Monday, 30 September 2013

Andrei Markov has a cannon laser beam

One of the cool things about team sports is the camaraderie, the highjinks and the laughs you share while you work for a common goal.  We get a great example in this video.

Conditioning drills aren't always fun, but you have to do them.  It's always good to spice it up a little bit, to at least break up the monotony.  Canadiens Coach Michel Therrien knows this, and he holds little contests to get a bit of competition going and get the guys involved.  One of the drills he uses is to have a player shoot from one end of the rink at the net on the other side.  If he misses the net, the entire team skates a lap.  If he makes it, they get a reprieve.  Now the curlicue is that if that player was ever to hit the crossbar, which would never happen, since it would be a one in a million shot, and most players would take a safe shot at the net to avoid the skating, rather than aim at a crossbar and miss the net entirely, but anyway if they were to hit it, the coaches would skate five laps instead.

Andrei Markov isn't most players.  He's a singular talent and a bit of a character, he has some rough edges, but as the video shows, he makes himself King for a Day by blasting a puck right off the crossbar with a satisfying ping.  It's great to see his teammates react, and David Desharnais later being quoted that he's never seen Andrei celebrate anything so enthusiastically, not an overtime win, not a shootout goal, nothing.  

I think it was Andy Reid who one day at the Philadelphia Eagles training camp promised his guys a day off, but only if his Offensive Line coach, a great big barrel of a man, could catch a punt on the fly.  The video shows a punter skying a football, the coach tottering unsteadily under it, adjusting but seemingly about to keel over from the effort, until the ball drops right into his hands as if they were Vel and the ball cro.  The whole team erupted in howls of disbelief and rapturous celebration, while Coach Reid wore a bemused smile in the midst of his players laughing and hugging and high-fiving and swarming the OL coach and rolling on the ground, probably wondering to himself how he was going to re-jig his camp schedule to accommodate this unforeseen break.

Coach Therrien was similarly befuddled, explaining to the press corps that this was the first time in twelve years that he's used this drill that someone has ever hit the crossbar.  But that's Andrei for you, that's what you get when you challenge him.

Canucks trade for Zac Dalpe, investigated for highway robbery.

I don't understand this trade on Carolina's part.  They dealt Zac Dalpe and a low-grade 6'3" prospect in exchange for a kid I've never heard of who will probably never make the NHL, and a fourth-round draft pick.

The Canucks get the third-line centre they've been desperately searching for, especially when it became obvious that Brendan Gaunce and Bo Horvat were not him.  They might have hoped that they'd find a treasure on the waiver wire, but that didn't materialize.  Then the Hurricanes happened by, and Mike Gillis picked their pocket.

While he was rummaging in there, he pried loose a 6'3", 200 lbs forward who was a point per game player in the NCAA.  The Canucks are perennially bereft of size in their forward corps, so this throw-in actually fills a need, and could contribute down the line.

So the Canucks are up two.  In return the Hurricanes get what, half a mill in cap room? The kid was in the AHL anyway, his salary wouldn't have counted against their cap.  Are they such a shoestring operation that they're going to give up on a player with size and scoring ability and upside to save $800 000?

It really doesn't add up.  Kellen Tochkin is a player who I'd literally never heard of, he was never brought up in any of the most optimistic articles on the Canucks prospects.  Hockey's Future didn't have him among the Canucks Top 20 prospects.  So the Canucks give up a fourth-round pick for a low-end prospect, which would be even-steven, but then get their third-line centre for free?

Can someone explain this to me?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Mike McCarron not on the first line with the London Knights?

A commenter on social media posted that, after seeing Mike McCarron in action against the Guelph Storm tonight, there is a lot of development that will need to occur for him to turn out as Canadiens fans almost expect him to, that is to be a big tough Top 6 winger who'll cause havoc in front of the opposition net and inject a healthy dose of mean in the lineup.  In short order.

Instead, his report spoke of a lack of icetime, having only two shifts in the first twelve minutes, and playing on the third line with the Rupert twins, agitators and grinders, instead of the top line and on the powerplay.  Another worry is with his skating, as he tended to coast around to keep his speed up, since his acceleration isn't that great, but this won't cut it in the NHL, coasting around in circles (otherwise known as andrei-kostitsyning) doesn't work there, the game is all about stops and starts, skating in straight lines.

Idly, this is where we can revisit the decision to play at London rather than at Western Michigan. My sense is that NCAA hockey is heavy on practices and skill development, while CHL hockey is better for playing lots of games and developing that game feel and facing pressure situations. I thought that getting lots of gym time and working on his skating stride in college might be preferable, based on the scouting reports. A bonus would have been that he could have turned pro and played AHL hockey next season, as an option. With the Knights, he has to play at least one more season before he can go to the AHL.

Now, when we were told that Mike would play on the first line with Bo Horvat and Max Domi, that he’d get lots of powerplay time, be the guy who bangs in the corners on that line and mucks it up in front of the net, pots in rebounds, that sounded good. We thought of a possible selection to the US World Junior squad, and a guaranteed trip to the Memorial Cup, and the London Knights made sense, they were just as propitious a destination as any other really.

It’s early in a long, long season, and we shouldn’t panic just yet, but really, were we astoundingly stupid to trust Dale Hunter?  Shouldn't that guy be in jail anyway, for crimes perpetrated against humanity, hockey, and Pierre Turgeon?

Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole are conquering U.S. sports fans with their wacky brand of news

Watching the Chargers game on Fox,  we saw quite a few promos for the new show featuring former TSN Sportsdesk anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. In one clip, Mr. Onrait says the American viewing public has received him well mostly because he looks like Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory”.

I wish those clowns well, but won’t really miss them, their act was tiresome, over the top of ‘over the top’. Some may disagree, but I was watching to see sports highlights, not Jay Onrait mug for the camera.

The reviews seem pretty good though.

NFL 2013 Week 4: Chargers 30, Cowboys 21

My greatest concern this summer, that we wouldn’t have any protection for Philip Rivers, that he'd be caused to decease by one of many jailbreaks of defensive linemen swarming their way through a rough sieve, has been allayed somewhat in the first four games.  Our offensive line, made up of a veteran Pro Bowler at centre (Nick Hardwick), a 2013 first-round draft pick at right tackle (D.J. Fluker), and assorted holdovers and retreads everywhere else, is actually doing a creditable job.  They’re downright competent, keep Philip upright and in a position to win games, contrary to last season, and we can run the ball, contrary to everything that's happened since LaDainian left.

So yeah, with a no-name journeyman offensive line, we’ll be in most games, and not as I feared in the hunt for the first overall pick.  I'll go ahead and give credit to Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and O-Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris for molding an effective unit out of spare parts, keeping it together while injuries strike, and designing their game plans to account for that.

Left Tackle King Dunlap was out, replaced by second-year undrafted free agent Michael Harris, and both putative starting guards Chad Rinehart and Jeromey Clary were also injured.  During the game, sub Rich Ohrnberger was injured as well, so Steve Schilling, who's spent two seasons with the team but was a late cut at camp this summer, and who was re-signed this week, had to step in to finish the game.  With all this turmoil, Philip was sacked only once, and the ground game piled up 112 yards.  Like I said, competent.

O.C. Whisenhunt has changed the playbook from yesteryear, when Philip and Drew Brees before him would let fly deep down the field to Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers.  That worked because we had a stellar offensive line, with Pro Bowlers Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman on the left of Nick Hardwick.  With those guys protecting him, and with his physical receivers overmatching smaller defensive backs, our QB could bomb away with confidence.  Nowadays though, without that complement of weapons at receiver, and to make the O-line's job easier, Coach Whisenhunt is dialing up short passes to get the ball out of Philip's hand much quicker.  And it's been working.  The passing game yielded 400 yards and three touchdowns.

There were other bright spots.  I had to notice how well Eric Weddle played, seeing as how he was assigned to cover Cowboy Tight End Jason Witten, who was shut out of the game.  Jason Witten was on the squad of an opponent in one fantasy league.  Like I said, had to notice that, I was expecting him to burn me like he usually does.  Nice job Eric.

The receiving corps is getting in sync with Philip.  Antonio Gates looks like the Pro Bowl version of old, but the young ones also chipped in.  Keenan Allen caught five balls for 80 yards.  Danny Woodhead got two touchdown grabs.

Now we're not going to get carried away with this win.  We may have run into the only other team that is more un-'clutch' and more of a crushing disappointment to its fans than ours.  The Cowboys are like a British roadster from the sixties, superficially appealing but poorly designed and fundamentally unreliable.  We caught them at home, had a good day, chalk one up in the win column, and now need to get ready to deal with those reprobates from Oakland next week.

Louis Leblanc nemesis Chris Kreider also sent down to the AHL

In Louis Leblanc news, Chris Kreider was also sent down to the AHL today by the Rangers. So for those of us who think we should have picked him instead of the local boy, we’re still witnessing a close race, it’s a dead heat.

Everyone just thank your lucky stars that we didn’t end up with Nazem “(hold me back…) Let me at them!” Kadri.

Dalton Thrower sent down to Junior team, will be the #1 defenceman on the Vancouver Giants

Dalton Thrower has been sent down to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL after failing to win a job on the Hamilton Bulldogs at training camp.  Not that he played badly, but he would have had to the best player on the ice to have a shot.  We covered this before, he's had a difficult previous season in Saskatoon, and the lineup in Hamilton is already crowded with young defencemen who need icetime, so he's better off going back to the WHL.

