New Rocket Look, Same Rocket Results?

By Chris Boucher

The Montreal Rocket pulled the trigger on a deal with the Quebec Remparts
last Tuesday that changed the direction of the team. Whether it was for
better or worse remains to be seen.

Montreal sent Chris Montgomery, Karl St-Pierre, and Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu
to Quebec for Cory Urquhart, Jeff MacAulay, Mike Bray, and Yan Turcotte.

The surprise of the deal was Montreal trading the franchises first ever
draft pick and hometown boy, Chris Montgomery. All the recent rumors around
the Molson Center had Columbus prospect Pascal Leclaire on his way out, but
the play of back-up Jonathan Cayer since Leclaire left for Team Canada’s
Junior camp has been less than stellar and those trade rumor have been
tucked away until later on this season.

The Rocket are a team that lacks offensive punch, so trading their second
leading scorer might raise an eyebrow or two. The truth is, Montgomery
didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just that Michael Lambert did everything
right.

Lambert, a 5th overall pick in 2000, has stepped up his offensive game in
recent weeks and has shown that he can be a legitimate 1st line player.
Since Montgomery has left Lambert has been shuffled between the first and
second line picking up 2 goals and 4 points in two games.

In moving Montgomery and company, it seems the Rocket are looking towards
the future. They didn’t really have a choice. If you take a look at who
Montreal had on defense before the trade you would see that they were
extremely thin with nothing promising for the future. In Jeff MacAulay,
Montreal gets a rookie defenseman with very good potential and Yan Turcotte
will turn into a solid defenseman. Montreal also picks up Islanders draft
pick Mike Bray who adds some much needed toughness, and potential 2002 1st
rounder Cory Urquhart who will add some offense this season and is hopefully
much more in the next few.

What about Montreal’s hopes of finishing 1st in their division and success
in the post-season? If Lambert can replace Montgomery’s production, and if
Leclaire can get some consistency into his game, I don’t see why they
shouldn’t finish first. Especially with the way Hull and Val d’Or have been
playing so far. But, it’s obvious Montreal made the deal with the future in
mind.

If recent results are to mean anything, a 3-3 tie against Victoraiville and
a 5-3 loss to Cape Breton suggests more of the same. In both games Montreal
played their usual strong one period only to be out played in the other two.

In the first game the newly acquired players looked a bit lost, sometimes
getting confused on line changes. By the second game, they looked to be
playing into coach Gilbert Delorme’s system. Unfortunately, that didn’t
result in a win.

The real test will come after the holidays when the new players have more
practice time with their new team and the rest of the team rests up a bit.