Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Team Canada Selection

Chatting with my bloggin' pal over at HHIB about the Team Canada selection process, its kind of an interesting topic for the dead time of the NHL.

Babcock seems determined to build a team around 'roles' and a 'system' -- as opposed to what Quinn would do and just take all the best players, and play his best as much as he could.

My basic opinion is that roles and systems take time to develop and to buy into: time Team Canada might not have. And Babcock would prefer someone who will dance to his tune than a talented upstart. So we'll end up with Dan Cleary instead of Dan Heatly.

Please go drop your 2 cents into the bucket; I'd be interested in what others have to say.

The link, again, is here:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pluky Plekanec gets 1 yr, 2+ mil

Gainey awarded Pleks with a pretty nice deal for a small center with ~40 points. It seems as though Gainey has recognized his talent, and is giving Pleks 1 more year to put up or get out. Gainey has burned his remaining cap space with this one, so forget getting Lang or Tanguay back.

I think this is a lot of money for a player who has failed to reach his potential, thus far. No doubt he is skilled and fast, but a threat he is not. He was dangerous short handed in 08, but when the pressure is on, Pleks is not. Even self admittedly, when he admitted he was playing like a little girl in the playoffs.

Still, you can do worse than Pleks, and hopefully the 1 yr contract doesn't get him down. Perhaps Jaque's new system will work well, and we'll see some explosive plays from the mini-man. I sure hope so- he can ne really exciting when his game is on.

On a side note, consider the depth of the two centennial teams:


Better hope no one gets hurt. More on that later maybe.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Unsigned

Mike Boone has a nice little post talking about the unsigned free agents who played last season with the Habs.

The Big Names
Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider.
There is no doubt that these players were top tier players in the last 5 years. They are not a hot commodity now, because of age, injury, and price.

Is Montreal the place where players go to die? You arrive in Montreal a respected hockey commodity, and leave as a forgotten husk -- torn down by pressures of a brutal and unfair media, a rabid fanbase, and the faces of hockey greats constantly frowning on you.

"Only 2 goals in today's loss Monsieur Tanguay? My spirit cannot rest with such a lack-luster performance..."
"I am sorry Monsieur Richard. But I cannot do it alone..."
"I find your lack of faith... disturbing..."

It is of course hog-wash. It might be true that players under perform here, and then thrive elsewhere; driving down their value while here, and then making Habs fans lament the loss of such a wonderful talent. We traded LeClair and Desjardins for Recchi, then Recchi for... I don't even remember... a memoriable keychain?

I liked having Tanguay and Schneider on my team. I dunno if I liked them more than Komisarek and Koivu (Higgins was ma boy, he is seriously missed.) But Gainey has spent his money, and is looking to build Jaques Martin a team (not the HabsTwit.) So they are gone. Where do they go?

Tanguay will get picked up by a team wanting to make a splash right before the season starts. He's costly, but good enough to bolster some excitement for a GM with no headlines. Maybe St Louis? Dallas? Something like that.

Schneider and Lang, well, old journeyman. Lang has already been to Washington and Pittsburgh. New York Rangers need a centerman, so maybe he'll end up there. He has to be signed to a team that wants to give the impression of being a contender -- like NYR or Habs. I can't see him in Leaf-land, as Burke has a new game plan that involves.. defenceman only or something.

Schneider proved in Atlanta he can't carry a team's defense; he has to be a part of a bigger picture. He still has Stanley Cup experience and is great on the powerplay - but its a tall order to give this guy top minutes. I dunno where he fits; and maybe he should take a massive pay cut to be part of something; but I dunno what. I'm blinded; I think the best place for him is Montreal. But I always felt that way.

As for Brisebois, he's is probably done. Bouillion should fit in nicely as a late summer signing to round out a team needing some energetic defense. Any team could use him. Except Toronto, who has enough already. Dandenault -- what happened? No reason for this guy to be sent packing to the AHL, but who would take him as either a D or a 4th liner? Dang, hard luck.

Good luck to all of them; you all played well for my Habs, and I feel lucky to have been able to watch you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Travis Moen in, Tommy K out

This one is really a woopidy-doo.

Travis Moen brings his grit, energy and character play to bolster our third/fourth line and penalty kill. He has more hits than Mara, and is a big-fat-minus player. But he actually should do a nice job filling that role. I look forward to him mucking it up with the toughies on the other teams.

