As I type this I’m watching the Montreal Canadiens play their 13th-last game of this dreadful season — they currently sit last in the Eastern conference and 28th out of 30 in the NHL. They have no hope of making the playoffs. They ditched some trade bait at the deadline and have picked up some decent prospects and picks (five picks in the first two rounds in the upcoming draft) so that’s cause for optimism. Still, more changes are made if they’re going to make the playoffs. Not that the Habs management is calling me up for advice, but here’s what I (and, I think, anyone who’s thought about it for twenty seconds) would do:
- Trade (or, worst case, buy out) Scott Gomez. His 0.297 points per game for $7.5 million just doesn’t work. You can’t play him ahead of Desharnais or Plekanec, and you’d be holding back Eller’s development (not to mention Louis Leblanc’s) if he’s not the #3 centre. Unless Gomez wants to take a pay cut and become a defensive specialist (hee!) on the fourth line he needs to go.
- Try to get something — anything — for Kaberle, Campoli and Nokelainen. At the very least let Campoli leave town.
- Move Rene Bourque to the 3rd line. Bourque, Eller and Travis Moen (if they can keep him around) would be a very good, very physical 3rd line.
- Use some cap room to sign a second-line winger to play with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. A scoring winger with some size would give the Canadiens a second scoring threat to compliment the Pacioretty-Desharnais-Cole top line. Add the afore-mentioned third line and an intimidating fourth line featuring Ryan White and Brad Staubitz (if he re-signs) and your forward lines are actually in pretty decent shape, I think.
- With P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin the core of the defense is solid, if a little fragile. Assuming Kaberle and Campoli leave town, Montreal would need a veteran 5th D-man to bring along prospects like Raphael Diaz and Jarred Tinordi. Yannick Weber seems to be a spare part under coach Randy Cunneyworth, but having a guy who can play D or forward is helpful.
- No help needed in net: Carey Price is it.
I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of nuance, but at least if Mr. Gauthier calls me in the off-season I’ll have some conversation-starters ready.