Tuesday, 8 October 2013

24 CH, 2013-14 season, Episode 1: Notes

The show starts with P.K., at ease and being himself, talking to the camera.  The kid is a star.  And maybe I'm dreaming, but it seems to me that the increased confidence from a 2013 season during which he put it all together has him coming off less brash, more self-assured.

Generally, the narrator's voice on the French version reminds me of Claude Quenneville.  I had to check that it wasn't him, and it isn't, the gentleman's name is Pierre Lebeau.

1:12  We see General Manager Marc Bergevin giving his roomfull of scouts their marching orders: "We need to get bigger and harder to play against."  If there was any doubt that the GM, while not directly picking players, influences draft-day decisions, here is another piece of evidence.

1:28  Shot of Alex Belzile filling out paperwork at rookie camp.  He was recently cut by the Bulldogs, don't know what his next step is.  He's the kind of smart, heady player who can actually play, but is displaced from the game by the Colton Orrs and Steve Downies.  

Whenever I rail against the current tide of fighting and SmashUp Derby hockey, I get told that my brand of hockey is not exciting, that physical hockey is what fans are after.  The thing is if you remove the John Scotts from the game, you'll get more skillful, thrilling hockey, but there will still be bodychecking and action, it'll just be between two hockey players who weigh 190 lbs, instead of two goons who weigh 230 lbs, or Colton Orr trying to remove Tomas Plekanec's kneecap.

1:30  Cool shot of Patrice Brisebois giving a hearty welcome greeting and handshake to Mike McCarron.  I get the sense that Patrice has met the young man before.  It's great to see a longtime Canadien who never wanted to play elsewhere getting to share his passion for the team and game with the youngsters.  We saw during the "Road to the Memorial Cup" documentary how impressed Darren Dietz and Dalton Thrower were with the youngish Player Development Coach, idly wondering whether he could still play based on his skating.

2:35  Shots of a jacked Michaël Bournival.  The kid has packed on the muscle, to the point that I'm almost concerned.

3:40  Cool shots of the players greeting each other at the start of the main camp.  P.K., who's never met a microphone he didn't like, riffs on the size of Mike McCarron, while his traps and delts try to Incredible Hulk out of his shirts.  All those farmer's walks did his shoulders some good evidently.

3:52  The teeny-boppers will swoon over Magnus Nygren when he makes le Grand Club.  Used to hate guys like that, never had a chance when they were around.

4:15  P.K. will be miked up the whole season.  He's gold.

4:30  Lars Eller's added size isn't just fodder on social media, his teammates have noticed too.

5:40  The team does the old ice-breaker routine of having players introduce themselves to each other, and having a veteran introduce a rookie to the whole group.  Carey kills when he's up introducing Darren Dietz, trying to earn the kid some brownie points, cracking that his favourite player is Marc Bergevin.

5:53  Morgan Ellis looks like an old-timey villain, or a pirate in black and white movies.

6:30  Carey Price at the height of his powers, blocking Coach Therrien, feared sniper that he is.  I would have gone blocker-side myself.

6:50  Brendan Gallagher hoisting some serious weight, then doing a funky set of pullups in which he switches between front grip and reverse grip between reps, a plyometric exercise, kind of like handclap pushups.  As if pullups weren't hard enough already.

7:20  Alex Galchenyuk schooling Brandon Prust on the speed bag.  Good to see the rapport between those two.

8:02  The look on a toddler's face as he spots P.K. Subban in the receiving line before the pre-season scrimmage and yells out his name is priceless, probably the highlight of the episode for me.

Some people are quick to dismiss the importance of having local boys on the team, glibly stating that all reporters are bilingual, they can translate from English to French, so what's the big deal about having francophones on the roster?  I say again that the connection between a team and its younger fans is one that can't be taken for granted.  If young Québec fans don't recognize themselves on the Canadiens roster, and feel that they're included, they can start to ally with the Flyers with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier and Vincent Lecavalier, or the Pens with Sidney Crosby, who speaks more than passable French when interviewed on RDS.  

