How can you trade away a piece of your team’s heart? How can you summarily dismiss 12 years of complete loyalty? How can you turn your back on a good friend?
How can you keep an increasingly weak player? How can you value intangibles over the game on the ice? How can you build a better future team if you’re restrained by emotional commitments to the players you already have?
We who follow the Habs have known for a while that Craig Rivet might be traded, and there had already been considerable debate amongst fans about the value of that decision. It was a difficult, wrenching discussion, since it almost completely centered on the concept of ‘intangibles’. From the point of view of the game itself, moving Rivet for a younger defenseman and a high draft pick is a nearly brilliant deal, especially because many believe it is only the first step towards a bigger and better deal. Rivet is moderately expensive and one of the Habs’ many impending UFAs in the off-season, so it frees cap space and ‘gets us something’ for a player we might have lost anyway. Moreover, Rivet has been having a poor year- paired with Souray they comprised the team’s weakest defensive pair, and Rivet lacks a Souray-like upside to balance his value.
The intangibles, however, are compelling. Rivet had played 12 years with the Canadiens, longer than anyone else, an impossibly long time in
What is the value of these intangibles? What do you pay for heart, grit, loyalty, for friendship, leadership, team spirit? How many bad turnovers do you forgive, how many misdirected passes? And when he drops his gloves to defend a teammate, do you forget a thousand tiny lapses in play because of that great passion for the team which seems to be, in the rawest moments, of such overmastering importance?
That’s the tangle of the question: For any fan who wants the Habs to do well, this is a great deal. Gorges, the new player acquired in the exchange, will likely play a similar role on the ice, although not in the dressing room, and is not likely to do any worse for us in the coming games. Given that the Habs have been without Rivet for a couple of weeks now due to pneumonia, we already know somewhat how the team looks without him. It’s a deal that manages the incredible feat of seeming like neither buying nor selling- it benefits the team’s future without compromising its present.
But no matter what the strategic value, it’s still a difficult move to stomach.
The paradox is that the great virtue of Craig Rivet was that he would sacrifice anything for the Habs- so we were told, and so we believed- but in the end he himself was the thing that had to be sacrificed. It is, in some way, the fact that we share his ethic, his commitment, his loyalty, that we can accept this deal, because it is ultimately good for the Canadiens’ future. All we want is what’s best for the team, although we sometimes see only dimly what that is, although sometimes the choices involved are painful. And it is painful, for of all those who have played for our Montreal Canadiens, he was ours in a way that few others are. It is deeply shocking to see him in a different colored uniform, a sort of through-the-looking-glass experience that suggests the world has changed in a very fundamental way. Perhaps that, too, is part of the reason he was traded- so that we would all know that the team is changing, that it will not drift from mediocrity into mediocrity. The Canadiens, this tells us, have a direction and a purpose, they are going somewhere, and this is probably only the first of many shocks in the days, months, and years to come.
Aristotle said that change is sweet, and I hope this one proves to be. I hope that Rivet enjoys the opportunity to play with a young, talented team. The Sharks, it is said, could use a player with experience, and heart, and grit, and all those many intangibles that served our Habs so well for so long. I hope he enjoys the playoffs that he is now certain of going to, and likely to go far in. And I’m excited to see our new blue-line bachche, and what Gainey might be planning to do with that draft pick and the cap space. I am grateful, too, that I now have a reason to watch Sharks games, an anchor point in the
Bslama, habibi. Enjoy the California stars.