100 years of excellence, a Ring of Honor representing the 24 Stanley Cup banners, 15 retired jerseys, 44 legendary players and 10 Great builders…and capped off by a run at the 25th Stanley Cup...wait a second.…it didn’t happen…Bob the Builder was silent.
So what happened?
The 2008-09 edition of the Montreal Canadians was to be a year of celebration on and off the ice. Unfortunately, on the ice, the celebration came to a crashing halt after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The blame game starts the moment Game Four ended, and the blame is squarely directed at one of those 44 legendary players, the GM, and Coach Bob Gainey.
Five areas of blame should be looked at...five areas that Bob Gainey was silent on:
1. Veteran Goalie
Prior to the 2008 playoffs, Bob Gainey shipped veteran goalie Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals for a second-round draft pick. All of his confidence in nets would be placed in the hands of Carey Price, anointed by the fans and the media as the “next one”.
Price's performance in the 2008 playoffs deteriorated in the Bruins series, and fell apart in the Flyers series. The need was clear: Price required mentoring in the form of a veteran goalie, and perhaps a new goaltending coach.
Price needed someone to show him the ropes as a pro in the NHL, and to take off some pressure. Price has won at every level relying on his natural talent, and at the tender age of 22, that talent is not enough in the pro’s…Bob the Builder was silent.
2. Power Forward/Big D
The 2008 playoffs also uncovered the need for a power forward up the middle with some skill. The Flyers manhandled the Habs, and the need was obvious. Bob’s response was Laraque, Metropolit, and Lang…nice guys with little skill other than Lang, who has traveled by way of many teams in the NHL for a reason. The 2009 trade deadline came and went….Bob the Builder was silent.
The need for a big strong defenseman to protect Price was also evident…Bob’s response was Matthew Schneider. Sure, Schneider is a skilled, veteran defenseman, but he isn’t big or strong. Matt is also 39, and the injuries are mounting….again, Bob the Builder was Silent.
3. Too many Euros, more North Americans
Winning a Stanley Cup requires a delicate balance of grit, skill, leadership, and perseverance. North American players, specifically Canadian ones, embrace those qualities (Detroit the exception that proves the rule).
The Stanley Cup is the most difficult professional championship to win. The playoffs are a test of endurance, and thus requires a different type of player. The Habs have too many players that have the same qualities, important qualities, but not the ingredients necessary for a Cup run.
Jaromír Jagr once was asked why his Rangers where eliminated in the playoffs a few years back, and he said, “Too many Euros on this team to compete”. Well Bob, the same can be said for the 2008-2009 Habs. Trade deadline came and went….Bob the Builder was silent.
4. A Coach for all seasons
Guy Charbonneau was the scapegoat. His cards were dealt, and his players threw in their chips. No win situation. Bob Gainey had given him basically the same roster that lost to the Flyers a year earlier, and the trade deadline came and went...Bob the Builder was silent, and a popular coach was lost.
Guy will resurface, and we will probably succeed similar to Julien and Vigneault, two other former Habs coaches.
5. An Aging Captain
We all admire Saku Koivu's career and what he has done to overcome many difficult life obstacles. A model player, a model citizen, a model captain, and a player that deserves to be the missing puzzle on another team that’s close to winning it all.
Should Saku be the face of the franchise next year? Sadly, no.
The Habs need a vocal captain inside/outside the locker room—someone who has tasted playoff success, and may have even won a Cup…someone like Vincent Lecavalie, a veteran mentor for the likes of Lapierre, Subban, and Plekanec.
A captain that has the physical presence and linguistic skills to dominate inside/outside the locker room is needed; a captain that is at the perfect point in his career to embrace the responsibility of wearing that “C” in Montreal…again, Bob the Builder was silent.
Sure, Tampa said Lecavalier is going nowhere, but we all know a trade can be made anytime (think Jay Cutler)… still Bob the Builder remained silent.
Much is up in the air for the Montreal Canadians this coming offseason, including the ownership. The best move George Gillett could make is to dismiss Bob Gainey at the earliest opportunity.
Habs fans, do you really want Bob the Builder to handle your 10 unrestricted free agents and the upcoming NHL Draft?
No, I didn't think so.