Archive for June, 2010

Sometimes, there is no other way.

Posted in Jaroslav Halak, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Thomas Plekanec, Thomas Plekanec on June 23, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Here’s why they did it:

The Montreal Canadiéns had two players entering at least some sort of free agency this season, who were going to command multiple millions over multiple years. The unfortunate but undeniable truth was they couldn’t possibly – as in IMPOSSIBLE folks – afford both under their current salary cap situation.

So, plain and simply, they HAD to choose between Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Plekanec.

Last week we learned of the decision and yesterday it was solidified. Gauthier and the Montreal Canadiéns have chosen Thomas Plekanec. Of course, immediately after started the debate over whether this was the right choice.

While this is an inevitable argument in this situation, it’s also completely irrelevant. Not irrelevant in the sense of what’s done is done but irrelevant in the sense the choice to keep Plekanec was the only sane one available.

Now before you fly off the handle thinking I’m declaring my love for Thomas and pure hatred for Halak, slow your heart rate and let me explain.

If this decision only involved which player is better, I would completely understand the heated – if not ruthless – conversations I’ve witnessed, participated in and started since the team’s choice was made public. And I don’t remotely care which player you would have chosen; there are lengthy arguments for and against both candidates.

I’ve made my point on why GM’s didn’t throw their entire first line at Gauthier just to get Halak so I won’t beat a dead horse. In fact, I’d even like to take this opportunity to once and for all say how much I enjoyed his tenure as a Hab, and if there weren’t unavoidable variables that people not living in a dream world have to acknowledge, I would LOVE to still have him.

But the fact is, talent had the least amount to do with this decision, and not just because that debate would likely go nowhere.

The answer didn’t lie in the money either, as finances only determined the need to lose one not which one needed to be lost. Plekanec’s $30-million is definitely more than Halak will command but, per year, the difference – likely between $500,000 and $1-million – won’t be significant enough to have played a factor here.

The answer lies in gambling. Gauthier is playing the odds.

Scenario 1) Keep Halak –

Definitely a worthwhile goaltender. However, you’ve now officially decided to give up on the team’s most coveted prospect at any position and solidified a ROI of absolutely zero on Carey Price, regardless of what you bring back in a trade. But, MUCH MORE important than that is you’ve also decided not to keep a second line centre. A centreman, who was your team’s most productive forward on both offence and defence throughout the season and the main reason you’re not the league laughing stock in the faceoff circle. Yes, he played like crap in the offensive zone against Philly in the Eastern Final but so did EVERYONE on the team. Plekanec was NOT the reason No. 25 didn’t come.

So now you must go out and get a second line centre for next year because as good as I believe Lars Eller will be, it’s likely a few years before he’ll be leading any line on a contending team. Who exactly are they supposed to get?

And before you scream “MARLEAU!!!” at the computer, smack yourself in the face and realize if they can’t keep Pleks, how the crap are they getting Patrick Marleau? After him on the UFA list? Marc Savard and Olli Jokinen. Unless of course you’d all like to go resign Captain Courage or take a leap of faith with Matt Stajan?

This embarrassing list of available centres – no offence AT ALL to Saku or Savard but do you really think the Habs are looking to get smaller? – isn’t exactly going to bolster many lineups. And simply because of that, a player like Plekanec was GUARANTEED staring at close to $6-million on the open market. Is that a ridiculous figure? Of course. Is the league full of ridiculous GM’s? Chock.

Which brings me to…

Scenario 2) Keep Plekanec –

Led the team in the regular season in scoring, even threatening the league leaders for a while, and is inarguably one of the elite defensive forwards in the league. He had a tough post-Olympics without his eight-legged winger to score heaps of goals and a Belarusian Bust lagging several strides behind him at all times. Plus the aforementioned slowdown in the post season after a pretty strong start.

Unfortunately this choice means losing Halak, an up-and-coming goalie with a bright future. However, unlike scenario 1, where Plekanec walks for absolutely ZERO, you get to trade Halak for something to help the franchise.

Now, it would sure be lovely to get a proven top-six forward in such a deal but goalies don’t bring what you all think they bring EVER and no GM was making that deal. So instead, you get a player who might even wind up more-than just a top-six player and another player who completely addresses the club’s huge need for toughness – albeit a couple of years down the road.

But, MUCH MORE important than that, you’ve lost your No. 1 goalie only to have another No. 1 goalie in the waiting. Argue all day if you’d like about whether Carey is a No. 1 but he’s a whole lot closer to being that than anyone on this roster is to being a second-line centre.

*I’ve been calling Plekanec the No. 2 centre this whole time knowing full well he clearly plays on the top line, only from the standpoint of what Scott Gomez gets paid. If I don’t call Gomer the No. 1, it makes me wanna hurt myself*

So, in layman’s terms: Lose No. 2 centre = nothing good in any aspect other than watching how long Halak’s streak of wins facing 40+ shots can last. Lose No. 1 goalie = keep 70 points in the lineup, get two highly-regarded futures and give the reigns back to a kid, who many still believe has what it takes to be the best in the world.

My ONLY concern about Plekanec’s contract is length. Six years is a LONG time and if something goes wrong, that’s a LONG time to carry a $5-million price tag. BUT, if he plays like last year, improves even further as 27-year-olds will do and continues to show his notorious durability then he’s a bargain and they’ve just locked him for his entire prime. Only time will tell and so there isn’t much sense in worrying about the contract length at this point.

I know sometimes I get angry thinking everyone should just understand this stuff but I hope this gives you some insight into what kinds of things Gauthier might mull over before making these decisions. And even if I’m completely wrong and all he really did was flip a coin, I still hope I’ve convinced you to give him the benefit of the doubt for at least a few months of actual hockey before you decide the man is “bats$!t crazy” as one of the comments from an earlier post reads.

