The New Habs; Did Gainey Win or Lose ?

Much debate going on since July 1st in Montreal (and around the league) about Gainey’s move. Did he do the right thing ? Are the Canadiens better or worse than last year ? Should we label them as winners, or losers ? Here’s my take on it.LOOKING AT THE LINE-UP AND THE NUMBERS
Now, I’m usually not a fan of quoting stats, but I know a lot of fans do when it’s time to evaluate a player. So I’ll play the game. There’s two way to look at it, depending on which line you think was Montreal’s first last year. So I’ll cover both…

According to everyone, Gomez had a sub-par season last year with the blueshirts, scoring 16 goals for 58 points. On the other hand, Mike Cammalleri enjoyed his best season to date, with 39 goals and 82 points in Calgary. Brian Gionta, with 20 goals, and 60 points, finished fifth amongst Devils scorer, playing in the shadow of Parise, Zajac and Elias. Combined, the three of them have a total of 75 goals, and 200 points.

Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Kovalev combined for 69 goals, and 145 points. Out of these three, two are coming back, in a much more fitting role, providing second line offense. Playing with Kovalev means playing against the other team’s top defensive line, and both Plekanec and Kostitsyn could benefit from playing in the shadow of Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri. The Habs are winning here; not only are they getting more offense than before, but they’re bumping down two players they had on their first line, to replace an aging Koivu and a banged-up Tanguay.

Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Christopher Higgins combined for 44 goals, and 114 points. In all fairness, these three missed a total of 74 games due to injury, but durability has to be factored-in considering how much emphasis Gainey put on that during his press conference. The three of them averaged just over 16 minutes of icetime per game, which was a bit too much in Koivu’s case some nights. To put things in perspective; Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta averaged 18 minutes and a half last season. The Habs are again winning here, getting more offense, durability and icetime from their newly acquired players.

There’s a third way to look at it, if you wanna take each player individually; Gomez replaces Koivu, Cammalleri replaces Kovalev, and Gionta replaces Tanguay.

Gomez is younger than Koivu, much more durable, and brings more offense, even at 58 points, which his disappointing for a player like Gomez. Koivu pretty much gave the Habs what they expected out of him at 35, with 50 points. True, Koivu never had a sniper of Cammalleri’s caliber to play with…but neither did Gomez in New York. Gomez is also slightly bigger than Koivu, at 5’11, 200 pounds.

Cammalleri, described by many as a streaky scorer, replaces another one of those in Kovalev. He’s a lot younger, but also much smaller than the artist. Lack of size is an issue, anyone in Montreal saying otherwise is blatantly lying. Kovalev is strong, but usually relies more on his hands than his strength. How often did you see Kovalev charge the net ? Almost never…he plays along the boards, trying to get enough room to shoot from the outside, and doesn’t always uses his teammates the way he should. His size gives him the luxury to control the puck and the flow of the game, something that you shouldn’t expect out of Cammalleri who’s much more effective when he lets someone else control the puck in the offensive zone, setting himself up to take a shot. Two different size, two different types of game.

Finally, Brian Gionta is just as old as Alex Tanguay, and their numbers are pretty similar. Tanguay is bigger than Gionta, but a shoulder injury keeps him away from using that physique to his advantage. They’re both smooth skaters, with good vision, but Gionta is a much better fit for Gomez than Tanguay could’ve have been. Gionta averaged over 3 shots per game, doubling Tanguay in that aspect. He averaged 28 goals and 247 shots in his last four seasons compared to 21 goals and 108 shots for Tanguay. Now of course, Gionta’s numbers are inflated by the 48-goals season he had the last time he played with Gomez in New Jersey (and no, I don’t expect them to repeat in Montreal), but you could say the same about Tanguay, who was playing alongside Sakic in Denver when he scored 29 goals in 2005-2006.

Of course, you have to factor-in Higgins too, since he was part of the trade that brought Gomez to Montreal. 12 goals, 23 points in 57 games…and room to improve (which can’t be calculated right now). When you compare Gomez-Gionta-Cammalleri’s numbers to Kovalev-Koivu-Tanguay’s numbers, you get a difference of 17 goals, 27 assists and 44 points in favor of the new comers. Which is the kind of production that Higgins is capable of, in a normal 82-games season. So you get pretty much the sames numbers, while getting younger, and opening a spot of your second line for one of our young guy (Sergei Kostitsyn, Guillaume Latendresse, Max Pacioretty or Matt D’Agostini). Might not be what we expected, but it’s still an improvement in my book.

