Montreal: Not a popular destination

It should be pretty obvious to any Canadiens fan by now, Montreal is not a popular destination when it comes to free agents. What is it exactly ?

Media Pressure ?!?
Obnoxious Fans ?!?
Income Taxes ?!?

All of the above to be honest…but there are three other reasons in my opinion as to why the Canadiens are having a hard time bringing any big names in Montreal.1 – The System…
The Canadiens are not the New Jersey Devils, but they are closer to them than they are to Pittsburgh. When you think about Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau, you think about leadership, you think about hard work and good work ethic…but you also think about defense.

How exactly are you suppose to sell a system like this to an offensive-minded player like Daniel Brière ? How is it suppose to be appealing to a Brendan Shanahan or a Patrik Elias ? Alexei Kovalev spent the whole season *****ing about the fact he didn’t have a good center to play with (and rightfully so) but he didn’t help himself by making those comments in the media. I’m not putting all the blame on Kovalev, but how are we suppose to get you the player you so desperately need if you make that kind of statement ?

Now the system itself is the problem…and the team needs to realize that, and work on their “identity”. They need to let their best players take chances, and put some points on the boards. Because right now, the general feeling around the league is that you just can’t be succesful offensively in Montreal…it just can’t happen !

2 – The Veterans…
Believe me, I’m thrilled about the young guys we have in Montreal and Hamilton, and I think we have a bright future ahead of us. And, while it should be pretty easy to sell to the players, it’s also a weakness…

I was watching TSN’s coverage today, and heard Joe Thornton saying that he personally called Ryan Smyth today. Joe Sakic did the same thing and, apparently, had a better pitch. Martin Biron and Simon Gagné spoke with Daniel Brière and it made a difference. And something tells me Brendan Shanahan did the same thing in New York, eventhough he’s an unrestricted free agent…for now.

Now I’m not even sure the Canadiens are doing this. I’m not sure they are asking Koivu and Kovalev to be involved in the process. Remember last year when the Canadiens were pushing for Shanahan. George Gillett, Pierre Boivin and Bob Gainey all met with him. But I don’t remember hearing about Koivu or Kovalev trying to sell the team to the big winger ?

And even if they did…Koivu and Kovalev can’t bring the same “credibility” than a Joe Sakic, a Rob Blake or a Steve Yzerman back in the days. And since they don’t have a young franchise player like a Corsby or an Ovechkin, they can’t sell their future as well as the Pens or the Caps.

3 – The Hometown Effect…
It used to be a factor…it’s not anymore. We saw it with LeCavalier when he signed another deal with Tampa, we saw it with Martin Lapointe when he signed with Boston, and we saw it again with Daniel Brière. Just because someone grew up watching the Canadiens, it doesn’t mean he’ll do whatever it takes to play for them.

They’re paid millions to “play” a sport, but they’re not freakin’ stupid ! You think they have no idea what kind of treatment Patrice Brisebois got ? You think they forgot how José Théodore went from hero to zero ? Guy Carbonneau, back when he was our captain, was kicked out of Montreal ! And it happened with a lot of other player during the Houle-Tremblay era.

No matter if they are born in Quebec or not, all the players in the league are pretty aware that, if they’re good, they’ll be worshipped here. But they have to be right away, from the start; ask Sergei Samsonov. Playing in front of a sellout crowd in Montreal when the team is succesful must be an awesome feeling. But the team isn’t right now, so anyone signing with the team can expect a pretty rough start…

The best and only way to go…
The Canadiens, in my opinion, have no other choice; if they want to get their hands on good players, they’ll have to trade for them. They do have some good prospects, and they can afford to trade a few of them.

The salary cap, eventhough it went up again, is the Canadiens best friend right now. With a little less than $20m in cap room, they can afford to take some salaries. The best free agents signed today, meaning that some teams out of panic (like the Canadiens last season) will start to overpay for some “big names” ala Zubrus, Guerin, Bertuzzi, Nolan, Souray, Hamrlik, etc…

Now we don’t know yet who these teams are going to be, but the Canadiens need to target them first, and make something happen. Play the waiting game; if San Jose signs someone, keep on asking about Marleau. If Calgary signs one of the remaining “big names”, ask about Tanguay who, according to TSN and RDS, could be available (although it was back when Calgary was trying to get Smyth). This is, in my opinion, the only way you can go now…because none of the remaining free agents can bring you what you need…CREDIBILITY !

