Monday, 29 February 2016

The Canadiens and the 2016 Trade Deadline.

It’ll be hard to expect too much out of the Canadiens today, many minor trade pieces being taken off the market, with injuries to Tom Gilbert and Brian Flynn, bottom-of-the-roster types like Torrey Mitchell and Paul Byron freshly signed to new deals, and Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann already dealt.

Ideally, I’d like a shakeup of the ‘core’, with Tomas Plekanec traded for a significant young forward, a name we’ve been batting around for a while like Kerby Rychel or Nail Yakupov, but that’s pie-in-the-sky stuff. Tomas just extended for two more years, has an active No Trade Clause, so I don’t expect anything like that today; at best it might happen in June at the draft. But if some trade could be concocted including Tomas to fetch a Top 6 winger, I’d be very happy. And it’s not that I dislike him and want him gone, I just think a change in the mix is overdue.

Another dark horse to be moved might be Andrei Markov, and I’d hate to see him go, but teams like the Capitals and Stars seem like they’d benefit greatly by adding his skills to their group as they make a run. Andrei has always stated that he wants to remain in Montréal, and acted as if he did, except for the troubling swoon he underwent in December and January, when he was making horrible giveaways and acting churlish and disinterested.

If he does indeed clash with the coach and other players on the team, maybe he’d lift his No Trade Clause, be ready to face the adventure, and continue his career somewhere else, and make a run for a Stanley Cup. I imagine a young defenceman would have to be the return in his case, maybe a player to complement P.K. on the top pairing like Marc Méthot to Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson.

Most likely though, we’re kind of done for this trading period, and my dreams of boatloads of draft picks for this June and beyond will go unfulfilled. We’ll just have to get lucky when we spin the Wheel.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Game 62: Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 1

Always good to get a win, especially against the Leafs.  4-1, and it wasn't really that close.  The Leafs stink, and are an embarrassment with that lineup, despite the rationalization about the tanking for Auston Matthews.

Good to see Mike Condon seems to be finding his way out of the woods.

Kids like Phillip Danault, Sven Andrighetto, Greg Pateryn, Mike McCarron, all played a role, were engaged, got icetime and made the most of it.  Great stuff.

Not that the team played that well, but eventually their greater talent allowed them to distance the Leafs, who gave up.  Just the natural order of things.  Again, kudos to Mike Condon, it might have been a different script if he'd let in a softie or two early.

I want Devante Smith-Pelly traded by the deadline if possible.  If scouts were watching, they might have actually seen him tonight, he wasn't invisible.  I watched the Flyers game with HabitantinSurrey and his brood in a pub, and after the game was over, I had to ask HiS's son if Devo had actually played, I couldn't pick him out on the 10 foot screen we were watching.  A third-rounder from a panicked Western Conference team, trying to keep up to the 'Hawks' buying spree, that would do nicely.

Andrei Markov was overused again, 25 minutes for him in a game against a patsy, including 2:30 on the PK, when we should have been seeing what the kids can do, evaluate them for next year.

Max Pacioretty is having a really good injury-marred terrible season.  23 goals so far, he'll probably reach 30.  Might be the best embarrassment of a season from a worthless soft Canadiens captain ever.  Tonight came with spontaneous, genuine celebrations with P.K. too.  The Negative Nellies are having cognitive dissonance injuries, they're out day-to-day.

Speaking of cognitive dissonance, we win!  Yay!  Against the Leafs!  And helped them improve their draft ranking.  Boo!  And hurt our draft ranking too.  So Boo! again.

Line of the night is by Mathieu Darche on L'Antichambre, who while asking Greg Pateryn about his run-ins with Nazem Kadri, says " me, I'm on your side on this one, because I can't stand him either, but..."

LHJMQ draft prospects Julien Gauthier and Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Stéphane Leroux of RDS has an interview with Julien Gauthier of Les Foreurs de Val d'Or, and Pierre-Luc Dubois of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.  Kind of neat to have both of them on the ice on camera together before the game, since they're both highly-rated draft prospects for this June's NHL draft, with Monsieur Leroux cautiously allowing that they should go in the Top 12.

Both are well trained in the clichés and platitudes required of hockey players, explain that while they're rivals for the draft, they're actually good friends, knowing each other from various tournaments and camps over the years.