Gainey did spend (some would say waste) this summer, but he had to. Montreal has had a very hard time in the past convincing free agents to sign with the team, and Gainey had a whole team to re-build. Every general manager know they’ll have to overpay if they want to be active on July 1st.

Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Christopher Higgins earned a combined $16.2m last year. Some would say that Gainey probably could’ve signed them for less this year, but until we know their new numbers, we can only speculate. Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta are coming to Montreal with a pretty expensive price-tag; $18.3m combined. That’s an increase of $2.150m. Now that’s not critical, is it ? You get younger, you get better, you get healthier.

Some would argue that our first line (Plekanec-Kostitsyn-Kovalev) only ate up $9.35m of our payroll last year. True…so basically, Gainey added a 65-points scorer at $9.0m a year. Ouch, that hurts ! Depending on the name I guess, because those are pretty much LeCavalier’s numbers from last year…and I don’t know a single soul in Montreal who wouldn’t have been dancing in the street had LeCavalier been traded to Montreal on draft day. Again, in all fairness, LeCavalier had a sub-par season in Tampa Bay last year, due to injuries, but basically, Gainey took what he was ready to give to LeCavalier, and splitted it into three parts. As good as Vinny is, he is just one guy…

Also, keep in mind that eventhough our first line went from a $9.35m paycheck to $18.3m one, our second line went from $11.7m to $5.6m, which is pretty affordable compared to what we see around the league.

Size has been a concern in Montreal for years. But when you look at what was available on the market, Gainey didn’t have a lot of options. Marian Hossa would’ve been a great acquisition, but no-way Gainey could/would have matched the Hawks offer. Gainey don’t mind spending the money, but I doubt you’ll ever see him sign someone to a 10 or 12 years deal. Given how important durability was for Gainey, I doubt he even tried to sign Havlat or Gaborik. Both Sedins signed with Vancouver only a few hours before free agency, while wingers Erik Cole, Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin opted to re-sign with the respective teams.

Nik Antropov would’ve added some much needed size upfront, but I think his initial demands were higher than what he eventually signed for in Atlanta. Which left Gainey with two options; bringing back the olds, or go with something new. He went with option number two, and personally, I’m glad he did. As much as I enjoyed watching Koiv
u, Kovalev and the others, they never got the job done. I wish them all well, but Montreal needed a change more than they needed size.

Some would say that Gainey could’ve tried to go the other way, and trade for that big center we’re so desperately looking for. And he did try (and almost succeed). But in the end, Gainey had little to offer, with so many free agents. He played the one card he had going in (cap space) and chose Gomez over Brière, who Philly is apparently trying to move. Those were probably the only two options Gainey had in terms of trades…and if that’s the case, he chose the right one.

Those of you who know me are well aware that I’m usually pretty hard on Bob Gainey, but aside from the fact that he let Komisarek walk (we’ll get to that shortly), I think Gainey did a good job, both on draft day, and on July 1st.

There are no words to say how sad I am to see Komisarek go. He was, by a long shot, my favorite player on the team, and I can’t believe he’s now playing for the enemy. I’ve always said that my heart would go where Komisarek would, but I just can’t bring myself to be a Leafs fan. They have enough anyway, they don’t need me.

Let me tell you one thing Leafs fans, you guys got one heck of a player ! Someone who should become a fan favorite in no time. I don’t care what some of us are saying about him (frustration can make you say some stupid stuff sometimes), Komisarek is a solid defenseman, and a great character guy. He plays with heart and passion, sticks up for his teammates, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll bounce back from a pretty mediocre season. Worth every single penney you gave him, period ! True, he struggles at times to get the puck out of his zone, which is why I’d keep Kaberle if I was Brian Burke, but still…you guys are gonna fall in love with Komisarek…big time !

That being said, I don’t think Gainey even had a shot at bringing Komisarek back. I think he just decided it was time to move on. I don’t know what exactly, but I think something went terribly wrong in the lockerroom last year. The Kostitsyn fiasco, the everlasting feud between Carbonneau and Kovalev, rumors of internal conflict between Saku Koivu and Maxim Lapierre. I think Gainey trading Higgins to New York was the final blow in Komisarek’s case.

