Saturday, 30 April 2016

Montréal Canadiens lose big at the Draft Lottery.

Rushed thoughts as we all watched the NHL Draft Lottery show on Hockey Night in Canada.

–You could build a pretty decent team with those execs in attendance. Ron Francis centering Brendan Shanahan and Trevor Linden would be a great line. Even with pluggers like Don Sweeney and Marc Bergevin on defence, they’d lay waste to any beer league.

–Brian Burke not even putting up a pretense of wearing a tie. That guy can spin a yarn though.

–Strombo’s knowledge of hockey isn’t quite as encyclopedic as let’s say a Ron McLean or James Duthie, and it shows when he asks Trevor Linden what it felt like to see Brian Burke engineer the trades to draft the Sedin brothers. Trevor awkwardly replies: “Well, uh, I wasn’t a Canuck at the time, I’d been traded, but…”

At least it wasn’t Burkie, the guy sitting right across from him, who’d traded him, it was the much-loathed Mike Keenan.

–Oh, I was mistaken, Burkie’s tie peeks out from beneath his jacket lapel. He really needs to get fitted shirts. If he feels a need to pop that top button, he needs to go up a shirt size.

Or have a salad once in a while.

–Goddammit, Gary Bettman’s hand is right on the lottery gizmo, his thumb is literally on the scale. I have a bad feeling about this…

–I’m guessing they’re counting down from #14, so I’ve got fingers crossed we see the Bruins announced first. If they don’t, it’s a debacle.


–Ottawa gets a Yes! from me too. And the low-shot teams coming out are all good news. Colorado so far.

–And the dream dies at #9. We stick there.

At least we didn’t fall any spots.

–No Oilers at Top 3, so that’s good.

–Boo Sportsnet for your commercial break before the Top 3.

–Stupid Leafs assured of Top 2.

–Scratch that, they’re #1. I hope Auston Matthews turns out to be Patrick Stefan, or Alexandre Daigle.

–Okay, let’s trade down and draft Julien Gauthier.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Game 82: Canadiens 5, Lightning 2

Observations on the Canadiens' season-ender, which I foolishly PVR'ed on Sportsnet without first realizing which broadcast team was handling our game.  And thank you for this, Gary Bettman, along with the entirety of your oeuvre.

--I was truly worried about Bob Cole at puck drop.  He sounded medicated, or as if he was just back from the dentist.  He warmed up, seemingly, as the game progressed, and sounded better later on, but I'm not joking.  At first I didn't recognize him, thought it might be one of those "Thrill of a Lifetime" contests that had some Joe off the street doing the intro to the game.

I've criticized CBC and Sportsnet for continuing to employ Bob Cole, when there are lots of play-by-play callers in the country just dying for a chance at the big leagues.  Mr. Cole is no longer qualified to do the job.  Right off the bat, he confused Greg Pateryn with Andrei Markov, which is kind of hard to do, with the leftie-rightie being a clue as to who is who, their size, their numbers being completely different.  This isn't Francis Bouillon and/or David Desharnais and/or Raphaël Diaz, which used to give him fits.  I know Greg and Andrei play the blue line, and wear beards, but that's about it in terms of similarities.

I know his foghorn voice is chock-full of memories for a lot of fans, but I grew up watching "La Soirée du Hockey" with René Lecavalier and later Richard Garneau, and Gilles Tremblay providing the colour commentary.  So I'm immune to Mr. Cole's charms.  And keeping him in the broadcast booth is to prioritize nostalgia over the actual quality of the broadcast.

And succession planning.  HNIC has already lost Chris Cuthbert to a rival by coddling Mr. Cole.

--That shove by Greg Pateryn on Tyler Johnson looked bad initially, but on replay it was clear that he was giving him a perfectly legal crosscheck in the meat of the arm, as benedictioned by Saint Michael of Babcock.

--Markov-to-Galchenyuk-to-Pacioretty makes for a pretty goal.

--Andrei Vasilevskiy is nearly as large as Ben Bishop according to the stats, but he doesn't appear equally sumo-like, you can actually see some mesh behind him.

--The Lightning are last in the NHL in terms of powerplay efficiency.  With all that talent.  It's incomprehensible.

Their coach Jon Cooper has failed to adapt, continuing to play his system, stubbornly staying the course.  He's too stubborn, stubbornly insisting that Steve Stamkos play wing instead of centre.

None of his players were ready to play tonight, and that's on the coach, that's his job.  He didn't have them ready to play, didn't make between-periods adjustments, that's something he's incapable of.  He failed to lift the goalie when it was obvious he wasn't sharp.  That's also his job.

He's lost the room, it's only a matter of time until Stamkos bolts, because Jon Cooper stifles him, stubbornly refuses to modify his system to his skills.

He's now doing the same thing to Jonathan Drouin, stapling him to the bench anytime he makes a mistake.  How is he supposed to learn without making lots of mistakes?

