What's next for Habs

Draft is done and the spectacular blockbuster involving Marleau didn’t happen. Some say it’s because the Sharks want to make sure they will get Drury others say it’s simply because Marleau isn’t going anywhere.

The Marleau Situation

I’m a Habs fan… needless to say… but I doubt Marleau will be traded to Montreal. Why would the Sharks do that? Because they want Drury? Why would you pay close to 2 millions more for a guy like Drury who isn’t a sure shot and could very well not like the San Jose system when you have a strong tall and big centre like Marleau that wants to play with the Sharks, that would probably be ready to cut a bit of his salary to stay in SJ? The worst explanation I’ve heard is that next year both he and Thornton will be free agents. So what? If you’re planning on signing Drury and trade Marleau… next year you’ll find yourself with big bucks committed to Drury and Thornton as a UFS you need to resign. So keeping Marleau or trading him and getting Drury is putting yourself in the same situation salary-wise.

Maybe Wilson prefers Drury to Marleau. It is true that Marleau didn’t have spectacular playoffs but he still was good. It’s also true that Drury as always has been great in these playoffs… scoring a lot and showing a lot of leadership. But hey… you’re trading the guy who wears the C and the franchise player. Some speculate that the relationship between Wilson and Marleau isn’t at its best… well relationships move on especially when you’re talking about a big scoring centre like Marleau.

What the Habs have to offer?

Now that the Sharks have traded Toskala… they will be looking for a decent backup goaltender… and we have just what they need. Whether it’s Halak or even Danis, we have plenty to offer. With Price probably staying one more year in Hamilton (unless he’s too good for the AHL and gets shutout after shutout), we can trade one of the two and still have a very good goaltending duo with an obvious number one (or 1b) in Huet and a great backup who has a bit of NHL experience (Danis). Some say Ryder could be a good trade bait, I don’t see that happening I have to say. Ryder… even if he has a pretty inconsistent play… is the only player that had two thirty-goal seasons. He is still young and could get to 40 goals if he has a centre that can create shot opportunities for him… like Marleau would with his size. In a team that desperately lacks offence… I doubt the best goal-scorer would be traded.

Saku Koivu

What I would think would be likely… okay not likely… but what I would love to see happen is the departure of Saku Koivu. Last year, I would’ve never even have accepted to think about this, but Saku with his desire to win a Stanley Cup could accept to move from Montreal. What Habs fans have gone through with Saku is amazing… cancer, injuries but still he was the only one giving us hope when our first line was Brian Savage Saku Koivu and Oleg Petrov. I think if the Sharks are interested in Drury and fail to get him… Koivu could be an interesting alternative. He’s older and not at all the same kind of player but could be very useful because of his leadership, experience and playoff success… of course he’S never won a Stanley Cup but has always performed decently in the playoffs. The Sharks don’t lack size so they could go for a guy like Saku. But it’s just a dream here.

The Draft

The Habs are not exactly copying the Anaheim Ducks philosophy but are definitely taking Bryan Burke’s general philosophy of building a winning team. After his Stanley Cup conquest, Burke said in an interview with Micheal Landsberg on Off The Record (OTR – TSN) “We have a simple philosophy, we build from the goalie and up and we use hard-working players that do everything well. We want to be quick enough not to be outrun, we want to be physical enough not to be outhit and talented enough not to be outplayed.” The Habs have now a solid goaltender to come – Carey Price – and are building they’re defence with hard-hitting fast-skating big guys. They’ve locked up Markov for a while and Komisarek too… and they’ve drafted Fischer last year, McDonagh and four other big and tall defensemen. They’re building from the goalie and up while still having a decent team that plays right now. They passed on Esposito and Cherepanov for all these reasons – right reasons. They don’t want inconsistent and childish players like Ribeiro or Dagenais (and even Kovalev) who will play when they feel like it and let the team down when they’re girlfriends gave them the “I have a headache” killer the night before. I like their picks, a lot.

