Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Trouble brewing for Theodore in Habland
Netminder posts 14.29 GAA in last two games

As trade rumours swirled around the struggling Montreal Canadiens a few weeks back, Jose Theodore's name was one that kept coming up. Then-coach Claude Julien, seeing that his starting goaltender was struggling and desperate to halt the team's losing skid, began to start backup Cristobal Huet on a more regular basis.

On Jan. 14, general manager Bob Gainey pulled the plug on Julien.

This was a team that had won just seven of its previous 25 games. With Gainey behind the bench, les Habitants played well their next three games, posting impressive victories over San Jose and Dallas and one narrow defeat to the Calgary Flames. The 'Gainey pulls team from gutter' storyline was well on its way to being written.

How much changes in four days. Less than 48 hours after the loss at the Saddledome, Montreal skated into Vancouver on Hockey Night in Canada and were thoroughly outclassed from the opening faceoff. It was 1-0 just 57 seconds into the game and 3-0 three minutes later. The Canucks would scored three more times — twice on Theodore and once on Huet — to make the score 6-0 after 13:47.

It was the most lopsided period of hockey I've seen in a long, long time.

Last night, Gainey went back to his starter against one of the league's top teams, the Carolina Hurricanes, and it again got ugly for Theodore. The 29-year-old allowed five goals on 18 shots and was pulled before the game's midway point.

The damage over the two games? 10 goals against in 42 minutes, a 14.29 goals-against average and 0.655 save percentage.

I told you it was ugly.

If you had asked me on Jan. 14 what the chances of Theodore being traded were, I would have said 'minuscule' — for a number of reasons.

A popular French Canadian netminder playing in Montreal, Theodore is the team's top paid player ($4.5-million/year) and the centrepiece for what has been a remarkable resurgence for le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge. For the fifth straight season, Montreal has the best attendance in the NHL. Theodore has been the team's starter for all of them.

Montrealers are also still smarting from the last time the Habs dealt a francophone with similar credentials, a move that resulted in a Stanley Cup for the good people of Denver, Colorado. Many consider the Roy deal as the reason the Canadiens missed the playoffs for a stretch of four in five years from 1999-2003.

No one — Gainey especially — wants to be responsible for a repeat on that front.

Still, here we are, 10 days into Gainey's tenure behind the Habs bench and the wheels are coming off. Montreal is far more likely to miss the playoffs than make them at this point, and, should a contending team want to take a flyer on Theodore and his salary, there's no question Montreal would be tempted to move him.

I hear Colorado is in the market.


At 12:28 p.m., January 24, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

Best. Post. Ever.

At 12:41 p.m., January 24, 2006, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

I've been tracking the Theodore trade rumours for several weeks now, and while it's always possible the Habs might look to dump Jose's salary if a contender showed interest, I just don't see this happening.

First, the Habs would want at least equal value back, either in an experienced goalie or a promising youngster, and right now, neither is available.

Second, given how poorly Theodore's been playing, I don't see any clubs (including Colorado) showing real interest in him leading up to the deadline. His trade value is low right now, and his salary works against him.

Unless Gainey plans to lock up a more experienced netminder in this summer's UFA market, this just ain't happening.

Next year, however, is a different story, especially if Luongo opts for UFA status in 2007. Food for thought....

At 2:46 p.m., January 24, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I agree that moving Theodore is a remote possibility, but given the hockey climate in Montreal (crazy), a deal is becoming more and more a possibility with each rotten performance he has. Fans, media won't be willing to sit tight while their season is flushed away.

Unless Gainey plans to lock up a more experienced netminder in this summer's UFA market, this just ain't happening.

That's exactly what he'll do, provided a talented youngster isn't coming the other way. And while it's true Theodore's value is slipping, I don't think it has falled to the point where he's worthless. He was too good to begin with for that to happen.

At 2:49 p.m., January 24, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

If only you could edit comments. What I meant to say there in the second bit is 'provided a talented young goaltender doesn't come the other way in a deal for Theodore.'

I wouldn't put it past Gainey for him to start a mini-rebuilding phase with this club.


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