Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NHL Trade Deadline: Did Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier Miss the Boat?

by Kamal Panesar

Another NHL trade deadline has come and gone and, once again, Habs GM Pierre Gauthier failed to make a trade for an impact player. As such, when the 3:00 PM EST deadline came and went yesterday afternoon, the anger and hand-wringing among Habs fans started in earnest.

It seems that year after year—since Bob Gainey became the GM of the team in June, 2003—the Canadiens have failed to act at the trade deadline while teams around them are continually making deals.

Aside from the trade that brought Alex Kovalev to Montreal at the 2003-2004 trade deadline, neither Gainey nor Gauthier has made anything more than depth acquisitions over their tenures.

So what does this say about the Canadiens' management philosophy?

Are their GMs, from Gainey to Gauthier, timid, uninterested, delusional about the quality of their teams or just too conservative to make an impact trade?


Love them or hate them, Gauthier, and Gainey before him, are eminently qualified to be General Managers in the NHL. Moreover, as much as fans and media alike enjoy pontificating about moves that should or shouldn't be made, few of them, myself included, have the ability to actually manager an NHL team.

So while it's nice to dream, there are some very clear realities in place that often trump the desire to make a splash.

Gauthier was working the phones

By all indications, Pierre Gauthier was extremely aggressive in this year's trade market, working the phones in an attempt to add scoring punch to his team. But when you're out there fishing for big fish the asking price is usually high and sometimes you have to know when to walk away.

The name that is on everyone's lips this morning is Dustin Penner, since he is a player that many Habs fans thought would be a great fit in Montreal. Moreover, most thought that the Canadiens could just swap Andrei Kostitsyn for Penner, straight up.

While Penner undoubtedly brings the scoring size that the Habs are missing from their lineup, he also brings baggage and a hefty price tag. Penner has scored 21 goals this season and 32 last year, but, much like Kostitsyn, he has been dogged by inconsistent compete levels.

Moreover, with one more year on his contract after this season at $4.25 million per, Penner would not exactly have been a cheap addition.

Prior to him being dealt to the Kings, there was a fake rumour being floated around that the Habs had acquired Penner for Jarred Tinordi and a 1st round pick. Looking at how much the Kings gave up for him, that price sounds about right.

The L.A. Kings, in my estimation, grossly overpaid by giving up defensive prospect Colten Teubert, a 2011 first-round pick and a 2012 conditional third-round pick. Teubert, who was selected 13th overall in the 2008 draft, is projected to be a power-house stay-at-home defenseman who should growing into a top-two or three role in the future.

The only players or prospects in the Habs' system that fit this bill are Tinordi and P.K. Subban.

The Habs are not a contender

If the Canadiens were going to compete with or beat the Kings' offer, they would have to give up a similar package to the Kings—essentially two first round picks and a conditional third.

But would that have been in the Habs' best interest? Would Habs fans be happy to see Tinordi or Subban shipped out of town for Penner?

In my estimation, no.

The reality is that despite some success this season, the Canadiens are a middling team and need more than once piece to be considered a contender. Sure adding a big, scoring winger to the mix would help the Canadiens but it would not put them over the top.

The Habs have too many holes to be plugged by just one player and unless they would be acquiring a young, proven player that could play on the team for three-plus seasons, there was no reason to mortgage the future.

The window to being a contender is just starting to open, for Montreal, and there was no reason to jump the gun by trading away key picks and assets unless there was a reasonable certainty it would get them to the Cup final.

With young players like Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, Subban and Ryan White already playing on the team and prospects like Louis Leblanc, Jarred Tinordi, Alexander Avtsin and Danny Kristo in the pipeline, the future is bright for the Canadiens.

So while acquiring a player at the deadline is always exciting for fans, it's not always in the best interest of the team. As such, I believe that by sitting on his hands Pierre Gauthier made the right move by not moving at all.

The Canadiens fate lies in the player’s hands now. The lineup is set and despite their struggles they still have the ability to start the playoffs with home-ice advantage.

From there, as they have done all season, Montreal will go as far as Carey Price can take them and, while they are not a contender on paper, anything can happen once the playoffs start.

The Team 990's Sunday Shinny - Episode 11 - February 27, 2011

In this episode of the Sunday Shinny, where Gary Whittaker and Kamal Panesar of HabsAddict, welcome Kyle Roussel of Cowhide And Rubber to the studio.

Topics include:
-A very interactive hour with many of the fans calling in to give their opinions on both coach Jacques Martin and GM Pierre Gauthier
-Discuss if the Canadiens fans deserve to have a GM who wants to build a contender, or if being competitive with a chance to win is enough
-With trade deadline so close, we give a yea or nay on the names that have been associated with the Montreal Canadiens

Click play below to listen in (listing time 40:26):

Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

(Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images North America)


I give you the 2nd star for the Montreal canadiens!

Really good blog! I am a diehard, faithful Habs fan for over 40 years, no matter whether they are good or bad. I am so tired of the so-called Habs fan who jump on and off the bandwagon every win or loss. They want the trades made at any price and without any reason. They have clearly forgotten how bad the Canadiens were before Bob Gainey took over the reins of the team. The Farm system was bare, no draft choices developing and very weak Canadiens hockey club. Pierre Gauthier has continued with the plan in place. He addressed the needs of the decimated defense without selling the farm or the future. The fans would have been screaming for his head if Gauthier traded Tinordi or Subban for Penner. He has been trying all season to obtain a power forward but again this year the price was just too high.You have to know by now that the habs management does most of it's tweeking to the roster well in advance of the deadline. On the deadline day, the price for players are too crazy because most team making the deals are a little desperate. Good for him is right. The Canadiens know that they must draft to fill the needs of the organization and develop the prospects on the Farm team to continue to have success in the Salary Cap era. This team will show again this year in the playoffs that it's not the size of the player but the size of his heart. There is an old saying "You can't hit what you can't catch" which applies to the Habs against the biggest teams like the Bruins, the Flyers and the Penguins. When the Canadiens use their team speed properly, they are a team that can do some damage to any team in the playoffs. It's not about one or two fights during the season because they don't matter much in the playoffs. Hot Goaltending, team defense, specialty teams (PK & PP) with opportunistic scoring is what wins Stanley Cups. All the whiners, complainers and second guessers will be jumping on to the playoff wagon again this year with the real faithful Habs fans like myself.

Thank you again,


Only a second star? :-)

Excellent post!

And you're very right in that the Habs have a whole wackload of prospects and developing players and still hold their trade picks. This is not yet a contending team but if they continue to be patient and NOT make knee-jerk trades, this team will be in a good spot perhaps as soon as next season.

Thanks for you excellent insight!

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