Friday, May 29, 2009

Rumour Mill: Animated Carboard Cut-outs

montreal - The future plan for rebuilding the Montreal Canadiens franchise was revealed today by the head office: "The team will be mostly comprised of animated cardboard cutouts of legendary players," said Chief Marketing Director Johnny Pamplemousse.

"Much like the beloved table hockey game, we will attach cutouts of Hall of Fame alumni to a complex set of magnets and pullies," Johnny said. "This will allow us to move them about as the game is played. The cutouts will not only be able to move, but we will also project famous video clips of each player's careers on the cutouts during the games."

A bold strategy indeed. When asked for the rational, Mr Pamplemousse indicated that with the upcoming cap-crunch, the Glorious Organisation had to make a choice; go into the limited pool of Unrestricted Free Agents, or shed the salaries altogether and leverage the cap space. "We are in a recession, don't you know. We must be financially responisble, while still providing a good product for the fans."

Asked how animatronic monstrosities of players past is good for the fans, Pamplemousse added: "Most of our actual players are pylons anyhow. Besides, most fans are only interested in the glory days. We doubt they'll even notice the other team on the ice." He still projects sold out ticket sales, plenty of TV coverage and analysis shows, and a 10% rise in standing ovations.

NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman solidly supported the idea, seeing it as a great way to sell more mechandise. He added that if he can get other franchises on board with the plan, he might be able to sell more games to NBC -- since the broader American hockey base can't relate to the game in the first place.

The NHLPA declined to comment.

in the off season i have nothing to write about - so i thought i'd add to the ridiculous rumour mill surrounding the canadiens. i hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rumour Mill: Koivu to be Shot Into Space

montreal - Reports are coming in that Saku Koivu, the Montreal Canadiens long beloved captain, will be shot into space July 19th.

"Its part of a controversial treatment," team Mad Scientist Jaques Squatt said. "While in space, and without the tyranny of gravity, Mr Koivu's spine will be elongated 10 inches, and shoulders expanded 3 inches on each side. Upon his return to earth, a rich diet of St Hubert's chicken gravy should fill out his new frame."

When asked why Mr Koivu would subject himself to such a radical treatment, it was Mrs Koivu who answered: "Saku recognises the teams need for a Big First Line Center, and as always, is willing to sacrifice his health, his life, his family, his sanity, intergalactic alien bacteria, anything for his team."

"Saks has always been our leader," Mike Komisarek said from the Canadiens dressing room (apparently he lost his keys after game 4 and is still trying to locate them.) "He's a big part of our team and a big part of our dressing room, and even if he returns a mutated freak, he'll have his heart and soul on the ice."

When it was pointed out that Koivu will be an unrestricted free agent July 1st, Jaques Squatt said, "Yes, there is a chance he might not sign. But there is also a chance he will burn up upon re-entry. Lets not put the cart before the horse."

in the off season i have nothing to write about - so i thought i'd add to the ridiculous rumour mill surrounding the canadiens. i hope you enjoy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ownership Woes

This article posted on made me sad.

Having the equivalent of Rogers / Bell fighting over the rights to own a hockey team is terrible news for the hockey team. These media companies are expanding their reach from Telecom to TV to TV content to entertainment. They want to own it all -- everything you see or do, must be done through them. Conspiracy? Not really, they just want your eyes and ears to buy their products and sell adverts. Nothing personal.

As for the hockey team, it means there is certainly no commitment to winning. So long as the stands are full, the TV coverage popular, and the endless stream of sports shows / rumour mills observed, then the team can play as lousy as it likes. Mega-Media-Mart still makes its cash. In fact the more the team is in disarray, the more media coverage.

Witness: the Toronto Maple Leafs. "Good Enough is good enough," seems to be the vision of the teachers ownership group.