So, Julien Gauthier’s season so far:

43 39 10 49 20

…and Pierre-Luc Dubois’:

55 35 47 82 91

…with the numbers being GP, G, A, P, PIM.

Julien Gauthier has fewer GP’s, since he was part of the WJC Team Canada. Lots of goals, but only 10 assists? That’s quite the disparity.

Does anyone remember any CHL player having the same kind of stat line, with so many more goals than assists? Offhand, I can’t think of anyone.

What could be the reason behind this? Is he the New Age Tim Kerr, just bats pucks in from in close, but not much of a passer or anything?  Not racking up assists because every time he touches the puck he's firing it at the net, no matter what?

Julien Gauthier is a big right-shot right winger, an organizational need, but is Pierre-Luc Dubois the better prospect?  If based on the points total, it would appear so, that he's a better playmaker, a more rounded player.

But goal-scoring and size being such prized assets in the NHL nowadays, young Mr. Gauthier will be hard to resist for NHL teams.  Add in that he's the nephew of former NHL defenceman Denis Gauthier, part of the famous family of bodybuilders and pro wrestlers, and you have a potentially irresistible combo, with NHL scouts' current affinity for bloodlines.

I'm just glad I don't have to make these decisions, choose between Mark Napier and Mike Bossy, Doug Wickenheiser and Denis Savard, Simon Gagné and Éric Chouinard.  Because right now I have an unblemished record.


The Screaming Eagles won 8-1 against les Foreurs, with Pierre-Luc Dubois tallying 2 goals and 3 assists, while Julien Gauthier was held pointless and finished -2.  Advantage, Dubois.

Does Jeff Petry's injury explain his mid-season slowdown?

In a way, the fact that Jeff Petry has been playing with a sports hernia for a part of the season is a bit of a relief. He started the season off like a house on fire, but cooled off markedly at one point. We all felt at first that Marc Bergevin had made a great trade and signed a great player to a reasonable deal, and that point of view was being borne out by his great start to the season.

When he slowed down, and his points didn’t quite accumulate like we thought they would, we were made to revisit this whole deal, and wondered. I remember a commenter on social media who lives in Edmonton weighing in this summer frequently, forcefully on the Jeff Petry contract, and his opinion was quite negative, he predicted a disaster. After reading his sorties, I mentioned them in passing once and, while not calling him out by name, I did describe them as “trollish”. He took some offence to that, and replied that he’s seen Jeff Petry play for years, and repeated that he’s soft, indecisive, a mess in his own zone, not great on offence, …

I was less sure that he didn’t have a point lately. I wondered halfway through this season whether this poster wasn’t the lone sane person, and we were the “Body Snatchers” pod people. After starting the season off thinking he was a too-strong #3, I was worried he might be an overpaid #3. And maybe the Oilers knew what they were doing when they declined to sign him long-term.

Now, I’m going to take comfort in the knowledge that his slowdown was due to the sports hernia, that he’ll get all sewn up and fixed up for next season, and he’ll be back healthy and hale and hearty with Carey Price and Auston Matthews and David Backes and score 18 goals and 50 points and be the Conn Smythe trophy winner.

Canadiens medical staff under the microscope.

What with Carey Price's injury and re-injury, seemingly butchered concussion diagnoses on Nathan Beaulieu and Dale Weise (and Michaël Bournival?), and now the less than limpid situations regarding Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry, the Canadiens' medical staff has come into question by some disgruntled fans.

A trope that has cropped up on social media is that Carey Price shouldn't come back until he's "absolutely 100%", that he should pack it in and not even play in the World Cup to make "absolutely sure".  Which isn't so black and white an issue.

It’s fair to question every aspect of a team, with a balanced outlook, absolutely, and the Canadiens' docs shouldn't be above scrutiny.  There are various reasons to have trust in them.

1) Having to choose between rest and rehab or immediate surgery is common in hockey, and sports in general. Ski racers are constantly having to make that decision, they try to race on a knee that’s 90%, have a catastrophic injury and then go under the knife, and we hear about it, but you never hear that Pirmin Zurbriggen or Lindsey Vonn or Rob Boyd raced with a bad back but managed to hold it together and win. You only hear about the ‘fails’, those are the ones that are publicized.

