Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lions in Winter Back on Blogspot

Hello everyone.

Those of you that have been looking for Habs news may have noticed that one of our urls here at Lions in Winter (.ca) brings you to a dead page.

Without getting into too much detail about it, between myself and the Score (with whom ties were cut more than a year ago now), we have ended up with a situation where we own the domain but have not got it hosted and unlocked and all that stuff I don't really understand that well. That's the bad news.

The good news is that Lions in Winter is not dead, it is merely back to its old home on blogger, where its always been anyway with some redirection to obscure that for a while.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Habs

Yesterday, we were treated to a most unusual event, hockey players competing with each other. In this case, it was two players familiar to recent Habs fans: Roman Hamrlik and Erik Cole.

The episode began with a now-very-familiar interview emerging from an Eastern European news report. In it, Roman Hamrlik was reported to be critical of an approach that he deemed to be going down the wrong path and voiced a desire to get back to play before any more money is lost by the industry and players alike.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dear Member of Parliament...

In an astonishing move the NHLPA has been revealed to have written a letter containing their rolling press babble to parliament.

It's astonishing mainly because I don't think the NHL could have made a better PR pitch if they had done so themselves.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

2012 Draft Class Answering The Hype

The other day I stumbled across TSN's fantasy rankings of junior players. I knew that the Habs had a few good players to look out for, but after browsing, I was even more impressed.

The ratings formula shows that all those great statistics the Candiens junior prospects are putting up are actually comparing very favourably to their peers.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Skate Is Not Enough

A full month into an NHL lockout, and nearly 2 months since what was supposed to be the beginning of training camp, it's interesting to see where the players have landed and what they are up to.

Tomas Plekanec is in the process of showing just how much of a short-sighted fool Pierre Gauthier really was as he weaves magic with Jaromir Jagr every step of the way. At the other extreme, a guy like Scott Gomez, content to maintain his own program of training (we know how well that works) after briefly skating with a Tier-4 team in Alaska.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Revenue, Profit, and the Winnipeg Experiment

I think that at this point you have to be pretty pessimistic about a season. There's a lot of hard feelings among the fan base towards the owners, and this is understandable. The players are the ones we pay to see, the ones we talk about at the water cooler, the ones that were our heroes growing up. It's easy to cast the owners and Mr. Bettman as the bad guys. Is that really the case?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Russian Reports At It Again

 Some actual news regarding the Montreal Canadiens worth spending some time on.

Apparently, someone scouring the Internet for French radio in Montreal came across a Russian interview with Andrei Markov that indicated his hesitation about returning to the NHL.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Advantage NHL

Tennis is my analogy for this lockout and negotiation today. The side in the server's court has changed a few times, and points have been gained here and there. For the most part the teams have been playing a tight defensive set with long, concerted fights for the upper hand and advantage in public opinion.

I thought there were some good strokes in the past (players' proposal), but we have not seen anything close to the shot delivered by the NHL's owners yesterday. If the game was stuck at deuce in discussion of irrelevant detail, this was the baseline rocket that set up a break point.

Dealing With the Lockout

People have different ways of dealing with the lockout. Personally, I think my way of taking the time off to do something other than the all-consuming Canadiens coverage is a breath of fresh air. I certainly think its better than some of the other things out there.

For example, is anyone following the Canadiens fantasy progress on NHL13, complete with banal reports and invented quotes?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hockey's Standard Bearers Careless

I have to say I am a little sick of hearing that fans will have to do without hockey this fall. It's a pervasive arrogance that would allow player and owner alike to believe that one league equates to an entire sport with worldwide participation.

That said, the NHL is still the unquestioned standard bearer of the sport. The best players in the world ply their trade in NHL arenas (usually) and the game at its highest level is normally found in one of 30 North American cities.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Babies With Bath Water:

Habs Page Turning Often Hurts

Today comes the news that Andrei Kostitsyn signs a one-year contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL.

Perhaps he's the first of many to sign come tomorrow, but his signing represents a little disappointment for the Habs organization.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Holiday Reading

The editor must be on holiday. How else does one explain the error-ridden and misinformed piece of tripe that the paper published today about the Habs?

I am going to link it, because it's that ridiculous.

According to Vincent Lubrano, correspondent and fan from the Garden State, Francis Bouillon is not French enough, Francis is not a name used by Quebec French name, Louis Leblanc does not exist and the Canadiens would be better off with 20 average players from the home province.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Parties In Negotiation

The NHL collective bargaining process is starting to get interesting.

The storyline we are going to live with for the next month (months if we take a cynical view) is Team Owner vs. Team Player.

You know, if it were really that simple, I think this thing would get settled. The complexity of the thing is really much greater.

Monday, August 13, 2012

More Fodder For Subban

You don't want term, you don't want high contracts? Let me present exhibit Pacioretty.

PK Subban wins on the back of the Pacioretty deal. PK is the better and more valuable player, and though he's had less NHL seasons, he's had as many good ones.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

A Lot To Fehr

Despite Donald Fehr's arrogant posturing, it appears the NHL will not be willing to play a season without a CBA after all.

September 15th is now a drop dead date for the players to read those 76,000 pages of audit.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

One Thing Leads To Another

One thing always leads to another. This may be a revelation for the Habs green GM who reportedly just offered a contract of 2 years for $5.5 million to PK Subban.

Subban rejected that. You don't say.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Price Of Commitment

You want a player to commit to a long-term deal? Show him the money.

That's exactly what greenhorned GM Marc Bergevin did most recently with the Carey price contract. 6 years at $6.5 million a season makes Carey the most expensive contract ever tendered by the Montreal Canadiens and the third highest paid goaltender in the NHL.

If you want a stable piece in the corner of your team that you don't need to worry about for a number of consecutive summers, that is what you have to do: just ask the Rangers.

What else can we say about this contract?

Carey Price has not yet earned the right to be paid more than Jonathan Quick or Ryan Miller, but contracts are not made that way are they? Players are paid their most lucrative salaries based on the faith and speculation of the GM that faces them in negotiations at exactly Carey's age.

Such is the fear of free agency on a team that has neglected to draft a goaltender in years and has been trading back-ups away as if they were discontinued bank notes.

What's more, there's an element of Montreal-premium in a long-term salary like this. Carey's take home pay is more reflective of his standing in the league than his over-the-counter price. A funny thing in a province where 6 million taxpayers would gladly pay for a free agent instead of a university professor.

The niggling issue, of course is that the long-time coming of Carey Price is still happening. For the impatient Montrealers, the 5 years of ups and downs since those 2008 starts have been a long run. 5 more Cupless years, some more painful than others. Now, Bergevin is paying Price top dollar on the back of a solid, but not top-notch season in the continued hope that the pinnacles of form represent the future, rather than the average form. I suspect there are a couple of learning years to remain, and wonder if the burden of the Gomez number which will now hang on every 4-goal game will take its toll.

There's a positive also in the contract at $6.5 million. Currently that stands at about 9% of the team salary load. Although, I'd be happier if Carey was paid at closer to what I believe to be the market value for a goaltender in the second tier of the top 20 keepers of the league; I'm accepting of paying that allocation for what amounts to 400 full games of service.

Anyway, on balance, we have to be content. We did not lose the only goalie our team has to an offer, and though we likely spent $2 million more in the doing, it's $2 million less to give to Clarke MacArthur or whichever other Leafs retread is next on the list. Plus, it's $2 million of $70 million, not $48 million. On a team of third liners, Carey like his coach will have to ride a few frustrating seasons anyway, so his proving ground will be a few years off. By that time, who knows how many goalies will be paid at higher rate than him.

The price of commitment is steep. But without commitment, the cycle of mediocrity cannot stop. Let's hope that this commitment, like the other 4 year pay bundles handed out look like good sense in time and become recognized as the steps that put the Habs back on a track they once had proprietary rights over.

Happy free agent hunting.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quiet Frenzy

Well, it was a rough end to the season. Now that the UFA frenzy is almost upon us, it's a lot easier to be optimistic and have us all jump back on the Habwagon. Given that I managed to call Erik Cole last year, I figured I should give another stab at my dream UFA acquisition for this year. Anybody up for speculating on the roster come fall?

Start with the easy part. The Habs have entered salary arbitration with Price, which makes it sound like there might be some bad feelings between him and management. However, this is a canny strategic move that prevents other GMs pulling “gutless” moves (Brian Burke's word) and submitting offer sheets to drive up Price's salary. We have Budaj for another year at $1.15M. Given we need someone to play the 15 or so games Price doesn't start, Budaj is a good fit at a good price.

