It's August of 1994. Guy Carbonneau, only little more than a year removed from being a part of a 24th Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup, is enjoying a golf game and then it all falls apart.
In the woods, lurks a photographer from Le Journal. Carbo is just looking for a little peace for once. He, without much thought to it, raises his hand and sticks out a middle finger and all at once his life changes more than he could ever realize.
The Montreal Canadiens organization again reacts to an off-ice issue by destroying the team on-ice. One of the greatest defensive role players in the history of hockey in Carbonneau is traded for Jim Montgomery. You probably haven't heard of him. That's my point. It's the point made over and over again by many organizations who can't see the forest for the trees, who can't see that perhaps they are the problem. Two seconds of gesture for a media-manufactured controversy to be created, and a great player is gone for a what's-his-name. It's laughable now, isn't it. History almost always ends up recording these moments as laughable overreactions.
The latest example in the league is Tyler Seguin having a breakout season for Dallas after being traded from Boston for Loui Eriksson because Tyler is a lot like many others in their early twenties - he likes to party. What a shock!
If the league only had Seguin as an example, and the Habs only had the Carbonneau example, then this wouldn't be much of a story, but the same behaviour from GMs is repeated over and over again as somehow an owner doesn't see that the true expendable assets are the coach and the GM. The expendable asset is not the player.
It's December 2nd 1995, and Patrick Roy is in for the greatest night of embarrassment of his career as the goals pile up on a Saturday night against the Red Wings. The new head coach Mario Tremblay has somehow got an organization convinced he is the future, not arguably the greatest clutch goalie to ever play the game - the same goalie who only two years before simply refused to allow an overtime goal on his way to a Stanley Cup. He is soon traded as other GMs are vultures knowing the Habs have cornered themselves. Roy goes on to win cups in Colorado as did Guy Carbonneau in Dallas. By the way, Jocelyn Thibault never won a cup, nor did Jim Montgomery.
Chris Chelios, who ended up being one of the greatest defenceman ever, is another example. He too enjoyed the Montreal night life. What a horrible thing it is to love to drink in Montreal's night spots felt the Habs management, even though on the ice he was the best year after year. It should be noted too that Chelios became a model citizen when he finished sowing those wild oats. Interesting. Sounds a lot like life and how it plays out. 'No trades for old men judging the behaviour of young men' should be a motto in the board rooms of all NHL GMs.
The Habs stopped winning cups at 24 in 1993. How many more would they have won with Roy who found more success in Colorado, or Chelios who found more success in Chicago and Detroit, or Carboneau in Dallas or Keane in.... Oh for God's sakes, it's embarrassing, isn't it?
Why can't old men let young men be young men? Why do old men forget that they were once young and liked to chase girls, and laugh late into the night, and drink alcohol and maybe even smoke marijuana? These are the activities of young men throughout time and they will continue to be, so why does that have to equate with making a terrible trade?
Why weren't the Dallas Stars worrying about Mike Ribeiro's party time habits when the Habs traded for Janne Niinimaa who ended up with his own party issues on a couch upstairs at Hurley's one memorable night?
The list of Habs examples where some sort of petty off-ice issue colours a horrible trade is a long one:
Mikhael Grabovski is not my favourite player but Greg Pateryn is not in the league and he is going to be a 5th D at best.
Michael Cammalleri said the Habs are playing like losers and they were losing a lot, so to me it didn't seem too controversial, but that didn't sit well with The Ghost so off he goes to Calgary.
Danny Kristo gets stuck in a snow storm without foot wear, gets frost bite and we shall see how that trade with Christian Thomas goes.
Erik Cole had a bad attitude coming out of the lockout. That looked like a great trade until the saved money was wasted on an obviously diminishing talent Daniel Briere. The same Briere who was handed the torch first from Guy Lafleur on opening night instead of Norris Trophy Winner PK Subban, or captain Brian Gionta, or Molson Cup winner Carey Price, but that's another story for another day. Frankly, that story is a serious one too, as one wonders if acquiring $8-million worth of diminishing talent to carry a torch isn't the best idea to win a Stanley Cup.
Maybe a little bit of counselling or understanding or even some patience waiting for an issue to blow over for Claude Lemieux, Rod Langway, John Leclair, Chris Nilan, Jose Theodore, Jyrki Lumme, Ron Hainsey, and many more we likely don't even know about would have been better than the action taken.
The Habs seem more susceptible to this issue than other clubs as they are so much more in the spotlight and think that the 'brand' being hurt is more important than the 'product' being hurt. Because 9 times out of 10, the on-ice product suffers in these hasty deals where the GM has backed himself into a corner.
Only one trade that I could find getting rid of an asset because of off-ice issues led to a good trade: Shayne Corson for Vincent Damphousse.
So be careful Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien because there is always going to be an off-ice issue when you manage 60 young men.
Don't be so unwise to lose Nathan Beaulieu for next to nothing because of a night of fighting. Not to excuse that night but didn't Milan Lucic's YouTube video show us how these players are targeted for a fight? It's like internet trolling but in real life.
Be smart Mr. Therrien. Be smart Mr. Bergevin. You are not the long-term asset. Read this well Geoff Molson.
Understand it perfectly Mr. Molson, for you are the gatekeeper for millions of Habs fans who are desperate for your good judgment. Tyler Seguin went 2nd overall for a reason. Nathan Beaulieu was a first rounder for a reason. Mr. Molson, the real asset is always the player. Always remember that. It can get confusing, Sir. Remember your own youth. Act accordingly.
Young men will be young men. Old men would be wise to not judge them. If they do, it's almost guaranteed it is at their own peril.
Editor's note: This is a blog that welcomes a lot of conjecture. We welcome your comments.