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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

With Playoff Hopes Fading, Habs Need to Sell Assets

Hal Gill - Montreal Canadiens v New Jersey Devils
With the NHL's February 27th trade deadline just under three weeks away and the Canadiens sitting in 13th place in the Eastern Division - and 25th overall - the only things the Habs should be buying are golf clubs.

Let's face it, with many games to be played between against direct rivals and the extra points being awarded in overtime, it is hard for even the more optimistic Habs fans to expect post-season play.

With that being said, how is it that the Canadiens are still being categorized as a team that is "on the bubble" as the trade deadline looms closer?

Any fan with the least bit of hockey knowledge has already cast this season among things to be forgotten, much like the macarena and parachute pants.

When dealing with an underachieving Habs roster at the deadline, it's incredibly important for Pierre Gauthier to indentify the "untouchables" who currently wear the CH.

Can't Touch This

Carey Price - The Habs netminder is a staple in this city and has single-handedly won games in which his team had no business winning.

At 24 years old, Price has endured failure in Montreal, losing the #1 spot to Jaroslav Halak, only to bounce back with phenomonal play that has lead the Habs faithful to forget the magical playoff run that Halak was responsible for in 2009

Max Pacioretty - On a team that has been deemed too small to succeed for years, Pacioretty has brought a level of size and skill that has not been present since John LeClair. 

Many were worried that the dreadful hit delivered by the Bruins hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara would impede Pacioretty's development. Pacioretty, however, returned at the beginning of the 2011-12 season to deliver what, so far, has been a career year in every major statistical category.

Erik Cole - The acquisition of the Stanley Cup winning power forward is one of very few positive moves made by Pierre Gauthier. Cole has shown no sign of quit through the first 53 games as he leads the team with 39 points. 

Cole's perseverence on every shift is something that this team will need as it moves forward. Cole's blue-collar work ethic has also seemed to rub off on linemate Max Pacioretty.

This type of leadership is something that will have a positive effect for years to come.

David Desharnais - Many followers of Nos Glorieux, myself included, wrote Desharnais off early in his career due to his size. Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that there are plenty of smaller type guys that have found success in the NHL, it just seemed that the Habs had too many roster players playing with hearts that out weighed their physique. 

Desharnais, however, has had no problem silencing critics with his play. The 5'7", 177lb center has shown a willingness to battle alomg the boards and his 26 assists in 53 games year demonstrate his above-average playmaking ability.

His dedication and hockey sense are things that a rebuilding team cannot afford to trade away.

P.K. Subban - All of this "trade Subban" nonsense that has been circulating the web proves that too many Montrealers have too much time on their hands. 

P.K. has certainly struggled this year, that is no secret. Maybe it's due to Andrei Markov's absence, maybe it's due to the pressure put on Subban by a fanbase that has not seen a Stanley Cup in 19 years. 

Most probably it's the pressure that a highly skilled, over-confident young man puts on himself to succeed in a hockey market that expects nothing but the best from players, even at an early age. Subban makes plenty of mistakes and is not bolstering his reputation with some of his antics, but he is a 22-year old that has plenty of time to mature. 

And, when he does, you will have a tough time finding anybody spewing this trade Subban garbage. 

Josh Gorges - Heart and soul. That should be enough to explain why the future captain of this team should be labeled as untouchable. 

If not, consider this: through 53 games Gorges leads the league with 147 blocked shots.

Gorges has consistently thrown his body in front of rubber for a team that is far behind in the playoff race. In addition, the rearguard has never failed to face Montreal's blood sucking media after an embarassing loss. And you will never find a clip in which Gorges throws a member of the Canadiens under the bus. 

When you come across a player of his caliber who displays the leadership qualities worthy of any professional sports club, you keep him. Period.

Once you get past the mentioned players, it's go time for Pierre Gauthier. When considering that the above mentioned players are off the market it's time to take a look at who's left.

On the Bubble

Lars Eller and Rafael Diaz - While these young NHL players have not yet reached the status of "untouchable", they are the closest thing to off that market after the original list.

Eller, the main piece in the infamous Halak trade, has been improving consistently since his acquisition and would have to bring back a significant piece to that Habs roster in order to be shipped off.

