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Three thoughts on the Mike Cammalleri trade

January 15, 2012

I was probably as perplexed as anyone when news broke on Thursday of Habs former Michael Cammalleri’s trade from Montreal to Calgary, in exchange for Rene Bourque (with a few other items heading back and forth). Honestly, I was out playing hockey myself that night, so I didn’t become aware of the fiasco until after it was done. A few days later, and it seems all parties are content with the deal. Probably many of us had visions of Cammelleri hurling furniture around his Boston hotel room after being pulling in a second intermission from a tight game against the Bruins.

But a trade during a game? “That has to be a first” was what immediately popped to mind. Then, many more questions followed.

Point 1: Fallacy of the impetus

Much as GM Pierre Gauthier will deny it, Cammalleri’s comments about his ice-time must have had some effect. Sure, Flames GM Jay Feaster and Gauthier could have been discussing a move for a few months–but this move? And why during a game? Simply: because they wanted to send a message that Montreal would not be disgraced. Their new coach would not be disrespected further (even if Cammalleri’s complaints were valid and his suggestion of a “loser mentality” were a result of poor English-French-English translation). Cammalleri had crossed a line. He didn’t want to be traded, didn’t want to cause a problem. But, well, he did. But Montreal’s trade timing did not seem terribly classy.

Point 2: Do we buy Gauthier’s argument that Cammalleri, as the asset in question, could have been injured in the third period, thus ruling out a trade?

This is curious. In his comments after the Habs’ 2-1 loss to the Bruins, Gauthier said it was not desirable to trade a player during a game, but that the circumstances required it be done. Namely, he said “anything could happen and the trade might fall through.” Well, yes. Cammalleri could have received a concussion, broken an arm–anything–in that final third period of play. The issue at hand is that the Habs could have won the game. As a divisional game, and with points the Habs desperately need at stake, wouldn’t they want to win? Risk having Cammalleri hurt by some fluke and trade him following the game? Down to 11 forwards, and without a proven (if not streaky) sniper, didn’t that put the Canadiens in a bad spot?

Point 3: How will the Northeast division look now?

No single player can change the complexion of a division, at least not immediately. Sure, the Sedin twins perhaps changed the complexion of the Northwest division awhile ago. Save for the Bruins, the Northeast isn’t a bruising division like the Atlantic perhaps is. Rene Bourque brings a distinct net-front presence and physicality the Habs have lacked. what other teams have come to expect from Montreal–enormous speed, great transition work, laser shots from bad angle–may now shift slightly. The Habs might not make the playoffs this year. But they’re getting bigger, and they are changing. That is for certain.

Still, despite his lack of willingness to use the body, his penchant for those bad angles, low percentage shots noted above, Cammalleri was a proven scorer who fit with the Jacques Martin system. Martin is no longer, and thus, perhaps it is so for Cammalleri, too. Bourque carries risk, and a hefty term of contract. Montreal has now obtained a few lengthy contracts not of their own doing. If they plan buyouts or have another agenda in mind, none of us know right now. But it is at once heartening and disconcerting to see a franchise whose identity has been so etched in stone the last few years, for better or worse, suddenly changing.


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