In the end, the Montreal Canadiens were neither buyers nor sellers.

In the end, the Habs sat on the sidelines and watched as teams combined for two dozen trades on the final day leading up to today’s 3 p.m. Eastern NHL trading deadline.

General Manager Bob Gainey emerged from his office at the team’s practice facility in Suburban Brossard as the dust settled on the day’s proceedings, to say that he didn’t do any “tire kicking” today.  Yes, he had some conversations with other GM’s.  But Gainey says most of those conversations were initiated by his counterparts.

Yes, he acknowledged that he was interested in someone like Olli Jokinen of the Phoenix Coyotes, who ended up going to the Calgary Flames today.  But Gainey said his level of interest did not match those of other clubs who were inquiring about Jokinen’s services.

Gainey also acknowledged that, back in December, he had a conversation with another team that would have very much changed the direction of this team, but didn’t elaborate.  Vincent Lecavalier, perhaps?  Jay Bouwmeester?  We may never know.  All I can tell you is,  neither player changed uniforms today.  Surprising, perhaps, in that Boumeester was reported to be on his way out of Florida.

And so, Bob Gainey has his team.  A team that has included underachievers, and others who have struggled with injuries for extended periods of time.  Gainey says it’s time for these players to prove they deserve the confidence that management has shown in them, and time for the coaching staff to get the most out of these players.

It’s a philosophy that will not sit well with a large number of Habs’ fans.  Fans who watched the Pittsburgh Penguins go out and get someone like Bill Guerin;  the New York Rangers land someone like Nik Antropov;  the Edmonton Oilers get Ales Kotalik; and the Calgary Flames come away with Olli Jokinen.

I’m not surprised that Gainey did not make a move today.  He wanted a defenceman, and he picked up Matheiu Schneider.  He wanted a depth centreman, and he picked up Glen Metropolit. 

End of story. 

While I can appreciate that trade-deadline deals rarely amount to anything (just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins and the move they made last year to land Marian Hossa), I don’t share Gainey’s optimism when it comes to this current group getting the job done heading into the playoffs.

Four straight wins?  Certainly a step in the right direction.  But without the play of Jaroslav Halak, the Canadiens don’t win four straight.  Had the players in front of Halak performed anywhere near Halak’s level of play during those four games, I’d be feeling a whole lot better about this team.  But they didn’t, and I don’t.

This is a team that has been plagued by sloppy play in the defensive zone, inconsistent play up front and, up until this four-game run by Halak, spotty goaltending — certainly since the all-star break. So the question that begs to be answered is:  Will the players respond to Gainey’s vote of confidence? 

Or is this just a mediocre  hockey team.

Let me suggest we will get a much better picture of this club tonight, when the Canadiens take on the Sabres in Buffalo, minus Jaroslav Halak, who was left at home with the flu, but will join the team in Atlanta for Friday’s game against the Thrashers.

Step up right, Carey Price, and let’s see what you can do.  And let’s see what your team mates can do, in front of you.

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