November 3, 2022
There was a certain hockey team of rich history, whose exploits were known near and far. But their success led to them resting on the laurels of past deeds and whilst they looked back, their grip on the present was lost. The team became a sour taste in the mouths of their fans, for they were neither hot enough to return Lord Stanley to the kingdom, nor cold enough to win the loser’s prize – that is to say, the draft lottery. And so they continued, year after year, in a lukewarm state.
There arose to power a new General Manager, who knew he needed to remove the lukewarm nature from the kingdom. He looked amongst his people and found he was lacking a necessary ingredient of success. Searching for elite centremen, he found they were left wanting. And so he negotiated with other kingdoms and found one who was young and ruddy and possessing the potential to be an elite centreman indeed. But the rival general manager demanded the release of a young defender, Alexander Romanov, in exchange for the centreman in waiting.
And so, the General Manager, knowing he could replace the young Romanov, and since he had drafted him not, negotiated a fair deal that included Romanov and some valued kingdom treasures.
But the crowds wept and gnashed their teeth, and cried out, “Do not take Romanov from amongst us, for he brings us to our feet with his booming hits, and doth warm our hearts with his enormous smile, and we are yet broken-hearted following the trade of the last Russian defenceman.”
And so the General Manager gave in to the will of the people, and he did not trade the young Romanov in order to obtain a necessary asset. And the team did not improve and continued in lukewarm status for all of eternity.
Let us give heed to the lessons from the parable.
Thankfully, Kent Hughes knew the lessons of this parable before I wrote it.
This parable is not exactly a riddle – the lessons are simple. The Habs can’t improve without moving out some guys first, and some of those guys are going to hurt. You can’t buy upgrades with pennies. The seven guys you want shipped out are not bringing back the assets you need to win. Perhaps the most important lesson is that in a rebuild you’re trading for potential. If the deal was a sure bet for your team, the other team wouldn’t be making it.
There is one outlet, in particular, that loves to rag on Kirby Dach, and there are fans who are wringing their hands that Dach has spent time on the wing instead of at centre. The narrative would suggest that the deal is already a failure. I’ll let Marc Dumont of Montreal Hockey Now interrupt that narrative with these facts.
A similar conversation occasionally surfaces concerning the trade of Artturi Lehkonen, with some fans resentful that Hughes chose to trade Lehkonen instead of other veterans. As if some of the others were movable at all, never mind for a puck-moving right-shot defender who was selected in the first round. Others are convinced the package Hughes obtained for Lehkonen was not enough, a position that is incomprehensible when we have no idea what Justin Barron will become.
There is no doubt in my mind that we will see this trend play out several times again as other players we like are moved out. Let’s consider the lessons of the parable.