Most hockey fans can safely say that Montreal has been keeping busy during the offseason as compared to recent years.
That’s a glorious understatement.
In other words, Bob Gainey and Les Habs have torn down the structure, built a new frame, and inserted some high impact insulation.
I am talking about the loss of the faces of the franchise.
Sure two years ago we lost Sheldon Souray who was the quarterback of the Habs' special teams. Then last year we lost Michele Ryder (easily a rightful replacement for captain) and Mark Streit, who after taking the reins from Souray had become a predominant point scorer.
But look at the disfiguring of the franchise.
With the exception of Carey Price, we lost the most charismatic players to ever grace the Bell Centre: Mike Komisarek, Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Christopher Higgins, and yes, even Tom Kostopolus.
But every cloud has a silver lining.
With the acquiring of powerhouse Mike Cammalleri, and veteran forwards Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, and feisty left-wing Travis Moen, the offensive force of Le Blue, Blanc et Rouge is changing.
Add the size and athleticism of Hal Gill, the pure playmaker in Jaroslav Spacek, and the gritty style of Paul Mara, and we have made up for the potential loss in the back end of the game.
To compare losses and gains I shall quickly sum up what losing one player and gaining the other means to the Habs:
1. Mike Komisarek—Hal Gill
Well I believe the acquisition of Hal Gill makes up for the lack of presence Komisarek had on the ice.
The 6-foot7, 250 pound defenseman from Concord, MA can easily go shoulder to shoulder with Komisarek, and with a bonus proves to be more inclined to score (two goals, eight assists, and 10 points).
2. Alex Kovalev—Mike Cammalleri
Hands down Cammalleri was thrown into the mix to make up for the finesse and skill Kovalev has shown in the past few seasons.
The former second round, 49th overall pick by Los Angeles posted a career best in goals and points (39 goals, 43 assists and 82 points) last season and will prove well on a line that can set him up.
3. Saku Koivu—Brian Gionta
Now Brian Gionta isn’t the point producer that he once was, a few years back, but his (20 goals, 40 assists and 60 points) is nothing to look down upon.
What Saku leaves in leadership, Gionta will make up for it tenfold. A backbone of the New Jersey Devils' franchise, Gionta was a leader and top-notch playmaker for seven long years. Possibly paired up with Cammalleri, they could make an excellent team.
Now other comparisons that I wont go into too much explanation:
Christopher Higgins—Scott Gomez
Michele Schneider—Jaroslav Spacek
Robert Lang—Travis Moen
Paula Mara—Either Patrice Brisebois or Francis Bouillon
I have mentioned Brisebois, Bouillon, Lang, and Schneider, even though they have yet to sign with another team, because I am giving a possible rebuilding scenario within the franchise.
Robert Lang in my opinion is too high maintenance for such a fragile player and we need a more reliable third winger in Moen.
Schneider has a real opportunity to stay in Montreal, to quarterback our power play, and teach the young defensive core, solidifying our blue line for years to come. But if he does opt to leave, Spacek will be the obvious replacement because of his numbers and ability on the power play.
Lets face it, Brisebois is getting old and can’t play up to the same standard the league requires from a full-fledged player. Then Bouillon has always been a sore spot in the defense with five goals, four assists, and nine points in 54 games last season, not to mention his minus–7 rating. With Mara, we can now let go of these two weight bags and opt for some younger and fresher talent like or Mathieu Carle.
But the problem is looking into the future.
Will Cammalleri hit it big in Hockey Nation? Will Gionta play nice with his new teammates? How will the pairing of Hal Gill and Spacek affect the special teams in Montreal?
There is no real way of telling how the chemistry will work in this new team, so all we must do is wait and pray for the best.