Ryan Miller has had to choose between surgery and rest and rehab in Vancouver. He chose the latter and won his gambit. Evander Kane was playing with a bum shoulder in Winnipeg, soldiered through, got his track suit thrown in the shower by Big Buff, said “Eff all y’all”, and had season-ending surgery.

NFL players commonly play with separated shoulders, dislocated thumbs, etc., until their team is out of the playoffs, at which point they go on Injured Reserve and to the operating room, their season done, to liberate a spot on the roster.

James van Riemsdyk tried to rehab for a couple of months, but has now thrown in the towel and called it a season.

2) Carey Price’s injury is, I suspect, a MCL. It gets a lot of attention and gets us thinking the docs maybe aren’t on the ball, what’s taking so long, but there really is no surgical repair techniques for MCL strains. An ACL tear is pretty much always a complete rupture, and must be repaired surgically, Josh Gorges notwithstanding, but an MCL is rehabbed by rehab. The only consideration is that the more severe the tear, the longer the rehab period.

It’s not that the doctors are making the wrong decision by not electing to operate, there is no such decision they can make. Jeff Petry, with a sports hernia, is a completely different case, it’s a common injury that responds differently to different treatment. It’s quite common for athletes to try therapy, and hope to avoid the knife, until they realize that they’re not responding well to rehab.

3) Also, the idea that Carey wasn’t 100% but the docs let him back on the ice is not so black and white. There’s not a gauge or test that’s definitive, the athlete has input. The docs and physios poke and prod him, ask him to perform certain tests, and ask “Does that hurt? How about this?” And depending on the player’s individual pain tolerance, his ‘honesty’ and motivation to come back, his actual recuperative powers, they ramp up the intensity of the exercises, introduce new ones, get him doing light skating, etc. If the athlete guts it out and says “No, I’m fine, it doesn’t hurt”, that’s what the docs are going on. There’s no clear, defining line.

And according to the reports, Carey got hurt again when he stepped on a puck, which caused him to slip and his knee to bend in exactly the wrong way, and reinjured him. When I came back from my MCL, I was allowed to get back to normal activities at work and on the mountain, but a lot of warnings and cautions, “Go easy at first, take your time, don’t go crazy on the squat rack, …” So was I 100%? According to WorkSafeBC, I was.

What if I’d been unlucky, something happened, and my knee ‘bent the wrong way’? While prior to my injury, nothing would have resulted from it, but now, in this case I would have been injured again. So, was I 100%, or really 90%, when the docs and physios cleared me?

Rehab isn’t something that has a clear, objective finish line, but is rather a continuum. Dare I say it, it’s a process.

4) The Canadiens always rave about how well they’re treated, how everything is first class, and that includes the docs, they often mention them in their chats with the media. Geoff Molson is a fan, holds the team and the players dear, he won’t stint on the players’ care.

In the NFL, where players are disposable, and you can save money by cutting athletes from your roster, I understand the skepticism some fans and players have with respect to team doctors. In the NHL though, with guaranteed contracts, and lots of investment in players who are seasoned in the minors, as opposed to drafted out of college and thrown onto a churning 70-player roster, there is lots of incentive to have the players’ best interests at heart, if only to protect their investments.

An example is how one Broncos player explained that he has had a long, productive career because he pays for his own medical care, his own physios and therapists, out of his own pocket, rather than trust the team docs. We saw a hint of that when Carey was flown to New York for a second opinion on his injury and treatment, and apparently was told much the same thing he was by the Canadiens’ docs, he seems to be satisfied that he’s on the right track.

The San Diego Chargers have had a quack as their team doctor, and from a distance, the difference was night and day. Players left the Chargers embittered, feeling used, talking about lawsuits. We get none of that from the Canadiens, quite the contrary in fact.


 “Truly 100%” is a concept we use in conversation, but it doesn’t really apply in an injury rehab case. It’s not like there’s a dial with a needle that has to hit 100, at which point the athlete will be ready.

What happens is that Carey is being put through exercises, through drills, and based on how he reacts, how he feels, they increase the pace, and introduce new ones. They tell him “Try this”, and to trust his body, “go with the pain”, meaning when you feel some, back off a smidge.

