I didn’t think it was possible to let a month (or more) slip past without managing to post at least SOMETHING on BBBR. I can honestly say, when I realized that the last time I sat in front of this screen to dial up an entry was well over 31 days ago, it rather stunned me.
Something in the back of my mind made me feel like I’ve been neglectful to not only the site, but to all of you faithful readers that grace me with your thoughts, with each post.
So, please accept my apologies. It’s been a very busy summer thus far. As many of you know, I was just recently married (June 11th) and the weeks preceeding the awesome day meant that there would have to be a hiatus here on BBBR. But it’s nearing the end of June now, and time to get back on the horse.
There’s been no shortage of events surrounding the Habs camp during the summer season. We’ve known for weeks that the front office had some serious soul searching to do, in order to tackle some tough contract negotiations. Pierre Gauthier has not let us down thus far either.
The most sought after answers to so many questions, are finally beginning to come into view, as we enter the last few days before the July 1st deadline.
What would be the fate of Andrei Markov? Will re-signing him effect the possibility of keeping Wisniewski? Where does Andrei Kostitsyn fit into the immediate plans of the Canadiens? Does Benoit Pouliott deserve the opportunity to stay in Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge?
Here’s a few answers to some of the questions, as well as a few more questions that we can look forward to clarifying the answers to in the next few days.
Speed and Skillset Remain Part of the Habs Roster: This became apparent with two contract offerings. Mathieu Darche ($700K) will remain a Canadien for another season, with a one year contract extension. Many have believed that he was a press box player at best, but I have said all along that he brings leadership to the team, as well as drive. Few players went to the tough areas of the ice to secure goals this season. Darche became a master at it. Most of his 12 goals last season came from powering towards the blue ice. Something very few Habs do. David Desharnais also capitolized from the immense amount of hard work and effort that he put in with Les Boys in 2011. Signing the first one way contract of his career, Desharnais is a clear message that size is not a major factor for the franchise for the upcoming season. The system that has made Montreal so successful over the past 2 seasons has relied heavily on fast puck movement, great speed, soft hands, and the ability to turn the puck over making their opponents pay. Number 58 fits that bill to perfection.
Size Might Matter: There was a collective groan throughout the city of Montreal on June 9th, but I was not part of that groan. First off – I was in Toronto when the news came across my iPhone. Second, I had no problem with the signing of Andrei Kostitsyn. I know there is a plethora of people that don’t see eye to eye with me on this issue, and that’s fine. I prefer to look at the numbers, than just speak from the heart. Kostitsyn continued to show that he has skill and great hands this past season. Scoring 20 goals and providing 25 assists in the regular season was more than most could hope for, when one realizes the fact that having consistent line-mates was far from reality over the past 81 regular season games that he played. He has amassed 186 points in his 326 career NHL games (over 6 seasons). Hardly numbers for fans to criticize. Don’t mis-understand me. There are moments when he frustrates me with what seems like a lack of effort. But when you consider that Brian Gionta had only one more point in one more game than Kostitsyn – the whining should begin to cease. His size is needed on this team, and if he continues to ramp up his game with some steady line-mates, Montreal should be happy to have him back. Add in the 1 year deal that Hal Gill just signed. His size, shot blocking ability, and veteran leadership were paramount to the success of the Habs 2011 D-Man roster. Enough said.
Youth Will Be Groomed: Finally, it seems that the franchise is looking to develop it’s players from Hamilton on up. Desharnais is one player, but the other shining example is found in Max Pacioretty. With 24 points in 37 games, Pacioretty silenced many a critic after he announced that he would rather stay in Hamilton for a full season with the Bulldogs, than be brought up sporadically to play in the NHL. His skill set and size are an easy steal at 3.25M over 2 years. But that contract shows the faith that the organization has in his health and recovery after his season ending injury this past year.
So what remains to be seen?
The largest pieces of the puzzle that will fall into place (one way or another) over the next few days, revolve around the signing of Josh Gorges, and Andrei Markov. Those two potential contracts eat up a ton of cap space that will dictate the future of Wisniewski. It seems apparent that with the acquisition of Alexei Yemelin, there is little to no room left for the likes of Brent Sopel, Paul Mara, or James Wisniewski. But that door swings on the two hinges of Gorges and Markov.
There are two other significant contracts that deserve mention here. Both of them at polar opposite ends of the spectrum in my opinion.
Both Ryan White and Benoit Pouliott become RFA’s at the deadline. Only one of them deserves to stay. With a 1.35M contract, Pouliott did very little to earn his keep here last season. His scoring ability diminished, he rarely used his size to park himself in front of opposing goaltenders, and his lack of drive was felt all season long. The time has come to cut that baggage loose and concentrate that money on a player who wants to be here – who wants to play the game. Ryan White sits at the other end of the scale. I wanted him in the line-up for the entire season last year, but the organization felt differently. But when injury forced the call-up, he not only produced. He showed his skill set as the all ’round NHL player that he is. Speed, puck control, goal scoring, and vision. Add in his ability to protect his team-mates, and stand up to goons on the ice – without being one himself. This is the type of player we’ve been looking to acquire for years. Well, here he sits – so don’t lose him.
The days are winding down, and there is plently left to accomplish. I look back on the trade deadline when many a fan bickered over Gauthier and his “lack of doing anything”. I for one, never felt that way. I have complete confidence in the team that he has built, and even more confidence in the one that he continues to build for our new season.
Now it’s time to sit back, watch, and wait.