And which youngsters have progressed under his reign?  Sure, you'll say Victor Hedman, but he was always going to be a superstar in this league, he gets no credit for him.  But Carter Ashton, Richard Panik, Brett Connelly, Slater Koekkoek, all ruined because of him.

But that's Jon Cooper for you, stubbornly sticking to his methods, driving his best players off the team.  It's stubborn and arrogant, for a coach who never played in the NHL, and is so insecure that he surrounds himself with yes-men like Rick Bowness and Steve Thomas who won't be a threat to replace him, will never question him.

And honestly, I wish Drouin was english. Because then we would KNOW that his being french isn’t part of the problem. Right now I’m not sure. Either way I’m disgusted with Cooper.

--Couldn't help but notice how Vladislav Namestnikov's hair was bone dry, all flowing in the breeze when his helmet was off and he was skating to the penalty bench after a fight.  That takes some doing, in the middle of the second period of a game.  He's obviously not trying, he wants his coach to get fired.

--Valtteri Filppula's penalty that nullified the Tampa powerplay was directly caused by Jon Cooper's incompetence.  They didn't adapt to the situation, with four Canadiens stacked up at the blue line, yet insisting on trying to carry the puck in.  Sure enough, Mr. Filppula lost the puck, and then got a tripping penalty.

With so many injured defencemen, with the inexperience the Canadiens have on their blue line, the smart thing to do is to dump the puck deep in their zone, behind them, and pressure the youngsters, chase after the puck and retrieve it.  You have to make them back off the blue line, or force them to make mistakes.  Not just try to barge through four defenders lined up and expecting you, you can't stickhandle through that, this isn't the 80's.

But that baffoon Jon Cooper, missing his two best players, kept stubbornly insisting that they carry the puck in, because he's too stupid to adapt.

--A highstick on Brian Boyle needs to be very high I guess.

--How close did Max get to his 30th goal on that late powerplay in the second?  If I'd have freeze-framed the image when he had the puck on his stick, I'd have bet money he had it, the entire net was open.  Good job by the Tampa goalie scooting back to block it.  If Max could have raise it a little though...

--If I have to pick my poison, I guess I'll choose the Flyers to participate in the playoffs over the Bruins.

Now we get to white-knuckle it at the draft lottery, and hope that last year's result proves it's on the up and up.  If Gary Bettman didn't rig it so Connor McDavid didn't land in a major  American market, or American Market, or anywhere-but-Edmonton market, then maybe he won't gift his boss Jeremy Jacobs Auston Matthews.

--Toronto's 'War Room' goosed the numbers a little bit, made them look better in terms of calls going against the Canadiens versus those in favour, in a meaningless game for us, with that goalie interference call which nullified Mike Blunden's goal.  Trying to make it look like they're even-handed against us, smart move.

--Sure Coach Cooper, try to lecture Jonathan Drouin right after he scores.  Hilarious seeing his stupid face when his players tell him "No, Jonathan didn't mess up, we did."  Trying to cover it up  with that stupid yellow card, but failing anyway, we can totally see his lips move.  What a clown!

No wonder no player will sign in Tampa this summer, nobody wants to play in that circus!

--And Drouin gets another.  Sure Cooper, keep playing your favourites Callahan and Brown, but send down Drouin to Syracuse, because you can't deal with skilled players.

--I can't explain how happy I am for Max that he got his 30th.  The guy had a tough year, starting out barely recovered from a tibial plateau fracture, which curtailed his summer conditioning regimen with Ben Prentiss.  He's taken a lot of heat from fans who want him to play like Chris Nilan or Mario Tremblay.

Max will get knocked by those same people for scoring a few empty-netters this season, including this one, but I'm happy that he did, as opposed to previous seasons when we'd fail to cash in on these opportunities, failed to put opponents away.  Remember Tomas Plekanec messing up his chance against Edmonton, and how we eventually lost that game?  Empty-netter are important.  They count.

--All that remains now for the season is the unpleasant matter of the draft lottery.  Can't wait to see Auston Matthews' face when he learns along with all of us that he's headed to Edmonton.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Game 80: Canadiens 1, Panthers 4

Random thoughts on the Canadiens' 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.  I had to watch this game in a state of high illegality, thanks to Gary Bettman.

1)  The thing that’s dawned on me this season is that, when players like Benoit Pouliot and Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta and Andrei Kostitsyn and René Bourque and Thomas Vanek and Zack Kassian moved on, I’d feel like their departure was overdue, or at least justified, defensible. I was looking over their shoulder at the crop of rookies coming up, all these guys we’d drafted, and the UFA’s coming around the corner on July 1, and I always thought we were moving onward and upward.

I thought these guys and many others were stopgaps until the real talent showed up, the franchise players we were drafting and developing.

Looking at our second line now, I can’t help but think we didn’t keep up with the treadmill. We were advancing, sure, but maybe the belt was moving faster than we were. It’s all relative, like that guy Norman Einstein said.

