Monday, September 3, 2007

Rumors and innuendo

Ok, I'm diverting from my incisive and definitive position-by-position analysis of the Habs to present a totally unsubstantiated, completely fabricated rumor that I'd like to start. See, I write this blog, so I get to take off on any wild tangent I want.

Actually, it's not so wild. It does relate to the last post in that I talked about how the Habs' biggest strength going into the 2007-08 season is goaltending. So here it is: Bob Gainey is considering sending Cristobal Huet back to the Kings for Alexander Frolov.

No, I'm not a total nutjob, I swear (I think? Would a nutjob ever admit to being a nutjob?). There is some substance to this.

The Kings desperately need a starting goalie, and my take is that letting Garon walk was part of Kings GM Dean Lombardi's plan to snag a proven #1 goalie. Lombardi is no dummy, and knows contenders are built from the goalie on out. Remember, he's the guy that drafted both Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov, but wasn't the guy who traded Mikka Kiprusoff for a 2nd round pick (that was Lombardi's successor).

But so far, Lombardi's offseason has focused on the blueline, adding two former Sharks in Tom Preissing and Brad Stuart. Preissing had an impressive season with the Sens, posting a whopping +40. Stuart was one of the key pieces in the Joe Thornton trade, and will surely be a top 4 dman in La La land. Lombardi also added veteran Jon Klemm, for added depth. Now add returnees Rob Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, Jack Johnson and Jaroslav Modry, and LA's defense looks much better than last year -- at least on paper.

So Lombardi's blueline appears to be in better shape, but he let his best goalie go. Why? Does he really think that career backups JS Aubin, Dan Cloutier and Jason LaBarbera will suddenly transform into starting material? Well, I guess it is LA, and perhaps the Hollywood vibe has gone to his head.

Or maybe because he thinks there are other options, via trade. He would have loved to snag one of his former goalies from the Sharks, but no way Doug Wilson is going to let either one play against him 8 times a year. So Toskala was shipped to the Leafs. The Ducks also have a couple of #1's. Ilya Bryzgalov would be a great fit in LA, but the same intra-division trade story there; Brian Burke wouldn't do it.

But if Carey Price forces Gainey's hand, then he'd first shop either Halak or Huet out west, for the same reason neither Burke nor Wilson would want to deal with Lombardi.

So why Huet? Why not Halak? Huet is a proven commodity. Halak has loads of potential, but won't bring back as much as Huet will. And I'd assume that if Price is ready for the big time, Carbo's not going to want him riding the bench.

Still, it could be Halak that goes. As I said in my last post, Huet will need lots of rest if he is to play a full season. That would allow a youngster like Price enough playing time. But Lombardi would want more than just Halak. Maybe Alexei Kovalev? Nah, Lombardi ain't dumb. Maybe Andrei Kostitsyn? That would suck, but I think Lombardi would want a right hander. Lombo has been carefully balancing his team much like Gainey has, picking up right handers where possible. If you look at the 3 dmen he signed, two were righties (Preissing and Klemm). Add Blake, and you've got 3 righties that can play every night.

So why Frolov? The Habs need a big, right handed sniper to play alongside Koivu. Frolov fits the bill perfectly. He led the Kings in goals with 35 last year. Not to jinx him, but as a right handed left winger he fits (on paper) with Kovalev, a left handed right winger. Of course, Sergei Samsonov was supposed to fill the exact same role too. I don't think that turned out too well.

But let's not let that one analogy ruin a perfectly good rumor. Suffice it to say that the Habs need big right handed dudes that can put the puck in the net. Those aren't exactly a dime a dozen. And with the Kings need for a #1 netminder, this rumor has some legs.

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