Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

by Tyg

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.


Great work, Tyg!


It's true, the Habs management team has their hands full this summer trying to figure out what to do.

It's amazing because with a few tweaks this team could become a contender, but a few missteps could put them in a hole for a long time.

The Gomez contract is an albatross that hangs heavily around the Habs' neck. Gomez is a good player, but should be paid around 4.5 Mil not 8Mil a season.

That extra 3.5 mil is an excellent young player.

I agree the Kostitsyn's should go, but would not heistate to trade Plek if he wants too much money.

The talk seems to be that he wants 5 Mil or more per season. IMO, that is too much, no matter how good he is defensively and I would not hesitate to trade his rights at the draft, for a 1st round pick or as part of a bigger deal to get a BIG No.1 center.

Easier said than done, but how good would Jeff Carter look as the Habs' No.1?

Yeah, don't get me started on Gomez. Another 4 years of him is going to be a factor in building a true cup contender, but not in a good way.

Agree about Pleks, but I've got a soft spot for him, so I don't want him to walk and I hope they can come to an agreement. Between 4-5 I'd say yes, but more than that I think would be highly unlikely. Would he be worth more than that outside of Montreal?

Not a Jeff Carter fan, but agree we need something along similar lines.

Nice article, and provides plenty of food for thought.

Starting from goaltenders to forwards:

Goalies: I'm not so sure that both can't be retained. Halak is arbitration-eligible, but still won't break the bank. Price will get a nominal raise. Aside from a knee-buckling offer, I'd keep both if I could and see how it goes.

Defensemen: I agree that MAB and Mara are gone. If Hamrlik can be moved he ought to be. But wait. Should he really? Subban seemed to thrive under him, just as Phaneuf benefitted greatly from playing with Hamr. I know moving him brings flexibility with the cap, but I think it bears consideration to keep him and perhaps move Spacek instead. Gorges should be extended immediately, Markov is a wait-and-see. Gill is around for one more year. Subban will be here, on that we all agree. I'd keep O'Byrne, but considering the way he was used when it counted most, I wonder if management agrees.

Now the forwards: Yikes. I don't know what to do with Pleks. We need a 2nd line center, and there aren't any available aside from Marleau who I don't want, and is too pricey anyway. Plekanec has had 2 good regular seasons and 1 partially good playoff season. To me he's not worth a dime more than 5 million, despite our desperate need to fill his spot. I'd let him walk if he wants too much and try to make a trade somewhere.

Talent doesn't grow on trees, and I would hate to see both Kostitsyns leave. Martin doesn't seem to like them, which probably counts for a lot. Still, neither bro would bring much in return right now. I'm ambivalent about them, as I love their skill, but not a big fan of what's between the ears and in their heart.

Pouliot, while cheap and sometimes productive, is almost irreparably on my black list. His gutless effort in the playoffs assured that. I'd toss him to the scrap heap.

I'd be careful with suggesting to offload Gomez. He seems to be very much respected, and has a chemistry with Gionta that may be hard to replace. Gainey didn't sign him to that deal, but he did take it on. If we moved him, it would be for a similar, or worse deal. He doesn't produce like a 7.3 million dollar cap hit, but he may have intangibles that say he's more valuable than we think.

Metro, Darche, thanks for your services.

Moore, for a million - 1.5, you can stay.

Lapierre redeemed himself somewhat in the playoffs.

That's all I have for now, and will probably look at this on my own site soon, but this gets the hamster wheel turning! Well done!

When I said keep more... I meant keep Moore. LOL Sorry.

Hi Kyle, and thanks for the feedback. Hope you're right about affording both goalies, but my concern more is will they agree to tandem again next year without upsetting the team spirit?

Defense I think we can afford to lose either Hamr or Spacek, but I picked Hamr for cap reasons only. He is a great mentor for the kids, no doubt.

Agree the K Bros have mega talent, but they lack the ability to be consistent and the drive that the rest of the team possesses. In order to win the Cup, the entire team has to be hungry, and these two almost never are. You pegged it with the ears and heart commentary, which is why I want the gone.

Pouliot at least talks a good game re: ears and heart, which is why I'm on the fence. If we could upgrade affordably, though, I'd cut him loose.

Agree about Gomez, but my pet peeve with him is ROI, and I just don't see it yet. Hopefully next season he'll earn more. That said, he is a leader in the room, so with his salary also, he's not going anywhere.

Agree re: Metro & Darche. I think we need to keep more, but yeah... 1.5 is the upper end of the bracket. I actually like Laps a lot, mostly because the kid lives and breathes bleu, blanc et rouge, and that kind of devotion to the team, the city and the fans is necessary. Also, when he stops with the foolishness he can be effective and dangerous.

Looking forward to reading more of your take about all this in depth once you post on your own site.

Hey Tyg and Kyle....awesome discussions!

I agree with Kyle re: reason not to sign them both. They have little to no leverage.

Price? Give him a qualifying offer and tell him to shutup. ZERO raise, imo.

Halak will get a raise but, again, as an RFA, he doesn't have a ton of clout.

I'd want to give it one more year with both and see if Carey can emerge and take over because I STILL think his ceiling is much higher than Halak's.

Pouliot? I'd LOVE to see him play half a season in the AHL under Boucher (if he doesn't leave to coach somewhere else).

Gomez is a great player. He is just overpaid. That's all. I have no problem with his production, leadership, and chemisty with Gionta. It's just his salary, which is handcuffing the Habs.

Kyle: We don't need a second line center, we need a first line center.

The problem right now is that the Habs have TWO No.2 centers.

I would not hesitate to trade either Pleks or Gomez if we could get back a big No.1 in the deal.

Something tells me we will start hearing the Lecavalier to MTL rumours again....sigh...

Personally, I want nothing to do with Lecavalier's ridiculuos 10 year contract. He's got what, another four peak years left in him?

The grinders? Let them all go except for Moore and Lappy. If there is one thing the Habs excel in it is drafting third/fourth line players.

WE kill in that department!

Ryan White, Greg Stewart, etc, etc...these guys can all come up and fill in, cheaply, for Metro, Darche, etc.

MAB? I would have jettisoned him long ago, so for me he is gone.

This is going to be almsot as interesting a summer as last year!

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