And while it may be disappointing, it's not like he won't be welcomed with open arms.  He'll play a big role there, lots will be expected of him.  He'll need to meet or exceed these expectations to wipe the slate clean from last season, and earn a contract with the Canadiens.  Let's hope he takes the bull by the horns and responds well.  He says he models his game after Kevin Bieksa.  Well, we can always use a one of those on our team.

Patrice Cormier, Jeff Schultz, others available on NHL waiver wire

Some interesting names on the end-of-training camp NHL waiver list. Patrice Cormier is a big young tough slightly unbalanced winger, in the mentally-unhinged sense.  We could use one of those guys. Jeff Schultz is also being waived, Douglas Murray ended up being the big cheap defenceman acquired to bolster our toughness back there, and I know that Jeff Schultz isn’t a terror, but he is a rightie, and a little better with the puck.  I've made the case that I thought he might be a good add to the mix on our defence, but even I doubt my hockey acumen compared to Marc Bergevin's team, I'll trust them on this one.

We do see the dynamic though of how Gabriel Dumont easily went through waivers. A lot of Canadiens followers were worried he might not slip through, but we need not have worried.  If a team picks up a guy on waivers, either they have to put one of their own on waivers, or send a promising kid back down to the farm team and mess with his morale. No wonder organizations are leery of picking up another team’s castoffs, this early in the season every roster spot seems to be spoken for. Later on this season, if these players and others were waived, by then a few holes would have been created by injuries, and they’d be snapped up.

Oh, and after Hockey Night in Canada and TSN contaminating me with hours of Korbinian Holzer and Mike Kostka hype last season, with Mark Masters slurping them every chance he could, the former is on waivers and the latter was let go as a free agent this summer.  Now, which Leaf boy-wonder will get all the ink this season, and disappear before the next?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Matt Lashoff cut from Bulldogs training camp

The Hamilton Bulldogs made their first cuts today, releasing six players who were in camp on a tryout basis.  There were no surprises among the names, except for one.  Matt Lashoff may have seemed a good fit as the left-shooting AHL veteran defenceman to help out the young prospects, but everybody else was training camp fodder.

As we've harped on, there will be five rookie or second-year defencemen on the Bulldogs roster, with Greg Pateryn, Nathan Beaulieu and Morgan Ellis the returnees, and Darren Dietz and Magnus Nygren the newcomers.  We'll need some d-men with size and experience to pilot these kids through the shoals of professional hockey.  These veterans wouldn't necessarily take up a lot of minutes or pressure situations, those will be reserved for the prospects, to temper them.  Veterans would come in handy however to provide support and mentorship while the kids develop, to steady things on the bench and in the dressing room.

Matt Lashoff, a serviceable two-way d-man with lots of AHL games under his belt and some NHL experience as well would seem to fit the bill, but any reports on his play at Canadiens camp was that he was underwhelming.  If he's not showing anything there's no sense keeping him at camp.

There are other vets still there, Drew Shiestel and Joel Chouinard among others.  Davis Drewiske could conceivably end up in Hamilton too, once he's all healed up.  There will be a churn of defencemen cut from NHL and AHL camps soon, and a resultant domino effect, so some homeless blueliner could catch Marc Bergevin's eye and get scooped up and plunked down on the third pairing.

With the Canadiens roster now set, we're going to have a good sense of what the Bulldogs roster will look like in a week or so.

Akim Aliu, Dalton Thrower each get two assists in Bulldogs pre-season loss.

The Canadiens AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs were defeated 5-3 by the Toronto Marlies last night, in a game which saw most of the players recently sent down from the NHL camp not dressed for the 'Dogs.  Stefan Fournier and Erik Nystrom tallied goals, and Akim Aliu and Dalton Thrower each got two assists.  For a team that will need to improve its offence from last season, it's notable that the powerplay went 0 for 4.

About Akim Aliu, you'd expect him to do well in early-season play in the AHL, while a lot of the talented players are out of the mix, still vying for NHL spots.  He's an AHL veteran hitting his prime, some of the undrafted junior players are going to find that he's a load.  So it's great that he got two assists, that's what we would have expected in a game like this, that he'd be one of the best players on the ice.  But let's hope that some things fall into place for him during this tryout and he shows he deserves a contract from the Canadiens.  Marc Bergevin and Rick Dudley must know what they're dealing with here, due to Mr. Aliu's time in the Chicago organization, maybe they have some insights into the situation.  If he pans out, he'd be like found money, a big tough winger with decent hands, it's not like our system is overflowing with those.

Dalton Thrower's two assists aside, we could make the same general point about him, that a second-round draft pick from two summers ago facing off against a lot of free agents and undrafted juniors should shine.  I don't want to root against the kid, but on paper it's hard to see him fitting in on the Bulldogs roster, stocked as it is with young defence prospects who need icetime.  Even with Jarred Tinordi sticking with Le Grand Club and no longer hogging minutes, we still have Nathan Beaulieu, Morgan Ellis and Greg Pateryn coming back for their sophomore year, and Magnus Nygren and Darren Dietz who will play their first (North American) pro season.  That's five kids who need a lot of icetime already, there won't be a lot left to go around.  Also, Dalton is a rightie, and so is everyone of the prospects except Nathan.  Plus, there are a few AHL veterans, guys like Drew Shiestel and Matt Lashoff who were brought in to help out, they need to be worked into the roster too.

Unless Dalton blows everyone away at camp, it's best that he go back to the Vancouver Giants, benefit from being the #1 defenceman in a strong organization, and from being coached by Don Hay.  He'll get to work on his game and be played in all sorts of pressure situations and  have special teams responsibilities.  He wouldn't have that opportunity with the Bulldogs.  So going back to junior is not optimal for a 20 year old normally, but in his specific case, since he had an uneven season last year, it's probably what will help him develop in the long run.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Pre-Season Game 7: Canadiens 3, Senators 1

Well, it wasn't the convincing win we expected.  The mostly AHL-bound players who wore the bleu-blanc-rouge and battled the largely NHL-equivalent Senators last night were easily bettered 5-2, and it wasn't as close as the score would seem to indicate.  The second game of the back-to-back was supposed to be our team's chance to roll over the Sens' AHL'ers, but it didn't prove to be easy.  Their kids were big and tough, and played hard to try to earn a spot, and we were fortunate to eke out a 3-1 win.

Starting with the positives, Carey Price was quietly excellent, stopping 29 out of 30 shots and cooling everything down when the play in our end was getting frazzled.  Ultimately, goaltender evaluation is pretty basic, it's a numbers game.  If the goaltender stops 9 out of every ten pucks, he'll not have an NHL job for long.  If however he stops 9.5 pucks, or stated another way 19 out of every 20 pucks directed his way, he'll go to All-Star games, take his team to the playoffs, and have a long career.  It's a wafer-thin margin, but that's the game those guys are involved in.

Carey has many qualities, such as his calm demeanor, his affable personality that makes him a favourite among his teammates, his superb puck handling outside his crease.  What has lagged behind these qualities, his natural gifts and the potential every expert sees in him is his actual production while stopping pucks.  He tailed off markedly at the end of the season, and dragged his save percentage down to a pedestrian .905 when all was said and done.  This is clearly unacceptable for a frontline goalie of his caliber, a former high first-round pick, and a man in his tax bracket.  He will need to improve markedly for him to earn an invite to Sochi, and to allow the Canadiens to reach the playoffs and have success then.

Michaël Bournival was dangerous all game, despite being asked to play on the fourth line with Ryan White and Travis Moen, two wingers who are unlikely to help him shine offensively.  He made the best of it, setting up Ryan White for a golden scoring chance early in the first period.  He won all four of the faceoffs he took, and took four shots on goal.  For his troubles, he would have been happy to hear Michel Therrien confirm that he'll start the season as part of the Canadiens' 23 man roster.  Belle job, p'tit gars.

Note that Coach Therrien lauded the young Bournival for arriving to camp in superb shape.  The same can't be said about Nathan Beaulieu.  Very early, I saw him get rubbed off the puck behind his net, and I wondered if he was in for a long night, this being his second game in two nights.  Instead, he was one of the Canadiens who drew my attention all game, his skating silky smooth, his passes crisp.  It's amazing how talented this kid is, at only 20 years old he did very well against NHL competition.  Let's hope he puts it together this season in Hamilton, that he gets his head screwed on straight and capitalizes on the opportunity he's being offered.

Some grousing was heard about Alex Galchenyuk, probably due to his giveaway early in the first that led to the Sens' first goal.  We have to remember the kid is 19, he should still be in junior, he's going to have another season during which he progresses, but there will be peaks and valleys.  The kid has all the tools, he needs to put in the work all season long and it will pay off.

Dave Dziurzynski, another young towering Senator prospect, got a two-minute boarding call for driving P.K. Subban head first in the corner with a crosscheck.  P.K. was no worse for wear and kept control of the puck, which meant a delayed call.  The ref raised his arm and played the advantage for the Canadiens, except that Mr. Dziurzynski held P.K. the entire time the delayed call lasted, illegally preventing him from making a play.  Why there wasn't an additional two minutes tacked on I understand, since this is the NHL, but I'll never agree with it.

Travis Moen tried to provide the team with a physical presence, to contribute, since he and Ryan White were the only 'tough guys' dressed for this game.  Luckily, the Sens didn't press that advantage, the game was played relatively cleanly.  At one point, Mark Borowiecki and Travis jousted and seemed ready to go when a linesman intervened and put a stop to it with a spectacular tackle of the Senator pugilist.  Later, Travis ended up squaring off with Matt Kassian, which was a mismatch before the bout, and certainly during.  Our number 32 didn't cover himself in glory with this one.  With the news that Michaël Bournival is sticking with the team, I have to idly wonder what Travis' future holds.