It's a bit of no-brainer that Price will be signed this year, although I'm having difficulty figuring out for how much. Somewhere near $5M would be my guess. What do you guys think?

There's a good crop of returning defencemen, with a pile of RFAs on the roster as well. The only D-man who goes into unrestricted free agency is Campoli, and I really don't expect to see him back. We have Markov ($5.75M, 2 yrs), Gorges ($3.9M, 6 yr), Weber (850k, 1 yr and then RFA), and sadly, Kaberle (an unbelievable $4.25M for another 2 years). Obviously, we'd love to get rid of him, but there isn't a GM in the league who would take him off our hands. Hopefully the new CBA will allow us to get him off from around the neck of the team, but I don't think we can hold our breaths. On the RFA scene, we have Emelin, Nash, Diaz, Subban, and St.-Denis. 

I could see possibly keeping St.-Denis and Nash for depth, but they aren't big pieces of the puzzle. In my opinion, Subban is second only in terms of Price in terms of priority for team signing. I'm also a huge fan of Emelin, and would love to have him on the CH blueline for years to come from what I've seen from him this season. Also a fan of Diaz, he's got a good sense of what's going on around him and a good shot from the point. I think it would be great to hang on to both him and Weber, both very promising young defencemen that are proven in the league, and trade one (or possibly both) down the line for some more assets up front.

Really not expecting to see much interesting happen in terms of trades or UFA signings on the defence, just hoping to sign most of a great crop of young players.

Now for the hard part. Obviously, there's some good talent up front if we can overlook the albatross that is Scott Gomez ($7.36M, 2 yrs). Again, no GM will ever take that contract off of our hands, and we can only hope that the new CBA opens up some kind of door to get rid of him. After that, we have Plekanec ($5M, 4 yrs), Gionta ($5M, 2 yrs), Cole ($4.5M, 3 yrs), Bourque ($3.33M, 4 yrs), Pacioretty ($1.625M, 1 yr then RFA), Leblanc ($1.17M, 2 yrs then RFA), and Desharnais ($850k, 1 yr). I'm pretty happy with that group, and with much of our RFA crop, which includes Eller, Geoffrion, Blunden, and Nokelainen. Our UFAs consist of Moen, Darche, and Staubitz.

Frankly, I could care less about our UFAs. They're entirely replaceable. I'm glad we've signed White, I have a soft spot for the guy. I think Geoffrion showed some promise, but may have some trouble staying on the roster. I'd like to see Eller kept around, he's got potential and may also prove to be attractive trade bait.

The Dream
Outside of our very wildest dreams, we're not going to be able to trade Gomez and Kaberle for Rick Nash. Within our grasp as UFAs are veterans like Doan, Smyth, and Ray Whitney. I'm happy with Cole and Gionta as vets, and think we need to focus on younger players that might take a couple years to peak: we simply can't assemble a cup-worthy squad for at least 2 years.

Semin is on the market, but I'm not super-excited by him. He's kinda fragile, and hasn't re-found his form of the 08-09 and 09-10 seasons. Parise is another high flier, more interesting in my opinion if we can get value for him. He's in an odd spot, as he took a 1-year contract for $6M last season as an RFA on the back of consecutive 94- and 82-point seasons, but “only” scored 69 points this season and is entering his first year of eligibility as a UFA.

Honestly, I would like to see NO big, bold, interesting moves come Sunday. The crop of UFAs seems pretty thin, but might yield a good bargain or two. PA Parenteau would be interesting: he's francophone, shoots right-handed, and scored 53 and 67 points in the last 2 seasons (also his first 2 in the NHL). Plus, he only made $1.25M last season. I mentioned Dustin Penner earlier, he could bring some much-needed size and can definitely put the puck in the net. However, he's been having trouble with that lately, and as a result may not be able to match the $4.25M of his last contract.

Who's your reality-tempered dream acquisition? Let us know in the comments.

Acknowledgements and big thanks to for numbers!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Canadiens Clean Up At Draft

It started soundly enough. Day one saw the Canadiens avoid the lure of the #3 defencemen on offer and took an offensive center instead.

Though he's already being touted as a solution to the Habs undersized centre stable, he's only an inch taller than the guys they are calling small at this draft and on the Habs. Maybe he plays big? We'll have to see if he does in the NHL.

So with Galchenyuk, the Habs at least grab a a forward. My choice would have been to ignore the sudden pessimism and take Grigorenko anyway. He's bigger and can play with speed and size. The worry justified his drop. But then the Habs could have dropped into lower position with a barometer on the situation and pulled another steal on a day they were fleecing the other GMs (Day 2).

If we say I was warm on Galchenyuk, I was downright delighted when the picks started rolling in on Saturday.

Sebastien Collberg is the kind of player I'd have touted if the Habs were picking in their traditional 14-20 spot. He is a natural goalscorer with that Swedish background. This is no Minnesota High School flash in the pan. He has shown his stripes at major international tournaments already. It's a risk like all forwards are, but a much better one than one would have expected at #33 in a weak draft.

Tim Bozon is another coup on my books. The Habs get a French-speaking, high-flying WHL scorer in the early third round. 36 goals in the WHL is rare enough, but rarer as a rookie. The WHL, being the tough league it is, gives a good sense of the potential of a scorer and I think Bozon has a chance to succeed in his quest for NHL hockey. A great find at the position he was taken.

Dalton Thrower was a high scoring WHL defenceman in a year where that was the vogue. A second rounder in the end, with his stats, he could have looked just as natural as a mid first rounder. He's labelled a small player at 5'11", but again, he is only being towered over by Matthew Dumba by an inch and a couple of points. The highly touted Pouliot outscored Dalton by 5 points and did so with an NHL first round blueline partner. Another thing to like is that Thrower already plays with Darren Dietz, a Canadiens prospect from the last go around, and one that looks to be showing enough progress to make it one day himself.

Those are the big 4. But the Habs add a little icing on the cake with their final two picks as well.

Charles Hudon was ranked as the 5th best prospect from the QMJHL for the 2012 draft by Hockey's Future and the first originating from La Belle Province. What a coup for the Canadiens to nab this guy when they did considering the factors at play. He is small, but are we honestly still writing off all small players? Good thing for Habs most GMs are stuck in that mindset. Hope they enjoy their giant 6'1" players.

Brady Vail is a stout OHLer with a good defensive game from a top franchise. A fourth round pick with those credentials is par for the course. He projects currently as a bottom six forward, but one can't ask for top liners throughout. At least this Chipchura-like resume didn't cost an 18th overall pick.

Finally, Erik Nystrom. I have asked over and over that Montreal take care of the Swedish scouting situation and it's a pick like this that shows some confidence that they are moving in the right direction. Nystrom is an off the charts player and one still in the lower ranks of Swedish hockey. But guess what? To get your true steals (Zetterberg, Datsyuk), one has to dig deeper, else the player is know by everyone and reserved for the Oilers in June. The limited info we have on this guy is that he plays offensive hockey (check), with skill (check) and speed (check). He's a bit of a shot in the dark, but with a dazzling end of year p0layoff campaign, the Habs must have seen something they liked. And without risking too much they have loaded up on more intrigue.

Overall, a good haul indeed.

By my count, 3 well-proven goalscorers, a good offensive defenceman, a homegrown prospect, an all-rounder from a good club and a big swing on something they think they spotted. This is the kind of draft that can reignite the fires of skeptics. Worked for me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A Red Flag Over Bergevin

We were giving Marc Bergevin the benfit of the doubt as a new GM in Montreal. We knew little about him.

His first moves seemed like good moves, yet we know little of the people he was bringing in. I did know the Habs beat Rick Dudley's Sabres about two generations ago, and his Thrashers regularly, and his Panthers, and, well you get the point.

Anyway, we wanted to be positiv, so we were. That is until the hammer fell. Michel Therrien.

There are positive things you can find to say about Therrien, sure. He did go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals with the All-Star team Penguins. But for me, there are just so many reasons that Therrien was bottom of the list of all candidates.

1) He was not a good fit in Montreal before

I know it was a different team in a different time, a different team, but there were reasons he should have done better. He coaxed an 87 point last playoff berth season from a team with Jose Theodore doing the vast majority of the work, but otherwise, he got bad results from a below average team. Furthermore, it was an era of getting to know his junior buddies, and I was glad to see the days of Patrick Travese behind me.

2) He wasn't that good in Pittsburgh

Although he was certainly present for the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Penguins, we're not sure how much he had to do with it. Look, it was bound to happen, and like Paul Bissonnette, Therrien was bound to get a goal if he stuck around in the crease (Pitt coaching job) long enough. In 2006-07, Therrien watched Crosby become the last player to crack 120 points. The next season he watched as three of the best forwards in the game waltzed the team into the final.

