Patience, grasshopper, we will be competitive in 2009
Since his arrival in Montreal, Gainey has developed a Master Po-like mystique.
He's a soft-spoken, sagely and contemplative master, always going on about having patience. So when the Master comes out and says something as brash as "we want to win the Cup," it's newsworthy.
This is Montreal. The Habs are in first place in the East. Shouldn't it only be newsworthy if the GM doesn't say that their goal is the Stanley Cup? What have we become?
Anyway, actions speak louder than words. Gainey's actions this season suggest that he's not doing everything he can to win the Cup this year. It's a deliberate management decision and we all should be fine with that. George Gillett's comments from this February 2006 article come to mind:
"The Canadiens will celebrate their centennial in 2009, and Gillett says it's the organization's intention to 'be fully competitive, during that time, for the Stanley Cup.' "
Gainey's moves have been consistent with this statement. Look at the Huet trade. On the surface, the Canadiens lost Huet for the final 20 games plus playoffs and gained a 2nd round pick. Looking a little deeper, you have on the positive side of the ledger the experience Carey Price gains as a number one goaltender, and on the negative side you are improving (significantly) a rival team within your conference heading into the playoffs. This isn't a move you make if you're going balls out for the Cup this year. A 2nd round pick in 2009 isn't worth much. Obviously, Gainey greatly valued the additional experience for Price. It was a gutsy move.
Personally, I would have preferred to have seen Gainey take a harder run at the Cup this year. It's not often you have a serious shot at first in the conference. And who knows what might happen next year, like a long term injury to Price or Markov.
Now, I don't mean going after Hossa (Pens overpaid). I mean bolstering the ranks with a reliable veteran or two - bottom six forwards who can be trusted. In the final game of the season we saw Dominic Moore's line hem Latendresse and Sergei in their own zone for entire shifts. Dominic Moore! Yeesh. It's easy to get sucked in by the offense the kids provide, but we all know damn well that they give up as much as they get. Guys like Marty Reasoner were out there at the deadline and presumably wouldn't have cost much. BUT they would have cost developmental minutes for the kids, and it seems Gainey values that more.
You have to give credit to Bob Gainey for sticking to the plan. I sure hope it works. If catastrophe strikes and the wheels fall off next year, if they can't snatch the pebble in 2009, will management look back at this year with regret?