Finally, an arresting aspect of this game was the presence of Buddy Robinson on the Sens' roster.  Every time Pierre Houde called his name, it was jarring, I'd be transported back to the Seventies when Larry patrolled the blue line and made sure we were all safe and everything would be all right, and vanquished dirty Bruins and filthy Flyers.  I almost shed a tear.

Brian Savage gets my blessing to appear on "Battle of the Blades"

I'm skeptical of the whole "Battle of the Blades", although a couple of friends swear by it, they love to see "strong men showing their artistic and vulnerable side" (guess what gender they are).  So I kind of think the whole reality show is bogus, but then I see the Brian Savage promotional picture, and I get it.  That's some reality there, Brian.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Fighting in hockey is not necessary, and needs to be banned

Back in the day when there was only one referee who was often distracted and there were cheap shots dished out behind the play, maybe there was a need for fighting in hockey, for players to police themselves.  Nowadays with cameras catching everything on the ice, that need no longer exists.  What has to happen is that the league take cleaning up the game seriously, enact penalties during the game or after the fact on video review for slashes, slew foots, crosschecks, any hits to the head, etc.  It sounds crazy now but that's the way the game should head, and it's infinitely more sustainable than what happens now.

The idea that fighters keep the game clean is now a disproven trope.  Bigger, meaner players, now two or three aside on some teams, with no hockey talent or value to their team aside from their intimidation capacity, cruise around the ice five minutes a game and cause mayhem, trying to justify their spot on the roster.  Designated punchers face off and neutralize each other at best.  The Chris Prongers and Milan Lucics of the game avoid these players but use their size and strength advantage to crosschek and elbow smaller players.  Ryan Kesler slashes with abandon, but tells an opponent trying to avenge a transgression that he "doesn't fight fourth-liners".  On and on it goes, the fights don't settle scores, they're assymmetrical and just create more anger and blood-feuds, our own version of the Middle East peace progress on ice.  Did the Detroit Red Wings settle their score with Claude Lemieux, or did they escalate an incident into a much longer, bloodier ordeal?

We have to understand that the idea that a fight allows players to release their anger and return to a normal, even state of operations is based on the fallacious 'Drive Theory', which held that man was a creature who accumulated needs like hunger or thirst and had a drive to reduce these needs.  Once you drank or ate, you returned to a normal balanced state, which was healthy.  Same with anger or frustrations, these built up and if you didn't do anything about it you'd blow, it was healthy to release it now and then.  That theory has been disproved, its central tenets debunked.

Specifically when it comes to anger, a person who 'vents' their anger once in while isn't healthier than the person who doesn't, and isn't dealing with frustration in the only way possible.  In fact, people who act out on their anger don't release stress, as is regularly depicted in popular culture, what they're actually doing is learning to be angry, setting up a pattern in behaviour that is repeated and escalated, so an angry profane outburst becomes smashed furniture and a hole punched into the wall becomes a visit to a hospital, a family refuge and a journey through the justice system for everyone.  There's a reason modern anger management techniques are about replacing inner negative dialogue ("I don't deserve this", "How dare she"...) to more positive scripts ("I can't control others", "I can't deal with this while I'm angry"), rather than making people hash it out and break stuff.

Those who say that hockey always has had fighting as a part of it are willfully blind to the fact that Olympic or international or NCAA or minor or rec league hockey do great without it.  Hockey always prevented goalies from dropping to the ice too, until the rule changed.  Sports evolve.   Apologists say it's a fast-paced game with collisions, clashes are bound to happen, yet football and rugby to name two contrary examples are much more violent yet fights are not tolerated in those.  To those who say that the fans are entertained by it, I would reply that some people used to be entertained by prize fighting and bear-baiting, and as a civilized society we've agreed that they are horrible, unacceptable activities which must be outlawed.  So it will be for fighting in hockey, those who support it are on the wrong side of the debate and history; it will inevitably be outlawed, and our brains and society and children will be healthier and safer for it.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Pre-Season Game 5: Canadiens 3, Devils 2

This should have been an easier win against a Devils split-squad, given that the Canadiens iced a lineup that is largely identical to the one we should see next Monday for the opening game of the season.  A win is a win, we shouldn't look the pre-season gift horse in the mouth, but we would have expected the margin of victory to be more comfortable against the parade of AHL'ers the Devils were giving a look-see.

One thing I noted during the first period is how refreshing it is playing against a team like the Devils, one which prizes hard-work, defence and team commitment, but not goonery and mayhem.  There were a couple of trepidatious mentions about the Devils's fourth line, how it was constituted of goons Krys Barch, Tim Sestito and Cam Janssen, but they played it clean and fair.  There were several confirmed sightings of Brendan Gallagher upright and being allowed to remain so after whistles.  Indeed, when Martin Brodeur would freeze the puck, you'd see two or three Canadiens forwards near him, not interfering or in the blue paint, but close by, ready for a rebound.  And they wouldn't slash and dig at the puck, and in return the Devils wouldn't cross-check, slewfoot, or try to wrench Brendan's head off his shoulders.  The whistle had gone, the play was over.  Once or twice a Devil defender pushed a Canadien forward out further, but again, it was a comparatively civilized shove, hands on the chest, as opposed to gloves in the face or shaft in the teeth.  Footage of this game should be used for the training video for officiating standards in the NHL, if there were such a thing as training videos or training for officials, or officiating standards or standards in the NHL.

I've voiced concerns about how Daniel Brière will fit on the David Desharnais line, but tonight's game provided some reassurance.  Max potted two goals, and the three of them seem to be getting in synch.

Jarred Tinordi again caught my eye, and he is basically forcing his way onto the team.  I at the outset preferred that he be sent back to Hamilton for more development, but he's showing by his play that he is ready for NHL action.  He's not showing flashes of what he could become once or twice per game, but rather playing consistently solid hockey, showing smarts and maturity, and that he's physically ready to stand up to fully-grown men.  He showed confidence with the puck in the offensive zone, and his backcheck and effort when he was caught at the offensive blue line on a Devils rush was extolled by Gaston Therrien on the RDS postgame.

Earlier this summer, when Douglas Murray was signed, I explained that I'd feel more comfortable with Jarred staying up up with le Grand Club now that he wouldn't have to be the sole physical presence on the blue line until December and Alexei Emelin's return.  With Douglas Murray on board, opposition forwards will have two imposing d-men to contend with, and won't be able to key on one.  I'm hopeful that Michel Therrien can mix and match his lineup based on the opponents and injuries, and offer Jarred achievable assignments and reasonable minutes, which based on his handling of Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk last season seems likely.

I was glad that Ryan White got the winning goal, a tip-in of a Jarred Tinordi shot. Whitey gets full marks for winning the draw, then being in the right place at the right time, in position to screen Martin Brodeur and cash in a rebound.

In our haste to make room for Michaël Bournival, who admittedly is having a great camp, some of us are preemptively ejecting Ryan from the roster.  From his time in junior and later in Hamilton, Ryan has been a character player and coach's favourite that teammates love, so let's give the kid a chance.  He's a good option on the fourth line since he can play center and wing, win faceoffs, bang and crash and drop the gloves, and bring a dose of enthusiasm when needed.  Last season was a difficult one for him, he had a couple of on-ice discipline issues, but let's remember that he finished the previous season on IR with a concussion, so he might have still been in the fog like fellow concussees Travis Moen and Raphaèl Diaz.  Let's give these guys a clean slate, and spare a thought for Lars Eller who also took a wallop at the end of last season.  If Lars is struggling early on, let's not climb on his back right away.

And a quick shoutout to new Canuck Yannick Weber, who scored once on a slapper and added a powerplay assist in a 6-1 Vancouver win over the Chapter 11 Coyotes.  Good luck to you this season Yannick.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Brenden Morrow for one year at $1.5M? Why couldn't we have signed him for that?

News item:  Brenden Morrow has signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues for $1.5M.  That's it.  There goes the theory some fans promulgated that he was waiting for a long-term deal to come his way.  In reality, he snapped up the first firm contract offer he received, in contrast to the few pro try-out offers he was rumoured to be considering.

Not to belly-ache too much, but as an uninformed fan who doesn't have all the facts at hand, I would much prefer our team's outlook if we had foregone signing Daniel Brière and used that money on both Brenden Morrow and Simon Gagné instead.  Not sure if Marc Bergevin or anyone predicted this kind of market in late June, one in which many quality veterans can be had in August and September for cheap on short-term deals, but the latter two players would complement our lineup much better than Mr. Brière.

Brenden Morrow could play on any line.  On the left of Tomas Plekanec, he'd allow René Bourque to switch over to his preferred right wing, and he'd do some digging in the corners and hang around the front of the net, while pitching in with some diligent defensive work, which is crucial on that line.  He could be the veteran on the kid line, playing left wing on Lars' side if one of the sophomores had to be moved.  On the David Desharnais line, he'd provide a bit of a physical game, he'd protect his centreman from the intimidation tactics that some other teams often resort too.  Not that he's an enforcer or anything, but he's a big strong guy with lots of character who doesn't take any guff.  And so on, he'd have been a bit of a multi-tool that Michel Therrien can use in any situation.  He could have been stashed on the fourth line, have permitted the trade of Travis Moen if need be, and he is enough of a team guy that he would have accepted sitting in the press box for a few games if necessary.