If the Montreal Canadiens would like to win another championship, they ownership has got to make that a goal -- and give the GM to tools and freedom to make it happen. Gillett was a good owner: he wanted the team to win. Maybe he got a little panicy this year and encouraged Gainey to make some rash decisions, but I at least believe he wanted to win. He wasn't like Ilich from Detroit, willing to lose money to win, but he seemed like the kinda owner you need to get competitive.

But a telecom giant is just gonna use and abuse the team for its own ends -- and championships don't expand your market share if your coverage is already peaked -- it just costs you money in player and head office revenue.

I hate telecom companies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Round 3 -- Meh!

The Conference Finals have begun in hockey-land, and my interest wanes. So be it.

Pittsburgh Penguins v. Carolina Hurricanes
Although last night's game was close, I don't give the Canes much hope. (Wait, didn't I say that last time?) Both teams look tired; as they should after the game 7 series. Whereas Cam Ward had to carry the Canes this far, Fleury looked energetic; so I'm gonna say Pens in 5 games. That being said, the Canes might be the better trap-and-wait team (whereas Pens rely on energy) -- so this could be an upset. We'll see if Ward can find another reserve battery.

Detroit Red Wings v. Chicago Blackhawks.
Can the young upstarts beat the juggernaut? Its highly doubtful. Khabby-boolin seems to be getting steadily more mediocre, and Detroit too adaptable to let this one get away. Although they didn't have to go seven, I would suspect that the Hawks are starting to fade mentally and physically: they have never had to play this deep into the post-season, and realisation might be creeping in that they have really out-done themsleves. I will give them the surprise factor; Lets give them 2 games. So Wings in 6.

So we are looking at a replay of last years final. Sigh.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It Went from Glorious to Stinksville in 2 days...

With the Bruins loss last night, my playoff hopes have been completely crushed.

First, I only got close on one of my predictions, Wings in 6. I predicted Pens in 5, but the others I was wrong.

I was really hoping for a resurgent Bruins to get to the final. After they slapped around everyone during the regular season, and the addition of my wonder-boy Mark Recchi (playing with kidney stones? Amazing!) the Bruins were certainly my team, after spanking the Canadiens. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Anyhow, I knew there needed to be some upset; and had Anaheim made it through and not Carolina it would have been fine. But the way things are currently set, we are looking at another Pens / Wings matchup -- and I didn't even care about the first one.

OOooo, look at us, we're so talented and organized and everyone is oh so special and we play as a unit and are oh so good we leave little to chance... Stuff it.

In addition, did anyone else see the NHL Center Ice commercial where the loser Pens fan makes his own seat behind home made boards, because he's too much of a loser to go to a bar? They show all these highlights of him cheering the Pens over the Wings ... Detroit won you numb nuts! They are the better team!

Ooo, I'm kinda all over the place here.

All Im saying is the playoffs, to date, have been amazing. But the remaining series certainly don't intrigue like the last round. If I had to pick one: I hope Chicago wins it all. Any other result would be... mundane.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Exciting Hockey Doesn't Win Championships

So 2 of the greatest Playoff Series I have ever had the pleasure to watch have ended, and in general disappointment for me. I was hoping for Vancouver and Washington to win out.

On last night's Penguins blowout of the Washington Capitals; its a sad and embarrassing way to go out, but not entirely unexpected. These teams have been hammering each other for over a week -- and one was bound to crack once the end was in sight. In the end, the Penguins played a better team game (as they did all series). With Gonchar back, it steadied their blue line, and prevented the lethal Caps offense from getting the turnovers and rushes they have always punished on. Even early in the game the Pens were playing 5 men back -- but their positioning and structure was sound, and enabled them to break out against a flailing opponent. The 2nd and 3rd goals sucked the lifeblood out of the Caps, and they suddenly looked like an old-timers hockey team.

The Canucks and Hawks was another amazing series; violent and lethal, toe-to-toe and face to face. In this case I think the Canucks were the better coached team, (as far as structure goes) but there was a failure to protect the lead (I say that like its easy). A commitment problem perhaps, but I am no Canucks expert.