I’ve heard some fans saying that Gainey made a mistake by not signing him during last season…Gainey did make a mistake…but that was two years ago, when he signed a 25-years old Komisarek to a two-year deal, setting him up for free agency at such a young age. He failed to realize that a 27-years old, 6’4, 243 pounds right-handed defenseman, with solid defensive instinct would be the target of a lot of general managers throughout the league. He should’ve locked him up, long term, back then.

But Komisarek is out now, and in are Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill. Let me begin by making one thing perfectly clear; neither one of them can bring what Komisarek did.

Spacek, 35-years old, is a very reliable (and under-estimated) defenseman, who can provide some offense, and a decent point shot on the Power-Play. Last season, Spacek was ranked first in Buffalo for goals, assists, points, shots and icetime, while finishing second in hits and blocked shots. I don’t get why his age is such an issue for some fans since he’s pretty much there to replace Mathieu Schneider. He can log on a lot more icetime than Schneider, who was overused in his short stint with the Habs, averaging 21 minutes per game. His salary isn’t an issue for me; considering his numbers, that’s pretty much on-par with what you see in this league;

Jaroslav Spacek (Buffalo) – $3,833,000
8 goals, 37 assists, 45 points in 80 games. Averaged 22:16 minutes per game, with 78 hits and 126 blocked shots.

Christian Ehrhoff (San Jose) – $3,100,000
8 goals, 34 assists, 42 points in 77 games. Averaged 21:14 minutes per game, with 79 hits and 90 blocked shots.

Marek Zidlicky (Minnesota) – $3,350,000
12 goals, 30 assists, 42 points in 76 games. Averaged 22:06 minutes per game, with 74 hits and 95 blocked shots.

Willie Mitchell (Vancouver) – $3,500,000
3 goals, 20 assists, 23 points in 82 games. Averaged 22:54 minutes per game, with 82 hits and 125 blocked shots.

Sami Salo (Vancouver) – $3,500,000
5 goals, 20 assists, 25 points in 60 games. Averaged 20:10 minutes per game, with 46 hits and 66 blocked shots.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the defensemen available in this year’s free agency…

Jay Bouwmeester (Florida, now Calgary) – $6,680,000
15 goals, 27 assists, 42 points in 82 games. Averaged 26:59 minutes per game, with 115 hits and 128 block shots.

Rob Scuderi (Pittsburgh, now Los Angeles) – $3,400,000
1 goal, 15 assists, 16 points in 81 games. Averaged 19:09 minutes per game, with 61 hits and 164 blocked shots.

Johnny Oduya (New Jersey) – $3,500,000
7 goals, 22 assists, 29 points in 82 games. Averaged 20:52 minutes per game, with 50 hits and 127 blocked shots.

Mattias Ohlund (Vancouver, now Tampa Bay) – $3,750,000
6 goals, 19 assists, 25 points in 82 games. Averaged 21:34 minutes per game, with 109 hits and 152 blocked shots.

Spacek got the money he deserved from Montreal. He’s not a bargain…but he’s not overpaid either. Alright, maybe by 200k, big deal !

Hal Gill at $2.25m…now that’s overpaid ! Clearly a move made out of panic by Gainey, after the loss of Komisarek. Forget about his size, Gill doesn’t use it to his advantage. In fact, he has the same amount of hits as Spacek. In a way, Gill reminds me of a player that Habs fans took years to forget; Mike Popovic. That’s what he his…and nothing more. He’s just a big body with barely enough skills to be a 7th defenseman, which is probably what he’s gonna end-up to be for Montreal, if O’Byrne can somehow find his game back.

Why on earth would you spend $2.25m on Hal Gill when you could’ve had Adrian Aucoin for the same price. Sure, Aucoin is way past his prime, but at least he can turn left ! Gainey could’ve had Francois Beauchemin had he been willing to show a little more green. What about re-signing Francis Bouillon ? What about Karlis Skrastins, Greg Zanon, Steve Montador or Ville Koistinen, who all signed elsewhere for less than Gill. What about Derek Morris, Nick Boynton and Dennis Seidenberg who are all still looking for a job ? They’re not big enough ? Alright, what about Paul Mara, Kurtis Foster or Andrew Alberts. There were tons of options outhere, better than Gill, and Gainey screwed up big time on that one. $2.25m per year is just way too much money to spend on a guy who’s “a nice person to have in the lockeroom” Bob !

