I'm not a Canadiens fan, far from it, but I have found myself rooting for them more and more over the past few years because they (the management and the players) seem to do hockey the right way, the traditional way, and that's the way I like it.
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Ribiero's fake injury against the B's in whatever year that was is long forgotten. And the real Alexei Kovalev (remember when the Rangers drafted a RUSSIAN in the first round?!?!?!) has returned. He's the anchor of possibly the most significant "second" line in the history of hockey. Without that trio, the Canadiens are the best bets to win the lottery.
So with all the old glory that the franchise has demonstrated this season, what's with trading Huet for a second round pick? If anything, he's been one of the players you can credit the most for the Canadiens being where they are. Unbeatable? Hardly. But exceptional when he needed to be. Think Grant Fuhr with better fundamentals. And a much less explosive offense in front of him.
In the frenzy that deadline day was, no deal left me more perplexed. I was convinced that Gainey convinced himself that a deal was done for Hossa and Hedberg, and he wanted a reasonable return on Huet to cap the day. And then Waddell called him and said "Not so fast."
But I was wrong. Gainey came clean late in the day and acknowledged the decision to ship Huet was one that had been made at least 24 hours before, and he was simply looking for the best he could get in return. Washington's second rounder was the best, and you can't blame Gainey for that. If the decision was made, and Huet stays, the Canadiens end up with nothing.
Nothing except peace of mind, something Canadiens fans are going to be lacking until the team is deep into the playoffs. An early exit attributed at all to subpar goaltending will transform Gainey from Habs hero into Habsentee, and Price from Roy into Racicot.
But he has the chance to be Roy. Or Dryden. (Or Racicot.) If Price plays well enough to give Montreal home ice in the first round, and well enough to compete deep into the second round, he and Gainey are off the hook, and all will be well in Habsland going forward. Less than that could wreck two careers. But more than that could mean immortality. Like Roy. Or Dryden. (NOT Racicot.)
Whatever the result, Gainey has turned up the heat on the 20-year-old Price. With Huet, this team was destined to do well. Without him, it could be even better. But it could also be a lot worse.
I just wish they had gotten Hedberg. (Or Roloson. Or Belfour, for crying out loud! Or Raycroft. OK, I take that back.)
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