Having been a Habs fan for my entire life and watched the supposed renaissance of the team, under Gainey, it is apparent that something is amiss. Well, many things are amiss, actually, but the thing that stands out the most to me is our seeming lack of proper player development. I don't know if it is because of the media pressure in this city or the nightlife that makes young players lose their mind, but it is evident that Montreal just isn't able to turn raw, talented players, into stars. With the exception of Saku Koivu - who skirted the line between being a star and a non-star for his entire career in Montreal - and Andrei Markov, who has Montreal drafted, molded and turned into a star over the last 10 years? If you answer that question honestly, the response you come up with has to be 'no one'.
When Gainey started his five-year rebuilding plan six years ago, one of the main things he spoke about was rebuilding through the draft and it was about time! If one were to look at the Canadiens farm system, when Gainey took over, one would see a system that was devoid of any top-tier - and largely second-tier - talent. The cupboards were empty as a decade of bad management and managers traded away picks and prospects in an effort to bandaid a winning team together. When Gainey started drafting players like Higgins and Komisarek and Carey Price, it was evident that by holding onto his first rounders, Gainey was in the process of putting together a decent crop of youngsters.
Sadly, one by one, each of the prospects that Gainey has brought on board has either quickly hit a low hanging ceiling, regressed or been traded away for scraps, only to prosper in another city. Umm, Mike Ribiero anyone? He was traded for Janne Ninnema by the way, just in case you were wondering.
How'd that trade work out for us?
If you look at last year's team - before the season started - there were a ton of young, talented prospects on the team and in the minors. Higgins, Plekanec, Komisarek, Price, McDonough and Max Pac, to name a few. However all of them took a step back last year while young guns on other teams seemed to be excelling.
How did Milan Lucic do last year?
It seems that looking around the league, teams are seemingly drafting players who get better and better. But not in Montreal. Lapierre was ascending last year. This year he is invisible. Kostitsyn looked like he was a great 10th overall pick, two seasons ago, and this year his is lost out there. Chris Higgins was hitting his stride two years ago, but fell mightly last season. Carey Price had his sophomore jinx, Komisarek looked like a defensive liability, D'Agostini couldn't put the puck in the net, Latendresse forgot how to hit people and McDonough was traded for Gomez.
Why? Why are other teams able to draft the same calibre players and have them turn into stars? Johan Franzen anyone? What about Thomas Holstrom. What about us? Where are our stars? Where are our Crosby, Stalls and Nash?
I don't know what the answer is, but everything points to some kind of organizational malaise that is deeply imbeded within the Canadiens system and it is causing us to burn our prospects and/or not being able to help them reach their true potential.
Look, I am not saying that this is a team of underperforming stars, but it would take a blindman not to be able to see that Latendresse has an infinitely higher ceiling than where he is currently playing. Whatever the problem is the blame has to lie squarely at Gainey's feet. This is his system, his ideology and his process in place. The team is running as he has set it up and the results, whether positive or negative are his to bear. He is the guy steering the ship and it is ultimatley his responsibility to fix, and so far, apart from getting rid of everyone, he has yet to show that he has the ability to do so.
The more the holes in this team becomes apparent, the more the spotlight is flashed in Gainey's direction and if he, or any other GM for that matter doesn't see that 'through the draft' is the only sure-fire way to rebuild, then they are missing a large component of the salary cap era. Gainey excelled as a pre-lockout GM, when you could throw as much money at a roster as possible. With the salary cap, GM's have to constantly be producing good, cheap talent through their draft and their farm system in order to keep a good balance on their team of highly paid veterans and lowly paid rookies. It is the only way to put together a winner in this age and if Gainey doesn't realize that by now, then his days with this team are truly numbered.