Tommy-K leaves us to go to Carolina. I have no feelings for this move. Tommy-K was supposed to be like Begin, but either his conditioning or his heart failed him by the end of last season. He wasn't hitting as much, he wasn't physical with the other team, he wasn't fighting, and he wasn't really able to help out Guillaume and Maxime Lapierre. I still think he is a good teammate to have, and he always played with energy. I mean, who, at the end of last season, really played their all?

So long Tommy-K, I think you'll fit in really well in Carolina, and wish you some success. Carolina has been a much more succesful post-season club in recent years than the CH.

And it really is a shame about Tanguay. He'd be a great fit for the Habs this year I think, but his price tag is just too high. The Gazette is wondering how someone who cost us so much can now be looking for work, and the answer is simple: Tanguay is an expensive player, prone to injury, who is a great setup man. Teams that have snipers who need "the pass" are already set up, for the most part, so Tanguay's role is just not required. Talks of him in Phoenix or Miami make sense -- he will naturally boost any offensive unit -- but contenders have spent their money, and already formed their killer offense.

I wish we could keep him. Wherever he lands he'll be a pleasure to watch.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bring on the HItz!

Ok, so I was concerned we wouldn't have a hitter on the team; a guy who could (cleanly) push around opponents better players and make life miserable for the skilled forwards in our division.

... And so Gainey just signed Paul Mara: who according to this had 123 hits last year.

Andrei Kostitsyn had 124
Komisarek had 191
Luke Schenn had 206
Lucic had 262

And Clutterbuck won the day with 356

Mara, big, but not so much a hitter.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Saku to Kalifornia

Looks like our Fearless Leader has managed to find himself a new nest; Saku is now a Anaheim Duck!

I think this is great news -- he'll be re-united with Teemu Selanne, play with Scott Neidermayer, and have a chance to bolster a young(ish) team. Plus, its almost as far from Montreal as possible, so he should get some relief from the press. Maybe.

That being said -- think he's gonna be a first line center? Hell no. Getzlaf is a big, angry young, talented first line center. And now Saku can play the 2nd line / 3rd line role, wherever he is needed.

So really Saku is finding a spot that we hoped he'd find on the Habs -- but without a Getzlaf, Staal, Malkin, Lecavellier, etc... Saku's giant heart simply had no place to fill here on the East coast.

Hyvä Menestys Saku Koivu!!

The Trashing Continues

The Big Booner posted another story about other people's news stories, echoing the concerns a lot of sports writers have over the new-look Canadiens. The article is here.

I can't say any of these reporters are wrong. Like Boone, I respect McGuire. I can't disagree that Gainey's moves don't necessarily seem like an improvement.

The Habs got 3 small forwards; the Leafs got large punishing defence and checkers. The Habs got Gill, who is tall -- but hardly as good as Zdeno Chara. Kovalev went down the street, to fill out their already dangerous, if not inconsistent, offence. The Sens also have Pascal LeClaire, who could be awesome (if he retains the form he had a couple years ago.) Boston still has its core that made them no.1 last year, and Buffalo, with a healthy Miller is gonna be pretty good too.

So, are the Habs doomed? Its gonna be a killer division, and there is not a lot of confidence in the new changes.

Everyone is (still) upset because, as I mentioned before, its not what most fans wanted. Or expected. And there is still no Vincent Lecavellier. And what most people had on paper as their dream Habs team is now totally in the trash (see my post with my picks.)

So that's right McGuire, TSN, Gazette, La Presse, CNN, The Weekly World News, and Sesame Street, its not what you would have done. Because you aren't the GM. Only Gainey is the GM. He has a plan. He has a theory. Its different than (granted, a lot) people expected. It might completely fail. It might be brilliant. It will probalby be just Ok.

But lets give them at least a few games to actally play hockey to see where it stands. He wants to copy the New Jersey Devils. Not a bad theory, really. We don't have the NJD, but some of the peices are there, if they work together. Let them play!

Because, you have to realise, that you have no choice in the matter. Your only choice is to cheer for a different team. (Which for me is no choice at all, sadly.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Coaches

TSN is all about the Canadiens today, which is kinda nice to see. This story isn't exactly earth shattering, but does introduce our new coaches.

Looks like they once again did not take my advice and get Eddie as goal tending coach, or Chelios as Defensive Specialist. Its almost like they don't even read this blog! Come on!