The only downside I can imagine is that possibly Marc Bergevin thought that his low-scoring, high-effort role might be effectively filled by one of Gabriel Dumont, Michaël Bournival or Louis Leblanc this season if they were called up.  He may have thought that having him in the lineup might stall these kids' progress.

Simon Gagné is a personal favourite, a heart and soul Patrice Bergeron-type, who can play either wing and scores regularly.  He's not a physical player per se, but does have size and strength and can protect the puck better than Daniel Brière can.  Sure he has concussion issues and a lengthy injury history, but that's how come we can snap him up for free.  Or real cheap anyway.

So that would have been my druthers.  Get both these veterans for $3M total for one year.  If it works great, if not, we re-assess at the trade deadline or in June.  Man, being a GM is easy.

10 000 fans for a pre-season game? Is Québec ready for an NHL team?

"Only" 10 000 fans for an exhibition game at the Colisée in Québec City?  Does that bode well for an eventual expansion franchise?

One factor which has to be taken into account is the high cost for tickets for an exhibition game in which nobody knew which players the Canadiens would dress certainly played a factor.  If I'm a casual fan counting my dollars, maybe hearing that P.K. and Alex Galchenyuk will be in the lineup convinces me to attend, and sure enough there was a bit of walkup ticket sales.

One point the RDS crew made is that the Québec fans may be a little sour about the Coyotes staying in Phoenix.  They hoped and dreamed and began to take it for granted that they would not get a deal in Glendale, and when that was resolved it popped the balloon a little bit.

Another point made is that the fans have nothing to prove, they traveled to New Jersey and Uniondale by the busload to make their case, and the arena is being built right now.  That's the real proof of the pudding.

NFL 2013 Week 3: Chargers 17, Titans 20

A couple years ago, after another example of Philip Rivers losing his cool and failing to lead his team to victory, I wrote a comment on a Kevin Acee article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, in which I said that I understood Philip wasn't the cool steely-eyed killer that Tom Brady is, but maybe he should try to fake it once in a while, in tight games, instead of sulking or blowing up at Norv or kicking a dead ball on the ground.  Mr. Acee responded that it's easy to pile on Philip from a distance, but that I "wasn't there, in the meetings and the locker room and the practice field" or words to that effect.  He argued that Philip shows plenty of leadership, it just comes in a different flavour than a  Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.  I couldn't decide at the time if it was noble for the Chargers beat writer to stick up for the quarterback he's covered for years and obviously has some affection for, or whether it was de rigueur for an embedded correspondent to do so, to preserve his access.

I've never come up with an answer.  But today, we saw another example of a veteran Pro Bowl quarterback throwing a tantrum, and in the face of adversity acting like a four-year old.  Specifically, after a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal was nullified by a offensive pass interference call, Philip resorted to his all-too-frequent practice of arguing the call with the refs, too vigourously and too long.  This time however, instead of it being just a distraction from his duties of getting his teammates organized for the next play, he pushed it so far that he was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty himself.

What was a tough ten yard penalty that could still be salvaged, since the Chargers would have had a first-and-goal from the 15 yard line, now became, when Philip's penalty was tacked on, a first-and-goal from the Titans' 30.  What was originally thought to be an Eddie Royal touchdown finally turned into a Nick Novak field goal.  As the final score indicates, we could have used the four points.

Mostly though, this was a case of the Chargers being true to form, of not coming through in the clutch, of questionable, conservative play-calling, of feeling the collars getting tight in the fourth quarter, and of the defense folding and allowing a game-losing drive in the dying minutes.  I've bemoaned in the past how we often draft projects, guys with lots of potential, instead of gamers, football players who may not look great at the combine but have always acted as captains in lower levels, guys who love and breathe the game and want the pressure situations on Sundays.

Coach Mike McCoy flubbed a great opportunity to seize the day in the first quarter, on the second drive of the game, when the Chargers had 3rd and 1 at the Titans' 39.  This was no-man's-land, well into Tennessee territory but not deep enough for a makeable field goal attempt.  An aggressive coach who's up on his probabilities, reading the situation correctly, would have known that he had two shots to get the first down, that punting was going to yield meager results anyway.  Might as well call up a play with a deep route and a couple of short outlets to gain the yard, and if it doesn't work do that again.  The probability of keeping the drive going was quite high, the risk virtually nil.  The Titans were on their heels, nothing was working for them, now was the time to strike.

Instead, he sent Ryan Mathews up the gut for a perfunctory attempt that netted no gain, and then sent in Mike Scifres for a punt that planted the Titans on their own eight-yard line.  But they were off the hook.

Calling a running play showed little awareness, never mind that the team was missing monster Right Tackle D.J. Fluker.  It was conservative, CYA coaching, which took the boot off the Titans' throat.  Instead of getting another TD and forcing them to play catch up, and limiting their playbook options, the Titans got another life, and slowly got their rhythm.

Another situation where the coach could have been more opportunistic was the final possession with over six minutes left on the clock.  What the Chargers needed was a few first downs, and the best way to accomplish that would have been short passes in the backfield or over the middle, with the receivers aware that they should not go out of bounds.  Instead, Coach McCoy, or should I say Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, called a succession of run plays, and gave the ball up to the Titans before the two-minute warning.  Even for them that was enough time to drive the field.

The Chargers' Bend and Bend Some More defence allowed 452 yards, didn't cause a turnover, and allowed another end-of-game winning drive.  We knew going into the season that this unit was a patchwork and couldn't suffer any injuries or it would implode.  Sure enough, Donald Butler and Shareece Wright were both out of action, and it was hard to find anyone who could make a play.  Not that there weren't opportunities.  In the final minute, during the failed last stand, Marcus Gilchrist had a ball carom right into his hands, but he couldn't pull it down.  Not that it was a gimme, but with a chance to win it for the team one of ours came up short.  Again.

So even though the Titans did everything they could to gift-wrap the game for us, committing 11 penalties for 116 yards, and fielding ambulatory brain-cramp Kenny Britt, we still did just enough to lose narrowly, in the dying seconds.  Another kick in the ego was the football follies-style finish to the game, in which the Chargers tried a ridiculous sequence of laterals to Music City Miracle 2.0 themselves a win, but which ended with a fumble well behind the original line of scrimmage, even though the initial pass by Mr. Rivers had traveled thirty yards downfield.

So yeah, a tough loss, one in a manner we've seen all too often, and with two more offensive linemen being injured, things look a little more bleak today than they did this week.  We may get that high draft position next season yet.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Line brawl between the Leafs and Sabres, or, 'NHL Gets What It Deserves, Enjoys It'

So lunacy reigned in Toronto last night, as the Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres clashed in an exhibition game, and got into a phallus-measuring contest.  Actually, that would have been less objectionable video than this.

1)  Why is John Scott permitted to play in the NHL?

2)  Why is Phil Kessel not completely within his rights to wield his stick to defend himself from a gorilla on the loose?  The refs won't protect him, Gary Bettman won't protect him.  Phil Kessel is trying to score goals, to play hockey, but has to survive intimidation tactics, he's working in an unsafe environment, yet the CEO of the company who pays a lot of lip service to player safety is too busy to take care of this, he's trying to make ice in L.A.

From the TSN article, here's why Mr. Kessel may be suspended:

Kessel would not drop his gloves to fight Scott, but instead swung his stick twice at Scott. His actions resulted in both slashing and fighting penalties.

Kessel received a match penalty for his retaliation on Scott, a ruling imposed for deliberate attempt to injure another player. The NHL Rulebook states that any player given a match penalty "shall be automatically suspended from further competition" until a ruling is handed down by the Commissioner.

So 5'9" Phil Kessel was supposed to drop his stick and allow 6'9" John Scott to pummel him senseless.  And John Scott's attempt to engage Phil Kessel was not a "deliberate attempt to injure another player"?

3)  One of the many horrible things about this incident is the chortling duo of idiot boosters working the broadcast, who cheer this on and hearken back to old-time hockey.  The culture of hockey, starting from the hockey parents, the executives, the coaches, the GM, all that has to change.  No wonder NHL players say they don't want fighting banned from the game when polled on this matter, they've grown up in that environment, they're like fish who don't understand that they're wet.  

4)  Giant pile of absence of credibility Randy Carlyle says: "We're not proud or happy of what went on."  Really?  You consistently dress Mark Fraser, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren for no reason other than their ability with their fists and their propensity to let their elbows fly, and you're not proud?  Really?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Pre-Season Game 4: Canadiens 1, Hurricanes 3

This is a much easier game when it's your goalie who's stopping everything, not the other guy.  Your veterans look ready and in charge, your rookies have this gleam about them, you wonder how many rookie defencemen you can carry on your roster at the same time, is it three, or four?  Five?

Anton Khudobin, as if he already hadn't done enough as a Bruin, thwarted all our efforts tonight, stopping fourty shots before finally allowing a carom goal off Michaël Bournival's shin pad.  Yeah, him again.  Anyway, Mr. Khudobin finished with a .976 save percentage.

Carey Price's successes were more muted, allowing 3 goals on 27 shots.  While some will jump at this result and cry foul, I think we need to remember that he's now working with a new goalie coach, and we should probably permit him an adjustment period, to work in some new concepts.  Again, it's pointless to rant and rave, or act rashly, he's a great talent, and should be given time to put things together.  We're going to dance with the one we brunged, and there's not much we can do about that, unless Canadiens fans want Marc Bergevin to start sniffing around the Vancouver goal crease.  Or to sign Tim Thomas.

