New Faces, New Questions: My "New" Montreal Canadiens Review
Well. Gainey must be sweating right now for two reasons. First, he's never been so active on the free agent market and has to be trying to catch his breath right now. Second, he just took a huge risk by spending 107M$ on four players over five years.
So the five year plan is over and failed. Bob Gainey has decided to clean up and change the core of the team. New, younger and hopefully better players have been signed and the aging ones are left to try their luck at free agency. But some players who left town will be hard to replace...
The reign of Saku Koivu is over. Koivu will, for the first time in his career, play for a different team than Montreal this fall. He's been the target of lots of criticism in the recent years for dozens of reasons but I hope he can finish his career away from the spotlight.
He won't surpass Jean Beliveau as the longest running Montreal Canadiens captain but somehow I think management would not have allowed it...
Kovalev, who was one of the only two along with Komisarek who were offered contracts by Bob Gainey, said all year he wanted to end his career in Montreal. So what has kept him from accepting the offer is a mystery.
But he seemed to have missed his chance to resign now. Unless Bob pulls a rabbit and clears up enough cap space somehow, he likely won't be back next year. It's too bad, I liked the enigmatic Russian and with Komisarek gone he would have been the likely candidate for captain as well as adding more punching power and size to the offense.
Why Bob Gainey talks about how "important it is for this team to have this flavour" talking about home grown talent and french canadian players when asked the question during this years NHL entry draft...and then offer nothing to Alex Tanguay is a total mystery and almost hypocritical.
With the obvious departure of Mathieu Dandenault, Patrice Brisebois, and Francis Bouillon, there are very few french speaking players. And Tanguay is still young. He can provide offense and loves playing here. Why not?
Mike Komisarek...Look at it this way, he accepted a deal, worth 500k more per year from the Leafs. Komi and his agent knew very well Gainey would certainly match if not surpass that offer. But they simply never gave him the opportunity to do so. Komisarek actually never replied to Gainey's offer.
In Montreal, Komi was treated like a king and as the probable next captain. Fans loved him even through all the problems. Management hoped to build around him, they even placed him behind the bench during his injury. Gainey even offered more than what he thought defensemen the likes of Komisarek are worth.
If this isn't indication of how important you are to an organization then I don't know what is. But he turned his back on what was to be his team to lead and signed with the rival Leafs no less. So yes I'm more than disappointed.
The next reunion should be very emotional. Komisarek should expect his next visit to the Bell Center to be tough and leave with a ringing in his ear that goes "boooooooooooo." Sorry, but I just can't wish him luck. He's a great defensemen, but in my own opinion he now officially sucks!
As far as the new guys go, on paper, the team looks a bit better. But not by much. Gomez is a younger version of Koivu. A playmaker, younger and more resistant, he may be a slight upgrade but lacks the size Gainey was probably looking for in a first line center.
He's grossly overpaid but I guess there was nothing else on the market available without giving up too much in return. He was regressing in New York. Maybe a fresh start with good scoring wingers will jump start his production back over the 70 points.
Mike Cammalleri basically replaces Alex Kovalev as the scorer. He's expected to score lots of goals and it's exactly what he wants to do. This responsibility might take some pressure off Andrei Kostitsyn a bit and help him get back on track. He's small, but feisty and fast. It seems Gainey decided to bank on speed and skill rather than size.
Can he be a point per game player along side Scott Gomez? Can he score 40 goals in Montreal? it's been a long time since it happened so I certainly hope so. He might be Gainey's best signing this year.
Then there is Brian Gionta. A lot of people question Gainey for taking on Gomez's huge contract but for me this is where there is a big problem in management.
How can you offer $5M for a regressing player hoping an old chemistry suddenly resurfaces when Alex Tanguay, a fan favorite and french speaking player, would likely play here for less and offer just as much? Let's just say Gionta better score lots of goals next season or Gainey will have lots to answer for.
Already the new trio has a name: the "smurf line". But I prefer the "shrimp line" personally. If chemistry builds between Gomez and Cammalleri and if Gionta can become a 30 to 40 goal scorer again along side his old buddy Gomez, then it should be very interesting to watch. This can either be a stroke of genius...or a total disaster for Bob Gainey. Five years is a long time to endure a mistake.
As for Jaroslav Spacek, it's a pretty good signing. He could actually be a good partner for Markov. Or he can become like Hamrlik...still provides solid defense but the offensive touch is just not what it used to be.
Hal Gill was signed for a single reason: clean the front of the net, a job left vacant with Komisarek's betrayal\departure for the rival Maple Leafs. He's a big downgrade from Komi but he may still have a couple years left in him. He's big but slow...but it's still much better than Ryan O''Byrne!
If you have come across some of my previous articles, I made quite clear I am not a big fan of Chris Higgins. I'm glad he's gone to be honest. He's been disappointment. If he can become a 30 goal scorer someere else than so be it. Good for him! But I doubt it. So I'll just wish him well in New York.
Now I'm certainly hoping that Thomas Plekanec and Guillaume Latendresse, both restricted free agents, come back next year. Plekanec had a horrible year, as did most of the team last season. He was progressing at a steady pace up until last year so let's hope the bad luck has passed.
As for Latendresse, he's young and improving. A big guy at 6'2 and 230 pounds and also he's one of the only french speaking players left!
I agree with Bob Gainey when he said "We have been an average team for far too long. We need to get much better now." And I also agree the "veteran core" of the team needed to be changed as well.
But I don't think spending so much so quickly and on so many small players is a good idea. Maybe the Lecavalier deal was not to be, but the team still needs a big first line center and that player is still missing.
In the end, the team might look better on paper but reality might be very different. I'm not expecting much change or maybe marginal improvement next year. Gainey still hasn't been able to take care of the most pressing and important problem this team has had for years, a first line franchise player.
I like Mike Cammalleri, who could arguably be considered the team's new best player, but he's not the "franchise defining player" the team desperately needs.
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