So the Penguins, a well disciplined and very talented team, will face either Boston or Carolina - both with strong team play. And the Blackhawks will either play Detroit (the definition of strong team play and loads of talent) or Anaheim, who have a stiffling defensive system and a punishing offense (and a hot rookie goltender). I would be very surprised to see the Hawks move on; leaving us with teams with lots of "systems" -- in short, bye-bye wide open exciting wild hockey.

The exciting teams managed to win some playoff series against "better coached" teams, like New Jersey and arguably the Rangers, but it takes such a high energy level that sustaining it through the entire run is near impossible.

So, my point (finally) -- you can't win a championship with wide open, high energy, consistantly violent hockey. And I would prefer to have my team play that way and die in the 2nd or 3rd round than win the Cup. I would much rather have my Montreal Canadiens play like any of these 2nd round teams, even the 'losers', than watch a New Jersey style win.

San Jose lost in the first round -- what a disappointment! And Washington almost blew it. So there is certainly a possibility that an exciting team won't even get out of the first round... But the way I look at it, winning the Cup these days is to unpredictable anyhow. Carolina is still a serious contender -- but if you look at that roster, and Staal's year, would you really have picked them? Either Detroit wins, or the South East Division champs. Who cares? Perhaps it has become like the NFL -- year to year, its anybody's game. Which is great for expanding the game and growing new markets, but terrible news for old franchises looking to return to glory. Detroit and now Chicago had to pay a terrible price to get where they are now.

So nevermind the outcome. It would be great to win, but lightning really has to strike. Instead, show me some awesome, exciting hockey! Make my team fun to watch, dangerous even when losing, prepared to sacrifice... That's what I want to see!!

Of course as soon as I get that I'll demand a championship. Who the hell am I kidding? But let's take this step first...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Where is your Messiah now?

For at least Mike Boone can recognise it... but in the last couple days all the big heroes in the playoffs have fallen flat. Mike live-blogged:

Our beloved team, as currently constituted, just cannot compete at this level.
And this comment upset me. Its exactly the kind of over reaction that drives quality talent away, has us firing coaches faster than Donald Trump, and gets the fans all riled up.

So, we should have dumped Lapierre for Steckle? Kovalev for Whitney? Varlamov for Price? Boone wanted Antropov as a big centre -- until he saw him play a game in a NYR jersey, then that love story ended. Sure, teams like Detroit and Vancouver have some killer talent -- but I seem to remember our currently constituted Habs beating Detroit and splitting with Vancouver.

The point is that, on paper, we have a competitive, if not excellent, team. Fire-saling it now for Umberger, Steckle, Fedetenko and the Juicey Jokinnen wouldn't achieve anything!

The Montreal Canadiens can compete at this level. It starts with coaching, and ends with teamwork. Dissension in the dressing room is what killed this team, and a crushing sense of guilt and shame for not delivering success in the 100th season.

Anyhow, I like Mike Boone, and as I mentioned above he did recognise that even the best players are capable to stinking it up worse than anything we saw in Blue-Blanc-Rouge this year. Thomas chocked, Varlamov had a soft glove, Hiller got ripped apart, Sundin hasn't scored... plenty of stories which, if in Montreal, would be magnified 1000 fold.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dangerous Precendent

There has been a lot of grumbling over Gary Bettman not being too keen to let Balsillie move the team to southern Ontario: the fans argument being, if the market can sustain it, then Bettman should shut the hell up and let the team move.

The issue is not Bettman being against another team in southern Ontario; not specifically. The issue is about control -- who dictates where the league has teams?

Sure, Phoenix has been a bit of a bust, and was never really a big hockey market. It was bigger than Winnipeg, that's for sure, but still not a huge success. So if Balsillie can move the team to a successful market, why would the league block it?

Because it sets a dangerous precedence. If owners can move the team willie-nilly, then how does the league protect its franchises, and its fan base? There are fans in Phoenix; they pack the stadium in the playoffs, and bring the "white out". So how can you justify the fact that there is no fan-base in Phoenix? The league thinks there is money to be made; why should they be told otherwise because one ownership group failed?