Free Agents and Montreal

It’s been said that free agents don’t like Montreal because of the pressure, the media and the fans. I can understand them because it’s true that the fans and the media can kill a player’s future with the team. I wasn’t happy when Samsonov was signed, I thought he was overpaid and not what we needed (a small speedy 29-goal-scorer). However I have to say he didn’t get his full chance and the team, the media and the fans didn’t let him adapt or try to work and get better. Carbo’s a bit to blame for all this he said too much too soon about Samso. However I was happy to see him leave and didn’t understand why the Habs didn’t get Aucoin. He’s overpaid at 4 million dollars but so was Timmonen and so will be Souray and so is Markov (5.75 is a bit too much I think). Souray who could reportedly get up to 6 million dollars (unless he signs with Anaheim, he would then accept a paycut to be close to his daughter and… hey they just won a Stanley Cup and could win more). I think Aucoin could’ve been a fit in Montreal but again, maybe he didn’t want to waive his no-trade clause. The only players I think would love to play in Montreal would be Briere and Preissing. Preissing knows the pressure of a Canadian city and even if Montreal and Toronto are muche worse than Ottawa, he could still thrive under this kind of pressure. Briere is a french-speaking hockey player that would love to be more than just a hockey player and it’s probably only in Montreal that he could be more than a simple centerman. He could really become an Ambassador in Montreal. The media already love his availability, the fans dream of him. All this being said, I doubt the Habs will get into a bidding war to get him. He’s not the perfect fit here. He’s small and quick. A more talented version of Saku. He has more speed maybe and take more initiatives but I don’t think he would be as efficient with the Habs wingers. Apart from Higgins and Kostitsyn, the Habs don’t have fast skating and always moving forwards… the type of forwards the Sabres have. Briere will be more easily neutralized as the other forwards won’t be active on the ice. I’d rather trade for Marleau (if possible).

Sheldon “Cali” Souray

Sheldon won’t be back and I think Gainey is already starting the process of replacing him. Souray will probably fo to California… the only place he could go I think would be Anaheim and that only if Niedermeyer retires. I don’t think Bryan Burke or Randy Carlyle are big fans of his defensive nonchalence but he will do anything to play there and he will even listen to what the coach says. It’s always easier to respect and listen to a coach who has just won a Stanley Cup than a rookie coach who got hired mainly because in Montreal we need a french-speaking coach (not that Carbonneau isn’t good, I just think there were better options).

The replacement will most likely come from free agency. Schneider has already stated his interest in coming to Montreal and could prove an interesting option until the Emelin (if he ever comes), Valentenko, Fischer, McDonagh, Subban, Gorges, O’Byrne and Carle can play in the NHL (if any of these make it). Hamrlik could also be an option but a costly one looking at the contract Timmonen just got. Danny Markov is a less offensive option the Habs could consider but on that front they could go for the less expensive Preissing. Sydor, Modry, Miller f
rom the Stars could also be nice options.

On offense, I’d love to see Ryan Smyth wearing the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, but I highly doubt it. Even if he would bring a much needed boost on offense and would provide with the perfect hardwork-talent-scoring-grit combination, he could be too expensive for the Habs whose first priority is a centre. Keith Tkachuk could also have the same effect Shanahan had on the Rangers. A scorer that isn’t affraid of opening his mouth, looking for a short-term contract. For that to happen, I think the Canadiens would have to get rid of Kovalev because even if the cap could hit the 50 million mark, the Habs will have to resign Plekanec, Ryder and Kostitsyn and have about 35 million dollars already committed.

The Final Word

Do the Habs have a bright future? I think they do and the draft next year will probably confirm this. The team’s objective this year will be to make the playoffs in a decent position (Top 6 in the East) that is if they sign or obtain a centre and a decent defenseman. Otherwise the last two spots to get into the playoffs will be already a great achievement. Gainey said after the last trade deadline that he didn’t trade Souray or didn’t make any significant trade because he thought the probelem wouldn’t be fixed with a quick short-term solution. This is why this summer and next year’s draft are important. This summer will help the Habs to be a fast rebuilding team if they get proven NHL players that are still young (Like Marleau). Next year’s draft is supposed to be much deeper thant this year’s, especially on the offensive front. Even if Gainey said that the team drafting so many defenders was only a question of circumstances, he did take advantage of a draft that had good prospects on the blueline and not so good prospects on offense. He and Timmins will have a year to assess the situation on offense and make proper selections next year to get the Habs depth on offense like the Ducks did with Getzlaf and Perry.

Thanks, cheers and I hope to receive constructive comments.