Diaz has had ups and downs during his rookie season but his 15 points and minus-3 rating on a struggling team makes him difficult to move. The Swiss blueliner has shown some offensive prowess as well as defensive acumen. On a team facing the uncertainty over Markov's future as well as the impending movement of veterans Hal Gill and Chris Campoli, Diaz's presence is most welcome.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Andrei Kostitsyn - The rugged Belarussian forward is possibly the toughest player to gauge on the Habs availability meter. 

Many feel it's time to ship the inconsistent winger off to the highest bidder while others argue the recent chemistry found with Eller and Travis Moen is reason enough to give him yet another chance. The bulky winger has surpassed the 20 goal mark three times and, when he shows up, can be an invaluable asset. 

The problem is he doesn't always bring his "A" game and many have become fed up with his frequent, prolonged absences.

Thank You and Goodnight

Hal Gill, Travis Moen, Chris Campoli, Yannick Weber - It's no secret that these four players top the list of potential ex-Habs. Gill in an incredible penalty killer who will bring leadership and a Stanley Cup ring to a contending team.

Moen is a hard working, third-line player whose grit, alongside Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer, played a huge role in Anaheim's 2006-07 Stanley Cup run.

Campoli and Weber don't exaclty stand out as elite NHL defenseman, but a league of 30 teams will never run short on clubs in need of rearguards.

Campoli at least has over 400 games of experience on his resume while Weber brings youth as well a a decent shot from the point. Look for these two to potentially move oin exchange for later round draft picks.

Damaged Goods

Brian Gionta - It's tough to see the Habs current captain sit out for so long. However, you can't help but think the vertically challenged winger would be shopped were he not be sidelined with an upper body injury.

Gionta has heart, there's no doubt about that. But Montreal has recently been addressing their problem with size up front - as illustrated by Cammalleri for Bourque - and you can't help but think that a healthy Gionta would be dangled as trade bait.

Stuck with You

Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle - Gomez is an established playmaker who appears to be a likable individual. You can't help but feel for anyone who's gone through a calendar year without a goal. Kaberle has a keen vision on the ice and a Stanley cup ring to boot.

Despite this, Gomez' cap hit of $7,357,143 million through 2013-14 and Kaberle's hit of 4,250,000 per year through the same time frame make it almost impossible to fathom any GM acquiring either of Montreal's burdens.

How do you feel as the trade dealine approaches? Should the Habs sell whatever assets they have- and if so at what price- or should they be buyers and push for a playoff spot? In which case, which players should they have in their sights?


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Sean is a freelance writer currently contributing to HabsAddict.com. He is also a regular blogger and frequent panelist on the Habs post game show at MontrealHockeyTalk.com You can follow Sean on Twitter.


(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

5 comments:

Add Emelin to your list of keepers. On target for 250+ hits this year, probably almost as much as the entire team last year :p

Good point! With Emelin finally making the opposition pay a physical price in order to bring the puck into the Habs end, Montreal can not afford to let him go.
He's also shown promise of some offensive contribution to come in the near future. When Emelin become more comfortable with shooting the puck a little more often he's sure to build on his current total if two NHL goals - 2 more than Gomez this year and 1 less than Subban.

Thanks to both of you for pointing out one of the more obvious keepers that I failed to mention. I guess he was such a given that I completely forgot to write him in :)

@All

Emelin is indeed a keeper. In a couple of years, him, Tinordi and Subban could really make the Habs blueline phsycally imposing.

@Sean

Tomas Plekanec wasn't mentionned. Thoughts?

@Louis
Plekanec has been my favorite Habs for years due to his work ethic, refusal to complain to the media and his skill level. For these reasons I would love to categorize him as untouchable.

However, I would place him more as "on the bubble". It's no secret that the Habs lack size down the middle and with Eller and Desharnais both being younger, it would make more sense to move Plekanec for a bigger faceoff man. Not to mention Plekanec could bring a pretty good return back from wherever he were to be shipped.

Desharnais is a lock in my opinion and so either Eller or Plekanec would need to be moved. The more I see Eller play the more hopeful I am that he'll be around long enough to fill into his frame and reach his potential. With the flashes of brilliance he's been displaying this year, Eller could be closer to untaouchable than Plekanec.

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