And maybe all those other teams’ treadmills weren’t cranked up as fast as ours was. They’re adding pieces and youngsters and seem like they’re building to something. It might be a perspective thing, their grass seeming more chlorophyll-filled, but I look at teams like the Flames and Blue Jackets with envy. Maybe if I looked closer I wouldn’t, but that’s where I am.

I’m reduced to schadenfreuding the hell out of the Oilers, the Senators. Hey Melnyk, how’s that $7M+ yearly to Bobby Ryan feel? Money well spent? You douchebag?

But yeah, I was counting the Danny Kristos, the Sebastian Collbergs, the Magnus Nygrens, the Dalton Throwers, the Brady Vails (hey, don’t dismiss the importance of checking forwards…), the Alex Avtsins as hatched, couldn’t wait to bolt them on to the roster. Sure, we might get an Olivier Archambault who was never right to begin with, or a Daniel Prybil who takes too long to develop, or a Tim Bozon who gets felled by an act of Dog, but that’s fine, the rest of them will do nicely, right?

Now I’m fretting about Jacob de la Rose, even he looks iffy to me now. We promised to not call up guys too soon, but he’s a textbook case, right? A guy who looks good in the dressing room, look at him all handsome and imposing, you immediately adjudicate him a fixture on the team for the next decade. Sven Andrighetto, Martin Reway, Arturri Lehkonen, our three Lilliputian forward draftees from 2013, when are they going to bring it?

But yeah, that second line there, that’s scary to me. In 2012, we were much worse off, with Aaron Palushaj and Petteri Nokelainen on regular rotation, but it feels like we can see that from here.

2)  Lots being made of John Scott getting to play a game as a reward for his professionalism and dedication and hard work playing with the kids in St. John's.  And in this chatter, I can't help but wonder what about Gabriel Dumont, doesn't he merit that same reward, for the same reasons, only more so?

I bring him up a lot, and get knocked a little bit for it, that he’s not really a prospect anymore, but yeah, for le Pitbull, the little guy with the huge heart and huge gonads, they should have brunged him up for a couple of weeks to let him draw a NHL wage, reward him with a few games. Especially when it became clear the IceCaps weren’t going to make the playoffs.

When I evaluate this, I think that maybe they were fearful of the team imploding without its captain, but then I dismiss that. That’s like punishing the guy for being the veteran leader of the team.  As if he'd have been better off not being so good, so indispensable.  

You know, mail it in once in a while.  Dial it down to 98%.  That'll earn you a callup.

3)  #22 is wrong for John Scott. He’s no Steve Shutt.

Rick Chartraw’s 27 maybe? But aside from Chucky having it now, it was Frank Mahovlich’s 27, not Chartraw’s. It definitely fits Alex better.

Gilles Lupien’s 24?

John Kordic’s 31?  While Carey’s not using it?

4)  Greg Pateryn takes a penalty when he high-sticks Alexander Barkov.  Not necessarily happy about the high stick, but I'm not mad either. I hate tripping and hooking lazy stupid penalties, but I’ll take roughing and elbowing penalties, especially if they’re situationally-wise, ie: not in the last five minutes when you’re trying to score a tying goal, etc.

If Greg plays hard and causes opponents to be a little skittish when he's on the ice, to have their head on a swivel, then I'll take the occasional penalty like this as the cost of doing business.

5)  On a segment on L’Antichambre yesterday, Denis Gauthier interviewed Erik Gudbranson, who spoke perfect French, was a pretty good guest. When asked who gives him the most trouble to play against, he said it was his own teammate in practice, Nick Bjugstad, “who’s even bigger than I am”, and can skate and handle the puck and gives him fits.

Pierre Houde and Marc Denis were just talking about his tremendous size and fluidity and agility on the ice.

When the Canucks were trying to abscond with him in the Roberto Luongo trade negotiations, I thought he was more of a Brian Boyle/Paul Gaustad clone, a big lumberer who could play defensively and play tough, but he’s apparently much, much more than that.

That’s the thing about these huge guys, the appeal is such that for every five or ten players like Jamie Oleksiak or Jarred Tinordi or Hugh Jessiman who takes a long time to arrive or never does, teams will keep drafting them in the hope that they’ll hit on one like Nick Bjugstad and be set for years.

6)  By the way, do you guys remember when the Panthers were stupid for ‘reaching’ for Sasha Barkov, and not snapping up Seth Jones.

The idea was that Nathan McKinnon or Seth Jones would/should go first overall, in the blogs at least, if not to the Florida scouts.  So whoever didn't get picked first would surely go 2nd overall, it felt pre-ordained, for months.

Anyway, it was a mild surprise when they announced Sasha Barkov, and I remember Bob kind of going “Well, …” and going into his spiel. He was actually the voice of reason in this.

As a fanboy who’d read lots of writeups, I thought they were passing up Aaron Ekblad to draft Radek Faksa. I wouldn’t have thought twice about drafting Popeye’s kid.