Offensively, the Habs are winners; they got younger, better, heathier…sure, they got smaller (who would’ve thought that would be possible) but we didn’t have size before anyway. Defensively, you just can’t ignore the big hole Komisarek left behind him…and we can only hope one of O’Byrne, Weber, Carle or Subban is ready to play a much bigger role. Gainey said he was still looking to add another D-Man, so I guess the work isn’t done there (please, let it be Beauchemin).

Right now, I say the gains on offense outweights the losses on defense. So, personally, I would say the Habs are winners. Maybe not as much as I expected, considering the money we had to spend before July 1st, but still an improvement on what we had. I can’t blame those who say that the Canadiens went sideways, trading four quarters for a buck. But one thing’s pretty clear in my mind, they aren’t
losers…at least, not on paper.

81 Responses to The New Habs; Did Gainey Win or Lose ?

  1. lafleur10 says:

    big whoop! you scored 1 more goal than us! but it's conveint that you didn't mention that you gave up 50 more goals than us! you were last in defence!

  2. reinjosh says:

    i knew were were bad defensively
    and now were not
    keeping basically the same forwards and adding more grit
    im not saying were gonna win
    but were gonna kick the shit out of you
    and the leafs had 2.98 goals per game compared to montreal's 2.95
    thats more than a one goal difference bud
    and you werent much better defensively
    21st in the league for goals against isnt anything to brag about
    at least we know we sucked
    your still living in denial

  3. HABSSTAR says:

    Yeah, I know.  When I was talking about moving a horrible contract I was being sarcastic, I still have no idea why Gainey gave up the prospect for Gomez as well as Higgins.  Sather had f*ucked himself hard and you'd figure Gomez would have come at a huge discount just to get his salary off the books. 

    But whatever… I'll wait and see what he does once he puts on a Habs jersey…and it better be magical!!!!!! lol

  4. nordiques100 says:

    ok maybe i should rephrase, they are short…….on bigger sized wingers. i feel the habs need size still.

    i feel with plenty of the guys last year cut loose, a guy like a kostitsyn is going to be on the way outs too.

    i feel wolski here has more to give. maybe just the brothers for wolski. he offers size and can be tough to handle. i really like his game and i think he would fit the habs.

    he can also play centre. they dont have anyone close standing 6'3 up the middle.

  5. habswinthecup-again says:

     Of course we still need size, everyone unfortunately knows that! I do not want to give up A.K, they can get size somewhere else like resigning Lang.

  6. Rico420 says:

    Gainey loses no matter what.

    If Gainey had resigned Kovalev,Koivu and Tanguay there would be complaining about the fact he brought back the same regime that couldn't get it done before -so he makes changes and everyone yells for his head that he made changes.

    Habs fans are the most stubborn and abstinent fans in the NHL – and yet people still finger the Leafs as dreamers – does anyone remember any of these statements?

    – "I wouldn't trade Price…not even straight up for Crosby"
    – "No way would I include Josh Gorges in a trade for Lecavalier"
    -"Latendresse is going to be the next Cam Neely"

    These have all been said by someone on this site before and only of them was a Dandoeagle comment – we have to take the wait and see approach to this season coming up – I think we need one forward – a real backup goalie to mentor Price not push him for playing time and a backend guy like Denis Gauthier to keep things honest in front of Price.

  7. pezzz123 says:

    Habs fans are lucky to have you to even things up.

  8. TheLeafNation91 says:

    Arent we all expecting to who cares?

  9. Rico420 says:

    hahah same as leafs fans have you and Nords to be the sobering Yin to their raging Yang!

  10. the_word says:

    Well if all else fails, you got one over on me.

  11. mojo19 says:

    Ya the '05 Sens were the highest scoring team in the league (tied with 29 others). They scored 0 goals that season….

  12. mojo19 says:

    I guess we'll have to wait 25-30 games then. Kovalev in Ottawa… Too bad cuz I liked Kovalev since the Pittsburgh days, just wish he wouldn't have to play for the 2 teams I hate.

  13. mojo19 says:

    Ya boy! I knew the-word would be jizzing all over his house after the Beauchemin signing!