Now, it's obviously difficult to distill the contributions of a coach on any team. Darryl Sutter was recently a man out of ideas on the unemployment line too. But Therrien was coaching what might have been the best concentration of emerging talent we've seen in decades and he just did OK. I'm not the only one who thinks this, obviously, as Pittsburgh management thought better of leaving another Cup attempt in his hands, instead selecting a coach with all of 54 games of AHL head coaching experience as the preferred option in 2008.

3) He's a retread

So were all the candidates apparently. All "winners" elsewhere. But let's not forget losers too: Hartley coached Atlanta, Crawford coached in LA and Dallas, etc.

A retread is fin, but recognize that although someone has to win the Cup every year, it's unlikely that someone who got fired in another city has the formula we need in Montreal to deal with the ridiculous mess of politics, media and haphazard player development. If we wanted something special, it was going to have to be a new name, because no one to previously coach in the NHL not named Bowman has shown he has his head and shoulders above the rest.

Overall, I have to say this hiring is troubling. Not because I can't see the team squeaking into the playoffs and being eliminated (as usual) with Therrien. I can. But because I thought this rebuild was meant to be a step into a new direction. A sincere effort to recognize that Montreal is a special mix of elements and that if the team is to ever live up to its heritage, it must start by staffing with a very special mix of managers.

As I said, Bergevin was getting the benefit of being a possible rising star, with his buddy Mellanby. But if his judgment and the advice he's taking led him down a road that ended with Therrien being considered, interviewed and hired, the flag I see is red and it tells me that we are very much on the same course as before and any expectations of a great franchise turnaround might have to wait until the next big clean out.

I am sorry for being negative. But I truly feel this move is disappointing.

Let's be a bit positive

If I try to muster something positive from this, I must stretch. It is possible (though unlikely) that Bergevin is more calculating than we give him credit for. He is currently at the helm of a pretty mediocre group of players, and that can't be changed overnight. With the Montreal hounds the way they are, any coach might be burned by the results this team is likely to put up in the short term.

In that case, it would be a shame to burn a really hot up and comer. Instead, you'd want a sacrificial stop gap. Enter Therrien -- a coach that is competent enough to kee things at bay for a while, but one with a two year countdown.

Maybe this hiring gives Bergevin then the time he needs to cultivate his long-term partnership with that cut-above coach (yet to be found) and rebuild the team into something that resembles a contender as well.

I've stretched my imagination on this one, but that's what it's taking me to see beyond.

In all scenarios, I think Therrien will be fired and added for a second time to that long list of one to two year tenures. At least, if Bergevin turns out to be a Machiavellian genius, it won't hurt in 5 years time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Jack Todd Getting It Right Today

It doesn't happen very often, but in the wane of aSuper Moon, even Jack Todd can still put together a column that gets my head nodding. As a tribute to the guy I used to buy newspapers for in my younger days, I link his piece here.

Why I think he's right?

The playoffs are boring.

I mean, don't get me wrong, they have exciting moments, such as Brad Richards tying goal with seconds to go. A goal which saved a team from elimination (essentially). But on the whole, the playoffs are very boring indeed.

Why is that? It behoofs the NHL to be asking themselves this question. Is it because there's no fighting? Not in my opinion, though some rumble that it is. I think it's due to the same very things that Todd starts to point out. Shot-blocking, grinding, etc., etc.

He gets it so right when he sums it up:
"The new NHL was supposed to be all about movement, skating, offence and talent. Right now it’s about obstruction, shot blocking, grinders and boredom."
The league's singular inability to enforce their own rules is the biggest culprit in all this. Instead of getting to watch Ovechkin vs. Lundqvist, we see Girardi vs. Beagle. No offense to the latter, but no one fell in love with a game for the skills they provide. That is except the coaches who employ those players solely for those assets and the way they fit into their simplistic game plan.

I could legitimately coach in the NHL right now. There is one strategy, and I know it. Dump, chase hard, grind, block. If you do that, I play you. Hunter made the playoffs because of it, but criminally went out against an opponent there for the taking for his complete lack of adaptability to situational circumstances.

The NHL is literally wasting the careers of some of the most dynamic players seen in a generation. They'll be lucky to get more like these if youngsters grow up adhering to the wisdom of current coaching strategy.

Russians are picked on too much

It's gotten to the point where Russians are being singled out to a ludicrous degree. Read Todd for the synopsis. The criticism is so systematic that it's built into every word that comes out of a commentator's mouth. The default to look for Russian shortcomings and praise grinding heroics.

Kovalchuk has been outstanding and we hear very little indeed. Doesn't fit the script.

Time for a new script to go along with a new game with rule enforcement.


Can't say I agree with Todd about Beckham in full, however.

Never a great soccer player? Perhaps not, but then the list of greats would be pretty concise. During his youth at Manchester United Beckham was never a Ronaldinho ball handler or a Messi mesmerizer, but he was excellent at almost everything else. If you could watch a midfield with Roy Keane, Paul Schole, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham and come away saying any one of them was not great, it was probably a game reffed by NHL officials.

Beckham never delivered England the World Cup he and his generation looked like they could, but his delivery into the World Cup in 2002 was everything that greatness is about. Wouldn't expect Jack Todd to get it completely right, though, would we?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Pleased As Punch With Bergevin

The overwhelming feeling I am getting from the Canadiens media these last few days is that they are a happy bunch. And why not?

To understand how pleased they must be, it bears reflecting on where they were just a year ago.

With Gauthier in charge and Jacques Martin installed as coach, the world of soundbytes and stories was getting to be hard work. Gauthier a man who rarely had a press conference, and when he did said nothing of substance, and Martin genuine in his plainness, just honestly taking everything in stride and wondering what the fuss was about.

I sincerely believe that that constituted a moment of panic for the gigantic media machine that has assembled itself to live parasitically off the Canadiens. Without the fruits of preferred access, without privelege of any extra information, what was there to be to continue to define the professional media with the amateur pundit?

With all access pass provided by full broadcast of every game and tightened communication strategies limiting all expression from top to bottom, the distinction was to stay at time and the salary commanded.

If the Gauthier way had time to fully establish itself as the way forward, one would have to guess that higher ups at media outlets would resort with the Canadiens press to many of the same measures they have implemented for the reporting of all other news -- syndication with copy and pastes.

I think we understood just how real this fight was for the media and just how dire they believed their own circumstances to be when the Markov affair unfolded last fall. Not many paid to provide elaborate coverage was able to scoop Gauthier on the status of the best player in town. They reacted as if they had been duped. Really they had been made obsolete for an instant. If the media genuinely knew nothing of Markov, then why would we defer to their opinions instead of the hordes of willing and even fresh-viewed amateurs who go about their coverage with more joy and reckless abandon.

The Gauthier removal was the blessing they craved, and I wonder whether or not they had their say. The Canadiens, you see, are not so far removed from the media machine that they feed, they certainly enjoy the reach and notoriety it can give the team. A paid crew will still write reviews on a season laid dead months before. Publicity that would not be guaranteed from amateurs fatigued with the thought of hockey in bleu, blanc, rouge.

And their relief was further enhanced by the hiring of Marc Bergevin. Never mind that he speaks French for a minute (although that certainly is important). The fact he is a personable character who seems to have no qualm with open policy is much more valuable to the machine. Today I read Bertrand Raymond's opinion on the matter and it reads like a Hallelujah. He even retreads every former GM he has known, praising those who enhanced his life and slagging those who did not. It's telling that Andre Savard comes out with a shinier review than Sam Pollock. The vilification of Gainey and Gauthier is a contrast to the apology he offers for the affable Rejean Houle.

So understand then that the media has more than one agenda here, or so it seems to me. I say understand, to you knowledgeable folks I should say don't forget. Bergevin will ultimately be judged for the hockey he manages to coax from a team he puts together, but that judgment is a way off. Until such time, it seems he will be cast in rays of appreciation just for smiling, talking and letting the media back in. I would think that the media being as pleased as punch with man in a year should not determine how each fan feels about the situation. Just my observations.

On the coach

I guess now Marc is in his chair, the attention of the organization and the speculation moves firmly to the position of head coach.

It's an interesting decision, and I hope to offer more comment in a full reflection on the topic.

I do have some preliminary questions/concerns:

What are the criteria really going to be?

I ask because M. Raymond rambled briefly on how HNIC misunderstands Quebec when they might suggest someone like Quenneville. His line: "Heureusement, le nom de Quenneville vient de s'effacer de lui-même" is a troubling stance for a fan who wants the best candiate available. Especially when it is followed by discussion on the glory years of Savard-Therrien.

