Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Canadiens Week Ahead

Remember when we all said it would be great if the Canadiens got a two week break to recharge and get some of their wounded back. Well, there's more than a week down now, and the team must be readying for next Tuesday in Boston. And from tomorrow, the team starts practicing again.

I have been thinking it will be interesting to see how the team comes back, how the guys who had a break will compare to those who played at the Olympics, how the guys who slacked off will compare to those who worked out.

Most will have rested

If interviews tell us anything, it's that most NHL players see these two weeks as a big rest, rather than a time to catch up on skills practice or fitness work.

Mike Cammalleri was thinking of Florida:
Cammalleri’s plan was to take a few days off in Florida, then fly in his personal trainer for five days of two-a-day workouts, but that hit a snag when he injured a knee on Jan. 30 that will put him out of action for six weeks.
Hal Gill thought of rest as well:
“The way the season is during Olympic years, you need that long break,” he said. “It’s a crazy season, a lot of games on top of each other, so you have to use the break. Go on vacation. Spend time with your family. Try to get away from the game for a bit.”

I agree with Hal that the rest will do lots of good, but I also worry about those who don't come back mentally from the vacation until the end of next week (Matt D'Agostini).

Slackers must be spotted and benched quick

It's one thing to have a holiday, it's another to have spent the 10 days putting on weight while smoking and drinking the nights away. It's hard to guess who will come back to Montreal in bad shape, but you can bet (knowing hockey players) that a couple or more will.

Given the tight schedule from here, I don't think there's any more time to drag a player like the out of shape D'Agostinis or Latendresses of October through any games. Martin must be quick and firm to assess how his players have adhered to his program and whether they take this season seriously. At least Grabovski was traded ages ago...

Success trumps rest

There will be some worry that some of the Canadiens most important players (Halak, Markov, Plekanec) will be more tired than they could have been, having missed the opportunity to rest.

I've always thought, though, that success trumps rest in any scenario. Should one of those guys win the gold, there'll be a great charge from it. For Czechs and Slovaks, any medal at all will have them flying home on a great high. The way things have gone so far for all three, I'd suggest that no one is going to be starting worse than a player who slacked off all break.

Word on injuries

The other thing that we may find tomorrow is that there could be updates on the status of injured players.

Clearly Markov has given his status during the Russian games, and looks healthy enough right now to suit up for NHL action. But the critical updates will be the trifecta of trigger men. I await with anticipation the announcement on Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot and Mike Cammalleri. If any one of the three is back in Boston, it's a boon. If it could be more than one, we might even find two scoring lines.

Trade rumblings

Finally, trades. The Olympics have been a bit of respite from Eklund's usual ramblings – I guess his internal voices, er, I mean sources, are busy with the Games. But it will be minutes after the Olympics, rather than hours that trades become the number one topic again.

The Habs are still in precarious cap land, but remarkably aren't worst off among teams. Gauthier clearly want to be involved in any good trades (as any half decent GM would be), but may lose bargaining power if the Nashvilles of the world use cap space as bargaining.

The season long rumour about a goalie trade is not going away, so we can expect more of that. Roenick thinks Halak would be good for Chicago, but I think it's far more important to know what his old rival Joe Niewendyk thinks than the Yankee loudmouth. As always, no player should be untouchable, so a Halak trade would get my blessing with the right return. Equally a Price trade.

Really though, the Canadiens are much more likely to be in on draft pick swaps and minor rentals than big direction changing trades at a deadline. Players that could come in are guys like Kozlov and Ott.

Should be an interesting week. I'll enjoy the rest of the amazing winter sport (looking forward to some slalom skiing) and hockey and gear up again for the frantic relaunch. Hope to see you all there...

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