Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hockey talkies

I promised I'd write an analysis of Bob Gainey's moves this week. I love 'em.

Let's start with the trade that happened. The Habs sent Cristobal Huet to be Washington's back-up goalie. What does that tell us?

First, it shows that no one was willing to pay the Canadiens the going rate for a starting goalie and that doesn't surprise me. As I've posted before, Huet's leg injuries - or something - harmed his game. He hasn't been the same since.

The Huet trade also shows that Canadiens management thinks the team has better chance in the playoffs with Price between the pipes. This is a playoff team, and has a good chance to go deep into the playoffs. The team should not and did not sell out. The difference to the team, then, is the difference in level of quality of the back-up goalie over the remaining 20 or so games of the regular season.

Is there a drop-off between Huet and the new back-up, Halak? That's debatable, but let's assume there is one. Is that drop-off worth accepting for a second-round pick? Undoubtedly yes. That yes becomes more emphatic when you realize that not trading Huet would have resulted in no added value. Bravo, Bob Gainey.

What about the trade not made? Marian Hossa went to the Penguins for a two solid NHL players, one highly touted but admittedly risky prospect, and a first-round pick. Had the Canadiens matched that - with three NHL players, he indicated in an interview - the team would have lost an entire line. Is it safe to guess Higgins, Ryder, Grabovski, and a draft pick?

As a result, the Canadiens gain a scorer to play with Koivu and the younger Kostitsyn and goes with two fourth lines. Is that really an improvement? Even if it is, how much does it improve the team enough in this year's playoffs? Hossa is a free agent after this year and there's no guarantee he'd stay, particularly if the team goes out early and the local hockey idiots jump on his back.

Granted, Ryder is likely gone this summer without compensation, but Higgins is at worst a good third-line worker bee and the 20-year-old Grabovski has time to improve. Scouts like him. And what about the pick?

I don't think the lack of a Hossa deal will make a difference between winning a Cup or not this year, but it certainly could have had such consequences in the future. Let someone else overpay. I just hope the Atlanta Thrashers don't become a powerhouse.

Bonus novice hockey update:

In the last regular season game against the second-place team, our kids played an amazing second period. They kept the puck in the opponent's zone nearly the full ten minutes, but couldn't score. Unfortunately, the bulk of the kids lacked hustle in the first period and the defencemen had problems covering the front of the net. We entered the third down 1-0 and were schooled by a more disciplined, harder working team. We were down 4-0 when one of our hardest working players got his first goal of the year in the final minute. He'd led our team in assists because he was on the puck so much, but he panicked a bit when he had his few scoring opportunities. The loss was worth it just to see him finally pot one, and it wasn't a cheap goal either.

Alas, we end the season 15-3-0, in second place to the team we just could not beat, who finished 15-2-1. The playoffs await.


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