Game Day: Habs @ Oilers; Paul Mara Returns

Pierre Gauthier has pulled the trigger.

Only problem is, it was a water gun.

Late Wednesday night, the Montreal Canadiens acquired defenseman Paul Mara from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 5th round pick in 2012. The pick is likely the one acquired from the Ducks on New Year's Eve in the Maxim Lapierre deal (which also brought prospect Brett Festerling to the Canadiens), which means that the Canadiens essentially lose nothing in the acquisition.

Fans were quick to put the deal down on Twitter. The reason of course being that Mara already had his chance to be part of the Canadiens last year. Mara played 42 games with the Habs last season, putting up 8 assists and no goals, with a -16 rating before succumbing to a shoulder injury that ended his season.

So, why are fans so upset? Team 990 host Tony Marinaro is using the "we had O'Byrne" argument. Others see Mara as useless. Personally, I see Mara as a seasoned experienced veteran who can serve as a depth defenseman and reduce the number of rookies the Canadiens have on their current roster while the likes of Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill recover from their nagging injuries. He won't eat up too many minuntes, but he can play more than the 11 Brendon Nash did on Tuesday and would likely be more stable than Alex Picard, even though he has been doing pretty well as of late.

Mara fills a void while other players are injured. He provides leadership and experience, and it's clear that the Canadiens value that in him, seeing as despite his shoulder injury, they kept him around during the playoffs. His teammates will be familiar with him and he seems like a likeable guy, so what's the problem?

Who cares that we could have still had Ryan O'Byrne? I didn't like how easily the Canadiens gave up on him earlier in the year, but it was a matter of cutting your losses with a player who had no confidence playing with the Canadiens and maximizing the return as he was losing value sitting in a press box most of the time. It's unfortunate that the team could have actually used him after Markov, Gorges, and now Spacek and Gill all succumbed to injuries, but it is what it is, and there's nothing wrong with with Paul Mara.

But it's obviously a depth move. Which begs the question, what's next? It's clear that the Canadiens still have needs, and on the Team 990 this morning TSN Analyst Darren Dreger claimed that the Habs had three needs, and that a depth defenseman like Mara was 3rd on the list, just to get another body on the ice.

I can probably make a good guess at what is left. A top six winger and either a depth forward or yet another defenseman, probably a bigger name among those available (the Kaberles, the McCabes, etc). With a week and a half left until the trade deadline, it's really anyone's guess what Pierre Gatuhier does next, but for now, at least the Canadiens can rest assured that they will be able to ice full defense units until the injury situation ameliorates.

No word on whether or not Mara will play tonight, but he will be with the team in time for the game tonight.

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And yes, there is a game tonight.

The Canadiens will start their three game Western swing in Edmonton against the Oilers. The game has a 9PM start, so make sure to fill up on caffeine and energy drinks throughout the day.

The Habs head into the Albertan capital losers of 4 of their last five games. Despite putting in their best performance of the season on Saturday against the Leafs, in a 3-0 shutout win, they were pounded to the ground by the Boston Bruins, embarrassed by the New York Islanders and out-worked by the Buffalo Sabres as well as the New Jersey Devils. The Canadiens still hold on to a comfortable spot in the East in 6th place with 69 points, but they'll have to keep one eye on the rearview mirror as they head into a tough Western stretch of games.

The New York Rangers have been sliding as of late, but are still only 5 points behind the Canadiens. Behind them are the Carolina Hurricanes (7 points behind), who have also been average over their last 10 games. But the real threat, believe it or not, may be the Buffalo Sabres (60 points), who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and right back into a playoff race that seemed out of reach just a few short weeks ago. They are tied with the Atlanta Thrashers in 10th place, who have been pitiful in their last 10 but still not going away. And while it will be a long shot for the Leafs, Panthers and Devils, the streaks they can go on should never be discounted.

In all likelihood, the Canadiens should have no trouble making the playoffs. But their inconsistency as of late may be something to worry about, and while the Oilers shouldn't be any threat, you honestly never know what could happen when the Canadiens step onto the ice with what should be an inferior team.

We all know how the Oilers season has gone. Despite some promising rookies, they still have some severe deficiencies on defense and just haven't been able to put it together. They're a while away from competing, and will likely be sellers at the deadline. But that won't stop them from taking advantage of a struggling team tonight, and with so many explosive young forwards in their line-up, we could be in for one speedy affair tonight.

The Habs will have to find a way to keep things at their pace, especially with the minds of a lot of players likely looking forward to Sunday's outdoor game in Calgary.

