On February 8, 2010, when it was announced that
then-GM Bob Gainey was stepping down and handing the reins of power to his
assistant Pierre Gauthier, the latter wasted no time in making his priority
"It’s an honour for me to become general
manager of the Canadiens," Gauthier said at the press conference that day. "But
this day is not about me, it’s about the Montreal Canadiens and the future of
the franchise. Our goal is the same as every other team: to win the Stanley
Furthermore, he said, “As soon as we leave the
room today, I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get the job done." Doesn’t that
sound like the kind of thing you’d want your GM to say?
Habs fans were not sure what to expect. We
wondered if ‘The Assistant’ would simply echo Gainey’s style.
I for one am very pleased so far this offseason
with the GM. He had a tough choice between keeping Halak, drafted 271st
overall but with an insanely good playoff run, or Carey Price, 5th
overall with a not-so-great career but lots of upside. He made the very
unpopular choice to get rid of Halak, a decision that took guts and could not
have been easy.
Whether or not the Halak trade is a winner for
the Habs hinges on Price’s performance this coming season. And while
fans’ reactions ranged from acceptance to
outrage, had Price been the one traded we would have been apoplectic. We
would have wondered if Halak had already peaked and if he was a one-year wonder.
If Price would come back to bite us. Gauthier showed he was not afraid to make
an unpopular decision. Like the great Sam Pollock said, “Listening to the fans
is the quickest way to start losing.” Obviously, Gauthier is planning on not
falling into that trap.
The FA market this year is glutted with good
goaltenders, with more proven records than Halak, which makes the acquisition of
blue-chipper Lars Eller, who most hockey experts believe to be NHL-ready and a
top-6 player, an excellent trade. Tossed into the trade was Ian Schultz, who we
hope will be useful against teams such as the Flyers and Bruins down the road.
Also right off the bat that day in February,
Gauthier stated that he was interested in keeping Tomas Plekanec in the
bleu-blanc-rouge. He’s now signed to a six-year deal at $5 million per. I
believe he would have gotten more elsewhere, plus he genuinely loves playing in
Montreal, so Gauthier really accomplished a lot with that deal. We now have a
happy player, who is motivated by the security of his contract.
The Pouliot signing is a bit risky, given his
performance in Minnesota and the rest of the season in Montreal. But if you’re
going to trade Halak because you have that much confidence in Price, then you
should have some confidence left over for a 4th overall pick. At
$1.35M it’s worth the gamble especially because he showed flashes of brilliance
after he joined the team. Although his late-season and playoff swoon has been
well-documented, there were mitigating circumstances: He joined the team only
mid-season and it took the whole team till the playoffs to gel. Pouliot also
wasn’t used to playing so many games, being injured and underused in Minny.
Interestingly, the first move announced that
day in February was sending down Trotter and White and bringing up Tom Pyatt.
Fast forward to the playoffs, where Pyatt found his niche playing as a two-way
forward and excelling on the PK. Next thing you know, Pyatt was signed to a
cheap contract, considering cap space. Acquiring him was an excellent move by
It seems that Gauthier is trying to improve the
bottom-6, which was a weak link last season in terms of secondary scoring
(hence, Eller) and a robust checking line (Boyd/Schultz).
The Sergei K trade is too early to analyze,
though it helps that the team was able to come to terms with Dustin Boyd,
acquired in the deal. However, it might just be that subtracting Sergei’s salary
and hopefully getting brother Andrei wholly focused on hockey will make this
deal a winner for the Habs.
Gauthier has certainly ‘rolled up his
sleeves’ and is doing his gutsy utmost to ensure that the Habs have a better
chance at the Cup this season. He has proven himself to be more decisive and
aggressive in moving around assets before they grow stale and lose their value
or become UFA’s. So far, this looks like a key step in the right direction