The Montreal Canadiens' injury bug has gotten progressively worse, and after a weekend of back-to-back games involving both the Kings and Bruins, the Canadiens came out of their weekend home stand with a win, a loss, and a slew of injuries.
Guillaume Latendresse, the third-year pro who continues to garner a ton of ice time despite not producing, is on the shelf for at least three weeks with a shoulder injury. Robert Lang, a pre-season acquisition who has been Montreal's most consistent forward this season, will be out for the rest of the year with an Achilles' tendon injury.
Although the return of Chris Higgins and Saku Koivu will help an already-depleted front core, there are many questions and concerns with this current Montreal team. Is it deep enough for a month-long playoff run? Does it have enough size to battle the Bruins and Flyers, perhaps their main competition in the East? Can this team be an elite squad? All of these questions could be addressed with three moves that the Canadiens could make before the trade deadline.
Trade for Jay Bouwmeester or Mattias Ohlund
Both the Florida Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks will either be buyers or sellers as the trade deadline approaches. Should either the Panthers or Canucks fall out of playoff contention, they would both entertain offers for Bouwmeester and Ohlund, two soon-to-be unrestricted free agents. If Montreal could package a defensive prospect with a draft pick or an underachiever from the roster (such as Higgins or Ryan O'Byrne), Montreal could strengthen a solid defensive core.
Although Vincent Lecavalier could solve many questions up front, a solid defenseman who can move the puck out of his own end is more of a priority, and could profoundly help a team full of offensive talent without much output this season.
Trade spare pieces for veterans who have won
Outside of Alex Kovalev, Mathieu Dandenault, Patrice Brisebois, and Alex Tanguay, the Canadiens are filled with players who have never experienced winning a Stanley Cup. Montreal, in terms of playoff experience, is very green, to say the least. Although the Habs may have some of its greatest leaders from the past 30 years serving as their GM and coaches, that can't always translate to success on the ice, a problem that has been quite noticeable this season.
Kovalev, their most talented and enigmatic player, is not the type of player to lead an organization. Although both Saku Koivu and Mike Komisarek are seen as the leaders of the team, there needs to be a more veteran presence on the team, something that could have been addressed with the signings of either Brendan Shanahan or Mats Sundin. Although the Canadiens potentially missed the boat on these two, they could achieve the veteran presence they need by dealing for upcoming unrestricted free agents such as Mike Peca from Columbus and Sean O'Donnell from the Kings.
Peca brings Stanley Cup experience and the penalty-killing presence that the Canadiens are lacking. Although Maxim Lapierre has proven himself as the Habs' checking center/all- around pest, Mike Peca brings a presence in the face off circle which has hindered Montreal in the past. With Lang on the shelf, Peca picks up the slack in the face off department and gives Montreal added depth down the middle.
Sean O'Donnell, a Stanley Cup winner with the Ducks in 2006-07, brings a meanness that is lacking on the Montreal blue line. With the regression of O'Byrne and the injury to Dandenault, the Canadiens have been forced to play Patrice Brisebois for the majority of the season, which has been a major disadvantage for the Habs as their opponents seem to take advantage of his lack of speed, puck control, and toughness.
O'Donnell, much like Peca, brings experience, but he also brings a toughness that will be a relief to Komisarek and Bouillon, who would no longer have to police their own end. O'Donnell also brings along a presence on the penalty kill and another big body to play against the likes of Milan Lucic and Scott Hartnell, two big forwards who destroyed Montreal's undersized defense in last year's playoffs.
Claim Sean Avery off of waivers/trade for him
You might think I'm nuts. This might seem strange. But out of the few organizations who might be able to control Avery, perhaps Montreal may be the best fit.
It's painfully clear that Avery's time as a Dallas Star is over. Many teams will not consider dealing for him under any circumstances, and in all likelihood Avery could be had for very little. So why wouldn't Montreal take the chance?
Avery realizes that this could very well be it for him as a National Hockey League player, and as much as he may not admit it, perhaps he'd be willing to cease his antics for a chance at glory as well as the much-needed attention he most definitely seeks.
By now, everyone knows what to expect out of Sean Avery as a hockey player, especially if one reflects on his time as a Ranger. Avery brought a presence that not many teams have; a player who can get under the skin of other teams' top players while contributing in different facets of the game. He is so hated that it throws many top players off of their games, and come playoff time that could be beneficial to a team like the Canadiens, if they can discover their power play again.
Avery would come at a reduced price as well, costing the Canadiens about $2 million a year if he was claimed off of waivers, and it would be assumed that a portion of his salary would be covered in any potential trade scenario. Could Montreal perhaps package someone like Steve Begin and a prospect for Avery? This seems to make sense for perhaps everyone involved.
With the knowledge that this is possibly his last shot, Avery could become a jack-of-all trades for the Habs, and a much-needed energy boost. Although many might think this could be problematic for a team like the Canadiens, perhaps the doubters do not need to look any further than the second chance the New England Patriots gave Randy Moss before the 2007 season and the success they have had as a team since the arrival of a typical "problem child". If Bob Gainey gives Avery a chance, the Habs have a very good chance at succeeding.
A message is needed for this organization, much like the message sent last year at the trade deadline by Gainey, demonstrating that he believed in Carey Price by trading Cristobal Huet. Gainey needs to kick start his team now more than ever, and perhaps Avery could be the boost and wake up call that the team sorely needs.