The classic exercise when you get a knee injury is to get on a stationary bike, and with the injured leg, go back and forth on the pedal, slowly, at the bottom of the stroke, forward and back. At first you push the pedal from 4 to 8 o’clock, back and forth, that’s all you can do, until the pain and swelling and stiffness subside, and you can go from 3 to 9, then 2 to 10, and eventually you can do a full revolution and your physio makes a big deal about it and makes you feel like a hero.

This is what’s happening with Carey, he’s probably shown enough that they feel he can drop to his knees, gently, and get through that barrier. He won’t do any big moves or splits yet, just work his way up. And eventually, he’ll be doing those, sometimes feeling a twinge, sometimes feeling a little looseness. And he’ll have to be honest about it, and communicate that.

And he’ll know that the stakes on the season have changed, that maybe he should be cautious, that despite the pressure he feels to get back to action, the desire he has to play, that maybe he should take more time, take an extra day here and there.

The athlete plays a big role in deciding if he’s ready, if he’s 100%. Think of how many times a player is miraculously ‘ready’, in time for the big game. Think Ray Lewis for the Super Bowl, or Thomas Davis this year, good to go with a broken arm. Think ski racers coming back from an ACL, magically recovered in time for the Olympics.

Carey has a guaranteed contract, an agent. This isn’t the 1950’s Red Wings with the Norris family, pushing players to play or sending them to the minors. Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien have very little influence in whether Carey plays.

Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert lost for the season.

FEBRUARY 25, 2016

Man, you check in to the news just to see what’s the buzz, and you get another brick on the head.  Jeff Petry done for the season.

Magic wand-speaking, if this was going to be the way this season was going to go, this might as well have happened in December, along with Tom Gilbert’s injury. We would have had to rotate in Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi, called up Mark Barberio sooner. With the hindsight goggles strapped on.

In one way, this further reduces the temptation the brain trust might have to try to sneak into the playoffs. White towel, waved, throwed.

Flipside is, this kind of eliminates any chance Alexei Emelin gets dealt. Missing two of the six starting defencemen, Marc Bergevin won’t let another go, and then have his team composed of a minor league blue line. He wouldn’t, right?

So we keep buffeted by opposing forces. Beat the felonious Flyers. Lose to the Predators in a clunker. But amass an overtime point, which we kind of don’t really want, sort of. Beat the best hottest team in the league.

Still, let the fire sale begin! Minus Tom Gilbert, Paul Byron, David Desharnais, but still… We have a three-legged card table somewhere, rarely used.

Dan Hamhuis, Dale Weise refreshingly candid as the NHL trade deadline approaches.


Dan Hamhuis was just on TSN 1040 Vancouver with Matt Sekeres and Blake Price, and was really open and honest when answering questions about his immediate future. Instead of saying the usual, the boring “I don’t want to speculate” or “For now, I’m a Canuck and that’s all that matters”, he actually answered questions that fans have.

He spoke clearly about how he and his family love Vancouver, that’s why he signed here long-term (and I should say with a hometown discount), and his first choice would be to remain here. He said that he hasn’t been approached by the team to waive his NTC. If he was, if it was a good situation for him and it’d help the Canucks, and provide him with a chance to win a Cup, he’d consider it. He explained that being away from his family for months would be a hardship, that they being able to visit would weigh heavily in his decision.

He actually brought up Antoine Vermette of Phoenix-Chicago-Phoenix as an example, how that’s not out of the question in his case.

Kind of refreshing that he’d not play the ostrich with us, pretend he’s not aware of the rumours. Kind of like Dale Weise said in the last couple days, how he’s aware that his days as a Canadien are probably numbered, how contract talks last week basically went nowhere, they’re too far apart. Nice to get news you can use.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Canadiens sign Paul Byron to a 3-year contract extension.

I haven’t seen the online reaction to the Paul Byron contract extension news, but I imagine they’re not all smileys and confetti cannons. We Canadiens fans want dessert, a big hunk of chocolate cake, after a season of eating all our boiled soggy veggies, but are told instead, by a mean stepmother, “Have an apple.” It’s like all those times you ask that amazing girl from work or your chem lab class out on a date, and she begs off, but offers to introduce you to her friend Gertrude, her roommate Agnes.

Personally, it doesn’t quite land flat for me. I was kind of hoping we could flip Paul for draft picks, but that’s my solution to everything, amass more draft picks, and hope to find an Andrei Markov or Jaroslav Halak in the later rounds.