I wrote about yesterday's game that this is a results business, and compared the situation of Michaël Bournival to Gabriel Dumont's.  Gaston Therrien tonight on l'Antichambre did much the same, and explained that Mr. Dumont has been disappointing during training camp, and been sent off the main practice ice to practice with the 'B' team at the Brossard rink.  Meanwhile, Michaël gets another start tonight, and bags the team's only goal by being in the right place at the right time.  Thanks for that one Andrei, but it's not as if that was Mr. Bournival's highlight for the  night, he again buzzed around all game, and was a threat on a few point-blank chances.  Looking at the scoresheet, he and veteran sniper Daniel Brière led the team in shots with six(!)  Marc Bergevin's only hope at this point is to keep giving games and hope he cools off, and/or screws up a couple of times, or he'll be in a real pickle, he'll have to do something crazy like trade a veteran to give him a roster spot.

Jarred Tinordi is making a strong case for himself too.  Again, how quickly things change.  Last night, all we could talk about was Greg Pateryn, Darren Dietz and Magnus Nygren, they'd collected points, showed something on offence.  With the gate slammed shut by Mr. Khudobin, it wasn't the offensively-inclined D-men who hogged the spotlight, but rather young Jarred, son of Mark Tinordi, the former scourge of the league and slayer of forwards who skated with their head down.  Tonight, Jarred was a chip off the old block, drawing attention of the fans and management and pusillanimous 'Canes with three thunderous bodychecks, all of them clean.  His mobility and hard work in the gym are starting to pay off, he's no longer gangly or spindly, he's solid and verging on intimidating.  He's another kid who's causing Marc Bergevin headaches, and he vaulted to the top of the list for us weathervane fans.

The veterans worked at getting ready.  Tomas Plekanec and René Bourque had many chances on net and played hard, maybe giving it 95%, and Daniel Brière showed he can play with anybody.  Andrei Markov knew this was a tuneup game and acted like it.  He's earned that dispensation, but it doesn't apply to Raphaël Diaz, who needs to show that he's a starting defenceman, with the youngsters nipping at his heels.

So a game that generated many fewer high-fives than that of the preceding evening.  Not a great result, but sometimes these can't be helped.

Akim Aliu will try out for a spot on the Hamilton Bulldogs

I didn't know anything about Akim Aliu beyond the fact that he had a cool name, and took the time to read up on him.  His Wikipedia entry is fascinating.

I remember that whole Steve Downie encounter in junior, I'd kind of forgotten that as one of the reasons I dislike that guy.  Good on Akim Aliu for standing up for himself and refusing to go along with these mindless hazing rituals, which have to be stamped out of minor hockey.  There's hazing and then there's abuse, and it appears that the Junior Hockey world maybe doesn't understand the difference.

Unfortunately though, Mr. Aliu had to live through it, endure the consequences, and that can't have helped his career.  With his cultural background, it's not hard to understand that he has had difficulty integrating into the NHL and realizing the potential he has if only due to his physical gifts.

As it is, I'm glad the Bulldogs are giving him a shot, he has lots of AHL experience, can play a little bit, will bring some physicality to support Nick Tarnaski and Stefan Fournier and others in that department.  If he starts to put things together, which is admittedly a long shot, we'll have first crack at signing him to an NHL contract.

Especially now that I know a little more about this young man, I can't help but wish him the best of luck.

Pre-Season Game 3: Canadiens 6, Hurricanes 0

This game was a palate cleanser, after a sour shootout loss against the Sabres, and a bitter drubbing against the Bruins, whose rookies and AHL'ers were much better than our AHL'ers.  On this night, the Canadiens came out flying, took advantage of a struggling Cam Ward to fill the net in the first, and cruised to a 6-0 win.  It could/should have been 10-0.

Now, I come here to bury Mike Komisarek, not praise him.  Poor guy.  On paper, he's everything that we slavered for over the last couple of seasons, a 6'4" 240 lbs defensively-oriented blueliner, one who shoots right to boot.  The reports out of Toronto from educated observers were that he just plain can't play no more, but I'd ignore these and rely on the tale of the tape, envision how he'd fit into our roster of slick undersized puck-movers.  He'd plug some giant holes and bring a skillset we didn't have, I thought, and after adding a splash of career-rejuvenation derived partly from no longer being subjected to the suffocating english media in Toronto, and partly from the steadying presence of Andrei Markov, we'd have a perfectly serviceable d-man to play on our third pairing and kill penalties, and maybe crosscheck a Wayne Simmonds or Chris Neil in the teeth occasionally.  I militated for a swap of buyout candidates, that we'd take Mr. Komisarek off their hands if the Leafs would accept the dried husk of what used to be Tomas Kaberle, who admittedly was never much good to begin with.  

After watching replay after replay of his gaffes and ineffectual efforts on RDS's broadcast of the game, with the announcers doing their best to be diplomatic but unable to avoid the reality of the situation, I now believe those who say that he, almost inexplicably, has cratered in terms of having a useful role as an NHL defenceman.  The change of scenery in Carolina isn't going to be a magic career elixir, apparently.  A couple of times, I'd see a player like Christian Thomas or Patrick Holland, fringe prospects who I'd like to do well, and they'd show some speed or skill, a flash, and I'd get excited, only to realize it was poor old Mike who was making them look so good, looking comparatively slow and unsteady.

This was the Hurricanes third game in three nights, and we have to assume that the travel was partly to blame for them coming out flat, but they can't rely on that as an excuse, in that their roster has quite a few eager rookies who should be fighting for an NHL salary, and you can't claim fatigue this early in training camp.  They seemed dispirited, disjointed, and I felt bad for Kirk Muller behind the bench.  I wondered if the Hurricanes should be the dark horse for finishing last this year, kind of like I'd called the Calgary Flames last year, but any team with Eric and Jordan Staal and Cam Ward has to be better than that, right?  Even while dragging around the anchor known as Alex Semin, who didn't exactly give all out effort in this particular game?

The star of the night was P.K. Subban, who paradoxically had a startling giveaway from behind his net to a Carolina forward in the slot (Wayne Gretzky couldn't have fed Jarri Kurri any better) as his most memorable play, but was overall a force.  He skates hard, he's fast and powerful, he's a beast at both ends of the rink, and tonight finished with a goal and two assists.  Some outside observers think his Norris Trophy is only due to his impressive point production, and it's hard to argue that those who vote on awards are on the ball after they voted Alex Ovechkin on the All-Star team as a left and right winger, but I would wager that P.K. will have a monster season and convert a lot of doubters.  They'll see a complete defenceman, a guy who dominates games and eats minutes that other teams won't have an answer for.  Strategically, the Canadiens will have to ensure that other teams don't try to goon him out of the game, because that might be the only tactic they can resort to to slow him down.

Michaël Bournival added another goal and an assist to his two goals against the Sabres, while Mike McCarron hit a post on a good scoring opportunity.  This is a results-driven business.  Two seasons ago, Brendan Gallagher was the talk of the camp, with his now familiar combination of all-out effort, courage and skill drawing the attention of the Canadiens' brass.  He buzzed all over the opposition in pre-season action, but never managed to pot a goal, and he was eventually sent back to his junior team.  Had he driven home a couple, would he have stuck?  And now, with Mr. Bournival flying all over the ice but also cashing in his opportunities, can the Canadiens send him back down to Hamilton?  Not that he and Mike McCarron were on an equal footing to possibly earn a spot on the team out of camp, but because the former is burying his chances, it's him we're talking about, not Mr. McCarron or Christian Thomas or Patrick Holland.

One factor we need to consider is that while Michaël Bournival is not eligible for waivers for another two seasons, Gabriel Dumont will have to go through them to be sent down to Hamilton.  While Mr. Dumont hasn't had any tangible results offensively, he's shown the effort and generated chances with linemates of dubious talent for the most part.  I suspect the team will not risk losing him on a waiver claim, his playing style and the results he's shown as a Bulldog and during his cups of coffee with the Canadiens make him a coach's favourite.  If anyone stays, it will be Gabriel Dumont I believe.  Mr. Bournival will be asked to show that he can keep up this pace in the AHL until injuries strike.

Among the few veterans in the lineup, it was good to see David Desharnais and Max buzzing around in the opposition zone all night.  We need a bounce-back season from David, if we're going to contend.  It's early yet, but we saw glimpses of the David from two seasons ago, with quickness and agility, who competes for the puck with his smarts and anticipation, and somehow beats much bigger opponents along the boards with his mobility and cleverness.

On the blue line, we saw encouraging play from prospects Greg Pateryn, Darren Dietz and Magnus Nygren.  Again, it's important to take into account how poorly the Hurricanes played, and their lack of spirit and effort, but it was good to see our trio of young defencemen be competent and show that the NHL isn't out of the question for any of them.

It will be interesting to see how the Hurricanes react in the second game of the back-to-back, whether they'll put up more resistance.  Certainly, it would be helpful if only to give our goalies some practice, as Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski combined for one of the easier shutouts they'll ever earn.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Pre-Season Game 2: Canadiens 3, Bruins 6

With a more rugged, experienced lineup than the previous night against the Sabres, the Canadiens came up short in a training camp drubbing at the hands of the Bruins.  Jarome Iginla, trying to curry favour with his new insect overlords, played on a line with Daniel Krejci and Milan Lucic and scored twice.  Mighty mite defender Torey Krug added three assists, but was useless because he's small and soft.  Right?

