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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Free Agent Frenzy; What Will We Do?

by Willey

Wow; what an exciting time of year!

I have just spent a day bombarded with texts, emails, tweets, forum posts with a little twist of dirty diapers; welcome to the world of Free Agent Fatherhood Frenzy.

That’s right Kamal; congratulations on the birth of your baby boy. Although I am eternally hurt from your refusal to name him Willey, a wound that runs deep but is beginning to heal, welcome to the club man.

You are officially introduced to the world of juggling work, the game of hockey, your online community and of course fatherhood. It is a journey, it is troubling and difficult but there is no greater gift in life. Enjoy every minute of it my friend.

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Here I am sitting in front of my computer with just 36 hours away from arguably the most exciting part of any NHL fans season.

Come on guys; I’m not talking about Canada Day, and no I’m not talking about the premier of Transformers 3; Dark Side of Moon - or whatever the heck it’s called. I’m talking about Free Agent Frenzy.

That time of year where we all find ourselves glued to our computers and phones hoping to get the latest scoop as our beloved teams adds those missing building blocks to what surely promises to be a Stanley Cup winning season.

OMG why did I just mention the Stanley Cup? I just felt an overwhelming nauseating feeling as the image of Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins hoisting the Stanley Cup just swept through my mind.

Come on Willey, think happy thoughts; think 24 Cups, think Jean Beliveau and Chris Nilan, think PK Subban and Jarred Tinordi. OK I’m better now, where was I?

Oh yes; Free Agent Frenzy. You know that can only mean one thing; Willey’s Wish List, a look at the forwards, Defense and goaltending.

Goaltending

Realistically what is there to say? The doubts that many of us had going into last season have been answered and it is obvious more than ever that Carey Price is the man.

So if we know that he is going to “Carey” the majority of the work load then the only possible question that remains is who will be his back-up?

Um….how about anyone? Mathieu Garon, Jose Theodore, Martin Biron, Marty Turco, Johan Hedberg; I mean really, take your pick?

Ok, Ok stop harassing me. If you want a name that badly then I will give you one, I say bring back Auld. I mean for a million dollars or less we have a guy who was above .500 with a more than respectable GAA and save percentage so what's wrong with that?

Besides, I need another year of: “he’s big he’s bald, he’s Alex Auld” to digest.

Defense

Today we received confirmation that Roman Hamrlik would not be returning, that James Wisniewski was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a seventh round pick and that Yannick Weber has been signed for two additional years; translation; our defense is pretty much set.

Je suis Andrei Markov, je suis Alexei Emelin, je suis PK Subban, je suis Hal Gill, je suis Josh Gorges, je suis Jaroslav Spacek and je suis Yannick Weber; ladies and gentleman your 2011-12 Montreal Canadiens defense core!

Whoa, whoa, whoa lady, pump the breaks! Do you really think I would just sit by and accept this as status quo? Do you really think my years of bitching and moaning about the lack of toughness would simply be tossed to the sideline just because we have seven guys already on the roster?

I’m sorry but four Europeans? Only three players taller than 6’0? This is just not going to happen.

So let the bitching begin.

First things first, is grandpa Spacek really still on this team? He was old when we signed him, so I figured he’d be collecting his pension by now, not anchoring our third D pairing. I mean seriously why not just bring back Butch Bouchard or something.

I have no problem with Markov, Emelin, Subban, Gill and Gorges; in fact I think these five men form what may in fact be one of the best units in the Eastern Conference. Add in a guy like Yannick Weber who is still young and improving and truth be told I like this team. But I’m sorry but where is the depth my friends?


One little injury and we are once again having to part ways with picks and prospects to wait for it, fix our leaking roof. Come on guys, enough with the patching let’s just start replacing the bloody thing.


So who exactly is on my radar? Apparently he is on the radar of the Chicago Blackhawks as well because his negotiating rights were traded last night; Steve Montador.


Montador is not overly big at just 6’1 and 215lbs but he is a right handed shot, is tough as nails and can play any situation be it five on five, on the PK or on the PP.

Take a quick look at his career and you’ll also notice that his stats are truly not far behind that of James Wisniewski, with the exception of one thing; his cost.

So what am I willing to offer Mr. Montador. Hmmm let’s see, how about a two-year contract at $2.25 million per season.


What Next

Believe it or not I am happy going with 8 Defensemen on this team. One little tweak of adding a right handed depth defenseman and am ready to go.

Sure I would still like to see the salary of Spacek find its way to a team like Florida or Phoenix but as we discovered last season injuries can occur at any moment. And as my philosophy dictates, a team is only as good as the depth in the organization.

Andrei Markov-Alexei Emelin
Hal Gill-PK Subban
Josh Gorges-Steve Montador

Spacek/Weber

The Forwards

Here is the biggie and despite the chastising I am sure to get from my fellow Habs fans, Scott Gomez is part of my roster for the upcoming season. I agree with you that he is not worth what he is paid. I know that he did not perform and in many ways hurt us out there, I get that but let’s look at this in a different way.

Gomez cannot possibly have a worse season meaning we can pretty much assure we are going to get better numbers from him. Secondly I am a firm believer that the most important element of a team is the character and locker room. From what I understand Gomez is the glue that holds a lot of the pieces together. I do not want to mess with that chemistry. So with that said I see only minor changes needed.

Sure we can offer huge money to Raffi Torres or Jamie Langenbrunner or heck even Brad Richards, but it is not the root I want to travel. I do not see the need to go out and offer huge money to a player when I think we have the necessary players already in the organization.

In order to take a step forward we simply need to address one missing component, toughness.

New Additions

Anthony Stewart; Stewart is a 6’2 inch, 220 lbs power forward from Lasalle, Qc. He was a highly touted prospect who excelled for Canada at the WJC but who has not quite lived up to expectations at the NHL level.

What he provides however is a smooth skating, big bodied winger who plays a North-south game; finishes his checks, will drop the gloves if the situation presents itself and can play any of the three forward positions.

What I like best is the fact that Stewart has the body to play on a fourth line, has the defensive awareness to play on the third line and the skill set to substitute on the second line as a short term solution. Stewart signed on a 3 year $6 million contract

Mike Rupp. Rupp is a 6’5 , 230lbs beast. He will never be anything more than a fourth line player with the odd shift on the third line however Rupp is the type of guy the fans and coaches love.

He is a great skater, and by all accounts tremendous in the locker room. Rupp always finishes his checks, sticks up for teammates whenever called upon, plays with his heart on his sleeve and can be used regularly five on five or on the PK.

Rupp signed on a 2 year $2.5 million contract

Next on my list is; well actually nobody. Perhaps I am of the minority but I do not see the need to go out and sign a big ticket item for the same of signing a big ticket item.

If a name like Jaromir Jagr or Jason Arnott joins the team to complete that top line duo of Cammalleri and Plekanec then I will surely welcome them with open arms as it it make our club that much better, but I firmly believe that we have a good team that can do some serious damage in this league.


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So that's it folks. One move on defense and two simple depth moves with the forwards. Moves that can assure us that players like Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche never has to see first or second line ice duty.


Simply put, moves that allow Gauthier to start renovating other parts of the house instead of investing more time and energy in that damn leaking roof.

Who installed that roof anyway?

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Willey was the shinning light among the wicked growing up as the lone Habs fan in Toronto. Pray to Holy Ghosts of the old forum and all shall be answered I was told, and just like that my family was transferred back to Montreal and away from the damned. Olé Olé Olé.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images North America)

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