Also, I kind of want the Bottom 6 freed up so we can start working in the Gabriel Dumonts and Charles Hudons in the lineup. If not in the last pro-forma twenty games, when else? Wouldn’t it be perfect time to give them NHL minutes, with no pressure, or any downside for mistakes and losses?

Aside from the anti-climatic nature of the announcement though, there’s not much to get into an uproar over this. It’s a very cost-conscious, safe move, to extend a player who’s shown a lot, for three years at barely more than a million per. This contract has its own buyout provision built in. If he doesn’t work out, and you can’t trade him to another team, he’ll be easily buried in the minors, with a negligible NHL cap hit poking over the $950 000 limit.

And it is a little worrisome that a player who the lowly Flames couldn’t fit on their roster is offered that kind of security in our organization, but there is precedent, with Dale Weise staring us in the face. He couldn’t establish himself in Vancouver, was a fringe NHL’er, but with a team and system change, he progressed and capitalized on an opportunity. It’s hard to argue that Paul hasn’t done the same, blossomed in Montréal.

Mix in that he’s a local boy, groomed by Benoit Groulx in Hull with les Olympiques, and that’s a player worthy of consideration. Is he the vanguard, the trailblazer preparing the way for Monsieur Groulx to join the organization, after a spring cleanup?

One qualm which I’m sure has been raised is that we have another small forward on a roster, in an organization replete with them. I think we’re facing the same kind of process that frittered away a lot of size and leadership from our team.

No one disputes to any great degree that the removal of Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Manny Malhotra and Brandon Prust were, in isolation, bad moves, or hard to justify. They all were defensible. Same with the moves to remove Travis Moen, René Bourque, Mathieu Darche, Jarred Tinordi, etc., they all made some sense, there was some underlying reason for all of them. Cumulatively though, they were all small steps in the wrong direction, away from the goal of the team with size and character that is hard to play against.

The same process is occurring with the accumulation of waterbug forwards. The addition of Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto, and Paul Byron all make sense in terms of the players being skilled and deserving of a roster spot, but in a combo, on a roster that already has Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher, you can easily make the argument that this is the wrong move, the wrong decision. Extending Paul Byron might be the wrong move to make in spite of all the qualities he displayed this season.

I’ve made the point before that it’s maybe not that other teams fail to see the great talent of players like Brendan Gallagher, Sven Andrighetto, Martin Reway, etc. The Blues or Ducks probably have scouts that look longingly at Charles Hudon on the shelf, available to anyone, in the third, the fourth round, but the GM, the organizational philosophy doesn’t allow for that type of player to be drafted. They want big heavy forwards. They don’t dispute that Charles Hudon may be more talented than the WHL thumper they’ll select, but bottom line, come May and June, they want the thumper, to survive the anti-hockey of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They’ll forego the flashy stickhandling in exchange for the greater crosschecking resistance.

So on the one hand, we could decide that this is just prudent asset management, that Marc Bergevin’s group identified a useful player they obtained for free, and they retained that asset, we got something for nothing.

But mired in this disappointing, injury-marred season of unrealized potential and questionable personnel moves and coaching decisions, I’m finding it hard to don the rose-colored glasses. I’ll take the free player for free, but I won’t go all dancing bear over it. Even if he came free.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Canadiens dead in the water, headed for the reefs, due to poor goaltending.

I don't understand why so many fans insist that the Canadiens are a one-player team, that it's unhealthy to rely on Carey Price to such a degree, that they shouldn't be so bad for losing one player.

Again, the Canadiens have gone from the very top of the league in goaltending to the very bottom.  First to worst.

To do so at the most important position in sports, comparable maybe to the quarterback at football, is going to dramatically change any team's fortunes.  Refer to the Alouettes results since Anthony Calvillo got injured and retired.

Criticsinsist that Mike Condon plays great but lets in a bad goal now and then, or that he was playing well for a while there and we were still losing.  And that's a myth.  When he played well, we generally won.  When he didn't, we didn't.

Same for Tikker before he got traded.  And now, same for Ben Scrivens.  He's played well recently, had a great Sv% for three games, and we won all three.

And some fans take it as a personal attack on the players involved, which it isn't.  Mike Condon is a great guy, a standup guy, you can tell it wears on him to lose, but he faces the media and accepts responsibility, doesn't try to deflect.  Same with Dustin Tokarski, he was a popular teammate, charming guy, his mom on 24CH last year did a great job telling us who he was, what he faced to make it to the NHL, despite the doubters.