Truthfully though, my main objection, personally, was that you shouldn’t spend that high a pick on a player who’s the spitting image of Jim Gaffigan.

7)  How do we put a stop to all this shot blocking?  Start by saying that you can’t put a knee or hand down on the ice to block shots. Keep players upright, with their face, eyes, their head, their neck out of harm’s way. If you can block the shot with your stick blade or skate, fine, but no getting down on the ice to do so.

Two birds with one stone, improved player safety, and more shots getting through.

In the same vein, you can’t get down on the ice, can’t sprawl to intercept a pass or prevent a pass attempt. Same idea, not safe, sliding into players knees, posts, goalies, etc. Also, it’s just anti-hockey. It takes no talent for a jabroni to sprawl on the ice to defend a two-on-one. 

Sure, sure, well-timed dive, blah blah blah, but get it out of the game, it’s grinders allowed to cancel out the skilled players. Tilt the game towards skill.

8)  Lars Eller gets interfered with in a chase for a loose puck, the play goes the other way and it ends up in our net.  No call from the ref on the interference.

This is exactly where the video ref concept would prove its worth. Clear as day on video, this wasn’t hockey, it was interference anti-hockey. In the Rugby World Cup, the video ref would have contacted the ref, said “Hey, I got a loop to play for you at the next whistle.” They would have watched together, the ref would have said “I see a two-minute for interference penalty, do you agree?”, the video ref would have said “I agree”, and the call would have been made, would have been right, the Florida goal would not have counted.

Instead, Colin Campbell is installing cameras at the blue line to adjudicate offsides to the millimetre. Because that’s what’s ruining the game, those offsides where a player is a split-second early entering the zone. Obeying the spirit of the rule there isn’t enough, we have to get it incontrovertibly correct.

Elbows to the head though, ref didn’t see it, play on…

9)  Mike Condon on the bench.  When pulling the goalie on a powerplay, I'm always fearful of clearing attempts going into the empty net.  Icing being allowed, you might as well shoot at the net if you get a chance, while killing a penalty.

We should change that rule, no icing allowed whatsoever, even shorthanded.

Maybe install cameras to enforce it. Right Daddy Campbell?

10)  Shawn Thornton wasn’t too frisky there, when John Scott tried to engage him in conversation at the faceoff. Not as slashy and jaw-y as he normally is, against Gally or Mathieu Darche.

11)  I love Brandon Prust, but there is a world of difference in how his season ended and John Scott’s is ending. The big galoot has kind of half-won me over, partially, in a sense. He went to St. John’s and didn’t whine, didn’t complain, and got rewarded.

Prusty had a tough season, and his opportunity to go home instead of playing out the season wasn’t tinged with the same gratitude from the Canucks as the Canadiens just showed.

I’d still want Prusty back though, keep the kids in line.  If he'll have us...

The problem with Colin Campbell’s NHL

Nazem Kadri, a dirty and undisciplined player, showed his true colours with his gratuitous and reckless crosscheck of the Wings' Luke Glendinning in the neck.  He got a season-ending four game suspension for his troubles.

His coach's reaction illustrates very well the problem with Colin Campbell's NHL, which he famously wrote is concerned with ' promoting hate'.
“He was going to cross-check the guy right in the arm,” said Babcock. “(Glendening) braced himself, it hit his shoulder pad and rode up. You’ve got to command your fair share of the ice if you’re going to play hard.

“I’ve got no problem with it. You can’t cross-check people in the head, but you’re allowed cross-check them in the meat of the arm though.”
I looked and looked on Google and for the life of me, I couldn't find the exception to the rule that states the meat of the arm is fair game for a crosschecking idiot like Nazem Kadri.

Here's what it actually states:
Rule 59 – Cross-checking 
59.1 Cross-checking - The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent. 
59.2 Minor Penalty - A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent. 
59.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent (see 59.5). 
59.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by cross-checking. 
59.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player. 59.6 Fines and Suspensions - When a major penalty is imposed under this rule, an automatic fine of one hundred dollars ($100) shall also be imposed. 
If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).

Nope, no 'meat of the arm' nowhere.

But most hockey fans would go along with Mike Babcock's interpretation, which is what he actually offered, was an interpretation, not what the rule actually states.  It's the NHL's interpretation too.  Any game you watch, there will be a hundred or more crosschecks every game, in the back and arms and shoulders of opponents.

We kind of consider it normal now, for players who "play hard", to slash and hack and crosscheck like heck, with no sanction unless a player goes ridiculously overboard.  We've been inured, co-opted.  Beaten into submission.  Cherryfied.  Kypreosimbecilized.

I've taken to reasoning with myself, that the crosschecks aren't that bad, considering the space-age protection and padding these guys wear, it's not like the olden days with leather and felt shoulder pads that barely covered half your upper body, if that.  Now they have all-over flak jackets, they can take a pounding and not be too bruised up the next morning.

