Thursday, January 17, 2008

Habs in the Dirty South

It's always interesting to hear people's takes on what the Habs should do at any given time. Montrealers are generally very fickle about their team and any win or loss sets off a chain reaction of insanity. I've had the opportunity to host a few Hab-related shows on the Team 990 and among our learned listeners I have heard some gems.

"Trade Koivu."

"They need to trade Alex Kovalev."

"Tomas Plekanec isn't good enough for the second line."

"Fire Carbo and/or Gainey."

It's funny how your perspective changes when you start watching the Habs as a member of the media . I went from paying my hard-earned dollars to see about 10 to 15 games a year at the Bell Centre, getting wasted with my friends in the reds or in the Molson Ex Zone. I've been to pretty much every pivotal playoff home game in the last few years (there hasn't been that many). I'm more of a long view guy now than I have ever been. I believe in Bob Gainey and by extension, I believe in his guy, Guy Carbonneau.

Trading Saku Koivu, who is a greatly underappreciated asset here, who plays every game with a metal brace on each knee, the captain of this team, his national team and one of the pre-eminent leaders in ALL sports, equates to giving up on the season. You don't just yank the foundation of a team away.

Kovalev is the MVP of this team so far this year. He's not in a contract year. He's in the midst of the second best statistical season of his distinguished career. Trading this guy equates to giving up on your season.

If there is one guy the Habs can't afford to lose, it's Kovalev.

Can you imagine the effect of his loss on the number one Power Play in the NHL? A lot worse than losing Sheldon Souray, who owes Kovy a steak dinner for all the space he created for him during his record-setting 19 power play goal season last year.

Plekanec is looking more and more like a first line centre every game. He's on the penalty kill, the power play and kicking all kinds of ass at even strength. Given his history of being a stronger player statistically in the second half of the season, is it unreasonable to think Plekanec could put up 80 points this year?

Credit the Canadiens for their handling of Plekanec's development. He benefited enormously from his time in Hamilton and it's been a true pleasure to watch him develop. I remember his performance against the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs a few years back. He was arguably the Habs most complete forward during that series and he's a much better player now than he was back then.

I'm looking forward to watching the rest of the season and the years to come. If the harmonious dressing room continues without controversy and this team stays near the middle of the pack in the East, they could do some damage in the playoffs (unless they play the Devils).

I also maintain that Montreal would be a more attractive option for free agents if the team was winning and making the playoffs every year. Guys want to win. It's not just about the money. I hope.

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