I understand the importance of language as a factor in the decision, but funnily I look at the Cunneyworth episode from a different lens than many. Most fans weren't in constant uproar over Cunneyworth (well not until they realised he would lose more than Martin). The fanbase was surprisingly accepting, I thought, actually.

I all factors should be weighed in a balance. With the GM, I feel comfortable this was carried out. Bergevin won out because he was a serious candidate. He happens to be from Montreal, and this definitely weighed in, but it doesn't stand out as his main quality.

A candidate like Michel Therrien for me is a non-starter, and I'mappalled to see his name in the mix. Yes he did pretty well with the Penguins, but he has certainly been outdone by a fair margin by the newcomer Bylsma, and most of the time without the same arsenal. He was not in my estimation part of some golden age with the Habs, but part of a dark age, and I surely recall rejoicing at his departure more than any other. Would he be on a list that did not start with language? Not one you'd be happy to not have to include Quenneville on.

Anyway, enjoy the Flyerless playoffs and catch up soon.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Marc Bergevin Era To Begin in Montreal

The headline is that Marc Bergevin of the Chicago Blackhawks has just been named the next GM of the Montreal Canadiens.

The bylines speak of how narrowly we have just avoided subjecting league general manager meetings to countless "monster" references and Canadiens fans to a Pierre McGuire tenure.

I have had little time to digest the news, but I can say that the feeling sitting with me now is not jubilation. I can't say that Bergevin ever enthralled me as a candidate after perusing his actual record. There is a definite sense of relief that it won't be McGuire. And a lot of unease in knowing that the due process threw the TSN man up as the second candidate for the job.

The requirements met

One can only assume that the requirements on that list in front of Geoff Molson have been met in most part by Bergevin.

We know of one for certain that is met, and this will be of some relief to those who heard about the interview and courting of Jim Nill.

Otherwise, what are we getting? Well the titles on his CV read like they should. He has been a pro scout, a head of pro scouting, head of scouting and latterly an assistant GM. He was 20 years a player, and a Stanley Cup winner as an executive. It's a bit better than pundit and one-year coach.

But let's dig deeper. Bergevin was an exec with the Blackhawks when they won, but how responsible was he for any of the on-ice triumph?


The 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks were partly drafted while Bergevin was around, but the only serious pieces to be added were Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. No offense to our new GM, but anyone would have picked those guys. The responsibility for those picks goes to the abysmal play of the players who managed to land their team in great drafting position in the right years.

Other than those two, the core was largely acquired through the draft, but almost entirely before Bergevin's arrival on the scene. A real hard look at the drafting that has taken place since 2006 in Chicago will reveal that the spoils are little beyond Kane and Toews.

After Bergevin moved from his pro scouting duties, the results look especially thin. But he is a man who claims to relinquish control when he feels his expertise is stretched. An amateur scouting guru he is not. Trevor Timmins future in all this should be key.

Pro scouting

A pro scout is an important piece in an organization and has a big contribution to make in personnel decisions at the pro and system level. So what, if anything, can we read on this ability of Bergevin's in his Blackhawk record.

Well, if you talk 2010 Stanley Champs, as the most optimistic will be prone to do, it is important to note the importance of the amateur draft in building that team. Even so, as we well know in Montreal, drafting a player does not ensure he blossoms in the city of his drafting. The retention of the drafted has to be applauded in part.

To me, the big acquisitions that were made under Bergevin's time in Chicago were pretty significant. Patrick Sharp was a key piece added to the mix just after the lockout. Someone on the Blackhawks side of things recognized his special abilities and nabbed him for the rebate price of Matt Ellison and a 3rd rounder. Bergevin's role? Who knows. We know he had a job with the Hawks at the time, that's all. Andrew Ladd was acquired the year Bergevin was in charge of the pro scouts, so I'd expect a say. I think this acquisition was astute also, a young Cup winner (now two time) who provided that unmatched depth for Chicago up front. Kris Versteeg was also acquired for a languishing Brandon Bochenski of recent KHL fame.

To me this shows someone had an eye for underappreciated talent. To me it shows the organization was casting a pretty wide net. It obviously had eyes on the AHL, for example. This is a big point of optimism for me. The Habs have been abysmal at pro scouting by most standards, and having a GM who might have the knack will be a new skill base.

Team restructure

Let's face it, this is a mandatory skill in Montreal.

This will be the second major restructure since Gainey's five year plan lapsed two years ago. The fans are fickle and the organization responds to this. How a team restructures and makes its decision in doing this is vital for future success. We have just recently witnessed how not to do this, I think.

Were the Gainey/Gauthier method the right way about things, they'd still be in employ. But their personnel decisions at the top and next level down have left scars that will be long to heal. I look to Bergevin's experience then of the 2010 dismantling of salary to allay some fear. The Blackhawks played all their cards to win the Cup and it paid off. But to avoid being the Florida Marlins of the NHL, and wasting the careers of young stars like Keith, Kane and Toews in the process, the right decisions had to be made to ensure a new contender could emerge.

Obviously, the verdict is still coming in on what they did, but I for one think that the team did well under the circumstances. Toews, the centrepiece, Keith the backbone and Kane the gamebreaker remain. Hossa was creatively signed despite the odds and Patrick Sharp remains. Somehow, the team managed to break apart the salary largely by offloading the players they would have continued to play in lesser roles.

One can imagine how Gauthier/Gainey would have handled a taxi cab incident with Patrick Kane and somehow resigned Kris Versteeg to far too much money. It's ruthless and pitiless, but the Blackhawks made tough decisions, used the role players for that Cup run and then discarded them when they were required by rules to do something. I can only hope that part of this pragmatism comes with Bergevin to Montreal.

I am so tired of seeing stop gaps touted as solutions and tough decisions being deferred to the free agent market.

Player management

It's not certain, but perhaps one of the reasons Bergevin now reigns in Montreal is due to his personality. A GM who can relate to others, especially his players, especially his trouble players, will be a big plus in Montreal. Marc is no Bob Gainey, but he has the credibility of a 20-year career and the approachability of prankster. Cross our fingers that the end of trading "difficult" players with no plan in place on how to replace the asset is passing.

Overall hopeful

As I was writing, I have to admit that hope began to come over me. It is a hopeful thing that a new guy who seems such a departure from the staid old standards is coming in.

While he likely won due to his longer experience than some, I would hope that Bergevin yet realises that a few years as a pro scout means he has some learning left to do. I hope that he has a good read of the Montreal Canadiens draft record and the excellent blogs that properly tout it and retains many of the personnel responsible for it. I hope he puts an end to the Canadiens astrangement from Sweden. I hope he delegates to their judgment in this and upcoming drafts.

We must also remember that Savard remains, at least for the time being. Savard who helped build the last Canadiens Dynasty group (unrecognized yet by many) and has proven in other areas to be an astute man of talent.

The team is still in decent hands. What remains to be seen is whether decent can be turned into excellent by this new one-two punch.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Habs Picks Are In (Almost)

So there it was, the spectacle of the NHL draft lottery. RDS and TSN outdid themselves by narrowly surpassing the pointlessness of their Trade deadline Day and Free Agency day coverages.

We had to wade through quite a bit of speculation, but eventually there was some excitement.

First we pan to Bill Daly opening an envelope (what too sensitive to show the draw on camera?) and then to Brian Burke to show that the Maple leafs had not won the draft lottery (phew). From this we know that no team directly behind the Leafs were pulled either. Also, we find comfort in seeing that Burke is sticking with his angry man tie fashion.

Another envelope, another loser. This time the Isles miss the win. So that's what Garth Snow looks like...

The big moment didn't give much time for anticipation. The envelope was opened to reveal to Larry Carriere that the Habs would be picking 3rd as their position showed.

On to first, and the Oilers are revealed as the winners. The undeserving GM can't wipe the grin from his face. The sad Blue Jackets take one last loss at the final buzzer.

Picks in
What this means of course is that the Habs will be picking third overall. It will be the team's highest selection in over 30 years. Only the Rangers and Flames (no top 5 picks ever) have had fewer top fivers over that time.

Beyond the third pick, it's good to note that the Habs will be picking 3rd in every subsequent round as well. That is, all those rounds from which they have not already traded their privilege.

So that means 3rd, 33rd, 64th (round 2 has 31 picks), 94th and 154th. The team also owns the rights to Nashville's second round pick this year, thanks to Hal Gill. Essentially the team will have four picks by the time they would have had one in 2008. Five before they would have had their second last season.