17 Responses to Montreal: Not a popular destination

  1. mattsmith_10 says:

    I couldn't agree with you more.

    They need a veteran center who can support Kovalev and gel this team (could have of been Drury). The only UFA I can think of that could do that…that is left… is Forsberg.
    The thing some people aren't looking at as an option though are the RFA's. One who comes to my mind immediately is Dustin Penner. He might not be a centerman but hes what the Habs have been crying for lately…a solid, point producing, power forward. The guy is young (mid-twentys) and has a bright future ahead of him; hes better then Michael Oullet btw.

    What I am hoping for right now is that the Habs do get Penner, Priessing to replace Sheldon and a 3-way-trade in which Bob would get us Marleau and Tanguay. It would be epic, but its an extreme longshot.

    If worst comes to worst the kids in Hamilton step up in 2008/2009 and win the cup then. 🙂

  2. Jrugges says:

    In all honesty if I was one of those big names players like Briere, Gomez, and Drury I wouldn't want to join Montreal either. Montreal isn't a team right now where one big name player like either of them will sign the balances of power. There isn't a loud vocal gritty player that stands out the team. Koivu is a solid player, with alot of great skills but face facts. The man isn't a standout leader. He's a leader b/c of his hockey talents and thats it. Kovalev is the same way, what kind of leader crys to the media vs. having a talk with management. Or just not talking at all. Now I like the resigning of Markov.  They need to add a face though. A leader who commands respect but doesn't literally ask for it. Guerin is a perfect example of what montreal doesn't have. Leadership, Credibility, Responsibility, Work eithic, and overall Skill. This is what makes Guerin more valuable in my mind especailly with a young team than a guy like Kovalev or Koivu who might be more talented but lack all the other intangables. I will agree Montreal needs a better second line Center. That doesn't mean it can't be Koivu either is all I'm saying,(VIA trade.) If I did target a player I'd personally try and sign Wes Walz he's a good second liner with above average offensive skills with a great defensive game. Something seriously lacking in Montreal forwards.

  3. flyerjim says:

    See if SanJose still wants to trade Marleau even though they didn't win Drury.  BTW- when Patrick Roy left (pretty much saying it sucked) the Habs haven't been the same.  They don't have the same swagger that they did forever.

  4. GoalJudge says:

    French Language, Political Instability.

    Players do not want the pressure of learning a new language or having to ensure their families do either.

    Second. With French Canadian politicians endlessly trying to push the separatist route to garner political favour and make a name for themselves Quebec cities are unatractive.  Unfortunate that the major bilingual city in the province is victim to the rest of the small towns and cities.

    This political unrest is a major reason why the Nordiques moved. And will have that stigma till we have a successful nationalist PM a la Trudeau.  Until they have credible leadership that doesn't get by on separatist platforms, Montreal will have a hard time get valuable UFAs, because it is just easier to go somewhere else, especially for more money.

    Montreal also tries to bank on its old history. Today players suffer from the Janet Jackson syndrome. "what have you done for me lately".  That mostly applies to North American skaters, including those from Ontario.

    They should focus on Quebec born players, ie Esposito, what a bungle that was, and European players, to whom the French language is not strange or unfamiliar, and not at all scary. This is their best bet. They will not be able to form a Anaheim style team anytime in the next ten years. So why try?

    They are living in denile.  Yes, I am a leafs fan, but I started out a Canadians fan, and my whole family are French Canadians. Their is no way the Montreal Canadians are going to build using anglophone players, not without trades. Again, their best bet is Locals, and actually taking them when they have a chance, and Europeans. Its reality right now, and they need to take a big bite.

  5. The_Dynasty says:

    Great article, but unfortunately I'm not the least bit surprised. I can however tell you for a fact that there are probably ways to get around the heavy taxation, especially for Americans. That leaves me to believe that it is the pressure.

    I still think players from Quebec would play in Montreal, its just how many good ones have even become unrestricted. I think the biggest problems are pressure, and for those players not from Quebec, fear of the unknown. Quebec is probably just to foreign, with a different language.

    What they need to do is now sign players that have had good reps in the league and drown all the canadiens media (just joking, but would probably help).

  6. TheCanadianHozer says:

    Being from Montreal I have to say that a player really does not need to learn French if they come over here. There are many places in Montreal (particularly the more lucrative places) where people can barely speak a word of French.

