Be An Analyst : Komic-J on the Montreal Canadiens and Trade Deadline.

Well, now that the trade deadline is behind us, it’s time for us, fans, to speculate about our favorite team’s chances in the playoffs. Living in Montreal, my favorite team is, of course, the Montreal Canadiens and, hopefully, they’ll be in the playoffs this year. Are they in good shape ? Are they going far ? Could they have done more ? What’s wrong, what’s good…here’s what I have to say;Where are they now ?

First, let’s look at the standings. The Eastern Conference race is pretty tight, and each days, teams are switching places, so it’s pretty hard to see which team will the Canadiens meet in the first round. They managed to add 16 points in 9 games recently, which pushed them to believe they still have a realistic shot at the Northeast Division title. However, with teams like Toronto, Ottawa and Boston, it might be pretty hard for the Habs to clinch that spot.

Montreal still has 11 more games to play, and their schedule isn’t too bad. Seven at home, only four on the road. Six of these games are against teams directly competing with them, such as Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, Philadelphia and Long Island, and they also meet New Jersey and Buffalo twice. I think it’s realistic to believe that Montreal can add about 15 more points until the end of the season. We heard that a lot, but I think Montreal really has «its destiny in hands».

Will that be enough to be in the playoffs ? Yes…

Will that be enough to beat Long Island ? Yes…

Will that be enough to catch the Devils ? Maybe…

Will that be enough to clinch the Northeast Division title ? I think it won’t…

Having said that, Montreal would have better chances to make it to the 2nd Round if they meet free-flowing, fast skatting hockey teams like Tampa Bay or Ottawa.

What do they have in store ?

Gainey finally evaluated the team, and added four players since he’s in charge. Earlier this year, he claimed an energic Steve Begin, and enforcer Darren Langdon. Both of them did their job fairly well, especially Begin who’s already a fan favorite here. Langdon, despite a low ice-time average, is doing his job, and protects the small players of Montreal.

Was it enough ? Gainey didn’t think it was. He officially started the «Trade Deadline Frenzy» when he traded young prospect Jozef Balej and a 2nd Round Pick in 2004 to the New York Ranger for All-Star winger Alexei Kovalev. Kovalev is a proven scorer in the NHL, and could really get back on track with a center like Saku Koivu. The Canadiens sure hope he’ll be the same kind of player he was in Pittsburgh. Gainey then went in Minnesota to get center Jim Dowd who, just like Steve Begin, is an energic player, who will take some pressure away from a not-so-young Joe Juneau.

Besides Kovalev and Koivu, Montreal is counting on Richard Zednik, who finally got his scoring touch back in the last couple of games, as well as Mike Ribeiro and young right-winger, and legitimate Calder Trophy possible winner Michael Ryder to lead the offense. Players like Yanic Perreault, now playing on left-wing, Jan Bulis, who’ll get back from a knee injury soon, and left-winger Pierre Dagenais will also have to produce in order to help the Canadiens get success in this year’s playoffs. Jason Ward and Niklas Sundstrom will also have their fair share of work, having to play mostly against the other team’s big line with Dowd, Begin, Juneau and Dackell.

On defence, the Canadiens are pretty well set with a returning Sheldon Souray, who was having a superb season before he got injured. The left side is completed by young Andrei Markov, who seems to be back on the right track after a difficult start, and a small but surprising Francis Bouillon. On the right side of the D-Squad, the Canadiens are counting on veterans Craig Rivet, Patrice Brisebois and Stephane Quintal. One of the brightest organisation’s prospect, Mike Komisarek could also be seen in the playoffs, as he’s seen by Montreal as the next «Big Man» on the blueline.

But once again, Montreal success will depend on José Théodore’s ability to keep puck away from the net. Théo, after struggling last year, is back to his «Hart-&-Vezina Trophy» shape that helped the Canadiens to eliminate Boston two years ago. With a 2.16 GAA and 0.923 SAV%, pressure will again be placed on Théo’s shoulder to bring the Canadiens as far as he can.

A Bright Future…

Montreal’s scouts were severly bashed by the fans a few years ago, collecting flops like Terry Ryan, Brent Bilodeau and Lindsay Vallis in first rounds. However, the situation has greatly improved since, and Montreal is now ranked number one by «Hockey’s Future» website.

