Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gut-check time for both Gainey and the players

With 13 games to go before the Olympic break, 12 after tonights must win game against St. Louis, it’s becoming clear Habs GM Bob Gainey is feeling the pressure to work a trade in the coming days and not wait until the 72 hour trade deadline window that opens after the break when it may be too late.

The billboard-sized tell of what Gainey wants is size and more size with a side of skill with the call-up yesterday of 33 year old Mathieu Darche, an AHL journeyman who’s a 6’01, 215 lb left winger with 16 goals in Hamilton and the announcement this morning that 6’05, 235 lb Ryan O’Byrne will play right wing on the 4th line with Glen Metropolit and “defenceman” Marc-Andre Bergeron. Needless to say, Laraque and D’Agostini are clearly finished in Montreal.

Darche will only stay in Montreal until a winger can be found via trade since the return of Andrei Kostitsyn will likely come far too late to make a difference. O’Byrne will go back on defence this weekend with the return of Sergei Kostitsyn so the line-up for tonight’s game is clearly a message to the team that it’s now gut-check time. If the veteran players can’t motivate the room to produce a more desperate effort tonight with the team in 12th place and its rivals holding games in hand then Gainey will have to seriously look at letting things slide, sell-off at the deadline and position themselves for a Lottery pick.

With the Habs now just 2 points away from the 5th worst record in the League and an 8.10% chance of the first overall pick in June, it wouldn’t be a long drop to acquire a Lottery pick. That said, their also just 2 points out of a playoff spot in the East which speaks volumes about parity being at an all-time high. Gut-check time indeed.