Matt Jacznik, Cambridge Ont.
When I originally began writing this piece my intentions were to express my disapproval of the seemingly near-sighted trading of Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schhultz, and the consequential signing of goaltender Carey Price. However, as my research progressed I began to discover that the rotating goaltender saga was merely the tip of the iceberg.
Almost a decade of botched managerial decisions has dealt the franchise crippling blows, the likes of which will be felt long after the 2013-14 season as they fight to avoid playoff abortion with other squads desperately trying to sober themselves from similar management hangovers (post-JFJ Maple Leafs).
To every end there is a beginning and so I pose the question: When exactly did the Canadiens begin their accelerated decent from a prospect-laden team on the rise, lucrative in assets, to the underachieving, barely salary cap compliant, nincompoopery that we see today? It was June 3, 2003, when Bob Gainey took over the reigns as the GM in Montreal.
Gainey inherited a squad littered with talent and depth throughout its roster. The roster at the time included the likes of Saku Koivu, Richard Zednik, Andrei Markov, Joe Juneau, Craig Rivet, Mike Ribeiro, Niklas Sundstrom, Mike Komisarek, Ron Hainsey, Francois Beauchemin, Sheldon Souray, Jose Theodore, Jeff Hackett, Michael Ryder, Tomas Plekanec and Donald Audette.
They were a fairly well-rounded team, lacking only a big-bodied presence up front to compliment their abundance of undersized yet talented forwards.