This volume is important and not mentioned very often. Five players of the top 100 in a deep year can mean some quality depth added. It also gives the team a chance to mine some quality Quebecois talent (none right now in the consensus top 30, btw) without having to pay over the odds to do it (with too high a pick) or by doing it half-heartedly (O. Archambault @108).

Also very important is that 33rd pick. This pick is a first-round run-off pick and as such is very valuable. It gains more and more value as the trade continues and players that some teams have valued as their top priority fall by the wayside to home run swing picks. The value can be cashed either with one of those players, or perhaps in a bargaining move with an eager buyer on draft day. The luxury of having the other second rounder and the high 3rd and 4th rounders are good buffer for trade.

All this puts the Canadiens scouting staff in a nice position to really go after what they believe in. Furthermore, it gives a new GM some ammunition should the route of trade be considered the way forward.


The 3rd pick as it stands now looks like it could materialize into Mikhail "Grigo" Grigorenko.

But temper the optimism. The likelihood of that player falling to the third position depends very much on the two teams ahead of the Canadiens.

In the better case scenario, I think we all saw the Blue Jackets taking Yakupov, with Edmonton finally conceding they need something other than a forward and taking (sudden consensus two) Ryan Murray to fill out a team of shooters. With CBJ in second, the logic remains, but is somehow less convincing. Columbus doesn't have a young stable of good forwards in the organization like the Oilers do and can't afford to take the second best player as they cling to NHL life. While a defender might ultimately make more sense for a team who believed Wisniewski the solution to their woes, a jittery team might value the quick fix of a scorer and at last a centre for Nash.

If Grigo is gone, the Canadiens have some soul searching to do. Ryan Murray is not perhaps the player they need on the big team to complement Subban/Markov/Gorges/Emelin/Beaulieu/Tinordi. And one sees what having an expendable young defender can return (McDonagh). The decision to trade that defender should be clear before the situation unfolds so that time is not lost to hesitation.

Personally, I would trade down before picking Murray. Indeed, from what I've read, I might prefer two of the top 30 to one of the next five. I have a bad feeling about Galchenyuk and would rather hedge than take him outright at three.

Whatever happens before June, or in June, I will guarantee that it will be a more exciting time to be a Habs fan than it usually is in early summer. The potential for this kind of talent to join, the potential for movement, the reason to even watch the draft all make for a better June.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Game #82

Montreal And Staubitz Too Good For Lacklustre Leafs


Date: 07/04/2012
Opponent: Maple Leafs
Location: Montreal

Win: 4-1

Habs Goalie: Budaj (W)
Opposition Goalie: Scrivens (L)

Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, Pacioretty Cole, Staubitz
Opposition goalscorers: Phaneuf

Play of the game

Price's cowboy hat (people wear those for real?) and Staubitz's first goal of the season at the last possible moment were noteworthy, but the best play was Cole's goal. It reminded me so much of Lafleur, but also of Cole himself. Down the right side with speed and gusto went Erik who made no mistake whatsoever on the career AHL-er. The goal was his 35th of the season.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Max Pacioretty
Maybe it is a good thing there are no playoffs because this sure is getting boring, isn't it. Every game the same players step up, every game they do it in the same way. It makes watching, writing, and I am sure reading very repetitive. Max scored and added an assist and, therefore, ended with a very impressive 65 points. The US will enjoy his play at World's and we'll all look forward to September to see him again.

Tomas Plekanec

When the Leafs had an early 5-on-3 the last thing I expected was a goal by us. I actually thought that an early goal by Toronto would be just what we needed to ensure a loss. What I underestimated, however, was how bad Toronto's players are. Not to take away from Pleks (only the second player to score in that situation that year), but it was two mistakes in our end that led to the breakaway and then horrible goaltending that allowed the uncontrolled puck to trickle in.

Erik Cole
Erik is the player we all dreamed of getting 3 years ago (Gomez, Gionta or Cammelleri) and is way better than the player we thought we got last July (Cole). He played with passion and pride every single game this year and is the perfect player to be leading a young group. I like Gionta, but wonder if his captaincy, like the reign of the coach and gm, should come to an end this year. If so, Erik would be the obvious choice in that regard.


Josh Gorges
Josh played another solid game and ended the season as one of only two players to play all 82 games (Cole). It was a good bounce-back year after his injury last year and one can only hope that the same happens for Markov in 12-13. Gorges, along with Markov, Emelin and Subban form a good top-4, or 4 of top-5; it will be interesting to see who sticks come game #1.

PK Subban
One of the best plays by Subban was his hit on Brown. Hitting is such a small part of his game, but he is still so good at it. To me that shows just how good he is as he has so many different tools; offence, defence, skating and passion are a few more of his other skills. It was another good game from PK in what was an up and down season (although, admittedly up of late). The 22 year-old is getting better all the time and hopefully has many good years in Montreal to come. I guess, like us, he'll be watching the lottery and draft with interest.


Peter Budaj - Game Puck
Peter played well again tonight and has actually been quite good of late. In fact, in his last 7 games (the last 4 weeks) he has a save % of .931. Maybe, in the end, he has earned himself an NHL job, back here in Montreal that is. These last few weeks should give management the confidence that he can be a decent back-up, but should also serve as a warning that he should be playing more. The cupboard is bare beyond him for sure, but if Price is healthy and if Budaj gets 25 games (he got 17 this year) I think we'll still be in a good goaltending spot next year.


So, there it is. 82 games have come and gone. It is a little disappointing that we were written off in October or November by so many and that they were right. We had so many chances and reasons to turn it around all year, but things just didn't work out. Trading Cammelleri and waiting forever for Markov to come back have to rank as the highest of the reasons though. I'm not sure we should have kept Camms, but the return we got (8 points in 38 games - 3 less than Gomez in the same amount of games) was absolutely pathetic. It killed our second line 3 months ago.

Tonight was disappointing in that for once I wanted us to lose a last minute game against Toronto. My guess is that the Leafs didn't want to win, but then again they are horrible, so maybe that was indeed their best. It was fitting that our top-3 forwards scored as they (and Desharnais of course) have carried us all season long. As sad as that seems (carry us to last that is, as we have been atrocious), just imagine where we would have been without the Cole line, without 242/246 games played from that trio. Next year we can't rely on them and them alone again. Our goal this summer has to be to build a real top-line (I would love 3 players better than Cole) or at least a line as good as that one. Pleks can be one piece, but who will the other two be? A draft pick in there would be great and a new acquisition, from a trade or free-agency, seems a must.

That's it then, another long season over and another summer to enjoy other things. Thanks to all the readers and loyal Habs fans out there. There are a ton of fans who jumped ship in the Fall or Winter, but if you are reading this you didn't. The team needs real fans and that, we have enough of. Now all we need is a good GM, a good coach, a good draft pick, a few good new forwards and a whole new winning regime. Sounds like Molson is going to have a pretty busy summer if he is going to keep us happy, as for me, I am now in sit-back and watch (and likely complain, but hopefully rejoice) mode.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Game #81

Staal Gets His Breakaway, Habs Made To Take A Point


Date: 05/04/2012
Opponent: Hurricanes
Location: Carolina

Loss: 1-2 (SO)

Habs Goalie: Budaj (L)
Opposition Goalie: Ward (W)

Habs goalscorers: Geoffrion
Opposition goalscorers: LaRose, (Staal, SO)

Play of the game

The "best" play of the game tonight was a save. (If I was a cynic, I would say) one of Cam Ward's wonderful saves to stop the Canadiens from winning despite themselves. But from the perspective of the Habs fan, what a wonderful little stop that was from Chris Campoli with a lightning right leg -- something from the outdoor rink, that. Perhaps a nicer memory to leave of his career in Montreal for everyone.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Tomas Plekanec
We've said this before. Pleks was the best forward on the ice for the Habs. He had his feet, he had his wits, the only thing he left in Montreal were his finishing hands. Another breakaway for Plekanec this season, this one ended in another great Ward save. How many scoring chances has he had on breakaways? How many has he had not on breakaways? The story of a down cycle year with useless wingers.

Erik Cole
The next in a pretty poor bunch. Cole wasn't quite his usual insistent self, but he still garnered chances. Of all Canadiens he came closest to sealing the win with a great showdown with Cam Ward.

Blake Geoffrion
I'm not sure what management thinks of this player. Hopefully it's more than what Cunneyworth thinks. From what I've seen, he's alright. he's certainly no less talented than the rest of the bottom 8 forwards. Hos goal tonight proves two things -- he has skill hiding in there somewhere, and he has a goalscorer instinct. I don't foresee him suddenly going all Pacioretty on us, but why not groom him to replace Darche?


