The Diachronic Barber Pole Observations of a Recovering Hockey Exile

Open Letter to Bob Gainey

July 5, 2009, by Homme De Sept-Iles

Dear Bob,

I don’t have your email address or I might have sent this privately.  But there is nothing to hide in what I’m saying.

There has been so much ado about the team in the past season’s activities and this off-season is no different.

You’ve been the adroit arm on the rudder throughout.

This time, this summer, has been different from any of your previous summers since taking the role of general manager with the team in May 2003.  Maybe the most active summer in the Montreal Canadiens’ modern history.

You’ve made a number of major changes in a short period of time.    Assistant coach Doug Jarvis is no longer a member of the team.  The coaching staff of the team’s AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, have all been asked to step down.  Roland Melanson is no longer goalie coach.

And on the player end, Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang and most importantly Saku Koivu have all been left to try the free agent market.  You offered Alexei Kovalev a contract but he didn’t react quickly enough and the offer was taken off the table when Cammalleri was signed.

In bringing in Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek, re-signing any or even one of Lang, Tanguay, Koivu and Kovalev, who all remain unsigned as of this writing, has become very unlikely.  Especially since several (nine) of Montreal’s unrestricted free agents remain unsigned.

And I’m sure all of this is, more or less, as per your plan.

I remain a supporter of your innovative, patient, knowledgeable and, this season, very active approach.  I am a proponent of the almost trite and very local proverb “In Bob We Trust”.

And I realise that we have one of the best general managers in the NHL today.  Somewhat underrated and misunderstood, I would add.

And with that, my first and possibly last request of a Canadiens general manager.

If it is possible, please bring Saku Koivu back to the team.

Though your philosophy allows for movement of character players, assumedly because the culture of the team is such that it can survive such moves, in this case, it is my hope that financial and philosophical concerns might be put aside in favour of one of the greatest captains in Montreal Canadiens history.

Though he is not the player he was in 2001 (who is?), he is a captain with few peers.  And he remains a productive and effective centre.  Probably one of the top two second-line centres in the game today.  And an effective first-liner, regardless.

He is considering his options and perhaps he even requested that he be permitted to leave quietly.  I can understand that being a private matter.  In either case, this has been his home for many years (13 seasons, all told).  And his ten years as captain make him the second-longest serving captain in the team’s history, behind Jean Beliveau.

You know all this.  You thought of all this.  You’re hearing or reading some version of this every day, if you choose.

But I can’t imagine that Bob Gainey the general manager wouldn’t open his mind enough to reconsider the decision to let our captain finish his playing days and retire in Montreal, a Canadien, as it should be.  Just as Bob Gainey the player was able to retire a captain in this same city.  It sounded right.  It felt right.

And for Saku Koivu.  It will sound right.  It will feel right.

Do consider it,

Homme de Sept-Iles

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