Anyhow, it mentions how Groulx is basically Martin's main man, so this is no surprise. Groulx worked with Vokoun and Luongo, and these are good goalies, so there is hope for Price. Florida has had strong goal tending in the last few years; always a sneaker pick in hockey pools if you can get them. They might not win a lot, but their numbers are good. Hopefully Price can find his groove.

Pearn sounds like a coach with lots of experience, which is good. He can get the 'Money' players to stay on track, and maybe he already has a raport with Gomez. There are some pretty serious dudes behind the bench in Montreal now; lets see if they can get the team to get into a system and perform early. Otherwise, yikes!!

Anyhow, a few roster spots left to fill and we'll get an idea of what our team looks like.

If Tanguay / Lang are coming back, look for it to be at the end of the summer. They'll get signed somewhere, but they will really be after teams have gotten their RFAs signed, and need to stuff a few holes.

And it looks like Koivu will not be Captain (even if by some miracle he does come back.) Insert conspiracy theory about how 'no one can wear the C longer than Beliveau' here.

Habs Fans Always Looking Back - Time To Turn Around

In the aftermath of the shockwave that hit the Montreal Canadiens July 1st, its interesting to see how many fans, myself included, were left looking back over what was -- instead of looking forward.

It seems to be a great curse of the organization (and also what makes it so great). The shadow of past success and story overshadow the now.
  • Higgins gets traded, and there is an outcry of support for him to stay a Hab
  • Komisarek goes to the (yak) Leafs, and then reports surfaced we could have kept him if we gave him an 8 yr deal and the key to the city.
  • Koivu is not (yet?) resigned, and suddenly he's the best captain a hockey team could have.
  • Kovalev is not (yet?) resigned, and there are petitions for his return.
  • Tanguay is not (yet?) resigned, and there is much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.
Yes, as a Canadiens fan I have already stated I would like to have seen small tinkering to (what I thought was) the solid core. I loved Higgins and Komisarek, the wizardry of Tanguay's passes, Kovalev's punishing wrister from the half-boards, Koivu's bravery and determination, Komisarek's competitiveness, and Higgins' determination. I have fond memories of them all.

But that's just it; they're memories. It seems like only a few of these memories happened at once. If Komisarek was kicking ass, then Kovalev was asleep. If Kovalev was scoring, Koivu and Higgins were nowhere to be seen. There were streaks of brilliance; but it was never a complete picture.

You can't win with memories.

And its over. The team has a new polish, a new flavour, and what was there is gone. You can complain about it all you want, talk about what could have been, but really fans, you have to move on.

Stop thinking about what could have been; start looking at what we have. A defensive minded coach. 2 young players from the 2003 New Jersey Devils, still in their prime. Still a solid defensive core, and still some young talent. Stanley Cup experience. What does this mean? Looks like Gainey is gonna try and trap his way into success. He has all the pieces of a defence-first low scoring club, that wins games.

No one knows if this will work. And we'll always be able to look back at our 2008/2009 team and wonder "what if?" -- "shoulda-coulda-woulda" -- but it is all academic now.

And the press will pan it no matter what; even if we kept the hometown heroes and once again failed to get any 'elite' level players. They love to kill a guy, then weep on his grave like it was a tragedy. Mobster style.

I have to cheer for Gomez. It's not gonna be easy, but the colours run deeper than petty preferences. Go Habs Go.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm an idiot

So it turns out that OF COURSE Gionta and Gomez have played together, in NJ. So we'll see if their play can inspire this team to compete.

Also, the last post was really long. And probably boring. Sorry.

Your New Montreal Canadiens

So what have we got? What does this team look like now? Are we better? Worse? Or just different?

Massively different. But a contender, we are not. Yet. How can we be? None of these payers have played together before.

Gainey needed to reshape the Montreal Canadiens. But they weren't completely busted -- the core was Ok, and a few shrewd moves could have gotten fans really excited. Instead, much like he did with the bench, he turned it upside down and shook everyone out.

Our top line went from Kovalev, Koivu, Tanguay to Camelari, Gomez, Gionta. These new guys can score. They are on a line with guys who can score. Will they have the power to drive through the walls Toronto has put up? The will to crack Pascal LeClaire in Ottawa? The leadership and maturity to muscle through a disasterous road trip out West? Or did we just get 3 new Jason Blakes?