It's not an excuse but an explanation that the Canadiens are not getting NHL-level goaltending right now.  They're not getting average goaltending, they're not getting mediocre goaltending.  They're getting abysmal goaltending.  League-worst goaltending.

And some naysayers may actually be stalwarts who'd have stood shoulder to shoulder with their 300 comrades at Thermopylae, undeterred.  They may be relentless Series 800 Terminators straight from the Cyberdyne factory, who could not be stopped from their ultimate goal.

Nos Glorieux are not made of such stern stuff though.  They're only human, and it's affecting their morale to go into a game fearing that you can't win, that you'll need to score five to have a chance, and then see your goalie let in a softie in the first five minutes.  "Here we go again..."

We've all played on bad teams, or teams with fundamental flaws like this.  I've mentioned how for years I played hockey and kind of resented our goalie(s), they were kind of quiet and didn't do much.  I didn't even realize this until one year my team had this great goalie, who'd make awesome saves on the ice, and was a vocal ringleader in the dressing room, on the team bus.  It was like hockey was a different, much, much more enjoyable game with him around, especially for a defenceman.

Same with rugby, I didn't really understand the game and why that guy in the backs kept kicking the ball, willy-nilly, why any ball he had to handle was a crisis, an incipient try for our chortling opponents.  "Why is he always kicking the ball?" I wondered as I trotted listlessly to 'support'.

Until I got to university, and our fullback was one of the best if not the best player on the team, and now I saw the huge difference a good fullback made, cleaning up mistakes, putting the pressure on the other team with nifty kicks and crazy runs, converting penalties into points.  The game suddenly made sense.  I was heartened.  We were winning.

One player can make a huge difference on a team, if he's in a pivotal position, and there's no one to replace him adequately.

We can (and I do) fault our GM for taking a calculated gamble that a rookie unpedigreed goalie was sufficient to act as our backup goalie.  Mike Condon might have served quite well relieving Carey on back-to-backs, occasionally, 12 or 15 times this season, but he wasn't a reasonable insurance policy in case of a prolonged absence by Carey.

It's akin to a space-saver spare tire, suitable for short drives in emergencies, but you're kind of hooped if you need to rely on it way on in the boonies on a 4WD road on a hunting trip.  You wonder what the heck you were thinking driving this far into the bush without a fullsize offroad spare tire.

The Canadiens have many flaws.  Losing Carey Price and three players not being able to replace him adequately has exposed many warts.  The famously harmonious dressing room, which Daniel Brière, P.A. Parenteau, Dale Weise and Jeff Petry lauded, seems much less united, more fractious.  The coaching staff's ingeniousness and leadership is in question.  Fundamental roster weaknesses are glaring.

These all need to be addressed.  But they would not be so prominent if the Canadiens had goalies doing the job.  Our roster wouldn't look as bad as it does now, our team wouldn't be what it is now, a listing ship with a broken mast, headed straight for the reef, and every one scurrying to the lifeboats.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Game 56: Canadiens 4, Sabres 6

Canadiens Express notes on the 6-4 loss against the Sabres tonight.

As always, my gratitude to Gary Bettman for making it so that I don't have to waste a full night watching hockey, I can watch this condensed, accelerated broadcast, the 'I don't really care anymore' version.

--As a rational, thinking fan who knows when opportunity knocks, I want the Canadiens to place high in the Draft Lottery.  Which means that when we face a bottom-feeder like the Sabres, a dreaded competitor of ours for Auston Matthews, we have to find a way to outgaffe them, to fumble away the game.

Even when it will be unseemly to lose, since they played last night in Philly and had to travel back to Buffalo.  We can't lose our resolve in situation like these, weaken, and pounce on a wounded foe.  We must lay down.

--But when I hear a Sven Andrighetto slapper ping off the crossbar, and see the red lamp glow, I can't help but jump off my couch and cheer.  Beauty pass by Max, and one-timer by the erstwhile IceCap.

--Justin Bailey was a star at a pre-draft combine held by the Canadiens the year he was drafted.  The story went that some coaches and scouts knew his father, who had played in the NFL, had a prolonged chat with him on the ice and shook his hand before he left the ice.  They reportedly loved his combination of skill and size.

