Canadiens Off-Season Puzzle is Coming Together

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.


About Iain Carnegie (@emann_222 on Twitter)

I have followed the Montreal Canadiens for over twenty years, even while living in the heart of Toronto. I spent 5 years in the mecca of hockey, moving to the Plateau region of Montreal in the summer of 2009, I've been writing extensively on the Habs franchise at Bleed Blue Blanc Rouge BBBR has now moved to it's new home here at WordPress, , where content continues to matter.
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7 Responses to Canadiens Off-Season Puzzle is Coming Together

  1. ChrisGrenon says:

    Nice post Iain. It had been a while, but getting married requires lots of time, attention and dedication. Congratulations!
    As to the team, I agree with most of your comments… Even those about AK46. I also tend to lose sight of his overall performance and numbers when I see him dragging his 6’2″ frame aimlessly around the game surface. Just imagine what numbers he could produce if he only got involved more frequently! I’m also on the bye-bye Benny train: cut your losses and send him packing. He only cost us Latendresse anyway…

    The D is the big issue, but I think Markov and Gorges will be signed. I wish we could hold on to Wiz, but Markov has the offense (if not the cannon shot that Wiz has) and superior defensive abilities. I think he is the right choice, if PG and Don Meehan can agree on the number of years and finances.

    That said, our top-6 forwards are still an issue. We need to sign a top-6 forward or two to have two lines. Last year, JM experimented with Moen, Pyatt, Halpern up there, with no results. We also need to prepare for another mediocre season by Gomez. If he produces, great, but I wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket…

    Let’s see what PG accomplishes. Next season will not come soon enough!

  2. Thanks Chris! Glad you dropped in and enjoyed the piece.

    Seems we’re both on the same page again (as per usual). I think that we’re pretty close to the Markov signing now. Gorges too. But they certainly need to find something new in place of Pyatt and Moen. I like Halpern well enough, but I’m not convinced he belongs in the top 6.

    As far as Gomez is concerned, I have faith that he’ll have a better season. He needs the fans to alleviate a bit of the pressure so he can get back to his game. But also – with Pacioretty being back for a whole season, the line changes could very well bolster him back to his usual game. Here’s hoping.

    I’m looking forward to the next week!

    • ChrisGrenon says:

      We usually see eye to eye on such things! As for Gomez, we can only hope that he will have a better season. Could it be much worse than last season?

      That is what I like about you! You’re always the optimist. A true fan!

  3. 22chill22 says:

    Just found this blog and read your really great analysis of where things are at.

    Loved your brave and justified defense of AK47 and I agree with everything you say about him completely.

    Your take on where things are at with the blue line situation is spot on, but I hope they decide to keep Wisniewski. I love his grit, hustle, and style, even if he makes a few more mistakes than he should (and remember, he is still a relatively new Hab and some of his mistakes may be due to the fact that he hasn’t digested “the system” as fully as some of our other guys have).

    One thing I’d love to read your thoughts about (something almost no one’s talking about) is the back-up goalie situation. Sometimes when a team has a goaltender as fine as Mr. Price it forgets how important that second guy is. Is Alex Auld that second guy?

    I’m going to keep reading your stuff. But please spell Pouliot’s name correctly. Maybe it sounds like a small thing, but when a name has appeared on La Sainte-Flanelle it deserves to be spelled correctly, even if the name in question doesn’t deserve to be on the jersey any more.

    • It’s moments like this that make me feel proud to have the incredible readership that I have! Welcome to the fold.

      First off – You’re right. “Journalistic” integrity requires that I spell peoples name correctly. So to you, my other readers, and Benoit … I apologize for such a terrible slip. Pouliot will be spelled correctly from this day forward.

      Thank you for being so kind with your words regarding my posts. I’m glad you found your way to BBBR and I’m happy that you’ve decided to stay. I will continue to do my best to serve both the Habs fan base, as well as the NHL hockey community with honest and thought provoking material.

      I’ll be honest with you. I too often wonder why many people skirt the issue of a role as important as the one Alex Auld currently holds. I won’t dive deep into it here, because I’m going to do what any writer in his right mind should do – address the issue that a reader wants to have addressed. You can rest assured that the next post will be exactly what you requested, as I’ll attempt to give my thoughts and analysis on the #2 man between the pipes. Thanks for asking that question and inspiring the next post.

      Once again – I thank you for not only reading – but taking the time to comment and leave your al important thoughts. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future!

  4. mbouf says:

    It is a pleasure to see you writing again and once again CONGRATS on your marriage to your beautiful bride.

    I agree with being thrilled about the 1 year deal for Darche, you and I stand on the same page there. He was such an inspiration all season long, especially after the feature Elliot Freedman did on him – wow. I am routing for him and am SO happy Montreal felt the same way.

    Desharnais…all I can say is MMM (that’s the girl in me talking). When I popped open this post I was like DAMN, HE IS CUTE! ha ha. But he is also a great addition to Bleu Blanc Rouge.

    Kos – he has the numbers to back him up but I have never really been a fan. Not even really sure why. I just don’t like his style of play, he makes lots of mistakes and looks very lazy most of the time and I guess happens to be in the right place at the right time to make those goals happens. But hey, someone’s gotta produce goals for us and if he’s doing it then whatever, keeping him around probably can’t turn out too badly.

    Definitely glad to have Gil remaining on the roster as well, he is one of our biggest guys (aside from Price) Seriously, I think he brings our team average from 5’7 to 6’2 with his extra height! Ha ha

    I also agree with you 100% about Ryan White and he BETTER be staying on the team. That kid has a lot of talent and he brings the ‘tough guy’ mentality we need. He was around protecting players when no one else would…sparking up games and lighting up the fans. LOVE IT!

    • Imagine that … Iain Carnegie and Mel Boufounos on the same page? Who’d a thunk it!!! LOL
      Just be glad that I like ya cause I don’t normally put up with that “Ooooh – He’s so Hot” stuff. But for you – I can make an exception. After all you’re a hockey player.

      I know how you feel about AK. There are days/nights that I want to just smack him up and down the ice, but the reality of it is this. He’s improving, has size, scoring goals, and perhaps with regular line-mates … will show what he really has. There’s no doubt that he has talent … I think it’s just a matter of everyone wanting to see it consistently.

      Once again – Thanks for coming by and leaving your thoughts. I always look forward to them.

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