Ever since Gainey came to town, I have been reading the fans on the forum from RDS complain about him and everything from his inability to sign French players to his wardrobe. Well… that is to be expected, but I am quite shocked about the amount of Gainey bashing that is being done in this forum. People tend to think that hockey teams are built in 2 or 3 years, but that is not now, nor has it ever been the case. And you better believe that Bob Gainey knows it!
If we take a second to look at what took place when Bob Gainey was in Dallas, we will find that the groundwork for their 1998-1999 cup victory began 10 years prior with the work of Gainey’s predecessor. 3 of the biggest contributors to that team were:
Mike Modano- drafted 1988 by the stars (81 points)
Derien Hatcher- drafted 1990 by the stars (+/- 21 and 30 points)
Richard Matvichuk- drafted 1991 by the stars (+/- 23)
In addition 2 of the other leading scorers on that team were drafted early in the Gainey era:
Jere Lehtinen- drafted 1992 by the stars (52 points)
Jamie Langenbrunner- drafted round 2 in 1993 by the stars (45 points)
It was only once these guys began to show real signs of life in the NHL that Gainey surrounded them with some veteran leadership like Guy Carbonneau (1995- trade), Daryl Sydor (1996- trade), Pat Verbeek (1996- UFA) and Sergei Zubov (1996- UFA)
At this point the club began to win, going from dead last in the division in 1995-96 to first place in 1996-1997. It was then that Gainey added the veteran pieces needed to win it all in 1998-99, 10 years after the building began.
Ed Belfour- 1997 UFA
Brett Hull- 1998 UFA
Mike Keane- trade 1998
Brian Skrudland- trade 1998
The parallels between Bob’s work in Dallas and his current work with the habs are impossible to miss. If we look at the young talent drafted prior to Gainey:
Andrei Markov 1998
Michael Ryder 1998
Mike Komisarek 2001
Tomas Plekaneck 2001
Chris Higgins 2002
Andrei Kostitsyn 2003
As for when the building process started, I would agree that there is no clear cut starting point like there was is 1988 when Modano was selected first overall, but one could average this out and say approximately the year 2000. By this calculation, the 2007 season, would parallel the 1996 season for the stars where Gainey brought in some veteran character (Carbo, Verbeek, Sydor) which he has done in Montreal (Hamrlik, Smolinski, kostopoulos). It would mean that by this time in Dallas, Gainey would have drafted some key players himself (Langenbrunner and Lehtinen), which he has done in Montreal (Latendresse, Lapierre, Price).
It would also mean that the 2007-2008 season would be where the Canadiens, much like the 1996 stars, began to see their draft picks really produce and start showing that they can contend. And of course, that means that the 2008-2010 seasons would be where Bob really hits that trade and UFA market for the missing pieces because he now has a team that has proven it can win.
So, to all of the Bob Gainey critics, I say to you that Bob is doing everything exactly as he did in Dallas and so far, it has gone pretty much according to plan. History seems to suggest that the next 3 years will be very exciting, and I trust Bob, because building a team takes years, not 2 or 3… but 10 does seem to be the magic number.