Gainey did go out and get Stanley Cup winners. That's important for a club that wants to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He went and got "better" players, in a paper sense of the word (except Gomez, who seems to be up there in the over-rated-asphere.) Gainey needed to show the other players in the league he was willing to cut dead weight, and sign legitimate players. Consider this: Gionta, Cammalleri, and even Gomez show up on fantasy hockey pool rosters. Koivu, Higgins, and even Tanguay do not (in recent years). So Gainey "got real." These are the kind of names that people will recognise, and take seriously, outside Montreal. And that's actually a good thing!

But what's got Habs fans upset (what has me upset) is I was getting to know and like the team we had. It blew chunks last April, but I liked the team. The young maturing core -- the familiar Habs faces, watching the team live together, die together, and pull together to have a better season next year... only to get shredded.

The Habs have always had this mystique about them where its "our team against the world." Which was why winning was so great. In the late 90s we lost that feel of "our team" with lack-luster players and a lack of heart and commitment from all players. But in 2007/2008, it was back! Our youngsters were having a great year, our star goalie took us to the top of the standings, and our super-star Kovalev was lighting it up.

But now I dunno who my team is. I have to start from scratch. Is Gomez really a bum? Is Gionta over the hill? Is Gill really just the last surviving Ent from Middle Earth?

Its not as bad as fans are making it out. I dunno if we have a contender, because half the team has never even played together before. I'll miss Higgins and Komisarek. I'll miss Koivu (who'd be a great 3rd line C and captain for this new look team.) If Tanguay goes, I'll miss him too (I always like Tanguay).

But on paper I liked last year's team a lot, and it failed. Maybe with the lowered expectations this year, we'll see something special.

My problem is I have to get over it. Its done. Bonjour la visite; favorite players off the team, new batch rolling in. No going back. Sadly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Hangover...

July 2nd, 8am,

The Molson family cabin, somewhere in Northern Quebec.

The brothers awake after a wild Canada Day weekend cottage party.

Andrew: Whoa, some party last night, eh?
Geoff: Yeah, I can't believe I drank the whole thing.
Justin: I can't believe I proposed to a racoon...
Andrew: well, it was a big racoon...
Justin: No kidding. It clawed the Hell outta my face.
Andrew: you weren't wearing any pants...
Geoff: Man I'm starved. Who wants eggs?
Andrew: Hey, didn't something important happen yesterday?
Geoff: Oh yeah! We own the Canadiens again!
Justin: Oh crap! And it was the first day of free agency!! Dudes, we totally missed it!
Andrew: shit shit shit.. omygod... who did we leave in charge?
Geoff: Bob Gainey...


Justin: pfff, no problem!
Geoff: Bob? Genius! We'll be fine.
Andrew: you're right your right... I dunno why I was freaking out. Good Ol' Bob. Everything will be fine.
Justin: Man, I can't wait to see who we got. With Higgins and Komisarek, bring in Gaborik to help out with the scoring...
Geoff: or finally get that Tampa deal done. That'd be sweet.
Andrew: for sure.
Justin: cool. So what happened to those eggs?


Higgins for Gomez. Sob.

I had to re-write this post. Initially I was grudgingly accepting of this trade. Then I looked at Gomez's numbers. Then I remembered how stupid I thought the NYR were for paying him all that money. I thought about how bad I would mock my pals if the Leafs made this move.

This is terrible. I really like Higgins. I would have pegged him as a cornerstone of the rebuilding Canadiens. I know he didn't have big numbers, but when he was playing well, he had an uncanny ability to have the puck stick to him: whether working in the corners or killing a penalty. Higgins was my favorite Hab -- he even wore my number (which was Carbo's number).

And we got a player who has only broken the 20 goal mark once in his career? Sure, he was on Stanley Cup winning teams -- but he was not the reason they won. He was surrounded by a winning team. He may have been a good second line center for NJ, but so is Trevor Zajac.

Gainey needed a big-time player to draw in other top talent. He needed to convince other players in the league the Canadiens are gonna be a serious hockey club and a competitive one. Gomez is not that guy. Players didn't flock to NY to play with him, and if he really is the 1st line center on our Habs, then its gonna be a laugh of a season.

Damnit. This is starting to suck. I sure hope Bob has other tricks up his sleeve, and Gomez ends up beng a "nice to have" instead of "all we have".