Puck drop is just after 9PM Eastern, and you can take in the game on RDS as well as CBC.

Prax
www.betterwithpopcorn.com
www.twitter.com/GeorgePrax

6 Comments

demez's picture

Fans need to remember we had O'Byrne when we had full depth on the blueline and had no use for him. I have no problem with this acquisition, worse case scenario Spacek is worse than we think he is and he serves as depth to a depleted back line. Best case scenario he becomes trade bait with someone like AK for a needed grit player/power forward at the deadline.

George Prax's picture

Exactly my point about O'Byrne Costa, there was nothing we could do with him and there's really no way they could have predicted that two of the top defensemen would have been out for the season.

Mara will play Gill minutes until he comes back I think, with Subban still playing over 25 and Nash likely being sent down. No big deal.

Jason Pietroniro's picture

Twitter made me sick today. I unfollowed a handful of Habs fans. I prefer this over wasting development time for Nash. If he has any promise, he will find it in the minors. Not logging less than ten mins a game in the toughest city to play in.

Moving along. PG needs to find a solution to AK. I believe he's up for arbitration, and I want nothing to do with that. Wish he was UFA, would probably have a better chance of getting him out of here. Either way, to me it's goal number one. At least get something back for him, anything. I know Prax will not agree, but I'd take Penner over AK any day. Not sure how the salaries line up, as I am not a professional analyst, like most twitter fags claim to be, but I'm pretty certain we can fit him in. Regardless of this trade, and regardless of how the trade deadline ends with Montreal, Iike our chances heading into the post season. We are a decent team in a 7 game series. If we are healthy, we are a force. No chance I am counting us out. Habs fans make me sick. Never happy with anything.

George Prax's picture
Jason Pietroniro wrote:

Twitter made me sick today. I unfollowed a handful of Habs fans. I prefer this over wasting development time for Nash. If he has any promise, he will find it in the minors. Not logging less than ten mins a game in the toughest city to play in.

Moving along. PG needs to find a solution to AK. I believe he's up for arbitration, and I want nothing to do with that. Wish he was UFA, would probably have a better chance of getting him out of here. Either way, to me it's goal number one. At least get something back for him, anything. I know Prax will not agree, but I'd take Penner over AK any day. Not sure how the salaries line up, as I am not a professional analyst, like most twitter fags claim to be, but I'm pretty certain we can fit him in. Regardless of this trade, and regardless of how the trade deadline ends with Montreal, Iike our chances heading into the post season. We are a decent team in a 7 game series. If we are healthy, we are a force. No chance I am counting us out. Habs fans make me sick. Never happy with anything.

Totally agreed with you about Twitter... all that place is good for is overreacting these days... it's a depth move and people act like it's the end of the world. Although I have to admit, the timing was sort of weird. Not the 1AM thing, that was just cause the Ducks were playing, but before they made any major moves, which you have to think are coming. But I like that Gauthier doesn't give a shit about how mad fans get on Twitter.

And last night Nash played 8:30 and was -1. So there's you rpoint proven.

As for AK/Penner etc, I don't like Penner. I think he's just another Latendresse/Pouliot situation waiting to happen. People see a couple of good seasons and a cup ring and think he's amazing, well, there's a reason Anaheim didn't match Lowe's offer. He's the type of player who'll wow you one night and make you want to kill yourself the next night, and we have enough of that problem as it is.

I'd honestly much rather Hemsky if we're trading with the Oilers, I think he'd be the perfect fit. Czech so he's probably familiar with Pleks, and I think he'd be a good fit with Cammy too. He's a right winger, right handed shot, defensively responsible and has decent size.

And to answer your question about the cap, with LTIR we can afford any contract in the NHL lol

George Prax's picture
Micheal A. Aldred wrote:

This, in my opinion, is one of the best decisions PG has made. It not only gives the Habs a big-bodied defenceman for depth, but that player will deserve his 12 minutes or less per night with a solid effort. Everyone makes mistakes, and to earn a defenceman who is prone to LESS mistakes than others is costly, and with the Habs still exploring playoff opportunities, that's not worth trading for with the risk of what you're giving up is necessary for the playoff run. This also gives the Habs younger defenceman more time to grow in the minors with more minutes instead of being "Pat Quinn-ed during the Leafs days", where-by, essentially, the rookies get minimum exposure and thus ruin their potential.

I'm sure the Habs will be busy on deadline day, but this was a smart move and, let's face it, with the scouting talent these days, that fifth isn't worth much, especially if it's just returning the Ducks 5th.

Couldn't have said it better myself Mike.