I caught the game midway through the first period, and while I was dealing with jumpy streams and whatnot, had trouble figuring out what was going on.  At one point they were showing lowlights from late last season, they must have been, when Carey Price let in a soft unscreened wrister from the blue line.  And I guess there was also a retrospective of the best moments of Travis Moen's early career, since I could have sworn there was footage of him standing in front of the opposition net disrupting the defenders there and tapping in a short-range goal.

It was a good thing I watched before dinner too, since this game had a powerful emetic effect, not only due to the sight of Jarome in black and diarrhea-yellow, or the final score, but also to the sight of a proud Subban brother as a Bruin.  Peter Chiarelli was trolling Boston hard when he drafted the Belleville goalie, imagine what their stupid racist stupid fans will tweet when he lets in an unfortunate goal.  And imagine the back-breaking contortions of the apologists who will claim that those aren't 'real Bruins fans' just casual watchers who happened to be tuned in to the game and care enough to spew their hate on social media.  The famously cultured and tolerant 'real Bruins fans' will only be silent because they're busy checking if the Riesling is properly chilled, or jotting notes on this fan's technique to use the next time they're at the new Garden.

As previously stated by Michel Therrien, the team cut fourteen players from the main camp after the game, sending Martin Reway, Charles Hudon and goaltender Zachary Fucale back to their junior teams, and forwards Joonas Nattinen, Stephen MacAulay, Stefan Fournier, Sven Andrighetto, Louis Leblanc, and Erik Nyström, goaltender Robert Mayer and defencemen Morgan Ellis, Darren Dietz, Dalton Thrower, and Matt Lashoff to the Bulldogs training camp.

I guess they want to have a longer look at both Michael McCarron and Sebastian Collberg, since they're still at camp.  They can't be 'kept' in the organization/sent to Hamilton, they have to stay with the Canadiens or be sent back to the London Knights and Frolunda, respectively.  Louis Leblanc could take this as a slight, that they stay and he goes, or accept it as a practical reality, that he has a ways to go to prove himself, and that the two kids are special cases that don't apply to his.  What he should worry about, and work hard to overcome, is the fact that Michaël Bournival and Gabriel Dumont are still at the main camp, these guys are the ones he's really competing with.  He showed some good things in the game tonight, he just needs to continue on that trajectory.  I have to admit I'm not that worried about him.  All the news that have come out of camp in his regard has been encouraging.

A few fleeting thoughts remain.  Nice goal by Max Pacioretty on a feed from David Desharnais and Daniel Brière.  Stefan Fournier didn't wow me with his takedown on Adam McQuaid.  Did he have second thoughts, realize he'd bitten off more than he could chew?  He'll need to figure this out in the AHL.  He's up against fully-grown men now, not juniors, that changes things, he ain't the biggest baddest dude around.  

The refereeing was uneven, with a glaring error on the high-stick call on Gabriel Dumont, which video replay clearly showed never happened.  I did appreciate that the refs were aggressive and made more calls than non-calls.  I'm not too optimistic though, they'll tire of this when springtime comes around, the Bruins will be allowed to run rampant then.

And obviously, Ocho Cinco's new choice of career won't be a success.  A .605 save percentage, yikes!...

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pre-Season Game 1: Canadiens 4, Sabres 5 (SO)


Michaël Bournival was fast and buzzed around all game.  He threw a few hits, scored a couple of goals.

Michael McCarron played a good game for a nervous rookie, he showed good offensive awareness and hands, tallied two assists, and generally looked good.

Zemgus Girgensons was a sight out there, speeding around the rink and causing havoc.  He also picked up two goals.  Kid can fly.

Jarred Tinordi was effective and imposing, threw some big bodychecks, and stood up to Sabres goon Cody McCormick when the latter objected to a clean hit he'd laid on a Sabre.  Nice going Jarred.

Martin Reway is a waterbug who seems not to understand that he doesn't belong at an NHL training camp.  He's going to make some usually unerringly astute observers look bad if he keeps this up.  He's constantly around the puck and dangerous in the offensive zone.  He evaded an assassination attempt by Steve Ott.  

Martin St-Pierre was a revelation, insofar as he will provide offence and veteranship to a Bulldogs roster that sorely needed it last season.  He played smart and made his wingers look good.

The Kid Line of Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher looked dominant against training camp opposition, which is what we'd expect.  A promising start.

Mikhail Grigorenko (shootout version):  What a talent this kid is.  Did you see that move?  What hands.

Mixed results

Davis Drewiske tried to play physical, cleared out the front of the net with gusto on a couple of occasions, and had to answer the bell against Sabres goon Cody McCormick, which didn't go well but could have been worse.

Greg Pateryn and Magnus Nygren didn't stand out but didn't embarrass themselves either.  They both played special teams and did okay.

Raphaël Diaz wasn't great considering the opposition.

Matt Lashoff has his work cut out for him even to make the Bulldogs roster.


Patrick Holland.  Sven Andrighetto.  Mikhail Grigorenko (game version).


Patrick Kaleta assaulted Alex Galchenyuk, to 'make him accountable' for a clean hit he threw on Jamie McBain.  The hit actually looked worse than it was, Alex caught the Sabres defender leaning into a tight turn and off-balance and knocked him down pretty easily.  Mr. Kaleta grabbed Alex and tried to goad him into a fight, and then just started punching Alex when he refused.  Repugnant behaviour.  What does Patrick Kaleta have to do to be expelled from the NHL?  The only organization that would tolerate such outright amorality and criminality may be the Canadian Senate.  And maybe Wall Street.  Gary Bettman is busy making outdoor ice in L.A., so he can't attend to the fact that unskilled thugs are attacking the game's stars.  Gary, you simpleton, I know you don't know hockey, but what would the NFL do about this?  How does it treat its quarterbacks?  Think hard now.  Is it a good thing that Pavel Datsyuk gets crosschecked in the throat by Dave Bolland, or a bad thing?  Do you  need a hint?  

Let's say it's a bad thing.  Now, should it cause the perpetrator to garner a mild rebuke, or something more serious?  Remember, the stars are the players folks tune in for or buy tickets to see play.  Not Patrick Kaleta or Dave Bolland.  So what should happen to the replaceable plug who attacks the star who generates the revenue to pay that ludicrously high salary of yours?  Should he get a slap on the wrist, or something more serious, as well as a significant consequence to the GM and team that brunged him into the league and gave him a job?  I know you think it's a difficult question, but it really isn't.  Keep thinking.  It'll come to you.


Steve Ott did the "I'm going to grab this guy's head and see if it comes off" thing with Martin St-Pierre.  Somehow both got penalties.  Apparently Mr. St-Pierre was culpable for putting his face in Steve Ott's dirty stinky gloves.  What does Steve Ott have to do to be expelled from the NHL?

NFL 2013 Week 2: Chargers 33, Eagles 30

Maybe the Chargers aren't as putrid as we thought they were.  I was very pessimistic this summer, seeing an overall lack of talent and depth on the team.  Critical areas in my eyes were on the offensive and defensive lines.  The D line has some talent in Kendell Reyes and Corey Liuget, but I thought we were in trouble starting Cam Thomas at nosetackle, or if any injuries struck, since we had no-hopers as backups.  The offensive line was even more nauseating, a patchwork of rejects, free agents, rookies, and Jeromey Clary.  

But a funny thing happened.  GM Tom Telesco was clear eyed at the outset, didn't try to snow anyone about the talent level, and freely admitted he'd go dumpster diving at cutdown day, searching the waiver wire for players cast off by deeper teams that might be of help.  He added that this would be a season-long process, something that would require his attention as injuries occurred and other teams shuffled their rosters and practice squads.  Mr. Telesco has had experience with this approach, having had to scramble while working in the Colts' front office, and it's a refreshing change from A.J. Smith's habit of stocking his roster with 'projects' who took up space, needed to be nurtured over time, but couldn't perform or help the team immediately.  

In any case, what I thought would be the Achilles' heel of this team and the most probable cause for its downfall, the O-line, has turned out to be relatively stable and competent.  While former Steeler veteran Max Starks was the putative front-runner for the starting left tackle spot, he was beaten out by former Eagle King Dunlap, a 6'9" giant who came into camp with something to prove and in remarkably (for him) good shape.  Max Starks was waived.  The former right tackle, Jeromey Clary was moved to right guard, making way for first round pick D.J. Fluker, and they have been surprisingly effective on the right side, especially in the run game.  Whereas last season the line couldn't open any holes, it is finding some success in the run game this season, which relieves a lot of the pressure on Philip Rivers to wing it on every snap.

In truth, the much improved offensive line is the reason for the competitiveness of the Chargers so far, since it allows the team's best player, Philip Rivers, to perform.  If Philip Rivers is kept healthy and upright, he is a threat to win any game.  So what we figured to be a glaring weakness, as evinced last season, is turning out to be a modest strength, a decent group that battles, gives Philip a pocket he can work in, and can clear the way for the running backs.

Today's game against the Eagles was foreshadowed by some to be a slaughter in waiting, an Eastern timezone bloodbath where the jetlagged Chargers would stumble and fumble their way to a humiliating blowout, or at least another fourth quarter collapse against the uptempo Chip Kelly offence.  Instead, the Chargers slowed the game down, Philip Rivers milking the play clock and keeping Michael Vick's track team on the sidelines.  Philip finished with over 400 yards passing and four TD passes.  He put up enough points on the board to win the game.  In spite of the defence and Ryan Mathews.

