What a difference a day makes, eh? Wow. I am still not really sure how I feel about all of the moves that Bob Gainey made over the last 48 hours. To be honest, I'm not sure what I expected Gainey to do. I guess if there's one thing I've learned over Gainey's tenure, its that you should always expect the unexpected!
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Gainey seems to have a knack of zigging when you expect him to zag. Before the Gomez trade was made yesterday, the names we were all hearing were Lecavalier, Havlat, Beauchemin, Gaborik, maybe even Patrick Marleau. Komisarek was still a possibility and, at least in the minds of some, Kovalev was all but certain to stick around. Now, 24 or so hours later, the team has been remade and has a completely different look.
On the surface, Gainey exchanged Kovalev, Koivu, Tanguay and Komisarek for Gomez, Gionta, Cammelleri, Spacek and Gill. Yes, you could also include Lang, Schneider, Bouillon, and so on, in that list, but I am speaking more from a core perspective. Gainey has remade the core of this team. In addition, by trading higgins, not re-signing Komisarek, Kovalev and Koivu, Gainey has rid the team of all of the team's leadership. Komisarek/Higgins and Kovalev were assistant captains and Koviu - the heart and soul of this team for the last 10 years - is gone as captain. My question is what does that do to the chemistry of the team? How does this affect the other players? What effect will this have on the on-ice product? Sure, the new additons are younger and can perhaps take on leadership roles of their own, but they are complete strangers to the team and the city. Being the captain of the Montreal Canadiens goes further than simple on-ice activities and spills out into the community.
Who will fill that role, now that Koivu is gone? Love him or hate him, Koivu was an outstanding ambassador for this team, a classy individual and an inspiration to people around the city and the league. Despite being only 5'10", Koivu leaves some pretty big shoes to fill.
So what's next?
The intangibles aside, and assuming (hoping?!) that there is chemisty with the new lineup, Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri represent an upgrade over Tanguay, Koivu and Kovalev. They are, overall, quicker, more skilled, more consistent, less injury prone and younger. I really liked Tanguay, even though he was injured most of the season, but you can't argue with Gainey's press conference logic of needing a goal scorer on Gomez's wing.
Gomez is a play-maker, and a great one at that. Yes, his contract is COMPLETELY outrageous. Yes, he is paid about 2 - 2.5 million dollars more than he should be making. No, we should NOT have thrown McDonough into the deal, but none of that changes the fact that Gomez IS a good player. He is and always has been. He has two Stanley cup rings, he has played for the U.S. Olympic team, and is generally known to be a great play-making center. The problem is that at 5'11", he is still not the 'big center' that Montreal so badly needs. Also, as good as he is, he is more of an elite 2nd line center, or a decent 1st line center rather than that superstar 1st liner that Gainey was looking for.
Gainey is banking on the renewed chemistry between Gionta and Gomez, and hoping that Cammalleri can hit that 39 goal mark again. He is also hoping the the lead footed Hall Gill can fill in for the missing toughness of Komisarek.
Those things might all come to be, but I am more concerned about the team gelling. We all saw Tampa bring in a tons of new players, last year, and have their team flop. Who knows if this chemistry experiment will work in Montreal.
Its been a long day of free agent signings and I am tired now. I'll have to further ruminate on Gainey's moves and get back to you all with more thoughts. There are just so many story lines here that I think I'll have to write a few different segments to properly disect this new team.
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