That's the kind of talent you can accumulate when you stockpile draft picks like the Sabres have.

--The transparently obvious conspiracy theory last year was that Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth was too competent, and wasn't piling up the losses to boy-genius Tim Murray's satisfaction, so got shipped out of town for inferior goalie Chad Johnson and a third-rounder.

That diminished goaltending assured the Sabres their guaranteed 20% odds in the lottery, from which lofty perch brainiac Sabres GM Tim Murray felt he couldn't possibly lose out on Connor McDavid.

--Seeing Chad Johnson operate, I can see that the Sabres pro-scouting isn't deficient.  That young man will indeed lose you a lot of games.

But we shouldn't bring that up, the Sabres' problem is obviously that they don't score enough, and it's the only aspect of their ineptitude we should discuss.

--We're not going to discuss it, but those were some dribblers that Ben Scrivens let through.

--Bad luck for Mark Barberio tonight, one shot on net which should have found mesh but stayed out, and he got caught flat-footed on the early breakaway goal by David Legwand, held the blue line and didn't recognize the incipient threat.  I suspect the coaches' ire on that play will be targeted on Tomas Fleischmann though.

--Andrei though, that was a beauty giveaway in our zone, on the fifth Sabres goal.

--P.K. Subban still has a long way to go yet in terms of his self-control and maturity.  When we start playing, when we're five years old, we're told that the refs are part of the playing surface.  He knows that.

I get that he's frustrated, that it's a bitter way to give up an insurance goal, but honestly, that's not why the Canadiens lost.  They lost when they couldn't capitalize on their scoring chances.

P.K., refs have a long memory.  You're a leader on this team.  You wear the 'A' on your sweater, and will need to approach referees in the future to argue your team's case.  You have to cultivate these relationships, not burn bridges.

--On L'Antichambre, Jacques Demers, Guy Carbonneau, Denis Gauthier and Gaston Therrien didn't have much positive to offer beyond Sven Andrighetto and Alex Galchenyuk's play.  They felt that the loss was inexcusable, and P.K.'s reaction to the bad bounce was childish and unbecoming.

--I posted recently how we've slowly, in drips and drabs, in a series of perfectly reasonable decisions and roster moves, frittered away a lot of our size and toughness.  Travis Moen, René Bourque, Jarred Tinordi, Zack Kassian, Brandon Prust, all traded away, and not really replaced, and we're back to a Jacques Martin-era lineup, a slew of undersized speedy forwards who get pushed around by the Blues and Bruins and Sens.

Jacques Demers made a similar point with respect to leadership.  He agreed that Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta were too highly-paid to remain on the team, they had to go, but that the team sorely misses their leadership.  He expounded that during the game, Josh and Gio were frequently seen talking to their young teammates, giving them their marching orders.

Marc Bergevin felt that his young leadership corps was ready, they needed to take over from the old guard.  It may be that this was a faulty assessment.  Their loss, along with Brandon Prust and Manny Malhotra, may not have been replaced by Max and P.K. and Gally.  There may be a vacuum on the team where Prusty and Gio were before.

--And Guy Carbonneau wondered "Was Carey Price the only real leader on this team?"

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Game 55: Canadiens 4, Lightning 2

I watched the condensed version of the game on RDS' "Canadiens Express", thanks to Gary Bettman's love of lucre being much greater than his love for hockey, but also because of a sense of foreboding I held.

I'm a pompom-waving positroll, but I had a bad feeling about this one.  I thought we were going to get blown out, that Ben Scrivens would be shelled all the way down to the ECHL, that the season was going to puncture, finally, and deflate completely.  

So I didn't have the stomach for a full game, kind of like a Republican Party primary season debate, just give me the lowlights, and I'll be on my way.  No stream for me, thank you.

Because my mind is made up.  I have some very concrete certainties about how this season is going, and how it's going to go:

a)  Carey Price will come back too  late for us to claw ourselves back in the playoff race,
b)  our GM is aware of that, and has decided to ride this down to the bottom of the standings, like Major Kong in "Doctor Strangelove",
c)  our players are aware of this, they know they're not making the playoffs,
d)  they've made themselves heard, they've spoken on how they feel about the coach,
e)  some players, and I have to believe Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec are among them, have taken their foot off the gas pedal, 
f)  the GM has spoken too, and he's not going back on his word about his coach finishing the season,
g)  but he's going to clear house in the off-season, with the Canadiens and in St. John's, with lots of coaching talent available to choose from,
h)  the GM is going to convert some of his assets into draft picks, and
i)  the GM is going to not mind having a crack at the #1 pick, but he'll keep a close eye on players who don't put out maximum effort and don't play with pride.

