I have been the consummate advocate against the Habs management, or should I say the lack thereof. For the better part of a decade, the General Manager, whether Bob Gainey or Pierre Gauthier, seemed to live in a world of his own, with a supposed plan which resulted in an apparent lack of direction. Ultimately, this created confusion for the coaching staff and the players.
Draft picks, prospects and rookies alike were mishandled. Players were sometimes rushed to the NHL, others left rotting in the minors while the majority were scratching their heads trying to figure out things on their own.
As hockey fans, we heard stories of players like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin or Jeff Skinner being nurtured by the organization that drafted them. They were invited to live with key players, taught how to eat, train and live away from the ice. They were given every luxury needed for them to succeed.
In Montreal, however, there was a perception of almost being abandoned. How many stories have we collectively heard of the involvement of the Kostitsyn brothers with the Russian Mob, or Carey Price out late partying up a storm?
Way too many to count.
Insert Marc Bergevin. How can I complain about a man who, despite being hired just a little over two months ago, has completely revamped his coaching, management and player personnel departments.
Bergevin has inserted a team of hard working, character guys throughout all levels of this organization. He has expanded the group of amateur scouts and player development personnel. Now, the team has a complete staff of individuals who, as a collective, will help mold young assets.
And, eventually, these individuals will help turn prospects and picks into character, NHL calibre players. To me, this was a crucial step if the Montreal Canadiens ever wanted to regain their form as an elite NHL franchise.
Despite this, Twitter and Facebook alike are screaming with fans who want more.
To them I say, sure, more could have been done in terms of player movement. The Habs could have traded this player or could have offered $7.5 million per season for Shane Doan. But, in my books, in order to excel on the ice, we need a team that excels off of it.
Having said that, with off ice improvements largely taken care of, it’s now time for Marc Bergevin to make this team his own.
I would have to think that the only thing holding Bergevin back is the uncertainty of not having a season in 2012-13.
Can you imagine the embarrassment of parting ways with a highly touted prospect like Jarred Tinordi in exchange for a player like Ryan Getzlaf only to watch him depart as a UFA at the end of the year because of a lockout?
Maybe I am off my rocker on this one, but you'd have to think that it is the only thing holding Bergevin back right now, because there is simply no chance that the current roster will be the one iced at the start of the season. There are just too many holes.
For me there are five glaring issues: a lack of top end left wingers, a lack of right handed d-man capable of top-four minutes, a lack of physicality on defense, a 24 man roster and, of course, Scott Gomez.
The belief is that the final two issues go together. Scott Gomez will find himself in Hamilton for the start of this season, thereby reducing the roster to the appropriate 23 men, and saving the Habs $7.4 million in cap space.
Personally, I do not see that happening. I firmly believe that Gomez will be part of the opening day roster, thereby making Michael Blunden the odd man out, but that’s a whole other debate, isn’t it?
Instead I want to look at how to address the top three issues: left wingers, right handed D and additional physicality.
Are you an Arm Chair GM?
We all like to play arm chair GM.
It’s the aspect of hockey that I enjoy most. Where most kids dream of one day being an NHL player, for me it was always being an NHL GM.
Personally, I play NHL '12 almost every single day and, at any given time, have about five seasons going on at once. One season has the actual roster for the year and then four seasons include a complete roster shake up.
I just destroy the team, keeping a handful of players, primarily Subban, Price and Pacioretty. Then, I just completely revamp the team to my liking and include some of my favourite players.
So, as the consummate Arm Chair GM here is my solution to the Canadiens roster for 2012-13:
Trade 1: Montreal trades Brian Gionta to the New jersey Devils in exchange for Anton Volchenkov.
Analysis: The Devils are looking for a veteran presence with goal scoring ability to fill the void left by Zack Parise's departure. Gionta’s familiarity with the Devils' locker room, on-ice production and leadership qualities would be highly welcome by New Jersey.
Montreal would secure another big physical defensemen with above average shot blocking abilities who, although left handed, has played the majority of his career on the right side. Trading Gionta would also free up a right winger roster spot allowing Rene Bouque to return to his natural position.
Trade 2: Montreal trades Tomas Kaberle and a fourth round draft pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Daniel Cleary.
Analysis:. The Detroit Red Wings are in need of a defensemen given the loss of Brad Stuart and Niklas Lidstrom. Although Kaberle is not an elite player, he remains a great puck moving defensemen who will profit from the high octane offense of the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings have a history of rejuvenating the careers of players like Larry Murphy, Chris Chelios, Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and others. Tomas Kaberle should be no different.
Montreal would gain the character, grit and leadership that Daniel Cleary brings. He is also an elite penalty killer capable of playing all three forward positions. More importantly, the loss of Kaberle would free up cap space and a roster spot on the blueline.
Trade 3: Montreal trades Rafael Diaz, Danny Kristo and a second round pick obtained from Nashville to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Brendan Morrow.
Analysis: The cash strapped Dallas Stars would free valuable cap space and add some youth to both the defense and forward units.
Montreal would secure the services of a player they have long coveted and reinforces a position where they desperately need reinforcements.
Overall, Montreal would lose Gionta, Kaberle, Diaz — who make a combined $10.5 million —Kirsto and a couple of draft picks. They would be replaced by Morrow, Volchenkov and Cleary who make a combined $11.35 million.
My team for the start of the 2012-13 season would be:
Although the Canadiens would get slightly older, they would add some additional leadership, some grit, and wiggle room by acquiring two contracts expiring at season's end.
Like I said, it's fun to play Arm Chair GM!
Bryan is a Marketer by day, writer for HabsAddict.com by night and full time fan of the game. Follow me on twitter @BryanWilley78 but don't bother looking for me on Facebook, I'm just too old for that now!
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)