While trade rumours about Steven Stamkos have been put to rest for the remainder of the season, some sports analysts have casually raised the possibility of the star centre/RW dawning the sweater of the bleu, blanc et rouge. Now, I know it’s relatively old “speculation” but I couldn’t help but let my mind wonder for a moment…
Picture this: P.K. Subban skating out of his own end, zooming past defenders in the neutral zone, feeds a slick pass to his good old buddy Stamkos, who finds the back of the net on a magnificent snipe from the right faceoff circle. I have largely ignored other players on this pretend sequence, but you get the point. Such an idea fuels the minds of fans and makes us wonder what could be just if he signed here…
Ok, I’ve spent enough time in my own little Habs fantasy land. For as long as I’ve been a Habs fan, I have been hoping and praying for so many prolific goal scorers to join the team, based on falsely founded rumours and speculation. While I can’t tell you about every trade rumour I hoped was true, I distinctly remember being 12 and praying every night before going to bed that then free agent Brendan Shanahan would join the Habs. I can’t begin to describe how upset my 12-year old self was when the news came out that he would join the New York Rangers in 2006. Apparently, he was close to signing a deal with Montreal. However, his wife allegedly pushed the wind in the direction of the Big Apple. Who could blame her… it’s NYC for God’s sakes.
In a 30 team league, players, especially star players, have many options. As explained by RDS analyst Bernard Brisset, the world is your oyster if you’re a player like Steven Stamkos. Despite the Montreal Canadiens’ incredible winning history, the city in Quebec can’t compete with the warm climates of California, low taxes of, oh I don’t know, 90% of other NHL cities. Many players need to take into consideration the needs of their partners and families, just like Shanahan did for his wife and children.
The pressure of playing in a city like Montreal is also a major factor for players.
Flash-back to the beginning of the season. When the team is winning, the whole city feels like a million bucks.
Now flash-forward to present day. The team has dug itself into an incredible hole of sheer misery and suffering. Along with the entire organization, the fans and the media are down in the dumps. There’s basically nothing positive happening in Habs land.
Everyone in the league knows how toxic the environment becomes in such dire situations. The only thing the Habs have going for them is their glorious 24 Stanley Cups, which feel so far away now. Sure, there were times when it looked like the Habs were adding an extra dimension to their overall attraction. Over the last 6 years, they’ve managed to make it to the 3rd round of the playoffs twice and finish atop of the conference. However, they have always found a way to crash from heaven so mightily. It’s hard to find another team that is so consistent in its inconsistency. The team has most pieces to the puzzle but, they’re missing one crucial element.
Which bring me to my ultimate point. Since 1993, the Habs haven’t had a true no.1 centre or winger. Management failed to lure any attractive star quality free agents in the summer or the trade deadline. At best, the team has signed players past their prime, such as Scott Gomez and Alexander Semin. If the Canadiens had Gomez and Semin a solid 5-7 years ago, I would have been over the moon. Unfortunately, the team gets players when their careers are practically over and when their drive to play hockey can no longer transcend through their mediocre play.
If the Habs want to have that star centre or RW, going through the draft is the only way. Think about it: Montreal’s star players on the team are Carey Price and P.K. Subban, who were both drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. Max Pacioretty is also another player who has grown up in the organization. Granted, he’s gone through pointless stretches and was practically invisible on the ice on some occasions. However, Pacioretty needs to play with a no.1 centre who can feed him the puck on a consistent basis and bring out the best in him (that’s not Desharnais).
The Habs haven’t been successful in attracting a prolific forward to the team in over 20 years. Bergevin has made some good moves in getting quality depth players in Paul Byron and Dale Weise. Like his predecessors, however, he has so far failed to obtain a top-quality, REAL no.1 line forward.
The solutions are obvious. Alexander Galchenyuk is supposed to fulfill that no.1 spot. He has the potential to be that player that fans have desired for so long. He’s proven to be one of the team’s most consistent forwards despite being given limited icetime compared to his counterparts. It’s up to the coaches to realize that the answer to some of their problems are right in front of them. We all know that it likely won’t happen under Michel Therrien, but this article isn’t about him and what he will and will not do.
Montreal’s a great city, but I understand why high-quality players would opt out of playing here when they have many other choices. While the Habs should keep trying to lure them on the market, they need to keep a bottom-top mentality because realistically, it is more likely that the Habs could raise a star like Charles Hudon perhaps, than attract an already established forward. Another P.K. Subban or Carey Price may be around the corner if the Montreal Canadiens succeed in developing their younger prospects and keep a sharp eye during the draft.