Older NHL fans might not give a flying crap about Phoenix as a hockey town, and I can feel that. But consider this; when the Pens were about to fold (before they got Crosby) it was Bateman who insisted the team stay in Pittsburgh. Same with Ottawa when Melnik took over. When Molson went to sell the Canadiens, to an American, it was Bettman who assured fans the franchise would never leave Montreal (remember, Molson was selling because they were losing money, and Gillett started making money.)

Balsillie is being a bully. He didn't get what he wanted on the first try, and is now using the leverage of Bankruptcy to force his hand. This is not about owning a hockey team, but about owning a hockey team in his backyard. Did Gillett demand the Habs move to Colorado? Did he want to move the soccer team to the MLS? No... so why should Balsillie have that luxury?

If Bettman caves, it shuffles the divisons, it ruins whatever potential market is in Phoenix, it limits the sport to existing markets as opposed to emerging markets, and it pretty much says: "Hey Ownership; move your team to where-ever the hell you want, never mind what's good for the league, what's good for our history, what's good for our sport." What's to stop a franchise from moving every 5 years?

Now folks can say "oh, that would never happen" -- but the point is once the league loses control, and only the 'money' makes the decision, anything can happen. Should the Islander's franchise move because the owner is a total moron?

I'm with Bettman on this. Basillie's tactics are underhanded and sneaky; and its not the way we want the NHL to determine who plays where. Bettman might be an idiot, but he's in charge. Give that up, and the League will be a damn clown show as franchises move at the scent of new money.

For the record, I would love to see another franchise in Canada. Just not this way.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Legend of Carbo

I would rather be a nobody behind the bench, then a hero away from it.
-- Guy Carbonneau
Carbonneau was on a SRC interview this week, answering some interesting questions, but by and large not putting him at risk of never coaching again.

What amazes me is the amount of support this Guy is getting; they reference his standing ovation at the Arts banquet in the interview, and the audience responds with its own chants of Guy! Guy! Guy!

This is the Guy who was sacrificed to the braying fans back in March, to satiate their blood lust over a faltering club. And now he gets standing ovations everywhere he goes?

Kyle Roussel posted on All Habs:

The unnamed agent goes on to say that most players today are aware of Montreal's great past...but don't care much for it. It makes for great stories, but doesn't carry much weight today. They use the past 15 years as more of a reference point.
This strikes to the heart of the matter: it seems like the press, and therefore at least 50% of the fan base, are more interested in the "story" part of "the most storied franchise." It seems like the press / fans are gonna manage to scare off the most interesting prospects we've had in years (Higgins / Komisarek / Price) -- only to praise them once they are gone.

It's a better story that way.

Too bad it means we won't see a winning team any time soon. And this is a real shame; because the hockey fans are extremely enthusiastic (like Toronto) and knowledgeable (unlike Toronto, where they would cheer a potato in a leafs Jersey). And really, it should be about the hockey, not about the story.

Even Bob Gainey got sucked up into this whirlwind of insanity, losing his cool and resorting to quick, rash decisions instead of playing his usual role of calming influence.

If all you want is stories, then we should sign Sean Avery, the Ruutus, a Tootoo, Downie, and Emery. Bring Fleury and McSorely in as Associate coaches, and really start the clown show. We would be (even more) dispised by the hockey world, but the Press would be happy because they'd have something to write about -- everything except that boring thing on the ice.

Should we start a "bring hockey back to Montreal" campaign? I get the feeling there are more Habs fans interested in a proper hockey team than the bullsh!t. So how do we combat the negative image of playing in Montreal?

Is this all just a massive over-reaction to a let down of the 100th season? Maybe everyone will go back to forgetting about the Canadiens for the 101st, like they did for the 99th, and we might get to see some exciting hockey again.

I'm frustrated with other people's frustration.