The Canadiens first few games this season are reminiscent of the Titanic. Great promise, some areas overlooked, too few life rafts available, and both are now at the bottom of the Atlantic.
This lackluster start has opened the door to very vocal speculation. During TVA’s first intermission of it’s Saturday night broadcast on October 21st, Mike Bossy stated he felt that Max Pacioretty should hand over his title as captain to someone else.
Bossy went on to add that Pacioretty focusses too much on what his response to journalists would be, and that giving up his “C” gives him the chance to concentrate on what he is paid to do which is scoring goals.
A team stripping their captain of his title has happened many times. Players such as Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, and Scott Niedermayer have all had this happen. Yet, none happened in season. Doing so during the season would be a major and unprecedented step.
The Canadiens do have a former Mark Messier leadership award winner in the room by the name of Shea Weber. So, there is someone more than capable to carry the mantle as captain of the Canadiens.
However, Pacioretty has been an excellent Captain. He has regularly been accountable to the media and fans. He has been highly visible with every off-ice charitable campaign providing not just his time, but the time and efforts of family members as well.
Pacioretty has also been a leader on the ice, providing an example to follow with his commitment to a more well-rounded game. This has been shown through having played in all situations and providing multiple 30-plus goal seasons.
Another important aspect to remember is this is the player who was chosen to be the leader by his peers. To strip a player like that of his title would have wide ranging effects on not just that one player’s mindset, but that of the entire team’s.
Normally, a Captain goes down with his ship, and for the reasons mentioned above, a trade involving Pacioretty seems highly unlikely.
Yet, if it is deemed he can no longer handle the responsibility as Captain by ownership and/or management, as well as play the style of game he needs to be successful, it would likely mean waiting for the summer. Or, if the unlikely scenario of stripping the captaincy during the season were to happen, he would most likely need to be traded.
Trading a team Captain in season is a major move, especially a captain who has been an elite goal scorer over the last five years. He sits in fifth in goals scored in that time just behind names like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Patrick Kane.
Being in that level of company for goals makes Pacioretty elite. Additionally, being in that company while having a cap hit of $4.5 million until 2019 means his value to any team wanting to win, including the Canadiens, extremely high.
Pacioretty has received harsh criticism over the years for his perceived failures in the playoffs. Even Guy Lafleur has weighed into the fray in the past.
“Guys like Vanek and Pacioretty, you can’t keep these guys on your team. They should remain at home if they are not willing to pay the price. Your team will never win with players like them who disappear when they face adversity.”
Yet, even aged stars with a history of questionable comments in regards to the organization he’s had disagreements with will ignore his 0.5 points per game while generating elite levels of shots on net, scoring chances and doing that while playing against top opposition. All done while playing without a bonafide top six centerman
This is a move that cannot be mishandled, if Geoff Molson no longer has complete trust in Marc Bergevin, he must find someone he does trust to handle a trade of this magnitude. This would make the faction of Habs fans still upset over the P.K. Subban trade very happy, as it would move out the player they blame for his being on the block, and the man who pulled the trigger on the deal.
Trading an elite-level player like Pacioretty can signal a full rebuild. However, it doesn’t have to. The return for him can be high enough to upgrade in multiple spots in the lineup with the right trading partner. However, there is a serious argument against a move as large as trading a major piece like Pacioretty from a team that has $9 million in cap space only missing two pieces.
There is an old trope that a team should only trade from a position of strength, but I don’t buy into that. The Oilers are having similar difficulties as the Canadiens this season. Their two and five record over the first seven games place them in the cellar with the Coyotes, and Canadiens.
If there is a way to pry out a centerman such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a defender like Oscar Klefbom, and another significant piece such as a pick or prospect from Peter Chiarelli, it is a deal that can help the Canadiens today.
Unlike the Titanic, we are early into this voyage, and our lookouts have seen the iceberg in time. It is now up to those at the helm to decide between staying the course or to veer hard to Port or Starboard is the best decision to avoid the iceberg and navigate the Atlantic instead of sinking below it. Yet as the old proverb states, a calm sea never made a skilled sailor.