Chris Campoli
His best play of the year to my knowledge. On top of that, a very solid showing in this game. I think we were all a bit surprised to constantly look up to see #17 as plays were broekn down, and just as surprised to see him pinching in up front. More of this earlier in the season might have changed the ball game for a few former coaches and players. Still, as I said, it's nice for Chris to leave us on a higher note.

Andrei Markov
Not his all-time best or anything, but more glimpses of the Markov we once knew. The progress tonight was in his defensive commitment: we saw a few body checks and battles on the boards. If nothing else, this painful last month with Markov will give him the confidence to start the year right next October.


Peter Budaj - Game Puck
I can hear it. "Now you make a save?" Budaj has been placed in a tough situation. At once playing for an NHL career and holding the Canadiens chances to the lottery in his control. His saves throughout will serve him well as he searches for a new contract, and he has looked better as time wore on. I hesitate to say the Habs should resign him though, as most of these high points have come in games of little meaning. I think we all hope those will be left behind soon. In any case, he deserves the recognition tonight as he was the second best player on the ice and did his solid best.


This game ended exactly the way it should have: on a Staal penalty shot. How the refs did not call Tomas Plekanec for a vicious slash/trip on a breakaway, one will never guess. That penalty shot in regulation could have spared the Habs a point and possibly put them in better stead for an Oilers surge to 28th. But they'll get a better pick for their shootout futility (this is some comfort) -- this being their 11th loss of this type.

On the bright side, the Islanders won, the Hurricanes won (obviously), the Lightning and Toronto went to OT (Toronto coming back to win (fools)) and Edmonton and Anaheim have to split 2-3 points between them.

This all means the Canadiens 76 points put them safely in at least 28th position. Only the Oilers can change that now, thanks to Anaheim's tie break winner over us.

With one meaningless game to go, the spring cannot come quick enough. The only thing holding back the optimism of new GM, new coach, new young star is the prospect of having to watch two terrible teams with young players who can't score duke it out before tee time. I jest, of course. I still enjoy the games. But the optimism about off-ice stuff is legitimate, it's where a Habs fan can find refuge and hope at the moment.

For once, it's the draft that can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Game #80

Tampa's Lack Of D Make It Hard For Habs To Lose


Date: 04/04/2012
Opponent: Lightning
Location: Montreal

Win: 5-2

Habs Goalie: Budaj (W)
Opposition Goalie: Caron (L)

Habs goalscorers: Emelin, Cole (2), Pacioretty (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Lecavalier, Gervais

Play of the game

If I have to look for the best play tonight, the best goal (despite being fairly upset with the win) it would have to be Pacioretty's second. All of the goals were good, actually, but I did like the 5th goal where Max blew past his coverage down the wing and unloaded a bullet of a wrist-shot up and over Garon's replacement (was the requirement to find someone with as close a name as possible?).

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
The numbers were good tonight - 2 goals, an assist and +4. Could it be that Max isn't that keen on a top-2 pick as he is fairly happy with his status as top-2 winger on the team? I am fine with that attitude, but hope that next year he contributes more to team success and isn't simply remembered, again, for having a good year on a bad team.

Tomas Plekanec

People remember stats and don't remember when points were gotten, how they were gotten or the context in which they were collected. Therefore, I can totally understand Tom's desire to put a few more points up this week so when we look back in a few weeks, months or years we think slightly better of him than had he mailed it in. Unfortunately for him, however, I would rather we be a Cup contender within 3 years than he get an extra 3 points, but would he?

Erik Cole
Cole just can't help himself, can he? Unfortunately for the top-2 pick drive Erik is healthy and is playing at his usual level. Tonight he inched closer to 35 with 2 more goals and has two games to net one. He is all business on the ice and for that I respect him and look forward to another season with him leading the offence.


Alexei Emelin
I was happy that Emelin scored a goal tonight as he desrved some reward for his season. Is it possible that he is the most underrated and under-appreciated Hab? He has been noticed all year, but when you think of what this guy has done, as a rookie, you can't help but be excited for next year. I say, give him 3-5 more years of being labeled as underrated and then the trophies will start flowing.

Andrei Markov
It was very good to see how well the PP was doing tonight and that was thanks in no small part to the work of Markov. Tonight was his 11th game and he keeps looking better in each. I still hope he plays some more hockey this spring and has a good summer of hard, off-season work as opposed to the rehabbing he has been doing for the past couple of summers.


Peter Budaj
That pass to Lecavalier was right up there with O'Byrne's own-goal in the department of hilariously brutal plays. Aside from that play he was good even though Tampa played horribly. I am not sure if Mayer will get the start tomorrow or Budaj. It doesn't really matter, but I would say there is a good chance we'll need Mayer at some point down the road, so why not give him a taste now.


Tampa looked like the team playing to lose and we seemed to be fueled by a Bell Centre crowd that was ill-advisedly cheering them on way too much. It seemed like we couldn't help ourselves and it meant a few great chances for our top line. It even meant that Rene Bourque almost got more than one shot or stood in front of the net once in 18+ minutes. If only our team followed the lead of the bottom 3 lines we'd be gold. Now, however, it looks as though Edmonton will bag the 2nd spot and we'll have some work to do to stay in 3rd.

Tonight was a big milestone for Cole as it was his 700th game and he celebrated with two more goals; bettering his best goal mark again and getting to 59 points, 2 shy of that record. It was another milestone round here. Tonight marked the 450th game report that we at LIW have written. We haven't missed one game since we started in the Fall of 2007 with a win in Carolina. That night, the first ever goal to be documented was scored by none other than Erik Cole, it was his 300th career game (playoffs included). The only other players to play tonight and then were Markov and Plekanec; all 3 of those players made the dome tonight.

I couldn't have kept that streak alive without the help of Topham, ian vitro, my Dad (uncredited, but he has written pieces) and a naturalized Habs fan for a wife. We started reporting on games to show a different, maybe more honest side of the game. In the beginning it was all about the thrill of the winning, but, just for a brief moment we have now started to hope for the opposite. There has been a conference win, a conference final, brutal trades, sad player moves a Centennial and so much more. So, thanks to all of you who read and keep this fun and entertaining after each and every win or loss.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Gorges Recognized For Being Unrecognized (Again)

The only trophy that any Montreal Canadiens player will get this season (other than the hopelessly goaltender biased Molson Cup) has been given to Josh Gorges.

To quote HI/O: "The honour goes to a member of the team whose contributions have been under-recognized in the course of a season."

Not that I have any grudges with Josh Gorges, but this trophy is silly. All of the Canadiens are unrecognized this season, are they not? Apart from Carey Price, no one will get an award from either team or league. Diaz was the only one who was even honoured with an invitation to sub in at the All-Star game.

This trophy probably made a lot more sense when it was devised for the inaugural season of 1981-82. In the 1970s, there was plenty of Canadiens recognition to go around and the sight of a Habs player giving an acceptance speech in June was not so rare.

But nowadays, the Canadiens as a group are rarely recognized. Subban got a nod for the All-Rookie team last season. But the last trophy won by a member of the Montreal Canadiens was the King Clancy trophy in 2006-07. The last trophy for hockey related achievements was the Roger Crozier award to Cristobal Huet in 2005-06. And the last major trophy won by anyone in bleu, blanc, rouge was taken in by Jose Theodore a decade ago.

As I said, nothing against Gorges, but this season has been watchable thanks to three major contributors, only one of whom is being recognized (and that's that flawed process again). The team, or the media, or whoever, needs to adapt to the times and recognize the major contributor before bestowing the only trophy of the season to the a man who has worn the underrated tag like a badge of honour for 6 whole seasons now. Can you even be unrecognized or underrated anymore if every story about you touts you as one of the most underrated players in the world? Maybe having won the trophy for being unrecognized (the second to last trophy won by anyone on the team) should be a hint.

Recognition first for the "recognized". We'll do it here once all the games and stats are in. That's something I guess.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Game #79

11th Habs Shootout Loss Helps Buffer Gap With Leafs


Date: 31/03/2012
Opponent: Capitals
Location: Washington DC

Loss: 2-3 (SO)

Habs Goalie: Budaj (L)
Opposition Goalie: Neuvirth (W)

Habs goalscorers: Cole, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Perrault, Beagle (Hendricks, Semin, SO)

Play of the game

I think the play of the season could very well be in the making in discussions regarding the next GM. Perhaps in the same building as this contest? To also look to the future, the most encouraging play was that of Markov and Subban on the PP tonight as they really gelled for quite a long time. I have had questions about the two conductors playing together, so it is heartening to see them melding. Markov is still the grand orchestrator, but Subban now takes most cues.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Erik Cole - Game Puck
Let's face it, no shootout shot for Cole in this one was an admission of defeat. He was the most dangerous shooter all night and he's been the most dangerous all season. IN this game, he scored of course, but impressed at many other points as he recognized the standoffish defending to cut to the middle on many more occasions than usual. His best play came when he did this, had his shot blocked and proceeded to recover the puck, walk around more defense and get an even better chance away.