English-speaking fans may not understand this, but for unilingual French-speaking kids, it means so much that your heroes speak to you and make an effort to reach out to you, even if it's only a few words.  As a kid, I knew that the Canadiens were the good guys, in no small part because Ken Dryden, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Murray Wilson and Steve Shutt all would speak French, or try to, in between periods when interviewed by Lionel Duval.  The Canadiens were my team because we had Guy Lafleur and Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe and Henri Richard and Jacques Lemaire and Yvan Cournoyer and Mario Tremblay and Yvon Lambert, but also because even the exotic Canadiens, those from other provinces, were our heroes too.

08:35  Zachary Fucale after the scrimmage, wide-eyed and speechless.  That kid is growing on me.

10:10  P.K. victim of a blatant slew-foot by a dirty Bruin in pre-season action.  That has become so common-place that I wonder why there's a rule against it.  The great equalizer for talentless teams who can't keep up to the play.  Despite his protests, the refs claim that P.K. fell of his own accord.  Brilliant.  P.K. decided to fall, with the puck, at the opposite blue line.  The opposite forward 'checking' him had nothing to do with it.

I wonder how Colin Campbell rewards his refs for favouring the Bruins that way.  It can't be anything too blatant like money, although cash is hard to trace.  Bonus Air Miles?  Free winter tires, installation included?  Lenscrafter gift cards?

10:50  Daniel Brière and David Desharnais convoked to the video room to go over positioning during a defensive zone faceoff.  Michel Therrien makes the adjustment right away.

Last season, we saw Coach Therrien and Coach Daigneault do the same with P.K., between periods.  They showed him a sequence, and asked him to in future like instances, make a play for the puck rather than go for the big hit.  P.K. understood and reacted well, but I remember someone griping that it was further evidence that P.K. was being discriminated against and humiliated and would leave at the first opportunity.  Well now we can put that to bed.  The coaches are using a tool at their disposal to provide  instant feedback.  They're doing it the right way, by not asking someone to change who he is, but change what he does.  You can ask someone to change their behaviour, not their personality.  The coaches nail it, there's no conspiracy.

11:15  A shirtless Douglas Murray appears.  We can also put to bed rumours that he's not in shape. 

11:40  The conversation between Marc Bergevin and Louis Leblanc, when he learns he's being sent down to Hamilton.  This earned Louis some notoriety, due to his girlfriend having a Twitter account.  Anyway, during the meeting, he's stoic, maybe a little stunned.  Marc Bergevin keeps referring to a guy named Sly, and there's a bald stooge in the room who doesn't say anything.  It took me a while to put 2 and 2 together, and that the bald guy is Sylvain Lefebvre, the Bulldogs coach, that's the Sly he's talking about.  I still can't get used to that look, I remember him as a young kid.  With hair.

15:15  Mike McCarron learns he's being sent down, we see him saying goodbye to some of the Canadiens.  He has a very easy-going demeanor.  Some have noted his resemblance to the actor Jason Segel, and it's more than a physical thing, there's also the big goofy kid attitude as well.  After the draft I noted that he would be a good teammate to have, and the way he associates with others tends to confirm that.

16:00  Good Canadian kid Brandon Prust shows Euro-trash goalie Peter Budaj that soccer ain't that hard, so why all the fuss?

16:45  More between-periods video coaching, with Assistant Coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault reaming out the entire defence corps.  Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, they're all hearing it.  Raphaël Diaz is told to put some guys on their cans.

19:05  Pre-game meeting in the video room.  Eager beavers in the front row: Jarred Tinordi, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu (attaboy!), Alex Galchenyuk, Francis Bouillon.  Class clowns in the back row: Carey Price, René Bourque, George Parros, Brandon Prust.  Daniel Brière and David Desharnais sitting side by side.  Freshly shorn Whitey's taking some time to fully accept his decision, wears a ball cap.

19:50  Is that Mariepier Morin hosting some kind of media event at the New Forum?  They put her to work?  Shouldn't she be focused on keeping Brandon happy, and getting her girlfriends to entice other UFA's to come here?

21:30  Cool moment when, while reviewing the George Parros-Colton Orr fight that led to the Canadiens enforcer's concussion, Marc Bergevin tells a crestfallen Michel Therrien that George is okay.  The coach obviously hadn't been told the news yet, is surprised and asks for more info.

Really good stuff, good glimpses of life outside the rink for detail-obsessed fans.  I sometimes while watching worry that the camera trained on the team will affect their behaviour, maybe deleteriously, but with no evidence to support this notion I'll take the (potential) bad with this very good.

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