Saturday, September 27, 2008

Habs Should Package Kids For Impact Player

The Canadiens 2008-09 training camp is at it's midway point, and other than a dismal first game showing against Boston, the team's performance has been excellent. Without once yet having iced a squad remotely reminiscent of last season's lineup, the Habs have fared well enough that one could envision them starting the season with either of the rookie laden groups they have dressed in the past three games.

I mean really, what are they to do with all of these kids coming through the woodwork?

It's a beauty of a problem to have if you happen to be Bob Gainey.

So far in exhibition games, it is clear that if this were any other season in which the Canadiens weren't so set and stacked, a good four or five rookies and prospects would be termed as NHL ready.

Matt D' Agnostini looks as though he could be a 15 to 20 goal scorer on about 15 NHL clubs starting this season.

Max Pacioretty is both physically and mentally at a big league level despite only being 19 years of age.

The performances of defensemen P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber tell of great futures so far.

The potential of center Ben Maxwell has shown itself greatly, especially when his talents are combined with those of solid NHL'ers.

And they have only been the best of the best thus far.

There are also players with last names like Desharnais, Beauregard, Carle, Desjardins, Trotter and Stewart who have made strong impressions in a short time.

All could one day be in the NHL.

The 11 players named here, are primarily just the sharper tip of the iceberg for the Canadiens, and the reality is that they cannot all fit into the club's future plans.

The problem for a smiling Gainey is that the inner competition amongst these one day Habs is that it will bring out the best in them. Open spots on the club currently are more rare than Beatles reunion rumours.

The downside is that many of these players will walk from the team in time, returning little in terms of value. They will be flipped for draft picks down the line at best.

An interesting solution might have presented itself in the sheer numbers of these cumulative talents, as individually their worth would tend to be less than their combined value as a whole.

The Canadiens should make some decisions, perhaps premature, and roll the dice, in order to acquire a player that could not only take them to a higher level, but keep them there for a good long haul.

I bring this up because I see a pair of clubs - Pittsburgh and Detroit - screening the Canadiens Stanley Cup visions.

To ask why, is to understand that the Habs have no players in the Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk class within their ranks.

Adding a player of that high calibre, would go a long way towards ensuring that the club maintains annual Stanley Cup aspirations.

Mind you, I think this current team is capable right this season, with its current configuration, to go all the way.

But I'm a Habs fan, and I can only think in terms of dynasties. One Cup, only brings a thirst for more, hence my long term view that gaining a markee player suits that need best.

As I see it, in the short or long term, the Canadiens will need a player of absolute character, force, and value. A player that might well define the team identity, beyond the current Koivu and Kovalev regime.

I envision the idea of such a player as being capable of producing between 85 and 100 points annually for the next decade, or close to it. Someone to measure up against the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk.

The Canadiens can only gain such a player via three methods.

1 - Drafting a prospect in the top three spots over the next two seasons.

2 - Making a trade for such a high pick.

3 - Acquiring via the trade route, an already established player who could fill this need.

For option number 1 to happen, the Canadiens would need to be the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Thrashers or Kings. File that scenario under "Not Gonna Happen".

Option two is more likely, in that the Habs could package a group of a half dozen bodies of promise, and gain a lottery pick in the draft that could turn out to be more than the sum of it's parts.

The most immediate route is obviously the most salacious. Acquire a bona fide NHL star - rising or established.

Names - you want: Kovalchuk, Gaborik, Morrow, Kopitar, or Getzlaf. (There are others, but I digress!)

Placed in the Canadiens shoes, I would not part with Pacioretty, McDonough, Yemelin or Maxwell. Other prospects are negotiable.

The bait offered- an alluring bevy of Habs prospects with a pinch of current regulars tossed in.

Here's the card I would play if I were Gainey:

2006 first round pick, defenseman David Fischer.

Jaroslav Halak.

The rights to Alexandre Perezhogin.

A choice between center Ryan White and winger Matt D' Agnostini.

A choice between Subban and Weber.

A choice between centers Lapierre and Chipchura.

A choice between Mathieu Dandeneault and Tom Kostopoulos.

The possible flip flop of draft choices in 2009 or 2010.

Depending on the trading partner, I'd want Gainey to consider adding an alternative, in the name of a roster player or second round pick.

You might ask why I would be willing to see the club part with so many assets to gain but one player.

My answer involves calculated risk, but I always see it in the sense that the club gaining the best player in a deal is usually the winner.

Of the options available above, if I were to be another clubs GM, I'd grab the following.

White as he is a centerman, over D' Agnostini, because he is a better skater and shows more two way responsability.

Subban over Weber, for reasons incurring grit, charisma, and nationality.

Lapierre over Chipachura in regards to experience, skating skills, and attitude.

Kostopoulos, for his age over Dandy, and his willingness to go to no end for team mates.

I'd also say "NO" to the flip of choices, or at best retain the option.

In the final tally, a deal for the likes of Kovalchuk, Gaborik, Morrow, Kopitar, or Getzlaf would boil down to Fischer, Halak, Perezhogin, White, Subban, Lapierre, and Kostopoulos.

All told, seven bodies for a franchise player.

Which trigger would you pull?



Anonymous said...

I agree with you that "franchise players " are few and far between, but would Zetterberg or Datsyiuk really have a "franchise" label placed on them in other cities. I think those two(just using them as examples) would be as impressive with Atlanta or Nashville? probably not. It's more likely the success of the team as to why we hold them in such high regard.
Datsyiuk has only showed his brilliance in the past two years, just before then it seemed Detroit was itching to get rid of him(remember rumors of him coming to Montreal?).
My point is; Detroit has really come up from within and adding a little here and there. Which is what BG is doing. As far as buying a franchise player, it rarely works.
With all our young talent(assets) in our system, we can't help but think of getting a big name. It depends on how we go about getting him which is of importance. This summer we tried the FA market to little success once again. It'll be hard to see what, if anything, BG does this year.
Great read Robert and you pose a good question which all us fans have pondered.