But again, all this crosschecking is a way that the NHL favours untalented lumberers over nifty players who are trying to create goals and excitement for the fans.  And Colin Campbell and supposedly modern coaches like Mike Babcock see no problem with that.  The fourth-liners need a lifeline to keep up, or else they'll get blown out, we might see 7-6 games.  You know, goals might be scored.


Referring to Greg Pateryn:
“That kid had a blatant disrespect for (honor and respect),” Cooper said of the hit, according to Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune. “That was egregious what happened and there is no place for it.”
“You’ve got to command your fair share of the ice if you’re going to play hard,” Babcock said Monday. “You can’t cross-check people in the head. You’re allowed to cross-check them in the meat of the arm though.”
So, which is it? An egregious event that showed blatant disrespect, or a player commanding his fair share of the ice by playing hard, and dishing out a trifling and allowable crosscheck in the meat of the arm?
I’m glad we have Colin Campbell in place to sort through this delicate situation and set things right.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Connor Garland a victim of hockey's caveman mentality.

Hockey is in the hands of cavemen. It’s not just the NHL, last night in the LHJMQ, Connor Garland took two dirty hits, of the type he’s had to withstand all season. One of them was a neck-high crosscheck shove into the boards, the other a blatant late hit that came a couple of seconds after the puck had ticked off his stick blade, he’d never possessed it.

On the latter, his helmet came off his head, and that’s his fault, he should wear one that fits and is snug and do up his chinstrap, it shouldn’t shake off like that, in the name of comfort or whatever.

But later, the coach of les Tigres Bruce Richardson tried to blame Connor Garland, saying he’s cocky and was taunting their bench.

I’ve always hated that, how Wayne Gretzky was called a whiner, and Sidney Crosby is blamed for his chippiness, which makes him fair game. The sport is awful at identifying which players are the meal tickets, pay the freight, and tilting the game in their favour, instead of plodders and fourth-liners.

Connor Garland is a really small player, listed at 5’8″ and 160 lbs, and if a behemoth wants to paste him for whatever transgressions he has committed, that’s fine, but in both cases, these players took free shots, completely outside the rules, but will barely have to suffer any consequences. Matthieu Ayotte will have to sit out two games for his crosscheck into the boards, but the other player, who clearly targeted the star of the other team to try to injure him, get him out of the series, he skates without any penalty.

That’s how we get to the point where Duncan Keith can take an axe swing with his stick at an opponent’s face, and we grandstand and huff and puff, but the discussion is centered on whether the suspension should go beyond five games, into the playoffs. We should be talking 20-40 games as the minimum, and go from there.

Gary Bettman: "Our teams don't tank."

(March 27, 2016)

So it's now official:
Montreal Canadiens Playoff Chances
Lost to NY Rangers 2-5, playoff odds unchanged at 0%

It's all about the wheel now.  Officially.

Our playoff odds have ticked up from 5% to 6%, but that's a race we can't do much to improve our lack of success, too many points in the bank, too many games fumbled away to Buffalo, too many Washingtons and Anaheims tooked by surprise.

Four spins in, we get Jets-Canadiens-Leafs.  Man, Toronto will just not go away.  They're tough, they're resilienty and adequaty for the job, this stripped down to the studs joke of a team, perfectly impotenty for the job, all season long, never mind the late-season scoring surge by Nazem "I'll O.J You" Kadri.

Seven spins in is Oilers-Canadiens-Flames.

We should break for a disquisition by Gary Bettman on how teams are not intentionally sabotaging their rosters, losing games on purpose by icing the worst possible combinations of hopeless players they can muster:
“Our teams don’t tank,” Bettman said in a one-on-one interview with Postmedia News on Wednesday following the conclusion of the GM meetings. “If you’re a team that knows it’s not going to make the playoffs and you want to start focusing on the rebuild, you’re going to do certain things unrelated to the draft that are going to give you assets that are going to help you develop for the future.”

Fifteen spins in, we get Avalanche-Canadiens-Oilers.  A troubling number of times, we get leapfrogged like this and pick ninth or tenth, not even benefiting from our recent plungette in the standings.

Twenty-six spins in, and we're going in the wrong direction, now it's Oilers-Jets-Canadiens.  But me, give up?  Prepare to admire me, for I'm made of much sterner stuff than that.

Twenty-eight, Carolina/Québec-Montréal-Edmonton.  That would be a good way to kickstart a rivalry.

I wonder how Peter Karmanos, owner of the Hurricanes, and the man who stole the Whalers from Hartford, yet landed in the Hockey Hall of Fame, is doing with his whole "I want to sell you my team but retain control of it so I can still get to play with my shiny toy and write off my coke-whores but have you pay for it" plan?

Twenty-nine, Sabres-Oilers-Canadiens, and that's it, I don't have the strength to go on.  It's written in the stars.  We're cursed.  What's the point of even trying?...

From the Charlotte Observer:

Karmanos announced last September he would like to sell some or all of his majority interest in the team but wanted to continue to run the franchise – to sell his cake and eat it too.