Indeed, if we're going to get critical, we have to start with Ryan Mathews who once again coughed up the ball near the opposition goal line, which is a troubling but all-too-regular occurrence.  Some people point to his upright running style as the reason for these fumbles, but we now have to question his mental makeup and whether the kid is a gamer.  He has received tonnes of coaching on the importance of protecting the football, and how to go about it, but it's obviously not sinking in.  Other teams are keying on him, foregoing tackling opportunities in favour of attempts to strip the ball.  If he was sharp, he'd make them pay for that, punish them and run through the resultant arm tackles.  Instead, he carries ball way out there for all defenders to see, as enticing as a ripe watermelon on a hot day, and it gets taken away.  I'm beginning to wonder if this can ever be fixed.

Antonio Gates also had a goal line fumble, but in his case we can let it slide, he's normally sure-handed, this is a blip.  This was is first fumble in years.  A more salient reason this game could have been lost was the listless effort by the defence, who couldn't make a play.  It only registered one sack, didn't cause a turnover, and gave up 428 passing yards to Michael Vick.

In the end, it took a final drive by Philip Rivers, who methodically worked down the field, using Antonio Gates and draining the clock, to put Nick Novak in position to win the game.  Mr. Novak cashed in the opportunity, and he is doing well in his role as the successor to the reliable but brittle Nate Kaeding.  We should also give kudos to Eddie Royal, who was injured and/or ineffective much of last season but has started this year with a bang.  He racked up another three touchdowns, to add to the two from last week, and we'll be stampeding this week to pluck him off waivers and add him to our fantasy teams.

My mental game plan to this season was to endure a painful losing season, one that would ensure a favourable draft position and give as a crack at a franchise left tackle, be it Texas A&M's Jake Matthews or Michigan's Taylor Lewan.  Then we could start the rebuild.  Instead, this team could be just good enough to mess this up.  We just might fall out of the Bottom/Top 10 with any more of these meaningless wins.

Of course, maybe with King Dunlap we now don't need a stinkin' left tackle no more...

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Pre-Season Scrimmage: Blancs 2, Rouges 1

Well that was a cluster, this whole livestream of the Canadiens scrimmage advertised by the team but thwarted by Drake.  It's kind of hard to complain, since the cost to me after tax and shipping was $0.00, but it did blow that I planned my Saturday around this webcast and got denied.  The reasons given smack of unpreparedness and lack of professionalism, as evidenced by this tweet from the team:
Canadiens Montréal – Sorry everyone, YouTube has blocked the feed because of in-arena music copyrights. Check out HabsTV for highlights after the scrimmage.
Which brings up a lot of valid questions, such as if you're going to use YouTube, which was optional, who didn't do their homework and figure out the music rights issue?  Indeed why use YouTube at all?  And once you're caught with your pants down, why not webcast on 'mute', to get around the pesky starving Rhiannas and Limp Bizkits with their grimy hands out.  I'd feel a whole lot more sympathetic to the latters' plight if it wasn't for the TV show "MTV Cribs".

The team did get the whole scrimmage online afterwards, so I did get to watch it while having dinner, but overall it was a frustrating mini-ordeal, bringing to mind the old saying that it's better to underpromise and overdeliver, rather than the reverse.

The scrimmage itself was like the first few gulps of fresh cold water at the end of a long bike ride from which you arrive home with your CamelBack and bottle empty.  Aaaaaaah, refreshing...

There was no play-by-play or colour commentary, just the sound of puck on stick or board, and of an energetic crowd.  This is exactly the kind of game which cried out for a voiceover though, since it was hard to make sense of who was on the ice, I constantly had to refer to a lineup to see who that was wearing number 72 (Nick Tarnasky),  or number 46 (Matt Lashoff), and so on.  And you'd get carried away and roster-check compulsively, for numbers like 61, 53, and 55, and feel silly when finding out that those guys were actually Raphaël Diaz, Ryan White and Francis Bouillon.

In 1980 the NFL and NBC experimented by doing a game without any play-by-play, to test out the hypothesis that announcers talk too much and crowd out the game, detract from it instead of enhancing it (hello to you, Pierre McGuire).  The results were mixed, and most of us agree now that an understated, capable broadcast team (or also Gus Johnson) adds to the show.  That is, if you have a René Lecavalier, a Jim Hughson or Pierre Houde on hand, rather than a Jim Randorff or Bob Cole (post Walkman era).  I wish RDS had been tasked with this scrimmage, and Mr. Houde and his sidekick Marc Denis had helped us keep track of all these new kids.

The scrimmage itself was fast-paced, with limited contact even though there were quite a few young turks trying to claw their way onto the lineup or even to earn a contract, who must have been tempted at times to plaster someone on the boards to draw some attention.  The most serious hit might have come from Max Pacioretty, who said in a media scrum this week that he'd try to appease his Twitter followers who badger him to drive the net more.  This afternoon, he ran into Zach Fucale twice, earning an interference penalty on one incident.  The young Mr. Fucale stayed calm and stayed in the game.

It was good seeing Jarred Tinordi wearing Chris Chelios' old number 24, I hope he does that jersey proud.  Not sure however if Michael McCarron looks right wearing number 25. That’s Jacques Lemaire’s old number, I expect an offensive centre wearing that jersey. 27 would be better, for Lucien Deblois and Perry Turnbull and Shayne Corson, all bruising wingers he could emulate, but that number's not going to happen for him, some uppity kid snagged it last season and may not give it up for a while. Maybe 22, and channel the ghost of John Ferguson? 20 might be okay, Mark Hunter’s old number, but maybe not, I'd be more likely to think of Peter Mahovlich.  Maybe by the time he’s ready for the NHL Chris Nilan’s old number 30 jersey will have been vacated by Peter Budaj.

Or maybe he can use Sergio Momesso’s old #36, there was a guy who was huge and tough and could pot goals, but wrecked his knee and was never the same. I loved Sergio, he looked scary in junior, a man among boys, I often think of what could have been if it wasn’t for that injury, he was much less agile after that.  If Michael McCarron can come in and be as effective as Sergio was his rookie season, I'd be very pleased.

I noticed P.K. wheeling with the puck with one hand on the stick and one arm fending off a forechecker, and this may become his signature move, like Guy's slapper while flying up the right wing, or Larry's thunderous checks.  P.K. also committed a gaffe or two, but I'll chalk that up to him trying to put on a show for the fans.  He'll tone that stuff down once the season starts.  Right?

Tomas Plekanec was, as should be expected, possibly the best player on the ice, he took a few point blank shots, scored a goal, looked comfortable with René Bourque, and made Christian Thomas look good.

After the scrimmage, it was announced that Zachary Fucale was signed to an Entry Level Contract, which is modest good news.  It's not a coup or anything, the kid was sewn up the moment he was drafted, but it's a step in the right direction, it shows that the team has seen enough and feels comfortable inking the kid and moving on to other things.

In less joyous news, certainly for the players involved, Tim Bozon, Connor Crisp and Jérémy Grégoire were sent back to their junior team, before getting a chance to play in a pre-season game.  At least Jérémy Grégoire got to participate in the scrimmage, and as a 2013 6th-round draftee, he can't fret or be shocked at the news.  For Connor Crisp however, being a 19 year old and having been picked in the third round this summer, this may be disappointing, since an opportunity to compete against NHL'ers in a pre-season game might have been a good test of mettle, and indicator of what areas of his game he needs to improve.

Even more worrisome is Tim Bozon's lackluster showing at the rookie camp, if various reports are to be believed.  As a 2012 third-rounder, he may have expected that his stay at camp would last longer, but like fellow 2012 draftee Brady Vail, he doesn't get a chance to play a preseason game.  I'm not sure what the parting message was, whether it was a pat on the back or a crack of the whip, but we'll see how he responds with the Blazers early this season.

Overall though, this is probably good form, to cull the herd quickly.  Two seasons ago, to ensure there were enough players on hand to deal with a tight pre-season schedule, Jacques Martin kept a lot of bodies deep into training camp, and the start to the season was halting.  At the time, many fans shouted that this should never occur again, that training camp shouldn't be a daycare centre, but rather an exercise to get the Canadiens synchronized and ready for the season.  Michel Therrien has already stated that the major cutdown would occur on Monday, after the games against the Sabres and the Bruins.  So it seems that that lesson has not been lost.

A final word on Martin Reway, who is drawing a lot of attention with his skillful, effective play so far at camp.  He's scored a few goals and wowed observers, and today picked the top corner gloveside on Peter Budaj from in close, on his backhand mind you.  This turned out to be the winning goal.  Not bad for a diminutively-proportioned fourth-round pick this June.  Of course, his problematic size and underwhelming numbers prompted a few know-it-alls to harrumph that this was a wasted pick.  There was a lot of second-guessing by armchair GM's who think that they know better than Canadiens Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins.  While some of these analysts might be keen hockey observers whose unconventional and passionately-expressed views ruffle a few feathers but contribute to a healthy discourse, in this specific instance there may come a time where they need to walk back their opinion a smidge.  It may serve everyone well if Mr. Reway is allowed a season or two to prove himself, based on the available data obtained so far at camp.  Possibly.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Sylvain Lefebvre is coaching to develop players, and not necessarily to win games for the Hamilton Bulldogs.