Jeff said...

i think the options you presented ring true in many regards, but i think it will happen in a different way. With close to half the roster being UFA at the end of this season and Gainey being the wily vet that he is i think this years trade deadline is going to produce Gaborik for two of our prospects and Chris Higgins. Lemaire is fed up with Gaborik and Gainey wants him bad. That would clinch it. Gaborik in the Eastern conference where there is less hard checking would make us a dynasty with all our other pieces intact. Gainey will sign most of the UfAs i.e Kovalev, Tanguay, Plekanek, Komisarek, etc.. but guys like Dandenault, Boullion, Kostopoulos, Higgins, and dare i say Koivu may be seeing there last days as Habs. I think a changing of the guard as far as captain goes is due and necessary for this team to move forward, Nothing against Saku, i love the guy, but ten years as captain is long enough. Komisarek will be the future C. Weber, Pacioretty, Maxwell etc.. will be Habs next year as many regulars will be gone due to contracts simply expiring.

redondo said...

I come to this blog often, and I usually agree with your take, however this time i see it differently. Not only because I still have visions of John LeClair in orange and black (and I do), but because I think we are better served with "graduation through the ranks" - this is how it works in the new NHL anyway. I also think this year's situation is somewhat unique (I'd love to be wrong) and that is what enables us to not sweat losing guys like Huet or Ryder. Guys leave in FA every year, and landscape changes very quickly - the best example is the team we played last nite, the Senators. And as far as acquiring that unique, game-breaking talent, i imagine in most cases the other party will want some proven NHL talent back anyway, so you're parting with a roster player or three and opening some spots for the kids anyway.

Anonymous said...

Robert: interesting reading but good thing you're not the GM

Robert L said...

Redondo and anonymous #2...congratulations! Sometimes I bluster here, just to be disagreed with.

There's no way on Earth I would ever go so far as to package so many assets in one deal...the risks are just too many.

Building a strong club requires patience, and Gainey has done a great job in maintaining the quality and quantity of team assets.

Never ever should a GM package more than 4 bodies in a trade - just too many things can happen.

Number31 said...

I feel the "impact player" is overrated and would not package any of those guys, not even for Ovechkin. Sure he may get 100+ points, but how many teams last year had 7 players that each got well over 50? And we have our top-draft-pick stars each playing important roles on the team's success from Kostitsyn to Price. (As in they're star power, but not big enough to be glaring targets, and double-bouns is they want to play here and enjoy it).

Of course even the weakest of our prospects would interest someone as this organization is known for growing and molding talent well. Right now, I'd stick with growing talent through the system. It's just as risky as flipping for a star, but more often than not it works out better while the chances that star will flop tend to be higher. Sounds way too much like Toronto or New York, actually...

Yves said...

Interesting read. I agree that a piece could be added to solidify the lineups chances for years to come. I'd love to see a Getzlaf or a Gaborik. It's a great problem for Gainey to have, and I do expect him to likely make a move to re-arrange the "assets". We'll likely see some of those prospects moved at some point.

Jeff said...

i don't usually comment more than once in responce to your posts but i feel that this topic opens many avenues for discussion. Looking at the Habs contract list i appears mathematically improbable that Lang, Tanguay, Kovalev and Koivu will be signed, with room remainiong for Plekanec, Latendresse etc.. However in trying to think like a GM i calculate roughly eight million in salaries that will be freed up with the departures of Dandenault, Brisebois, Boullion, Begin and a few other, i hate to say, incidentals. This presents a very enviable position for Gainey since he has 90 percent of his team where he would like it to be and he now has the option to trade some of the players along with lower tier prospects to acquire one more crucial piece to complete his dynasty. I feel Kovalev will finish his career in Montreal, Tanguay as well, Lang may be a rental, time will tell. Koivu/Higgins i still feel may be traded to Minnesota for Gaborik but the rest of the team should recieve healthy long-term contracts.

Robert L said...

To all who have commented, this post purposely went a touch overboard in regards to an offered package for an impact player. I wanted to elicit an opinions, and you all did not disappoint.

I don't believe for a moment, that a GM should decimate a team's group of prospects for one player. The risks could be catastrophic.

Gaborik for one, isd too injury prone and non-committal for me to get excited about for now.

I wouldn't frown on Gainey packaging 3 of these named assets and a draft pick, but nothing more.

Guy said...

With many Habs fans saying we wont get too far in the playoffs without a big center to counter the physical play of the Flyers, we should look at a player like Jordan Staal, who wants to be a center, yet plays the wing for the Pens. With Crosby and Malkin, as well as the recent injury to Gonchar, this may be a golden opportunity to make up for not drafting Kopitar and Getzlaf a few years ago.

Guy said...

Jeff, you said it, and Gainey not drafting Anse Kopitar and Ryan Getzlaf when they both dropped to us a few years ago, when we have needed a power foward and big dominant center to counter both the Pens and Flyers depth there, put us back a few years. Koivu and Pleks as your top two centers leaves us soft at the position, as Philly showed us in the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

A couple comments: first of all, Carey Price has the potential to be a franchise player, a Brodeur-caliber foundation. Brodeur won his cups on teams that were balanced and skilled, but had no other superstars.

Secondly, at the end of this season, Koivu, Kovalev, Tanguay, Komisarek, Higgins, Latendresse and Plekanec will be free agents. Montreal is already at the cap; they won't be able to keep them all.

Blow up the farm system to add another $8-$10 million salary to this situation? That's Toronto's job, not ours!