Now that the post-season has ended for the 2009-2010 Montreal Canadiens, hockey analysts as well as much of the team's own fan base are busy trying to figure out what moves Gautier will make during the summer to help improve the Habs' chances to actually contend for the Stanley Cup again next year.
In the two days since their long shot run at the Cup finals this year, I've read arguments for trading pretty much every player, but I've yet to fully agree with any of them, and while I don't pretend to be an expert, like everyone else I have an opinion and here it is.
The fact is Gautier and Co. by their own admission are content with the core of this team, and it's hard to blame them really. Gainey took a heavy axe to the team last year, and it caused a lot of criticism and ill will on the part of the fans.
Whether or not this had a hand in his eventual resignation is neither here nor there, but the fact is he brought in the nucleus that had been missing, which is a solid foundation of leadership that up until this past season had clearly been lacking. It was that same leadership that helped define this year's team identity, which is good old-fashioned teamwork, maximum effort, self-confidence and an overwhelming drive to win.
It's worth preserving, because without it the players themselves are never going to aspire to much more than mid-pack mediocrity, and I don't know about you but I've pretty much had enough with that.
It's finally nice to see winning become a priority among the players again.
Goaltending: Keep Halak. Trade Price.
Personally I think both goalies are solid, and am a fan of both, but it's highly unlikely that Gauthier can afford to keep both. It's worth noting that even the great Patrick Roy played tandem for a few years in Montreal, but neither of these two seem to want to do it again next season.
I'm not sure forcing them to do it will help with the rah rah unity team spirit that the team has found. They might both suck it up, but in the long run it's probably going to cause discord.
Right now Halak is riding the popularity wave from the fan base, but the fact is he fought hard for the number won spot and won it under his own merits, then shouldered a lot of the burden for the team's playoff run, so I'll give the nod to him.
Wouldn't be upset though, if Gauthier kept Price instead. It's hard to lose, with two great goalies to choose from.
Lose MAB, Mara, and Hamrlik. Keep Markov, Spacek, Subban, O'Byrne, Gorges, Gill.
The defensive structure of this team is largely what got it past the Capitals and the Pens.
I've read arguments against Gill - largely salary cap and speed related - but the fact is he's part of the leadership group that's driving this team that Gautier wants to preserve, so I doubt the Habs will willingly cut him loose.
Mara is a non-factor for me, and MAB's defensive liabilities are in no way able to be overlooked because he has a power play cannon. That said, Jacques Martin seems to have a real love for the guy, so that worries me. Hamrlik is a huge cap hit, and he has trade issues, but if the Habs can offload him, it'll free up some money to shore up the team's offensive lines, which is where the biggest holes are.
Markov's offensive contribution to the Habs is unmistakable, as I posted previously. We might only be able to afford him for one more year, but in that year he can help shape Subban and hopefully even O'Byrne, who along with Gorges are the future of the Habs blueliners.
Lose both Kostitsyn brothers. Resign Pleks, Moore, Lapierre.
Plekanec, for all the criticism about him not producing offensively against the Flyers, was not alone in that. The Habs got shut out 3 times, so that's on all the offensive players, not just him.
He's a solid two way forward, so to just look at his points in the post-season and decide to cut him loose makes zero sense to me. Where are you going to get better for between 4-5 million a year?
The huge problem is the top two lines need big, hard-hitting forwards to support the talented and quick smaller players, something even Josh Gorges alluded to.
The kindest thing I can say about the Kostitsyn brothers is that they're inconsistent. Offloading them can only be an improvement.
Pouliot I'm on the fence about. He's another working project (he wants to gain 15 pounds, etc), but I'm not sure Gautier can afford to get two big wingers for his top 2 lines, and he has the size, speed and skill.
Gomez would be nice to offload, just for the cap space, but even a perpetual bottom dwelling team is unlikely to bite just because of his salary, and his chemistry with Gionta is unmistakable. He's a playmaker, but we need more of it from him next year to justify that oversized paycheck.
Who would you keep? Who would you let walk?
Tyg used to frequent the old Forum during her early childhood when her father was a corporate season ticket holder, where she fell in love with Larry Robinson, so her lifelong obsession with the Habs is entirely his fault.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010