    Yes there may be "pressure" in that people expect you to speak a sentence or two after three years, but look at Koivu, you'd expect the Habs captain, after all this time to be fluent in french right? Wrong!

    I agree with the original article's viewpoint on getting our players involved in the process. I remember when they talked about Selanne coming to montreal a few years back and that Koivu should convince him to come here….. that never happened. Maybe he tried, maybe he didn't, but I hope he did as we need to get some UFA's here in the worst way!

  7. RealisticLeaf says:

    flyerjim was right on the mark.

    The habs have not been able to land free agents because of Roy. When you boo your best player and treat your best player the way the Habs did Roy then why would anyone not be suprised that they can't land someone.

    Roy single handedly won cups for Montreal. Any other city that would have been enough to imortalize the man. Take for example Toronto. There is no way Roy is at all booed for the kind of game he had against the wings.

    Not to mention the awful media or the tax rates. People get on the Toronto media…well try to play in Montreal.

  8. openclose says:

    just one note right now. Bergeron is a Nordiques fan, therefore he doesn't like Les Canadiens. There is no hometown effect when he grew up rooting for your provincial rival…. plus all bergeron rumours are dumb because Boston wouldn't trade him.

    happy canada day…. yesterday…

  9. openclose says:

    koivu is a leader since the entire team follows him. Koivu sets the tone for them. And he actually has a few 3rd period speeches that resulted in a comeback.  One last year where he took the game in hand by scoring the tying and winning goal.

  10. habsoverserver says:

    all valid points.  this is not news.  it should have been required reading for every dreamer who posted that montreal would be signing briere, smyth or kariya. 

    the issue is gainey doesn't know what to do about this.  like you wrote, the solution is pretty simple.  montreal should stay at the bare minimum above salary requrements.  they should not waste a cent on third tier guys like they did last year.  the payroll eaten up by the bonks, samsonovs, kovalevs, dandenaults and niinimaas are preventing the team from making the trades they need to win.

    it takes two assets to trade for a superstar (1) young talent (2) cap room.  the next time some disgruntled superstar gets put on the block, montreal needs to be in a position to trade for them.  at some point this year, a federov, thronton, heatly, pronger type player will be on the block.  and they won't be able to choose where they are going.  it will be a business decision, everyone will want them but only teams with the cap space to take on their nutty salary will be able to bid on them.  that's where montreal should be waiting to pounce.  but instead, gainey panics and signs mediocre talent, ensuring the team will not be able to improve themselves.

    if gainey thinks that outbidding colorado by 250k for smyth, or matching the Rangers for briere is even remotely a competitive offer, he has no grasp of reality.  he needs to be outbidding by millions of dollars, or he should not be wasting his time and energy. 

    this team can easily be turned into a winner.  it takes having a plan and being aggressive.  every year that the team doesn't take action, i get more and more resentful of mangement's laissez faire attitude. 

  11. my_sphincter says:

    Obnoxious Fans ?!?

    Give me a break.

  12. Habroller says:

    Where did you get that part where the Habs fans chased Roy out of town?

    Do you even know what you're talking about? Where you even born in December 95 when Mario Tremblay single-handedly chased Roy to Denver for a bag of used puck (with the help of Réjean "the Genius" Houle).

    If someone was booed, it was ti-Mario, not St. Patrick. If you're talking about Théodore or Brisebois, then it's a totally different story…

  13. kamullia says:

    A lot of truth in this article and probably part of the reasons why, according to TSN, Briere turned down a higher offer from Montréal to join Philadelphia.

  14. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    Habs will get Yashin, Souray, and one more guy this week(likely today)

  15. DoubleDown says:

    you're clueless my man. roy was traded because there was an internal power struggle between him and mario tremblay. it was roy's team when tremblay cam in, and tremblay wanted that to change. he purposely left roy in the game during the creamfest against detroit to embarass him in front of the city. he hung him out to dry…that's why roy was traded. not because of the fans.

  16. DoubleDown says:

    the problem wih gainey is he wants to bring in everyone on a low-risk contract (a la samsonov)…he's not willing to take a chance. the irony is that he saves all this cap space, but he doesn't use it

  17. habsoverserver says:

    he is very good at disposing of his mistakes – he should take more chances.  montreal had no cap space last year.

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