Although this has been an offseason marred with talks of a new CBA (or lack thereof), that hasn’t kept Canadiens GM Bob Gainey from being a busy man. The Habs have been a very active team so far this offseason, despite not making a big splash in the free agent market. Going into the summer, there were many holes and concerns that needed to be addressed, and many of them have been taken care of thus far, while others are still iffy. Here are some of the biggies:
1) The Canadiens, although they aren’t as bad as before, still lack toughness.
So far…the Habs have lost their enforcer in Darren Langdon, and arguably their toughest defenceman in Stephane Quintal. Combined, they had 19 fights between them last year, not bad considering the team itself had just 38. Gainey has added some toughness in tough guy Raitis Ivanans and minor leaguer Gavin Morgan, but it’s doubtful that either will have a significant effect on the Habs.
Outlook: A step in the wrong direction.
2) Along with a lack of toughness, size was still a large issue (no pun intended of course) during the Habs playoff run.
So far…Gainey has fared fairly well in this respect. Newly-acquired Radek Bonk stands at 6’3, and 200 lbs, while Ivanans is a monstrous 6’5, and 245 lbs. Langdon and Quintal were both big boys, but 6’3 Ron Hainsey and 6’2 Marcel Hossa will likely fill those roster spots.
Outlook: Some improvements made, still more needed.
3) Despite adding Alexei Kovalev at the trade deadline, scoring remained a concern down the stretch.
So far…Gainey has managed to add Bonk, a former 70-point player, but little else. Kovalev currently is no longer in the organization, but Gainey remains upbeat that he, or another player of his calibre, will sign with the Canadiens. Also gone is Yanic Perreault, who was good for 15 goals a season. It would be unfair to assume that Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder will have career best years once more, so where will the extra scoring come from? Gainey feels that Hossa, Alexander Perezhogin, and Andrei Kostitsyn can alleviate the issue, but it would be wrong to figure that all 3 will produce big numbers, at least this year.
Outlook: Again, a step in the wrong direction, but if Kovalev or another big-name scorer signs, then there will be a slight improvement.
4) Many significant contributors from 03-04 were without contracts July 1st.
So far…Gainey has signed many-an-RFA, like other teams around the league. However, what’s different here is that many have signed multi-year contracts, instead of the 1 year pacts many other teams are offering their players. Bonk and Richard Zednik both inked 3 year deals, while gritty Steve Begin is locked up for at least 2, and maybe 3 seasons. Newly-acquired Cristobal Huet also signed a 2 year deal.
Outlook: A positive one, as several key cogs of the organization are signed long-term, not many teams can happily say that. Either it doesn’t exist (too many 1 year deals), or those locked up long-term are recieving too much money. The Habs have a happy balance here.
The summer has been very busy for one Bob Gainey, and will continue to be as the days and weeks progress. He is still negotiating with Kovalev and other UFA’s, and he still has to sign restricted free agents Michael Ryder and Sheldon Souray. And of course, there are those concerns that you have just read. In these areas, there is always room for improvement, and it’s easy to say that Gainey has been doing his best to help the team now, and down the road. The summer’s not just over yet Habs fans, there’s still plenty left to come.