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Old 03-03-2007, 12:38 PM   #39
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Default Gainey's Message: Come Together

(MONTREAL, QC) -- Well, it does seem as though Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey watched the parade go by yet another year.

This reporter is trying to remember the last time a potential superstar – not counting Alex Kovalev – was on his way to Montreal the day the trade market was being put to rest.

Unfortunately, no one comes to mind.

What was the motivating factor for Gainey's inertia this past week? He feels his team, a good mix of veterans and youngsters, has the potential to reach the playoffs... or at least getting there.

In the end, all will have acquired more experience under pressure.

Besides, the same Canadiens' team was a top-five performer before December. They are now lingering between the ninth and seventh spot, something goner Craig Rivet grew weary of.

"It'll be nice to go (to San Jose) and be assured a playoff spot," he said last Sunday, after hearing he was traded. "In Montreal, it was always about making position number eight."

The current playoff race is by far one of most delicate ones in recent years. For once, the Eastern Conference standings are incredibly tight, which reminds teams that every victory is crucial. Do the math.

As of Thursday night, only eight points separated the fifth ranked Pittsburgh Penguins from the tenth ranked Toronto Maple Leafs. This is what GMs tend to consider when they circled February 27th on their office, refrigerator and bathroom calendars.

That's usually the time when you look at who you've got and subsequently write a "Costco List" of who you want.

From Gainey's chair, two (they were three before Rivet went West) important blueliners are impending unrestricted free agents and, for some reason, he's disturbingly confident he won't lose them to the bidding market, come July 1.

Does he know something we don't about Andrei Markov and Sheldon Souray, or is he simply that good of a poker player?

Granted, Gainey has won most of his bets. He may have lost prospects Marcel Hossa and Ron Hainsey last season, but those were inevitable because of the new CBA rules: Both had NHL contracts and couldn't be returned to the Hamilton (AHL) without being submitted to re-entry waivers in the event of a call-back. That's how Montreal lost Hainsey, while Hossa was traded because Gainey was impatient with his laziness and lack of consistency.

But how many GMs pulled off the incredible miracle of signing each and everyone of his free agents, last summer?

Two: New Jersey's Lou Lamoriello and Gainey, somewhat of the personification of mystery.

From a positive point of view, it seems as if Souray might sign back with the Habs next season, after all.

Following Tuesday's humiliating 4-0 loss to the Rangers (and Hossa's two goal outburst), Souray reiterated his joy of remaining in Montreal.

Sure, he heard all the rumours that sent him out West, with Anaheim being the front runner. However, in spite of all the personal reasons he could evoke for going to California, he insisted his priority was to help the Canadiens make the playoffs. Otherwise, it would have felt like "unfinished business," he said.

Besides, trading Souray just wouldn't make sense for the Habs, who consider themselves playoff contenders.

As for Markov, who applied for a Canadian citizenship in February, he recently told Le Journal de Montréal he wanted to re-sign in Montreal.
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