Daily Hab-it: Masterpiece Theatre
Published Thursday, February 3, 2011 1:51AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
Heading into Wednesday night's 3-2 Canadiens win over the Florida Panthers, there were already a few hints that perhaps the two teams were discussing a potential trade.
Panthers GM Dale Tallon was in Montreal the night of Jan. 22, Saku Koivu's big comeback night, and it was somewhat peculiar. Then Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier was seen the very next night in New Jersey, where the Panthers were taking on the Devils.
Putting two and two together wasn't very difficult, and the inevitable game of speculation was underway.
So when both their teams met less than two weeks later, scenarios of players switching dressing rooms were dancing through some people's heads, admittedly mine as well even though that almost never actually happens.
Except when a lot of people start believing two teams are heating up trade talks, it often means just the opposite is happening. That is especially true with Gauthier, who earned the nickname The Ghost in Ottawa because he was practically never seen or heard from. The same could be said of Gauthier's time in Montreal, though his presence at the Bell Centre is not all that rare, either.
What is rare, however, is what transpired prior to Wednesday night's game.
About 40 minutes before the scheduled puck drop, Gauthier walked into the media lounge where people were having their pre-game meals. I was digging into my curried turkey and rice (yes, my Indian ancestors will disown me) as Gauthier came in.
Sitting at another table chatting with some scouts was Tallon.
As Gauthier entered the two made eye contact and appeared to nod, and after exchanging some pleasantries with a member of the media, Gauthier joined Tallon's table.
Not long after that, the scouts left, and suddenly it was just Tallon and Gauthier – sitting smack dab in the middle of the media lounge, surrounded by reporters.
Now, I don't have decades of experience covering hockey, and the 10 years of experience I do have are largely limited to the Bell Centre, so I can't say if this is a common occurrence in other cities or not. But I honestly can't remember a single time in those 10 years when two GMs sat down in the media lounge to have a 1-on-1 chat. Sure, GMs will cross paths in the dinner line and say hello, or even chat a little bit, but rarely will it be anything more than that.
This, on the other hand, appeared to be a meeting, and a pre-arranged one at that. Neither man was eating, and the two of them were even pouring over that night's game notes, where both teams rosters happen to be conveniently listed.
The meeting, or whatever you want to call it, lasted at least half an hour – at least that's how long it had been when I had to leave for the start of the game.
What was the purpose?
Now, it's clear what can be construed from such a public display only 27 days away from the trade deadline. So clear, in fact, it leads me to believe both men knew exactly what they were doing.
Gauthier and Tallon could not believe for one second that under the current circumstances they'd be able to sit down and have a conversation in the middle of a room full of hockey journalists and that word would not get out, much like I'm doing here.
So knowing that, why do it? What possible benefit could it serve to either man to have this little discussion in such a public place, especially with Tallon's and Gauthier's prior appearances to see each other's teams in action such a short time earlier?
Think of the trades Gauthier has made since taking over as GM, and not one could have been predicted beforehand in any way. All of a sudden, Dominic Moore was a member of the Canadiens. Or Jaroslav Halak was on the Blues. Or Ryan O'Byrne was in Colorado. Or Maxim Lapierre was in Anaheim.
Doing what Gauthier did Wednesday night was, to put it mildly, completely out of character.
After giving it some thought, the only conclusion I could draw from it – and it's pure conjecture on my part – is that both men are in fact in talks with another team for a certain player. A player who may have similarities to one found on either of their two teams.
If word of this little "meeting" were to get to the other GMs these guys may be dealing with, would it not create a sense of urgency to accept an offer they may be waffling on for the moment? Or perhaps it could convince a potential seller and/or buyer to take the plunge and accept that role even if the standings don't necessarily dictate it?
Anything is possible, I suppose, just like it's possible that Gauthier and Tallon were in fact discussing a trade between their two teams, or that they were simply discussing a timeshare agreement in Turks and Caicos.
But watching Gauthier engage in such an overt, blatantly obvious display of gossip-fuelling behavior gives me the impression that the whole thing was a piece of well-designed theatre, done for the benefit of some other GM somewhere who may be spending a bit too much time on the fence, and who both Gauthier and Tallon wanted to give a little push off of it.