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Are the Montreal Canadiens as bad off as they seem?

Mar 30, 2012, 8:45 AM EDT

Jacques Martin Getty Images

It’s no surprise that the Canadiens fired GM Pierre Gauthier. He made a number of controversial decisions and the end result was simply not satisfying. When you look at the Montreal Canadiens right now, you see a team that’s grossly overpaying several players and in the Eastern Conference basement. The next general manager will have a very difficult job because the 2012-13 squad already has over $44 million in cap space tied to 13 players and that’s not including Carey Price or PK Subban, who will both be restricted free agents this summer.

Still, as former Canadiens coach Jacques Martin recently pointed out, this team isn’t exactly devoid of talent. There’s a good young core of players that includes Subban, Price, and David Desharnais. They also have a couple of forwards whose roles could increase in the coming years, including Louis Leblanc and Lars Eller. Throw in a healthy Andrei Markov and, according to Martin, this franchise might be better off than you think.

“The team has to add pieces,” Martin said. “But the key elements are in place.”

It might be more complicated than simply adding pieces, given how bad their cap situation is. Still, it is true that the foundation for a competitive team is already there.

Martin, by the way, is interested in returning to the Canadiens as their general manager. However, it seems unlikely that Martin will go from being fired as the head coach to being selected as the same organization’s general manager in less than a year.

  1. 8man - Mar 30, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    To me a critical stat is goal differential. Right now they have 11 teams worse than them in that stat. Including one that is headed for the playoffs, the Florida Panthers. So in my opinion, they could turn this around very quickly.

  2. govtminion - Mar 30, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    Key elements are in place, sure. But until they get rid of some of the dead weight, they’re going to continue to struggle. If the rumors are true that Scott Gomez is being bought out, that’s a big step.

    I’ve not had the impression for several years that the Canadiens have any real direction planned- they’re just kind of wandering. A new GM coming in with a real focus and plan in place would work wonders here (or anyway, one would hope. I thought Toronto had finally found theirs with Burke, and…)

    • habsman - Mar 30, 2012 at 11:06 AM

      I agree 100% about Gomez.

      I read an interesting article somewhere last week about the Gomez trade. Montreal aquired Gomez from the Rangers because a deal with Tampa fell through.

      To Montreal: Lacavallier and mid round draft choices.

      To Tampa: Price, Subban, Plenkaneks and first round draft choice.

      Not sure if the details are exact, but sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make as they say.

      • govtminion - Mar 30, 2012 at 11:09 AM

        Good lord… yeah, if that’s true that would have been pretty ugly too. Wow… trying to imagine where Tampa would be with Price alone, let alone the other two is a scary thought.

      • habsman - Mar 30, 2012 at 11:17 AM

        There was quite a bit of turmoil in the Tampa head office along with the team being sold at the time. Ex GM Brian Lawton and Gainey were ready to pull the trigger but the new owners inTampa nixed the deal and Lawton was removed. This was discussed on talk radio a couple weeks back. Maybe some one can verify?

      • metcarfre - Mar 30, 2012 at 12:11 PM

        Yep. It was on the MvsW podcast. Can’t recall the exact date, it was a few weeks ago. Hit up Jeff Marek on the tweets.

    • firstandonlywarning - Mar 30, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      Key elements?

      The Habs have a team full of 2nd and 3rd liners

      Nobody you build around

      Seriously? “they have the key elements in place”
      LOL not a chance they do
      Their best players are Max P and Eric Cole
      Cole is about ready to either retire or break his neck for the 4th time and Max would not get top 6 minutes on most teams.

      Habs fans are as delusional as Leafs fans

      • govtminion - Mar 30, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        They have a solid goaltender in place (and two years ago, I admit I wouldn’t have said that about Carey Price), they have young players like Pacioretty and Subban that they can build around (not that I’m a big fan of either of them, myself)… they’re in far better shape than other basement-teams right now like Columbus or Toronto. They just need to actually do something with that core- and the start of that is a competent GM.

  3. davebabychreturns - Mar 30, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    If they commit to a year or two of retooling (done properly, of course) they could be back competing for a 4-6 spot in the Conference pretty quickly.

    I don’t know if you could say the same about most other teams at the bottom of the league standings right now.

    Of course, they will still be in tough to replace Markov the next time they lose him.. he is a great player but at his age (and level of durability) they need to learn to win without him.

  4. Rick Keene - Mar 30, 2012 at 1:04 PM

  5. firstandonlywarning - Mar 30, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Next question

  6. bcisleman - Mar 30, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    The key for the Habs is NOT doing what Gauthier tried to do and what Burke has tried to do in Toronto: shortcut the development process by wheeling and dealing. Build around the good young players you have and patiently add to them. Habs need a big and talented top center and they should be in position to draft their choice of Grigorenko or Galchenyuk absent a lottery win by a higher seed. With sensible management, the team should be contending again in a few years.

  7. iamanidiotfan - Mar 30, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    When you’ve got over $25 million tied up in Gomez, Plekanec, Gionta, Cole & Bourque, and they all have full or modified no-trade clauses, and you have almost $14 million tied up in Markov (NTC), Kaberle and Gorges next year, and Price & Subban are in for some healthy raises as RFAs (not to mention the other TEN RFAs), it’s going to be a difficult task keeping all of that young talent that they’re talking about in the article without doing some wheeling and dealing.

  8. id4joey - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Habs need talent at the top of the executive management chain.
    Special Hockey Consultant – Serge Savard
    Head of Player Development – Pierre Mcguire
    General Manager – Julien Brisebois
    Asst. GM – Vincent Damphousse
    Coach – Patrick Roy

    As indicated by this season, if its bad in the office it’s worst on the ice.

    And a French Canadian wearing the ‘C’ as mandatory.

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