Those of you expecting Canadiens’ general manager Bob Gainey to blow up this team in advance of the Mar. 4 NHL trade deadline are going to be sorely disappointed.
Those of you hoping that Bob Gainey would mortgage the farm and the other six acres for someone like Vincent Lecavalier, or Jay Bouwmeester, are going to feel short-changed right about now.
That’s because Gainey yesterday went out and improved his hockey club, but stopped short of making the wholesale changes that many are clamouring for.
Granted, we are still about two weeks away from the trade deadline. But, except for a possible tinker here or there, I believe Bob Gainey is done shopping.
By obtaining veteran ex-Hab Mathieu Schneider from the Atlanta Thrashers in a trade that has draft picks headed in both directions, Gainey has finally picked up a defenceman who is capable of making a good first pass; has the ability to handle the puck; and can get a shot on the net from the blueline. True, Gainey paid a fairly steep price for a 39-year-old who won’t be anything more than a rental player, when all is said and done. But that’s the nature of the NHL trade deadline, these days. It’s hardly a long-term proposition. Most teams take advantage of if by meeting immediate needs. And by obtaining Schneider, Gainey is meeting the need that he, himself, identified, at the midway point of the season in his semi-annual state-of-the-union address.
Too bad the move has cost Ryan O’Byrne his job with the big team, for now. O’Byrne heads back to the Bulldogs at a time when he was playing his best, and most confident, hockey of the season, although he had been a healthy scratch in recent games. Any number of other veterans deserve to be on that bus to Hamilton ahead of O’Byrne. But of course, that wasn’t going to happen. O’Byrne was expendable. Too bad. But O’Byrne wasn’t the player who was going to help this team where it has needed it the most, ever since the departure of Mark Streit.
That’s where Schneider comes in. He’s no Chris Pronger, but he’s an upgrade. Then again, with the way this team has struggled, both defensively and the power play, that’s faint praise, indeed.
What would also help would be a return to form on the part of players like Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, Sergei Kostitsyn, Andrei Markov, Carey Price, etc., etc. It’s clear that Gainey is counting on that, as this club looks to dig itself out of the hole it’s currently in. It’s also clear that Gainey is also hoping the return of injured players like Alex Tanguay will get this team headed in the right direction.
Sure, Gainey could still get rid of some of his current roster players in an effort to land “the big one.” But I don’t see it happening. Ironic, though, that it almost happened exactly one year ago. When Bob Gainey was having a conversation with these same Atlanta Thrashers about Marian Hossa. In the end, Gainey felt the asking price for Hossa was too steep. And Hossa ended up in Pittsburgh as a rental player before he bolted to Detroit.
Is there another “Marian Hossa” on Bob Gainey’s radar? Don’t count on it. And yes, I realize that Gainey is looking at almost a dozen players on his roster who stand to become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season: players like Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu, who will yield absolutely no return if they are allowed to walk at the end of this season.
Unless they are traded.
And that’s NOT going to happen. Not while the Canadiens still have a shot at the brass ring, in this, their Centennial Season.