Well, That Was Quick: Habs Boot Mike Cammalleri To Calgary
It was bound to happen after the comments he made yesterday. For all intents and purposes, Mike Cammalleri had punched his ticket out of Montreal. But no one thought it would happen this quickly, and definitely not this way.
On Thursday night, following the Habs’ 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, the team announced that it had traded their former star free agent acquisition to the Calgary Flames, in exchange for forward Rene Bourque. The deal also included goaltender Karri Ramo (currently playing in Europe) and a fifth round pick in 2012 heading to Calgary, with prospect Patrick Holland of the Tri-City Americans and a second round pick in 2013 coming back to Montreal with Bourque.
But the real story here is that Cammalleri was actually pulled from the game against the Bruins after the second period and sent back to the hotel by Habs’ management, an unusual move under any circumstance. Despite his reduced ice time as of late, Cammalleri’s absence was almost instantly noticed by everyone watching the game. It wouldn’t be long before the rumors started to heat up, and soon thereafter, rumor would become reality, and Cammalleri would once again find himself wearing Flames orange.
Of course, in a post-game press scrum, Habs general manager Pierre Gauthier would claim that the deal had been in the works for over a month, but we all know that’s grade-A bullshit. It was just a total coincidence that Cammalleri was traded not 24 hours following his apparent slanderous comments against his teammates and coaches, and on the day where he was the topic of the media around the NHL. And despite working on the trade for an entire month, Jay Feaster couldn’t wait those extra 20 minutes to finish the deal. Sure.
Yesterday, I wrote in my article responding to Cammalleri’s comments that it was time for him to step up his game, to stop looking to spread the blame elsewhere, stop whining about not being the captain and about his lack of ice time, and to start playing the hockey that he’s being paid to play. Cammalleri was signed to a lucrative contract in 2009 to score goals and be creative with the puck. He did that in 2009-10, and in the playoffs, but ever since, his production has been tapering, his interest waning.
This year, with only 9 goals through half a season, his performance had been bordering on terrible, considering this was when the team needed him the most. He was bringing Plekanec down with him, he essentially orchestrated a mutiny against the coach, and from the looks of it, he may have even managed to turn his teammates against him.
We’ll get to Bourque in a bit, but forgetting the return for a second, the whole circumstance of this trade is completely mind-boggling. You’re down by a goal against the best team in the league and a divisional rival, in a game that could have very well been winnable, you’re in the fight of your life to stay in playoff contention, and you trade what should be your best offensive weapon. You unceremoniously whisk him out of the arena while he’s on his way to the bench to start the final period, into a taxi, and back to the hotel while everyone else is focused on the task at hand. On a night where the Canadiens are on the road and ready to return to Montreal after the end of the game, no less. Oh ya, and there’s the whole thing about those comments the player made the day before.
Gauthier can claim that the trade was in the works for as long as he wants, but we all know that simply can’t be the case. It’s just too convenient. The only logical explanation is that Gauthier didn’t appreciate what Cammalleri had to say about his teammates and the organization, and he shipped him out of town on the first offer he received. Pierre Lebrun pretty much confirmed that other GMs didn’t know that Cammalleri was available. But that isn’t surprising. It wouldn’t be the first time that Gauthier has traded a potentially high-valued asset to the first and most convenient bidder, he did the exact same thing with Jaroslav Halak. His questionable trading tactics have been a staple of his career.
Once again, the Montreal Canadiens demonstrated a complete lack of class with their actions and this move. Cammalleri said something stupid. He’s been playing like crap, and likely been earning the ire of his teammates. But was what happened over the last 48 hours enough to warrant shipping him out of town like unwanted trash? As much as his play had dropped off, Cammalleri was still a talented and skilled goalscorer capable of contributing to the one. Not to mention one that seemed committed to the city of Montreal and to this team, regardless of his frustration. Despite the media frenzy, no one asked for this.
Then there’s the matter of the player that the Canadiens are getting back. Rene Bourque (no relation to former Montreal mayor Pierre or hockey legend Ray, nor to the province of Quebec – sorry, protestors) obviously isn’t a bad player, in fact, he’s a consistent 20+ goalscorer who has put up 27 goals in his last two years. He has some size, he has the ability to play dirty and score the goals that Cammalleri would have never even attempted around the net. Bourque’s size alone is a big positive for the Canadiens, as they gain nearly a half foot and twenty pounds on the wing, which will go well alongside the surging Erik Cole, and the already decently-sized Max Pacioretty and Andrei Kostitsyn. Bourque’s effort and attitude has come into question by Flames fans and pundits, but we can go ahead and save that judgment until we actually see him play. Bourque also seems to play with a bit of an edge, although he is currently in the midst of serving a five-game suspension – and by the way, if you haven’t seen what got him suspended, it’s a doozy.
In certain ways, this move is definitely a positive for the Habs. They’re getting rid of a player that had seemingly become a locker room cancer, and whose performance had tapered off by a considerable amount since his acquisition. In return, they get a player who has been much more consistent on the stat sheet than the player they’re giving up, one with size and grit, as well as a decent prospect and a pick.
But there are much bigger underlying issues here. As Cammalleri himself said yesterday, “read between the lines.” This is a team that doesn’t seem to want to deal with any sort of conflict or adversity, and the result is usually knee-jerk reactions that don’t do any good for the team. Firing coaches and trading players on game days, apologizing publicly for hiring unilingual coaches, always working with the lowest common denominator. It almost feels as if Gauthier knew that Cammalleri might be trouble for him heading forward, and he decided to nip the situation in the bud. We can argue about the circumstances surrounding the trade for the rest of the season, but it’s all about appearance, and the appearance of Gauthier’s moves don’t paint a good picture for this organization.
The trade itself is probably a lateral move that gives the Habs a few advantages up front while taking others away. But that’s not really the issue here. Whether Cammalleri needed to go or not, tonight, it’s as clear as ever that the real problem here is Pierre Gauthier (as if that wasn’t obvious enough already). What’s really frightening is that not only is this man still employed in a high power position with the Canadiens with a trade deadline quickly approaching, but he also seems committed to trying to save a season that escaped the Habs’ grasp months ago. This is the man tasked with not only trading assets for the rest of the year, but also signing key players to contract extensions until the team finds a suitable replacement for him.
May God have mercy on our souls.