At least one group of local investors was considering putting together a bid, but apparently lost interest because of Karmanos’ insistence on retaining control. Team president Don Waddell confirmed Karmanos and Hurricanes executives have met with other potential buyers who went as far as signing non-disclosure agreements, but obviously nothing has come of it so far. Nor is anything expected anytime soon.

“We’ve entertained some people here, but as we sit here right now, there’s nobody I can identify and say it’s a strong group to buy the team or a piece of it from Mr. Karmanos,” Waddell said Tuesday.

It is Karmanos’ prerogative to get the best deal for the franchise but the longer this drags on, the more danger it presents for the team’s future here.

Canadiens in a no-man's land in their draft position.

Trevor Timmins was reported to be at the Cape Breton-Chicoutimi game Wednesday night, to see the Saguenéens win 5-4 and tie up the series 2-2. So he’s able to scout Pierre-Luc Dubois, but too late to scout 6’4″ centre Nicolas Roy, who we could have scooped up in the third round last year, but chose Lukas Vejdemo instead.

I’ll be watching this situation very closely, it’s sticking in my craw a little more now, that Nicolas Roy scored 48 goals this season.

In any case, it looks like the Canadiens will draft 9th or thereabouts in June, unless we win the lottery.   #8-10, where we look like we’ll land, will probably be too low for Pierre-Luc. If we win the lottery, the the top three ranked players are seen as clearly better prospects, in a higher tier, so that’s not a solution either.  As much as you'd like homeboy Pierre-Luc on the Canadiens, with a Top 3 pick, you take one of the Top 3.

Jake Chychrun is a great fallback position on paper, like what I’ve read, but I’ve never seen him play, only the Top 3 at the WJC, and Julien Gauthier on TVA’s Friday games.

But I’ve started to wonder if we can/should trade down from ninth (or higher, fingers crossed), bank a second or high-third round pick, and get Julien Gauthier at 13 or 14 where he seems to be getting ranked lately.  Especially on our team, he’d fill an organizational need for size and scoring on the wing, a combo package we don’t have.

It is a gamble, and teams usually don’t risk it, they stick to their own list, and don’t bet on what other teams’ lists say. We look at a service’s rankings, see a player ranked at 35 generally, and if a team drafts him at 25, we tend to think they could have traded down to 33 and still gotten him. But that’s if all the other teams also saw him at 35.

Memorably, in 1977 the Canadiens scooped up Mark Napier at 10th overall, and le Prof Caron was later said to be confident Mike Bossy would last until the 18th pick, when we had another first-rounder, but the Islanders didn’t cooperate, we ended up with Normand Dupont.

Or, it’s been floated that in 2006 the Canadiens thought that Claude Giroux might last until the second-round, with his slight frame and only one year for a track record in major junior. They had a man-crush on David Fischer for years, they weren’t going to pass him up no matter what, but maybe they did have fingers crossed that they’d get another shot early in the second, maybe trade up if he was falling.

Interestingly, David Fischer was a player we traded down to get, from 16 to 20, they picked up an extra second-rounder and still got their man.

So did the Flames in 2012 when they traded down in the first round to draft Mark Jankowski, who Jay Feaster memorably tagged as the “most talented player in the draft”. He’s come a long way since then, developed a lot, but he’s still not in the fold, and still not a sure thing.

By the way, if Mr. Jankowski decides to go the college UFA route, I really really hope we’re in the race to get him. Big talented centre for free, how can you go wrong?

But in terms of trading down, the Canadiens lately don’t seem to want to get cute like that. Mike McCarron and Noah Juulsen were two players who could conceivably still be had ten or so slots lower down in the draft, they weren’t quite ‘reaches’ really, but weren’t necessarily thought as ‘value’ picks, like Max Domi.

I guess if we get to that point, if the Canadiens have Julien Gauthier rated as the best player remaining when it’s their turn to speak, they’ll go to the microphone and call his name and won’t try anything fancy, that’s not Marc Bergevin’s style in these matters.

I think that no matter what we’ll have a crack at a really good player, it’s very fluid in 4-10 range right now, it's kind of futile hoping that a player like Jake Chychrun does ‘fall’ to us, or maybe trading down and still nabbing Julien Gauthier.

Or, for that matter, that we’d traded Tomas Plekanec last summer and we now had an extra first to play with.

The lower we go though, the more choice we’ll have. Two seasons ago, when we drafted Nikita Scherbak, the scuttlebutt is that the previous highest-rated player on our list was David Pasternak, we would have drafted him if he’d been available, not stolen by the Bruins. The whole story isn’t written yet, but the Bruins got the player who is much further along his development path, by virtue of being one slot higher in the draft.

Or in 2013, Marc Bergevin appeared to try hard to move up to get at Anthony Mantha, but the Wings got him at #20, while we were slotted at #25. It looks that this won’t be a catastrophe, since Mike McCarron is looking really good so far, but instead of trying to wrangle a trade with Jarmo Kekäläinen to scoop the Wings, it would have been easier to just be at 18 or 19.