See ya’ soon.

I’m back. You might not like me though. But I don’t super dig many of you right now either. So sue me.

Posted in Jaroslav Halak, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, St. Louis Blues on June 18, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

This is no way to end my three-week hiatus.

I’m tired. I’m miserable. It’s 1:32 a.m. I just wrote one story about Canada Day festivities and another about a dragon boat festival.

Before that I worked 7.5 hours in a sports department in a city, where the only scheduled athletic event not completely flooded out was game one of the three-game consolation final for U-12 inline hockey.

I spent two hours before my shift driving here in the pouring rain and ridiculous wind, in a car so unreliable it could break down in the driveway right now as I write this and no one who knows it would be surprised.

Before I left Lethbridge I had to get up, feed seven animals – clean up three piles of vomit left by one – and then track down the organizers for damn near every single Canada Day event the city has planned.

This was the kind of day where I should have been able to finish up telling people how dragon boat racing is the second largest team sport in the world – seriously, who the hell knew that? – and gone straight to bed to let the soothing sounds of the wind shaking the house and tossing the patio furniture around send me into deep slumber.

But do I get to do that? Nope. Why? I don’t know. Let’s see…

Was it because Jaroslav Halak was traded this morning to the St. Louis Blues for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz? Hmmm, maybe. Or maybe it’s because once upon a time I chose a favourite sport without being told I live among 30 million people who think they are experts and I cheer for a team with a group of the most over-reactionary, fly-off-the-handle fans known to man.

Yes, I do believe it’s the second one.

So here it is but if you can’t understand it, that’s only because I can’t actually see the screen:

Here’s what the freak-out hockey fans heard today: The Montreal Canadiens trade their playoff hero for two players no one has ever heard of before. Team management has clearly decided to sabotage the franchise, because no GM with half a brain would ever make this deal. The thought of future success is over and this group will never make the playoffs again because the only player in the entire organization who had anything to do with this season’s glory is headed to Missouri.

Now, here’s what actually happened: The Montreal Canadiens were faced with a problem of having two good goalies and knowing only one could stay – a dilemma every team in the league wishes for. They solved it by trading one for another team’s absolute No. 1 non-NHL prospect, who was drafted 13th overall, and another, who was not only captain of the WHL champs but whose hockey pedigree is identical to that one thing EVERYONE says Montreal lacks. They are left with the exact roster that got them to the 28th-overall draft pick and a 22-year-old tender with more potential than we can even fathom at his young age.

To sit here and try to explain how good I believe these two newest Habs will be is not just irrelevant, it would also prove me to be just as wrong as those wanting to skin Gauthier tonight. And I know I was caught arguing that way today but it was truly only due to how far the other way SO MANY fans were heading.

The truth is, nobody knows what will happen. That’s the beauty of the risk in sports’ transactions. But what I do know for absolute fact is the Montreal Canadiens played the odds today and that is all we could have hoped for as fans.

Carey Price is by far the easier choice to gamble on and anyone who says different isn’t thinking about it.

First of all, this just saved the franchise a boatload of money – one far too close to the cap for its own good. That alone sells me 100 per cent.

Halak and his slimy little agent are going to get over $4-million – sorry but they just are – while Price is RFA WITHOUT arbitration eligibility and won’t see half that yet. And, while I’m not trying to take away from his performance this season – I loved it too you know – all this talk about Jaro in the same sentence as St. Patrick Roy is absolutely laughable. Help me out, is this only fans that started watching after Roy was traded? It confuses me to no end.

Halak’s so-called God-like playoff numbers: 9-9, .923 sv%, 2.55 GAA. Wow! Quick, somebody write some hymns for this guy…

Roy did things in the playoffs Martin Brodeur couldn’t have even pulled off. Stop insulting him by comparing him to a kid whose playoff resume consists of 18 games of .500 hockey. It’s embarrassing.

Carey Price, on the other hand, has every feature you want in a prototypical goalie and has dominated at every level in life. Sure, he’s had some immature moments as his career has started but he wouldn’t be alone in sports.

So he partied a little too much when he shouldn’t have. Oh well, wake me up when he hosts dog-fighting, sexually assaults a hotel employee in Colorado or starts pouring steroids on his Fruit Loops. Otherwise, I just don’t care.

There are two aspects of all this bellyaching that piss me off the most.

One, the magical thought of getting more in return for Halak. And two, the even more magical thought that only Montreal would make such a decision.

Who the crap was Gauthier supposed to get for Halak? See playoff stats above.

I don’t know how many are aware of this but we don’t get to just phone up another GM and say, “OK, we’re trading you Halak so we’re just going to pick the players off your roster we would like.” Habs fans seem to think every player we have could bring back a superstar in a deal. Just because the California Seals were stupid enough to just give us Lafleur, doesn’t mean that’s how it always works.

The only player on this entire roster that could bring back a superstar is Andrei Markov. And the lineup for those wanting to make that deal forms to the right.

And to those thinking Montreal is the only organization who would do this, I say give your collective heads a shake. In fact, there isn’t five GMs in this whole league who wouldn’t have done it this way.

Unload a major cash expense when every dime is beyond crucial. Keep a kid with unlimited upside at a bargain basement price. Bring in two juicy prospects in the process, one with sick talent who’s maybe ready to play right now and another who’ll need all of one trip to the corner with Mike Komisarek to win over the entire fan base.

How any of you are even surprised, actually, is beyond me.

I guess I can sort of see where everyone is coming from. I mean, every minute of last summer was spent bitching about how awful our offseason moves were and how horrible the team was going to be now.

Imagine if next year turned out like this one?

Yuck.