You probably already suspected this – that the current Habs are clueless when it comes to developing players. The Firm of G&G – Gainey & Gauthier – are infamous for trading away talented players who then flourish elsewhere. We all kinda already, in our bones, knew this.
But a terrific column by Francois Gagnon in La Presse a couple of days back really puts this in focus. Gagnon’s piece is inspired by a study undertaken by Ed Willes evaluating the drafting track records of NHL teams between 2000 and 2009. He rather improbably has Your Montreal Canadiens coming out in first place on the drafting chart, which I think will come as a shocker to most of you.
“Sorry, can’t explain this but the numbers don’t lie,” writes Willes.
But here’s where Gagnon’s column comes into play. His point is that yes the Habs did indeed draft lots of quality players during that decade but the cream of the crop then went on to thrive elsewhere.
Gagnon notes that of the 26 players drafted by the Canadiens since 2000, only seven are still with the team – Louis ‘I might become a good player’ Leblanc from the 2009 draft, Max ‘Hero’ Pacioretty, Yanick ‘Huh?’ Weber and P.K. ‘I feel good’ Subban from what was obviously a pretty good drafting session for the Habs in 2007, Ryan ‘Fisticuffs’ White from 2006, Carey ‘What me worry’ Price from 2005, and Tomas ‘Under-achiever’ Plekanec from 2001.
That’s the good news. The bad news, as detailed by Gagnon, is all the quality players we drafted and then gave up for almost nothing in return. Yes Mr. Gainey and Mr. Gauthier, take a sip of your high-end coffee and take a look at this. Ryan ‘Hello Mr. Gainey’ McDonagh. A throw-in in the now infamous Scott Gomez-Chris Higgins trade. He’s now one of the New York Rangers’ top blue-liners. Dumping McDonagh is right up there with Reggie ‘This is my claim to fame’ Houle throwing in the great Mike Keane – hey I even named my son after him – in the Patrick Roy deal with Colorado. How many Cups did Keane go on to win? Don’t ask. And maybe McDonagh will win the Cup this year. But I digress.
Gagnon continues with the list of shame. The ‘Where’s the party’ Kostitsyn brothers, both to Nashville. Mikhail Grabovski, who is now a key player with the Maple Leafs. Given up for a song. Jaroslav Halak. The less said the better, okay? And he’s now team-mates on the Blues with another former Hab draft pick, Matt d’Agostini.
Mark Streit. That’s one that kills me. Captain of the Islanders. We all knew he was great when he was here but the Firm of G&G just let him slip away. And the Gagnon list goes on – read his column to see how many decent players the Habs brain-trust dumped like yesterday’s papers.
Then the fine La Presse columnist moves on to the guys we could’ve picked up in drafts past but didn’t, including a couple of French-Canadian stars, Claude Giroux – No. 2 in the points standing as we speak – and Simon Gagne.
So how did Bob ‘What About Bob’ Gainey and Pierre ‘Major Major’ Gauthier do such a cruddy job of developing the talent they had right there on the bench? Good question. I don’t have the answer. I can’t get inside these two guys’ minds to know why – and that I’m thinking is probably a good thing!
That’s the mysterious part of this story. The less mysterious part – it’s downright crystal-clear actually – is the fact that G&G have mismanaged the team. That’s not up for debate. At every turn, they’ve made the wrong moves. (And we haven’t even got to how they mismanaged the coaching situation. Let’s leave that for another blog.)