Lars Eller
On RDS they were talking a bit about Eller. I heard but wasn't really registering. I think they were saying that he needed some wingers. It was very apparent in this game. What Eller can do well is baffle that first defender. Often after that he opens a great passing lane or just walks into second coverage. Get him a pure scorer who knows positioning (imagine we had had one of those to gel with him...) and he'll make these plays count for more than good impressions.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks is having a sub-par season and has played most of the time with slumping (sometimes incapable) wings. So when he notched his 16th goal and 50th point, it was an opportunity to remember his quality. In better circumstances, he's a 70-point producer who can make a scorer's life easier. He was good in this one. His goal was outstanding.


Andrei Markov
I've already alluded to his PP skill. IN tonight's game, I thought he stepped up from recent games his defensive play as well. The Habs really did play quite a good defensive coverage after that 2nd Caps goal and Markov was a big part, often seen ushering his mar wide or stealing the puck from unexpectant stick.

PK Subban
It's perhaps a bit boring that Subban keeps getting the write ups. He is earning this recognition now by simply being the best defender on the ice. There's a lot we already take for granted with Subban. It's important we shouldn't forget that much of that are things others simply could never do. He'll be as disappointed as anyone that the season ends in a week. However, for him that lottery is guaranteed to mean something.


Peter Budaj
Budaj ended with a familiar clatter in the shootout. 0 saves, 1 miss, 1 loss. In the game he was adequate and was complicit in gathering the unwanted point. In the comments for yesterday's game, Bruins24 mentioned the complete black hole after Carey Price in Canadiens goaltending, and I'd include Budaj here. He's been OK, but not an option to replace Price in the event of injury. For that reason, one must think his last minutes as a Hab were played out in a Washington shootout.


When they make the playoffs, they squeak in. This team appears to want to squeak in the other way too. They played a heck of a last 40 minutes plus OT to get a point. They should have and so nearly won. Fortunately, that bad luck that placed them in this scenario made a timely return to halt the unfortunate.

All will be thrilled to hear that the Leafs also won to prepare a 4 point gap and leave the Habs in the losing seat. Minnesota have a point as I write in OT, and we'll hope for another. The Habs look poised to go bottom 5 and possibly bottom 3 with a team that really needs a defender. The possibility of Grigorenko, Yakupov or Galchenyuk is getting pretty exciting.

The big game this week, however, takes place in the boardroom as any decision on GM will be 100 times more important than even a 5-draft pick swing at this stage. The rumour is that Molson and Savard are formalizing the list come Monday for the hunt. I don't agree with CBC panels who suggest a wait for a failed GM. I think Molson would have waited to fire Gauthier if he agreed with the Milburys of the world. It could be a week as exciting as any playoff push. Hold onto your hats.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Game #78

Lottery Losses Look Like This


Date: 30/03/2012
Opponent: Rangers
Location: New York City

Loss: 1-4

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Lundqvist(W)

Habs goalscorers: Bourque
Opposition goalscorers: Gaborik, Richards, Del Zotto (2)

Play of the game

A game that was not friendly to the aficionado of slick on-ice style made for tough choices. A rare moment of defensive expertise caught my attention early and was never surpassed. Richards breaking in one-on-one with Emelin had us all thinking test for Carey. Emelin sorted it out, though. Simple stride for stride coverage leading Richards into the corner shotless to be dumped onto the ground. He came away with a puck. Emelin will make this team next season, and will do much to help us forget the foolhardy trade for a centre in 2009.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


David Desharnais
In a game where looking lively is enough, Desharnais is a forward for the dome. I still like that despite his obvious difficulties with hulking defenders, he finds chances each and every game. His two were the best before the goal and he set others up for some that went asking.

Tomas Plekanec
He waited very late to make the most significant (and nearly only) contribution to Habs offense on the night. It was advertised that only he had scored in the Canadiens previous 4 road games. Fitting then that he made the only goal that even Rene Bourque wouldn't miss.

Rene Bourque
Begrudgingly Bourque. I disliked much of what he did, but in that he was amongst many peers. If we have to watch him for more than a few games (and I suppose we do) then I hope he at least stands in front to receive Plekanec's passes and shaves his Lottery Lip Tab.


Frederic St. Denis
He's proving that defense is lower on the new GM's list of worries than forwards are. At 7th/8th/whatever he is on the depth chart, he provides a competent replacement for NHL play. The fact he played 19 uneventful minutes and ended +1 is a good sign. He was on for the Price squeaker to further degrade the PK average, otherwise a good enough night.

PK Subban - Game Puck
The better Subban on the night (which is saying a lot these days). I thought PK once again showed more than any other Canadiens player. I look forward to a time when his cool control and timely blocks mean something once again. Even his shot seems to be getting more dangerous as the year wears on.


Peter Budaj
Carey not making a dome has been a rare thing this season. In fact, when we wanted good dome-worthy performances there were very few slips. So fitting then that he is also delivering a weak night just when the Habs need weak nights in the standings. 4 goals on 29 shots raises questions any time. When a couple of the goals never would have happened against a focused goalie, the questions receive this answer. Strangely, he was also only a hair away from the game puck, as his saves (and there were many) were rare bright points for a checked out squad in this game too.


Last game, there was some debate over whether players could lose games on purpose. I tend to agree that it's unnatural. But if they could, this is what it would look like. The Canadiens really did nothing to challenge the Rangers net until time was safe, and who knows what they might have done to facilitate goals against had lax coverage not provided for them.

With 4 games to go, it really is critical at this stage that each keeps his eye on this lottery ball. 4 wins would serve no one at all. Each player has enough question marks already that a finishing flourish will not erase, and the majority will be well served by that slightly readier and more skilled apprentice.

This game was interesting for those who do look to the future. One can see a future for the Canadiens, for instance, in the Rangers. Price has not matched Lundqvist's strongest yet, but emulates his style in general. The Canadiens defence is young, learning, mobile and likely capable of delivering what the Rangers kids do and more. What remains to be seen is if the Habs are to be as bold as the Rangers. That team recognized its internal deficiencies and served to cancel them by bumping each and every forward down two notches in depth with free agent signings. These were not Cole/Gionta variety moves, but big, bold actions to obtain established superstars. Unless the Habs do this. Until the Habs do this. The Habs forwards may continue to toil as they have this season.

See you tomorrow. Go Caps?

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Habs Drift Into April Without GM

So it's happened, the axe has fallen and the Canadiens have relieved Pierre Gauthier of his duties.

The criticism about strange timing is strange in itself. Who cares? The team has nothing left to play for and the GM had nothing left to do. Better that a lame duck be replaced than not.

The team will be rudderless (especially if you consider it's Molson in charge) for the next few days and then will hopefully be applying all their effort to finding excellent personnel to fill the important role of GM and whatever else is left open by a shuffle.

As the surprise move shows, no one really has any idea on how and when the Canadiens might act in this search. As such, I thought I'd provide open speculation on all the candidates for the GM job that I could think of before my fingers got tired.

Key people within the organization

Bob Gainey
Needs no introduction. He ceded the reins before for lack of passion/interest/whatever, but then never really left the team. Not sure how active he has been in his advisor role, but in terms of hockey people within the upper echelon of the organization's structure, he's top at this point. I don't think his return would be well received this time, however, so my prediction is that if he remains it will be in the shadows.

Trevor Timmins
Montreal fans are notoriously demanding and continue to rue every draft pick that goes wrong. All this despite the fact, the Habs have been pretty much the best by a few measures of drafting since Timmins was brought in. There's more to being a GM than drafting and scouting. What's more, it may not be wise to mess with a successful formula just because he's the most deserving candidate at first glance.

Frank Jay
This guy is reputed to be a talented scout, and so he should stay. He's got experience and could probably pull off the job. Like Timmins, I like him in a full scouting role if he's the star his backers say he is, because the Habs are in a rebuild.

Larry Carriere
He benefits from a few key points on his resume. First, he's new and so not associated or in anyway responsible for the more disastrous moves (Gomez) the organization has made recently. Second, he's been a GM (briefly) and an assistant GM in Buffalo. Third, he can communicate to both streams of media. He's not a sexy choice given his association with the recent coaching of the team. But we're not suggesting he be considered for the coaching job.

