Did Montreal really improve that much?
The Montreal Canadiens had a very disappointing 100th season by many standards. After the 2007-2008 season, the Habs were supposed wins Lords Stanley Cup. The Habs spent this season reassembling a team by signing and trading for major players. But with these additions came subtractions. Gone are star wingers Alexei Kovalev and Alex Tanguay, captan Saku Koivu, deadline acquisition Mathieu Schneider, centers Robert Lang and Chris Higgins, and arguably their best stay at home defenseman in Mike Komisarek. In are forwards Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Travis Moen and defenders Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill and Paul Mara.
Over the past few seasons, this team has lost the likes of Mike Ribeiro, Sheldon Souray, Marek Streit, Michael Ryder, Cristobal Huet, Craig Rivet, and Mikhail Grabovski.
Well many people will point and say I'm biased because I am a Bruins fan, if you take a close look at the moves, you should see that this team is not that much better than they were last year. Had this team just added instead of subtracting and adding, you could argue they are much better. But based on what moves they made, they aren't much closer to the Cup than they were last season.
Acquired Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Mike Busto from the New York Rangers for Chris Higgins, Doug Janek, Paul Valentenko, and Ryan McDonagh. Essentially, this trade breaks down Chris Higgins for Scott Gomez. Montreal needed to make a splash and did so in acquiring Gomez. While Gomez is a good player, he is definitely not an elite player and his contract is awful. Having a cap hit of 7.357 for the next 5 seasons is going to be an issue, especially when the cap figure drops. Gomez has scored 20 goals once in his career, and has not really played much better statistically since his rookie year. He is good for between 60-70 points, high teens in goals and mid 50s for assists. For his price tag, he is not worth it. If the Habs were going to spend that money on a player, why not a Hossa, or Gaborik. Spending 13% of your cap on Gomez is not wise. Gomez likely replaces Saku Koivu. Koivu signed a 1 year, 3.25 million dollar deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Last season, Gomez had 16 goals and 42 assists for 58 points in 77 games. Koivu's numbers were 16 goals, 34 assists in only 65 games. Is Gomez really worth 4 million dollars more than Koivu? The counter argument would be Gomez has played in defensive oriented teams like the Devils and Rangers, so his offensive numbers would improve in Montreal. Maybe, but there is no way anyone should be that excited over this move.
Signed Mike Cammalleri to a 5 year, 30 million dollar deal. Cammelleri replaces Alexei Kovalev as the teams top sniper/scorer. Cammalleri was one of the top players on the market, and this is Montreal's best move of the offseason. Cammallier is only 26, entering the prime of his career. Aside from a down year with the Kings in 07-08, he is an point per game player. While he lacks size, he is a 40 goal scorer and will definitely help Montreal's offense. 6 million a year is a little high, but that is market value for a guy like him. Would you pay a little more for a Hossa or Gaborik? Maybe, but Cammalleri is younger and his health isn't an issue like Gaborik. I would like this deal even more if they had not already had 7+ million committed to Gomez. One could argue that while Cammalleri puts up better numbers, Kovalev is a more skilled player with more game breaking potential. Kovalev signed a 2 year, 10 million dollar deal with the Senators. Kovalev is also 35 while Cammalleri is 9 years younger. There is a slight upgrade at this position statistically, but the point could be made that Kovalev is the better player.
Signed Brian Gionta to a 5 year, 25 million dollar deal. This is one of the worst signings a team has done this offseason. Gionta is good for around 20 goals and 55 points. While he did have a 48 goal season a few years back, don't expect that again anytime soon, as half the goals were on the powerplay. A place of concern is his size, at only 5-7, and that a third of his career goals have come on the man advantage, but has improved even strength scoring, with only 3 of his 20 goals coming on the PP last season. In a tough division with physical teams like Toronto and Boston, it may be tough for the small Gionta to score. Gionta is also 30, and a small guy like him may not hold up going down the road. This deal reminds me a little of the Jason Blake deal in Toronto and we all know how that one turned out.
Signed Jaroslav Spacek to a 3 year, 11.5 million dollar deal. He is replacing the role of Mathieu Schneider. With a cap hit of only 3.83 million, it isn't a bad deal. Spacek will help the powerplay and is good for around 40 points. He is probably the same level as Schneider at this point in his career. Spacek is 34 though, so a 3 year deal for a player that old is never a good idea. Health has also been an issue with Spacek, prior to last year he played in 60, 65, 76, and 58 games. Can't say I love the deal, but I can't say I hate it either.
Signed Hal Gill to a 2 year, 4.5 million dollar deal. Big Hal will help the defensive game a lot. While the "moving pylon" as he was known in Boston is slow, he has been affective in shutting down top forwards like Jaromir Jagr. His size will help neutralize the size of Chara in Boston. Gill has virtually no offensive game. It's a short term deal, so you can't be too upset with the term. Gill is here to replace the presence of Mike Komisarek though, and Gill is not nearly as talented. This move clearly does not improve the team.
Signed Paul Mara to a 1 year, 1.675 million dollar deal. Mara is a nice depth signing that I like. He will also help the PP along with Spacek. Mara's offensive game has dwindled since he left Phoenix, but he is still a big guy who can help add depth to the PP. Nothing wrong with this 1 year deal.
Signed Travis Moen to a 3 year, 4.5 million dollar deal. This deal helps Montreal get some toughness. I'm not sure what this means for Georges Laraque, but Moen help Anaheim win the Cup. Moen isn't much of a scorer, but he is a nitty gritty player who will replace Steve Begin who was traded to Dallas last season. His cap hit is a little high for what he brings to the table, but Montreal needed toughness and addressed that with Moen.
One thing to note is that Bob Gainey has not learned from his mistakes, and in 5 years, Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri will all be UFA's, so the Habs can rebuild again.
Overall, it's Cammalleri for Kovalev, Gill for Komisarek, Gomez for Koivu, Spacek for Schneider, Mara for Dandenault/depth, Moen for Begin/Laraque, Gionta for Tanguay. No one to replace Higgins or Lang.
The defense did not improve, losing Komisarek. Well it may be deeper, they did not address the loss of Komisarek. The offense is about the same, and may have less depth than last season.
While Montreal fans may be excited for the coming season, all I have to say is don't get to ahead of yourself and buyer beware.