    Hahaha, definitely a solid top 4 with Kaberle. Beauchemin, Komisarek, and Schenn. Add White, MVR, and Exelby, and you've got a group of 7 that has to be considered a top 5 or 6 best defense in the league. Certainly an upgrade on last years group.

    I think like last year we'll go into the season with a couple extra defensman, White on forward is a possibility again, but he played so well on D last year I'd say its unlikely. But anyway you slice it, a trade has to be made, and probably the demotion of Jeff Finger, the numbers just don't add up.

    As of right now, keeping MVR makes sense for the power play. I see him and Kaberle as the guys with Kubina gone. Unless Stralman has a really strong camp, he could make MVR very tradeable.

    Also, I hope we can get some real value for MVR as he is represents the only thing we have to show for the draft pick we traded which turned into Luongo, 4th overall. (4th overall pick + Kenny Jonsson for Clark and Schneider, Schneider for Karpovstev, Karpovstev for McCabe, McCabe and a 4th rounder for MVR).

  14. mojo19 says:

    pezzz123 is a very vocal Flames fan, not Leafs.

    But I agree, Rico420 is probably my favourite habs fan.

  15. pezzz123 says:

    I'm a Flames fan 😉

    But even if there's so much TO fans that are as delusionnal as Mtl fans, I always like what Mojo, Cam and Word have to say. It's a shame there's not more like them.

  16. mojo19 says:

    Thanks pezzz, big love-fest on HTR right now. You, Cam, and Word are my favourites too! and Leafy, the old relic is good, and shout out to KingCanada, cuz I know the guy outside of HTR. Love, love, love.

  17. Kyleton says:

    Well that could be considered a positive for the rumor. As once it ends up there as one of his sources its a no go.

  18. Kyleton says:

    Well rumors out of hockey buzz are that Heatley may or may not be getting traded, to a team that is in the NHL and it may or may not be the Edmonton Oilers, and if not its a team that has at least one player with hair, who may or may not be sending a player who wears hockey skates when he plays to Ottawa.

  19. the_word says:

    I'm more excited than mojo19 reading Nik Antropov Slash fiction.

    Komisarek and Beauchemin?!? Burke read my wishlist and delivered. Sick blueline for under 18 million. This Sinister Six has no holes, who won free agency? I did.

  20. the_word says:

    Likewise, I always enjoy someone who can give a jab, throw one back then laugh about it.

    Leafy and Nords should make that list. For Habs Komic-J and HABSSTAR are routinely worth reading.

  21. pezzz123 says:

    agreed about Komic-J and Habsstar. Nords was already mentionned, so I didn't repeat. But I forgot about Leafy though! Shame on me!!

  22. pezzz123 says:

    haha yeah smack smack

    I forgot about Leafy and KingC! Shame on me!

  23. habswinthecup-again says:


  24. Bure96 says:

    Yeah … all just stupid comments lol

    Josh Gorges has actually developed into a really solid player. I like the guy. Though he's not really talented, he's still has some untapped offensive upside, and last season I really didn't think he was much more then a career 6th/7th defender … my bad.

    Pretty nice return for Craig Rivet too eh? Max Pac is going to be a really good NHLer … he's got the size, speed, and skill set to be a real force. Then Gorges like I just said, he's just a smart 4th or 5th defender.

    I think they really had to get bigger though. Mike Cammallari … good signing. He's fresh off a 39 goal year, and he's young. Gionta too though? 11 million dollars to two 5'7 forwards? I think Nik Antropov would have been a much better signing, even at 4.5 million.

  25. dizon says:

    you guys forgot me lol how the hell can you guys forget me

  26. TheLeafNation91 says:

    Can we just talk about why we signed another d-men? Don't we have enough. Schenn, Finger, Beauchemin, Komi, Frogren all do the same thing.

  27. hockey_lover says:

    Woah … you got me man. You truly are an intellectual wizard.

  28. lafleur10 says:

    you scored 250 goals last year we scored 249! that's 1 goal more! look it up if you want

  29. mojo19 says:

    Ya for sure.

  30. mojo19 says:

    I know its true, but its still nice to hear. Thanks.

  31. HABSSTAR says:

    There is a way for Gainey not to lose however.

    He simply sets up a team that wins 3 SC's in a row and 4 out of the next 5years.  There!  Done, everyone's happy!


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