Left-wingers Andrei Kastsitsyn and Marcel Hossa, centers Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec, right-winger Alex Perezhoggin and defenceman Ron Hainsey are all future regular, and chances are the one or two of these players may become a real good player in the near future for the Habs. Add to that list the previously mentioned Mike Komisarek and Michael Ryder, and you can see why the Montreal Canadiens a ranked number one.

Trade Deadline : The Montreal Way…

The Canadiens were looking for three things to add to their team at trade deadline. First, they wanted to add a quality scoring foward to their first line, and Gainey got him. Will Kovalev be re-sign in the summer ? We’ll have to wait…

Then, Montreal needed to add some weight on the second line, and probably find someone else to pair Ribeiro and Ryder with. Dagenais isn’t really a 2nd line left-winger, and I think Gainey wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of going in the playoffs with him on the 2nd line. Did they managed to land that kind of player ? We thought so at one point, when Gainey and Rutherford had a meeting about Carolina’s winger Jeff O’Neill. It didn’t work…and Gainey couldn’t get what he was looking for…

Gainey also said he was looking to add another left-handed defenceman. Brendan Witt is the name we heard the most in Montreal, but again, Gainey couldn’t get this to work.

Now, what could have been done ? What could have been offered to Washington’s general manager to get a player like Witt ? He was asking a lot for him, and that maybe wasn’t a deal after all.

But what about other guys that were rumored to be traded, and finally didn’t. Guys like Atlanta’s Shawn McEachern, Minnesota’s Andrew Brunette or even Washington’s Bates Battaglia ? What about players that were traded elsewhere ? New Jersey getting Viktor Kozlov, Calgary getting Chris Simon, Los Angeles getting Anson Carter, Colorado getting Matthew Barnaby ? Don’t you think Gainey could have made a better offer than what some of these teams gave for them ? And the list goes on…Grier, Sanderson, etc…

Want a left-handed defenceman ? What about Carolina’s Bret Hedican ?

This could be Gainey’s only mistake…not to go outhere to bring some size of the second line, especially after the Los Angeles game, in which Ribeiro and Ryder were thrown around by Ian Lapperriere and Sean Avery.

The Offseason…

How long is gonna be the offseason anyway ? One year ? Two Years ? Whatever, some of the players will be released. Look for Joe Juneau, Andreas Dackell, Karl Dykhuis and possibly center Yanic Perreault and defenceman Stephane Quintal not to be back next year. This will leave some spot open for a prospect or two.

Also, don’t be surprised if Gainey tries to make a move for a strong left-winger…and he might be about to move young goaltender Mathieu Garon, who’s seen by many analyst as the best backup goaltender in the NHL right now. The kid is probably ready for a starting job elsewhere.

Finally, some Trade Deadline Notes…

They Might Lose Now, But What Will It Be Later ?

Washington will have a bright future, collecting two 1st Round Pick in 2004, one 2nd Round Pick in 2004, one 2nd Round Pick in 2005, one 2nd Round Pick in 2006, one 4th Round Pick in 2006. They also acquired young promising defenceman Shaone Morrisonn, and prospects Jared Aulin (3rd), Tomas Fleischman (4th), Jakub Klepis (5th) andBrooks Laich (7th). Add that to players like Steve Eminger, Alexander Semin, Brian Sutherby, Eric Fehr, Nolan Yonkman and Maxime Ouellet…that could be interesting to see.

Best Overall Trade

Nashville getting Steve Sullivan from Chicago

Calgary getting Miikka Kiprusoff from San Jose

Square-And-Fair Trade

Philadelphia getting Danny Markov, Carolina getting Justin Williams

Tampa Bay getting Darryl Sydor, Columbus getting Alexander Svitov

Stupid Trades

Edmonton trading goaltender Tommy Salo to Colorado…a Conference Rival…for…well…nothing really !!!

It’s a steal !!!

Toronto getting Ron Francis for a 4th Round Pick !!!

Well that’s it for me…feedbacks are welcome. Let’s get ready for the playoffs now !!!

Cheers !!!