Patrick Boivin
Nepotism. How much of it figured in this hiring? I really know nothing of this guy other than he had a father with clout. He's currently occupying a top-level role with the team, so he's worth a mention.

Key people outside the organization

Jacques Martin
Former coach. Former GM. "Speaks" French and English. Knows hockey. He's on all the lists for sure. But again, he may not exactly represent a sexy choice or a departure from the stagnant old ways of doing things. Personally, I think the way he thinks about hockey is right and suits this group of players. I'd accept this choice.

Pierre McGuire
Someone help us. If you want to know what happens when someone spends more energy concerning himself with public image than team composition, look no further than the GM of the team with the longest playoffless and Cupless streak in the league. McGuire strikes me as the same type of person. He is stubborn in arguing his point of view to the point that it seems to get all consuming. I'm not sure a GM in a city with a million opinions will find the time to do much team building when defending his positions night and day.

Jim Nill
This is Detroit's next in line. What he would bring might be an instant improvement in the way the team looks at development. If Timmins got some development gurus to work with, the team might take off. I don't know if Nill fits the bill, but he'd surely know some people to hire.

Pierre Lacroix
On the list of Quebecois who sued to be GMs. I don't look at Lacroix's record with the same rose-glasses as many others do. He inherited a team poised to be champions and he didn't mess it up. Kudos for taking advantage of a green GM trading a superstar goalie, but otherwise show me why he's up to building challenge.

Julien BriseBois
The team's former capologist is a hot candidate. But this isn't about capology, and this isn't Hamilton or Tampa we're talking about. It may make more sense to bring him back into the fold in a slightly more sheltered role.

Serge Savard
In retrospect, our complaints about Savard were a bit like our complaints about Timmins. A spoiled group of fans unwilling to accept that 15 more teams meant less frequent Cups. Savard was a good GM. Sure he made bad moves, but evidence might show he was less than free to do otherwise (Corey). The real question with Serge is why would he want to take this on? He certainly knows what the job entails.

Marc Bergevin
If you want to believe Bruce Garrioch (from which day, you say?), then Marc Bergevin is a candadate here. He's a Quebecois holding an assistant GM post on a success story, so I guess he just connected the same dots we all did. But he's very fresh to the assistant GM role, so I wonder why he'd even be ahead of BriseBois.

Don Maloney
This one's from me. Look Phoenix is done as a hockey destination, aren't they? The man who built the groundwork of a perennial challenger from basically nothing should be mooving to the province one way or the other. As an ambitious young GM, why wouldn't his ears perk up with the news of an opening? There are manay reasons why he wouldn't be the right candidate, but anyone that can egt David Rundblad for Kyle Turris has a fan in me. Perhaps competition from Edmonton here though.

Chuck Fletcher
Another one from me. I don't know if he's in trouble with the Wild. They probably aren't too thrilled with their standing either. Either way, Current GMs are free to explore their opportunities aren't they? Maybe not. Anyway, my point being he is a Montrealer, in charge of scouting for Anaheim in the much ballyhooed draft of 2003 where they were clear winners, apprenticed in Pittsburgh under Shero. He's got pedigree.

Vincent Damphousse
This one is making the rounds. Credibility from being a union rep? I hope not. I mean if he's to be judged from his on air opinions, I'd be afraid of the future with him at the rudder.

Patrick Roy
Oh the romanticism. Not sure what qualifies him to be a GM, but it'd be fun to hear a trade going down between Roy and Burke wouldn't it? He's a proven winner, for sure. But would he cede enough responsibility to the right people as a GM must?

Key requirements

We talk about people. But this opportunity really allows for the team to seek out candidates (known or unknown to them) who fill the characteristics they now recognize have been missing for years:

Expertise in pro scouting
Come on, it's about time someone that knows NHL talent when he sees it has some clout.

Expertise in development
Someone that can hire the right people and oversee a more efficient farm system. Maybe one that doesn't sap the life out of goalscorers before they lace up in Montreal?

Willingness to work
The Habs have suffered greatly because of the throw-away player attitude they have taken. The next GM will be a star if he can take the Mike Ribeiros he picks and outlasts the immature months.

This should be some fun guys. Go Oilers Go.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Game #77

Blown Call By Linesman Helps Habs And Panthers


Date: 27/03/2012
Opponent: Panthers
Location: Montreal

Loss: 2-3 (SO)

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Clemmensen(W)

Habs goalscorers: Cole, Leblanc
Opposition goalscorers: Wolski (1, SO), Samuelsson

Play of the game

St. Denis made a great play at his own blue-line to take the puck that totally caught Florida off-guard. A pass to Leblanc came with the interception and, wouldn't you know it, the Habs had a are 3 on 0. Leblanc was in first and instead of trying to get All-Star game cute he did it all himself as he deked the goalie and put in a beauty of a goal.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
Max was buzzing all night in the offensive zone, especially during OT. He didn't score tonight, but did take an incredible 9 shots on goal. He hasn't scored in a while which actually suits me and the Habs just fine. We all know that he is playing well and that he is a good player, we no longer need numbers to tell us that.

Louis Leblanc

Tonight was actually one of Leblanc's better games of the season. I was already thinking of giving him a dome spot when he took a high-sticking penalty. That I didn't like, but I have seen worse. But then his goal sealed his spot as it was truly a nice one. Even after tonight I am not convinced that he is top-6 material, but it is nice to know that come next Fall he will be realistically competing for a spot on one of the top lines.

Erik Cole
Cole scored his 31st tonight which is a career high for him and that was also his 56th point. He is now only 5 points from his best in that category too. It is a surprise to me that after all of the signings gone wrong in Montreal over the years Cole would come in here and be our best player and have one of his best years. If anything, Erik has made this season fun to watch when he and his linemates are on the ice.


Frederic St. Denis
I really liked what I saw from Fred tonight. He seems to know when to keep it simple and when to go for it. In my opinion, he is a superior defender to Campoli in every aspect of play and that should be enough cause to let Chris (as if they would keep him anyway) walk away this summer. His pass on Leblanc's goal was just one of many strong offensive plays St. Denis offered up tonight.

PK Subban
Markov and Emelin had rough games and Campoli wasn't that great either. So, of PK or Gorges I go with Subban tonight. He offered more than Josh in each zone throughout the game, but I can't say that I was too thrilled by some of his give-aways. He did, however, play 28-minutes of +1 hockey and added 4 blocked-shots to his season total.


Carey Price
Price was very good again tonight and can't really be faulted on either of the goals. The second one was a fluky goal that should have been whistled dead anyway. On top of that I don't think he had a good look at it and I don't think this was a case of losing focus because of a presumed offside. That kind of stuff happens way too fast for someone to just stop playing.


There wasn't much to that game really. The Habs had a couple of nice plays and Florida, quite frankly, got lucky to bag two points. The loss is what we wanted though, so it is a shame that it had to come after regulation yet again. 1 point, at this point, is still better than 2, however.

What I don't really understand is why the organization is trying to win at this point. I don't think that there is a rule that states you have to try to win (and even if there was we could have easily lost while still making it look like we wanted to win). From a coaching perspective I feel that Cunneyworth may want to win as he is likely gone anyway, so each win is better for his career - fair enough. The players should be torn here, though. Maybe certain guys want to stay in Montreal and, thus, don't want too many good players, via the draft coming in, but surely our top players (Cole, Price, Patches, Subban, Markov) must see the advantage of losing. And, seeing as those players are the reason we win (or get to OT) I am a little surprised with the constant desire to win. I think that losing on purpose can breed a losing attitude, but I am talking about 5-10 games here, not a season, surely these players could take a break from character-building for a few weeks, no? Lastly is the front office, now why would they want us to win. Revenue is what it is as the games will sell out and tv deals are done. A good businessman must know about short-term pain for long-term gain, shouldn't they? I think that the message should come down that we are happy with the points we have now, that from now on we ensure we finish 29th.

The league has made a stupid rule where losers are rewarded and there are a few former Habs execs that would be all over taking advantage of this flaw in the system. I see nothing wrong or unethical with trying to lose as the fans, players and management are all in this together for the long haul, with one goal in mind; to be better next year than they are now. We have 5 games to get that 29th spot and I hope that the team can do that for us. I mean, isn't that the least they could do after making us sit through what has been a very disappointing season?

On a more comical and heart-warming note we are now just three points back of Toronto. They will miss the playoffs again this year which comes after a start that many believed would carry them into a playoff spot. My hope is that they win their last few games and don't get a top-5 pick. I would especially enjoy a win when we play them in the last game of the year.