So we’re almost in a can’t lose position, after the Top 3 there’s a tier of prospects who are all roughly equivalent in terms of value, but I’d like to have more of a choice in that tier by finishing lowerhigher.

So you're saying there's a chance?

(March 26, 2016)

Our lottery odds are unchanged at 5%, apparently stuck in cement.  The last few days there's been great glee in Vancouver due to the Canucks failing to score in four out of five games, and tallying one measly goal in the other, en route to five straight losses and 28th overall, and the grand prize in hailing distance.

Meanwhile we do the one step backwards, one step forward shuffle.  Michel Therrien puts great emphasis on consistency.  We learned that the Wings organization does so as well in the innumerable profiles of Anthony Mantha and his travails in Grand Rapids the last two years.

Well, we ain't consistent, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.  It's like the players don't really want that coaching change.

So we spin The Wheel of Ignominy, and mirror our five percent odds with a hit, a #2 on the fifth spin.  But, we're bookended by the Leafs and Oilers, and that won't do, so we spin again.

And on the Yvon Lambertian 11th spin, we stick:


Montreal Canadiens


Vancouver Canucks


Toronto Maple Leafs

Draft Order

1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Vancouver Canucks
3 Toronto Maple Leafs
4 Edmonton Oilers
5 Columbus Blue Jackets
6 Calgary Flames
7 Winnipeg Jets
8 Buffalo Sabres
9 Arizona Coyotes
10 Ottawa Senators
11 Carolina Hurricanes
12 New Jersey Devils
13 Colorado Avalanche
14 Detroit Red Wings

You have run the simulator 11 times.

Almost perfect, except for the #3 winner being the Leafs, we'd prefer the Flames or the Jets, but I'd go for an All-Canadian Top 3.  We kind of need the help in the Great White North, with suckage from sea to sea to sea, some of it even unintentional.

But I've often said that I don't really hate the Leafs, that they're not rivals of ours, that's a media creation by TSN and HNIC, to sell newspapers and drive ratings, sure, but mainly so these jokers in Toronto who have to cover the Leafs can have a talking point, can muster pretend relevance.

Growing up as a French-Canadian Canadiens worshipper, my hated teams were the Flyers and the Bruins, and les Nordiques pretty much the instant they joined the league, despite my uncle having played for them.

And I've claimed often that my main reason for disliking the Leafs was that they stacked their roster with loathsome thugs, Tie Domi and Wade Belak, and rats like Darcy Tucker and Nazem Kadri.  If they had a decent team, I'd actually be happy for their success.

Well, it looks like Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock are headed in that direction.  At last year's draft, Kyle Dubas picked a slew of small, fleet, talented forwards, who were I repeat small.  Dmytro Timashov, Mitch Marner, Jeremy Bracco, they're intended to score, not gore.

So what the hey, if the Leafs get #3, they're not going to draft Tyler Biggs the Second with it.  Let the baby have his bottle.  We've got ours, our 'gros joueur de centre'.  Whatevs, right?
Montreal Canadiens Playoff Chances 
Did not play, playoff odds unchanged at 0.00002%

What a year it's been, right?  We went from 99.99% chances to be in the playoffs back in December, and now this.

Winning the first overall pick is hard work.

Teams with no direction: the Canucks beat the Sharks on the road, fall all the way up to 27th place.  The Canadiens beat the Lightning in Tampa.

We need to call up Angelo Miceli and Mac Bennett.

78 points in 78 games.  The Gary Bettman .500, rubberstamped by 'Colie' Campbell.

We must spin The Wheel of Contingency, it's our only hope.

15 spins in, we stop to catch our breath.  This is hard work.  Thankless work.  Fruitless toil.

Two more spins to get to Jets-Flames-Canadiens.  Almost perfect, just need to invert that order.  But nothing wrong with out-of-our-division Canadian teams winning that lottery.

Except the clowncar Oilers, of course.

29 spins in, and I'm bent over, wheezing, feeling a little dizzy.  I walk it off, too winded to speak, but with a strained grin on my face:


Montreal Canadiens


Calgary Flames


Edmonton Oilers

Draft Order 
1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Calgary Flames
3 Edmonton Oilers
4 Toronto Maple Leafs
5 Columbus Blue Jackets
6 Vancouver Canucks
7 Winnipeg Jets
8 Buffalo Sabres
9 Arizona Coyotes
10 Ottawa Senators
11 New Jersey Devils
12 Colorado Avalanche
13 Carolina Hurricanes
14 Detroit Red Wings

You have run the simulator 29 times.

"I really... really should (gasp, wheeze)... spin again (pant pant)... to get the (snort wheeze)... the (huff puff)... Oilers... outta there (clutches at his side)... but (drops to his knees)... I think (squeaky rattly breaths)... I think (makes gesture that could mean "I'm done", or "Call 911")...  I just (sags to the floor and passes out)...

