Thursday, February 07, 2008

Agenda Week: Montreal Canadiens January 29 to February 6

The weeks that were
Everyone has an agenda. That's what this week has made abundantly clear to me.

Take Eklund, his agenda is to get traffic to his website and to make money. As such, he pretends that trades are constantly being discussed (every day of the year) for every NHL team. He claims that teams successful or not will all make moves, and that they will all be exciting. I'm sure it would be nice for his site if one trade did actually happen at some point. In fact, what he could really use is one of the big teams to get involved, or big players. Haven't you heard? Hossa is coming to Montreal.

Then there's the guy at RDS (or Canadian Press) who wants the Habs to get a goon. I saw the pushing around, but I'd hardly say that was the reason the Canadiens lost. You can't get a three goal lead in the first place if you're intimidated, and losing it has much more to do with mental laziness than missing a guy who play 5:40 every game. Relics like this guy, Don Cherry and former fighters turned presenters will harp on about this, all the while ignoring the fact we actually beat the tougher teams and have the majority of our trouble against skilled teams.

We can't forget the Price agenda in this organisation. How Price can get a start immediately after his call-up, regardless of the opponent, is a baffling. It may be the final slap in the face to Jaroslav Halak, which may or may not have been part of the agenda in the first place. As I said before, the most important thing to watch here is how Halak reacts. This is important in making sure he is a prospect belonging to the Habs.

Finally, and perhaps most distressingly for me is the marginalisation of Saku Koivu. While the language issue failed to get him out of the way, his detractors have now turned his own willingness to help the team against him. I have been told, directly and indirectly that Saku Koivu has lost it, that he is becoming no more than a third line centre and that he has a discipline problem. I recognise that a penalty at the end of the game is a bad thing, but it's hardly a discipline problem.

As for his statistics and play this year, you only have to look at the game reports gone by to know he's played a bigger part than the stats show. Most nights he has been the best centre on the team. And, it should be hard to overlook that he has been key in keeping a top PP in this league and is the captain of the team with the second most points in the conference. As a player who has been (quite frankly) burdened with a large number of wingers, he has never complained publicly. All the while, he gets to watch the "top" line stay together for 30+ games. He won't care of course, because team success is all he cares about.

I don't really like agendas, but of course I must have one too.

My primary agenda is to keep the discussion about the Habs in some balance, as well as provide a bit of a different analysis of the games played (courtesy of Tobalev). If I have a goal in mind, it's the playoffs, it's 96 points, and eventually it's the Cup. Consequently, more points on the line tonight and some confidence on offer on the road to 96 points and playoff success.

As long as the players have the points/playoff goal at the top of their agenda, then we'll all be a little happier come April time, I think (regardless of how many trades, Price starts or Koivu goals transpire in the meantime).

Quote of the weeks
On Prairie hockey fans (Habs post-game show):

"Next caller is Bill from Saskatchewan, the biggest Habs fan in the prairies..."

(I wonder if Bill tapes games, writes 1000-word game reports for every game and gets it all out before the fans wake up the next day...)

Getting close to the trade deadline...

... what might Rejean Houle do?

Trade Huet after his agent turns down the first offer. couldn't lose a UFA for nothing (Better a San Jose second rounder than your captain for 20 games).

... what might Sam Pollock do?

Sit down personally with Cristobal Huet about a long-term future with the club, including at least 2 more years of playing and a guarantee of a job once his playing days are done.

The week upcoming

It's a short week when you start it on Thursday. Had I done this on time, I think I would have been hesitant to declare victory over the Sens. I knew they were riper for the picking that at any time in recent memory for us, but they're still the Sens. Anyway, we got the two points, so another 2 points this week and it'll look like a success looking back...

Thursday night: Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.

Habs fans may have to come down from the clouds for a few minutes and understand that a Leafs game is a Leafs game is a Leafs game. Position in the standings (for either team) is irrelevant. That being said, the Habs always have a chance to win these games. If they can find the same effort they've had for the New Jersey, first Washington, islanders and beginning of Rangers and Ottawa games, I like the chances of the 4 points being wrapped up for the week by tonight.

Leafs to watch: Mats Sundin and Robbie Earl – it'd be rare for me to omit Sundin from this space, as he is truly world class in addition to be a Habs killer; Robbie Earl should give us an idea why people are calling the Leafs cupboard bare of prospects. As a top prospect for them, it should be interesting to see him beside Andrei Kostitsyn.

In a way, I am more interested to see how the Leafs play after this game, because after a long stretch of "insignificant" games, this one risks being the wake up call they've been waiting for.

Saturday night: Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.

You know how the odds of flipping a coin and getting heads is 0.5, but getting two heads in a row is 0.25? If only beating the Sens twice in a row were so easy. This is more like trying to get green twice in a row on the roulette table. Not impossible, but unlikely. The good news, however, is that the table is stilltipped a bit in our favour (at least relative to normal circumstances). A win from this wouldbe very very impressive. A point would be great as well.

Sens to watch: Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley – both big boys are possibilities to start on Saturday. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how they return. Hopefully for us, the rust may take more than a few shifts to shake off.

Overheard on the Habswagon:

"I've always loved Kovy. It's his special determination, the skills he brings every night. You know he's the reason the Canadiens powerplay is so good, right? I never liked Souray anyway."

[The subjective look at the week that was and the week ahead in Montreal Canadiens Week is supplemented by the objective analysis following every fifth game]

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