that being said, due to the confusion as to who exactly is deciding which players currently represent the more storied franchise in the history of professional hockey (can you sense my frustration?), I’ll try and avoid specifically using names with my assessment of how I feel the string-puller(s) did leading up to the trade deadline earlier today.

For me at least, what the Habs ended up doing at the deadline began with the Hal Gill trade. Some would say it was the Michael Cammalleri deal but that seemed to be a case of shipping out a bitter player as soon as possible for the sake of salvaging team harmony. It was far before the point where the Canadiens labelled themselves as “sellers”. The Gill trade made it perfectly clear to the rest of the league that Montreal was waving the white flag on the 2011-2012 campaign.

I was absolutely thrilled with the return on the deal and it led me to believe that because of the apparent premium placed on defensemen at this year’s deadline, there was a CHANCE that the useless warm bodies that the Habs employ to roam around the blue line could be dealt to other teams for SOMETHING…..ANYTHING. For a 36-year-old defenseman who isn’t having his best year but remains a tremendous weapon on the penalty kill and brings loads of playoff experience, a second-round pick along with two young players, both with at least SOME potential, is quite the return. As far as Blake Geoffrion goes, he hasn’t turned out to be the player most expected the former second-round pick to be but at 24-years-old, there is still an amount of potential there. Add the much-talked-about “family history” aspect of Geoffrion and to me, you see a guy who could embrace the jersey that has meant so much to his family and use that motivation to re-ignite his once-promising career. At worst, Geoffrion stays the player he currently is and that is depth for Hamilton or a bottom six forward for the big club in a pinch. Geoffrion’s performance in Hamilton to date lends optimism to the former. Consider Robert Slaney not much more than a throw-in (see Ian Schultz in the Jaroslav Halak deal).

I expected the Gill deal to set off the fire sale of the team’s other impending unrestricted free agents who didn’t appear to fit in to the Habs’ long-term plans. By now, I expected Andrei Kostitsyn, Mathieu Darche, Travis Moen and Chris Campoli to be in other uniforms (prayers that someone would take Tomas Kaberle obviously went unanswered). Of course as you know by now, only Kostitsyn is no longer a part of the team.

I’ll always wonder what Andrei Kostitsyn could have been with the Montreal Canadiens. I appreciated him for the consistent 20-goal scorer and underrated physical player he is but I’ll always believe he could have been much more. Part of that is because he doesn’t have the head for the enviable skill set he has and part of that is because he has been jerked around by sub-par coaching staffs for the better part of the five seasons he spent in Montreal. I’m still somewhat conflicted as to whether I wanted to see Kostitsyn go at all. On one hand, I classify each player as being one that you can either win with or can’t win with. Kostitsyn was a player I believe you can’t win with but his production was undeniable when you consider his salary and the type of contracts players with similar offensive output have started getting (see Tuomo Ruutu). As strange as it might be to say, Kostitsyn is underpaid. The most important factor in all this appears to be that Kostitsyn had finally mentally checked out and was ready for a change and when that happens with a player who will bolt in twenty meaningless games from now, you get what you can for him. So all that being said, I’m satisfied with getting a second-round pick for Kostitsyn.

The part that disappointed me about deadline day as far as being a Habs fan goes are the players that stayed in our uniform. Perhaps injuries to Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen prevented any kind of deal but neither are believed to be long-term injuries so how much of a part could that have possibly played in the eyes of playoff-bound teams? If Moen gets re-signed, I’m fine with him not being dealt. He’s a useful player who brings many elements to the table this team could use more of and he’s young enough to be productive for years to come. As far as Darche goes, I’m not sure he had any value to begin with but he had been playing easily his best hockey of the season to date. In the end, I’m disappointed nothing could be had for Darche and the same goes for Chris Campoli. With the premium placed on defensemen in the days leading up to the deadline, I’m hard-pressed to believe at least a sixth-round pick couldn’t be fetched for him.

In the end, this deadline period marks the beginning of what I expect to be a rather lengthy rebuilding process. The organization has stockpiled draft picks who will hopefully be used on players the organization will successfully develop and contribute to the Habs as PK Subban, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, Louis Leblanc, David Desharnais, Carey Price, Alexei Emelin, Rafael Diaz and Josh Gorges really come into their own as the core of the Habs’ future. Players like Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Danny Kristo, Michael Bournival and Brendan Gallagher will hopefully be along soon and provide the young edge winning teams need to go along with their veteran compliments. The free agent retooling the team did three seasons ago obviously failed in the long run and 2011-2012 will forever be known as the year the Habs learned the harsh lessons of need to rebuild rather than retool. Better late than never.

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