Game 78: Canadiens 3, Lightning 0

Here are my Canadiens Express thoughts on the Canadiens 3-0 win over the Lightning, the condensed version, courtesy of Gary 'Blackout' Bettman.

1) Just for my ease of reference, I want Phillip Danault to wear #21, in the tradition of Doug Jarvis and Guy Carbonneau. If Phillip is going to fill that role, of the defensive centreman, let’s give him the jersey number that fits.

Stefan Matteau can get Claude Lemieux’s #32 or Sergio Momesso’s #36, those would work for me too.

2) Loving the kids on the blue line. I thought Darren Dietz was stalling a little bit, not taking that next step in the AHL, but he’s looking pretty solid now, considering.

Same for Joel Hanley, I thought he was padding the roster upon his acquisition, bringing in a left shot on the blue line, but he seems really smart and mobile, a Jeff Petry Jr. Lite.

3) Happy that Brett Lernout is recalled, hope he gets a game or two. He hasn’t really stooded out when I watched the IceCaps, neither good nor bad, which is fine for his style of play. I haven’t seen him blow a fuse yet either, which I guess is okay too, that he’s concentrating on hockey, not fisticuffs, but I want to see him clear the front of the net like Mr. Plow on Saturday, when Gregory “Sonny Boy” pokes his revolting snout into our business.

And then I want to read Daddy Campbell’s emails afterwards.

4) Steven Stamkos is overrated, didn’t do anything Jacob de la Rose can’t do. I’d give four mill, four and half, tops.

5) Alex Tanguay to play right wing with Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk next season? Left shot, but great passer, really brainy player, who could be the setup man on the wing. Decent size, great shot too. Could probably be had on a reasonable UFA deal in July.

6) I like how Greg Pateryn shoots the puck with confidence, gets it on net. Short quick backswing, keeps the puck low, gets his forwards to trust him and stand in front of the net with confidence, not wince in fear when they see him wind up.

We should send P.K. to the Greg Pateryn Artillery Academy.

Duncan Keith should get a minimum 40 games suspension for his latest outrage.

I’m seeing too many apologies and excuses for Duncan Keith. Since his axe swing at Charlie Coyle, the networks have been showing two previous incidents, when he elbowed Daniel Sedin in the head and knocked him out for essentially the rest of that season and all of the next, and when he harpooned Jeff Carter in the face.

The narrative is building towards ‘an excellent player who’s had a couple lapses of judgment, and now this one’. Which is false. He’s had more than that.

I remember watching live when he took a gigantic, completely gratuitous slash at Daniel Sedin’s back, while Daniel was strides ahead of him and about to score on a breakaway. There was no strategic reason for it, no upside, it wasn’t that kind of harrying little slashes on the player to try to put him off his game, but also while not drawing a ref’s whistle. It instead was a completely cynical hack, at the player he’d assaulted before, and probably felt misplaced resentment for, for having caused him to get suspended.

Watching Duncan Keith play, at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, for example, is to see a player fully displaying his skill and intelligence, he makes you marvel at how smart and aware and in charge he is. He’s a true quarterback, a general with the puck.

He’s also a miserable son of a betch, an unprincipled basturd who loses his head. He has impulse control issues, anger management issues. He’s just a big jerk, and that’s an understatement.

When a female reporter asked him a direct question about that hack at Daniel Sedin, he demeaned her as a person and a reporter, ridiculed her knowledge of the game. Instead of answering her question, he lost his cool, got all mean and snarky. And refused to admit it or apologize afterwards.

So seeing talking heads trying to tease apart dirty plays and dirty players, it’s just more colincampbelling to me, the constant minimizing and deflecting of the issues.

Duncan Keith is a dirty player who does this kind of stuff all the time, rarely gets called for it, and the book should be thrown at him. I cringe at the whole “Well, maybe five games, and another one or two games, they’re playoff games, after all, …” This was a clear, voluntary strike in the face of the opponent, with a stick, with intent, with motive. The discussion should start at a minimum twenty or thirty games, that should be the floor to start any discussions. Duncan Keith is no better than Matt Cooke or Raffi Torres, other serial offenders and threats to health and safety.

Except that Duncan Keith is better at that whole hockey thing. He’s an integral part of a Stanley Cup repeat champion, and contender again this year. The refrain is that punishing Keith would be punishing all his other teammates, and the Chicago fans. So we should go lightly.

And to me, that’s the whole point. There should be consequences to his actions. If he lets his teammates down and a whole city full of fans down, and feels this small, that’s kind of the point. He never learns. Maybe he should this time.

And maybe teams would think twice when signing these guys to these contracts, there should be a significant risk to hiring dirty players who are a menace to everyone else. The penalty shouldn’t be borne only by the player through suspension, the team that enables him, fails to discipline him, they should bear some of the blame, get splattered too.