    À Hamilton, j'avais le choix entre placer des vétérans qui nous auraient permis de gagner ou des jeunes qui nous assureraient de progresser à long terme. J'ai opté pour une jeune équipe. L'entraîneur Sylvain Lefebvre, qui est une personne extraordinaire, a compris le message. On lui a enlevé Brendan Gallagher à la mi-janvier et il est devenu un candidat au trophée Calder. Quand Jarred Tinordi a été rappelé, il a fait des pas de géant. Puis, il y a eu Nathan Beaulieu et Greg Pateryn dont on a été témoin de la progression. On parle rarement de Sylvain Lefebvre, mais c'est un bon homme de hockey qui sait exactement pourquoi il est là.

Translation:  "In Hamilton, we had the choice between getting veterans who would have allowed us to win or youngsters who would progress for the long term.  I opted for a young team.  Coach Sylvain Lefebvre, who is a great person, got the message.  We took away Brendan Gallagher in January and he became a Calder Trophy candidate.  When Jarred Tinordi was recalled, he took some giant step.  Also, there was Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn who we witnessed their progression.  We rarely speak of Sylvain Lefebvre, but he a good hockey man who knows exactly why he's there."

There was some griping last season about some puzzling decisions by Sylvain Lefebvre, in terms of how he used some players, in what combinations or roles, and how the offence stagnated.  We suspected that he wasn't necessarily trying to win at all costs, but rather putting the kids out there and making them play and learn and progress, and that is corroborated by the quote above.  It's also apparent that he has the confidence of his GM.

Having said that, this season he'll have a much deeper team, with some talented AHL veterans brought in, and his youngsters being more battle-hardened and more mature.  We can expect this team to be more competitive, and not be outgunned and overmatched for almost every game they show up for.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

1st day at Canadiens camp: Nathan Beaulieu is out of shape and injured, other thoughts

 Some thoughts:

1)  About Ryan White showing up out of shape, that's not great news, but we should take it with a grain of salt.  He's a guy who has a 'bad body' according to scouts, one of those guys who puts on weight easily and doesn't have a lot of muscle tone.  So even when he's fit he doesn't look like much.  Those pictures of him during the physical testing don't exactly inspire confidence, but let's not get carried away.  He's never going to be the kind of guy who's on the cover of Muscle & Fitness, but since his junior days we've never heard any complaints about his fitness.

2)  About Nathan Beaulieu showing up out of shape, he did the same thing last year.  There was an unflattering picture of him next to Aaron Palushaj, both running on a treadmill, not great.  Now I could use the same standard that I use for Ryan White, and say Nathan just has a bad body, but for him he also demonstrated being in poor shape with his play early in the season.  Meanwhile Ryan White is a wrecking ball out there, being the Tasmanian Devil and forcing his way onto the team.  So Ryan is in shape but doesn't look it, Nathan is out of shape and proves it next to the other d-men who've been working hard in the gym.  The bag skate exercise is just one indicator, he was consistently beaten by a bigger Greg Pateryn in that drill, even though one of Nathan's strengths is supposed to be his skating.

As far as being in Brossard "all summer working with Pierre Allard", that's patently false, he was at a golf tournament in Strathroy-Cadaroc, Ontario in June, you may have heard about that.  So he may have spent a good part of the summer in Brossard, let's agree to that.  Then let's understand that contrary to guys like Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, P.K. Subban, Jarred Tinordi and Max Pacioretty, guys who we know are gym rats and love working out and built upon their previous gains to improve their fitness this summer, Nathan may have been starting from scratch.  I suspect that Nathan has relied on his natural ability and the fact that he was better than all his peers his entire career so far, and never paid attention to his off-ice conditioning or did much dryland training.

We all know the parable of the horse being led to water.  And about the girlfriend who goes to the gym with you but spends the entire time walking on the treadmill reading Vogue.  Pierre Allard can't make him drink.  Being at the gym and working hard at the gym are two different things.  So maybe Nathan's habits in the gym leave something to be desired, both in how frequently he attends and how strenuously he works once there.  And these are habits he can learn, and improve upon, and pick up by hanging around with the right guys.  But for this camp, he started far behind the others, and maybe didn't have the time or work output to catch up to them.

Let's hope the shoulder injury he suffered in the first scrimmage is a minor one and he can progress this season as much as we know he can.

3)  About Raphaël Diaz, we have to understand that he's more valuable now than he was last season.  While he may to some have seemed redundant on a defence that also had Yannick Weber and Tomas Kaberle, this year he's one of the three 'puck-movers' in the lineup, along with Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban.  The others are defensively-oriented, won't generate much offence, and can't really play the powerplay.  So while I understand the hesitation towards him, the fact that he's undersized and not physical, we need his skillset, and need to understand that he's the only rightie along with P.K. amongst the NHL defencemen.

As far as down the road, he needs to have a really good season this year to fend off the youngsters in Hamilton, and specifically Magnus Nygren, who seems to be a larger version of Raphaël, in that he's a rightie d-man who can move the puck and play the powerplay, but has a couple of inches and twenty pounds on him.  He apparently doesn't shy away from physical contact, and has a good shot from the point.  So Raphaël can be in our plans for this season, he shouldn't be exiled because of Eric Gryba, but that doesn't also mean that we should sign him to a long-term deal and lock him up.  He can play a big role this season, and we can then evaluate the situation next summer.  He's an asset to the club, and should be treated as such, not discarded.

4)  Simon Gagné interested in playing for the Canadiens?  Isn't he injury-prone?  Where would he play, isn't the lineup kind of set?  Wouldn't he just be a veteran re-tread who blocks one of the kids' ascension?

But still, I love that guy.  Sign him up, worry about the details later.

5)  About Lars Eller receiving less powerplay time than David Desharnais, we need to stop seeing it as a slight to Lars, and more of a practical necessity.  We all accept that Lars is a better defensive player, and that he gets used in defensive situation and the penalty kill, something which can't be said for David.  David is really useful in offensive situations, so he'll get a lot of offensive zone faceoffs and powerplay opportunities.  So in a sixty minute game, when you're trying to spread out the minutes, David will tend to get more offensive opportunities, and Lars the defensive ones.  And we can expect that to continue this season to some degree.

Lars will probably get an uptick on the powerplay though, since his wingers on the kid line will be more mature, and Michel Therrien will not need to protect them as much, but expect David to have a healthier portion of the powerplay time, and that's an appropriate use of this type of player.  If David is ineffective in that role, we can't swap out his role with Lars', that won't work, the decision will be more difficult than that.

6)  Love, love, love the kid line of Lars Eller centreing Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.  I'll be expecting great things from them this year.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Louis Leblanc, Travis Moen get another kick at the can at Canadiens camp.

 Watching the videos, here's what struck me about two players who had trying seasons last year:

1)  Louis Leblanc has really added some size and thickness, compared to last summer, when quite a few were struck at how slender he looked during a fan event he was interviewed at.  At the time, he looked more like a teenager trying out for a boy band.  He's now got some size on him, but he still has a way to go, compared to some of his teammates who are absolutely jacked.  Maybe he's a late bloomer physically, maybe mentally it took some time for it to sink in that he needed to train in a different way to make it in the pros, more off-ice stuff and power moves and upper body work.

Much has been made of his disappointing season in Hamilton, but what is lost in the narrative is that before he was felled by the high ankle sprain, he was having a promising start on a line with Blake Geoffrion.  Both of these guys seemed unfazed by AHL competition, and seemed poised to be the dominant line for the Bulldogs.  Then Louis wrecked his ankle in a reportedly unnecessary fight, and Blake later suffered a career-ending skull fracture.  When he returned, Louis was not able to play to the level he'd shown so far, which is unfortunate but not shocking with that type of injury, which may be 'healed' but not 100% for months afterwards, as the athlete struggles to regain proprioception in the joint.

There were also whispers that he was unhappy with the direction and coaching he received from Sylvain Lefebvre and his crew.  They tried to sell him on a career path that would make him a third-line defensively-oriented winger in the NHL, and he resisted that apparently, thinking that he has more to offer, and should shoot for a role higher in the lineup.  Taken along with other stories from anonymous sources (but which to me clearly came from a parent), that for example there were attempts to overhaul his skating stride with the help of tools like rubber bands, we can see that it's likely there were more than one reason for his dispiriting season.

If I could provide him with advice, I'd recommend that he speak with Guy Carbonneau, who once was a prolific scorer in junior, but was asked by the Canadiens to assume a defensive role to eventually take over for Doug Jarvis and Doug Risebrough once those veterans moved on.  The story goes that he was hesitant at first to sacrifice offence as it would affect his earning potential in the NHL, but he was assured that he would be paid as a frontline player even if the points didn't pile up.  We all know how that turned out, he focused his hockey IQ and superlative skating in the manner the team wanted, teamed for years with Bob Gainey and Chris Nilan on one of the most effective lines in Canadiens' history, and he went on to have a twenty year, four Stanley Cup career.  Maybe Guy can help him out with this decision/transition.

2)  Travis Moen is surprisingly lean, compared to what I thought of him.  Probably my mistake, but I thought he was a little more burly, more bulky, so when I saw his weight listed as 222 lbs, I thought that made sense, and he could comfortably play at 230 and slim down as the season progressed.  Instead, he's shredded, he has that hockey player body, lean and no extra weight around the middle, but thick in the chest and shoulders.  Whatever happens this season in terms of icetime and linemates and style of play and playing a physical role, we can't ever accuse him of slacking off during the summer since he has a long-term deal in his pocket.  He's come to camp as fit as could be, he's ready to go in that sense.