The Montreal Canadiens are hoping a change of scenery will work to their benefit with Monday's acquisition of Benoit Pouliot from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Guillaume Latendresse.
Both players were drafted high in the 2005 Entry Draft but have failed to live up to the expectations that go with being selected in the early rounds. Pouliot was drafted fourth overall while Latendresse was selected in the second round (45th overall).
"There are many examples of players around the league that it is not with their first team that they find their place and develop," said Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey. "It quite frankly could be the case with both of these players."
Canadiens fans know all too well that players can flourish on their second team because the mere mention of John LeClair's name still raises their blood pressure through the roof.
After parts of five less-than-spectacular campaigns in Montreal, LeClair was traded along with defenceman Eric Desjardins and forward Gilbert Dionne to the Philadelphia Flyers for Mark Recchi and a 3rd round draft pick. LeClair went on score 50 goals in three straight seasons for the Flyers and finished his career with 406 goals, 49 of which were scored in a Canadiens uniform.
Head coach Jacques Martin is hoping the Canadiens can catch some lighting in a bottle with Pouliot, who has managed just 18 points in 65 games over parts of three seasons in Minnesota.
"We've got another player that was probably in a similar situation," said Martin. "He wasn't happy in his environment so you hope that when you change and get new teammates that things work out."
But Gainey told the media on Tuesday that the dealing of Latendresse is not just a swap of underperforming players, but a signal that the time for waiting is over.
"We've shifted out of a plan where we showed patience and waited for a group of young players that had been drafted," said Gainey. "We've moved into a time where we need production from what could be considered mature players."
In the off-season, the Canadiens acquired veteran free agents Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill, as well as Scott Gomez via trade with the New York Rangers. But even with Monday's win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Canadiens are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
Gainey, who ran out of patience with Latendresse, will now shift that level of expectation in Pouliot's direction. But while Pouliot will be expected to produce in Montreal, Gainey made it clear that he will have to earn his way around his new team.
"If I'm Benoit Pouliot, I want to play more than 12 minutes. I want to play 17 minutes; I want to play 19 minutes. I want to get on the ice and I want to perform," said Gainey. "But there's a price that goes with that and we have to describe to him what the price is. If he pays it, he'll find his minutes."
The fans in Montreal will have to wait to see their newest acquisition because Pouliot is not ready to return from a wrist injury just yet.
"The Wild had games scheduled for Wednesday and Friday and they had him marked as a possible player for Wednesday and a probable player on Friday," said Gainey. "He will have a chance to see our doctors and we'll evaluate the situation. He won't play before he's ready and he won't wait after he is ready."
By that estimation, Pouliot may make his Montreal debut on Saturday when the Canadiens host the Washington Capitals.