Today's FA extravaganza and the week or so leading up to it showed me a couple of things, as a Habs fan, that maybe the years of the two-headed soap opera that was the Gainey-Gauthier regime made me forget was even possible. I saw a management team go about the business of managing a professional sports team with the aim of making the team better, as well as more financially sensible, all without using the media to help them take some fabricated moral high ground [Howdy! Bryan Murray] or causing players involved to burn their bridges in the press [YooHoo! Marty St. Louis!].
It all started with the whole FA Markov affair. That embarrassingly long drawn-out process of signing our oft-injured [according to management] senior d-man who was tired of taking a discount for the team and wanted to get paid [according to Markov].....okay, none of that happened. What happened was a quiet, respectful negotiation that lasted all of 2 days, and although maybe the average fan thought the term was a bit long, in terms of what some teams paid out today [I'm looking at you Washington] it turned out to be not at all outrageous.
When I began to see and hear what the Canadiens had in mind this week, I clenched my teeth and waited for what I assumed would be somewhat of a media, fan and player backlash along the same lines that I had become accustomed to over the past decade. What I experienced was a management team that, even when a seemingly surprised Josh Gorges dissed a trade to TO, quietly discussed other options with the player and found him a soft landing spot of his own choosing, never once blaming Gorges for Montreal not getting, what we assume, was a better deal from Leafland. In fact, at no time did the contents of deal with TO ever "leak" out, allowing the media/fans to shake a final finger at a departing player. This had all the makings of a Gainey-era drama. I also love the fact that MB managed to turn Gorges salary into 3 workable parts in Malhotra, Weaver and Gilbert.
Next, witness the trade that sent, our most recent mistake, Danny Briere, not to purgatory, but to pleasantly-talented, playoff-bound Colorado. I realize that the Avs managed to get rid of an asset they were no longer enamoured with as well, but they've known we wanted P.A. since last season's trade deadline, but we still - somehow - got them to not only take Briere off our hands, but throw in a draft pick as well. Again, no drama. No drama from Briere saying that he was misused in the playoffs [he was] or from management confessing that his signing was a mistake [it was].
Finally, the non-resigning of our captain Brian Gionta. Where was the discussion pro-con about Gio? Again, things were very quiet, very private. Gionta stated a couple of times through the end of the season that he hoped he would be back in Montreal and, in kind, Montreal said they hoped to keep Brian going forward. When it became obvious that they were on different pages, both with Gio's role with the team and money, they each went their own way and didn't drag it out in the media. MB treated Gio with respect and although he chose to move on to Buffalo, Gionta did not express any disappointment in what had transpired in Montreal. Sure, that's partly on Gionta for being a class guy, but I also chalk it up to a new attitude in the upper suites at the Bell Centre.
Okay, okay, they still haven't signed their two essential RFAs [one which is about to receive the largest payday in Canadiens history], but how much have you really heard in the press directly from the team or either player? Really...zilch. Except for PK saying, in response to a direct question, that his agent is looking after "that stuff", there has been no discussion at all. The last time PK was in a contract renewal situation, things were loud. Things were boisterous. The only GM PK had known to that point was the "two-header" and the drama that seemed to come with that "team". What MB did was eventually and quietly stare down the young superstar and get him to fall in line with most other young players in accepting the famous "bridge contract". This time around, the negotiations will go quickly and quietly. PK knows he will be getting paid. MB knows he has to pay PK. Term is not an issue...at 25, PK can easily be a valuable commodity 8 years from now at 33...and it will all get done drama-free.