So with a solid 4-2 win over our division rival and would-be nemeses, all these best-laid schemes and prognostications are in peril.  I'm resigned to a losing season, and this three-game win streak is most unwelcome.  I wants my lottery pick and I wants it this year!

So I'll take the win, graciously, thank you very much, but can we get back to the business at hand, please?  

Tomas, can you ease off by at least half, please, and play like you've got your new contract signed and in your back pocket?  

Andrei, can you skate desultorily, wondering why you bother, and not intercept all these passes like a cobra striking?  

Nate, you're trade-bait, cut it out with the visor shattering and the shot blocking, will ya?  

Mr. Barberio, I'll accept you sticking it to your old team, but we've pronounced you a third-pairing option, can you please not overdeliver on this and upset the applecart? 

Mister Scrivens, you're supposed to be the final nail in the coffin of our GM, according to the pitchforks and torches posse, can you commit a few more blunders per game, please?  Because right now your saves are more than cancelling those out.

With that housekeeping out of the way, we admit we did decide to surf this wave and enjoy the ride.  It was fun to see Ben Bishop's bigness not be enough, to see him discombobulaterize before our very eyes.  

And keeping an eye on the out-of-town scoreboard and highlights, Kate Beirness was nice enough to show me Nazem Kadri get knocked around by Mark Giordano and probably earn himself another suspension, and the Bruins get shellacked by the Kings 9-2.  A good night all around.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Game 51: Canadiens 2, Flyers 4

Watching the game on a pretty good stream, all things considered.  Thanks !  Thanks Gary, way to earn a contract extension!  Genius move, raising revenue by jacking up the price.  Capitalism works!  Everyone gets a bonus!

A now routine loss by the Canadiens, 4-2 to the Flyers, with all the moral victory overtones, lots of effort, came close there for a while, bit of bad luck, hot(ter) goalie on the other end, valderi, valdera, ...

--For the first time since 2012, I was watching and kind of hoping we don't win.  When Jeff Petry tied it up, I got excited, got on board, I hate losing to the Flyers.  But realistically, in the long-term view, I want to improve our draft standing, that's all I want out of this season.  Not just to improve our lottery odds in the first round, but to protect our slot in the second, the third round, etc.

Watching the Draft the last two years, it was agony waiting for our turn to pick, and then to pick again, especially when we didn't have a second-rounder the last two years, having swapped them for Thomas Vanek and Jeff Petry.  All these great prospects still on the board, being picked off one by one, well before we get our turn.

We already have the Wild's second-round pick from the Josh Gorges trade with the Sabres two summers ago, let's draft high in each round, and stockpile more picks by trading off perishable assets.

--I'm getting tired of getting dummied by other teams, especially our division rivals, and by the Flyers.  Why is it always us getting beaten up, injured by other teams?  Like Kyle McLaren on Richard Zednik.  Eric Gryba on Lars Eller.  Ryan Malone on Chris Campoli.  And on and on it goes...

Tonight, Radko Gudas, a thumper who fits in very well with the Broad Street Bullies, lowbridged Lucas Lessio, one of the bigger players on the ice on our side.  Again, we lost out on the exchange, it didn't look good for our boy, hyperextended knee in slow mo made me queasy.

Even when we have big guys who are supposed to stand up to those guys, we get owned.  Colton Orr takes down George Parros.  Milan Lucic spaghetties Alexei Emelin's knee.  Milan Lucic destroys Mike Komisarek, repeatedly.

We used to have guys to stand up to the goons.  We'd have our own goons, or at least big tough guys who could play who'd make the other side think twice before stepping over a line.

There's a perfectly good, logical explanation the GM can make for Jarred Tinordi being traded, for Zack Kassian being exiled, for Mike McCarron being kept in St. John's, for Tom Sestito not being claimed on waivers, for Trevor Gillies not being signed and parked on the bench, then unmuzzled and unchained when appropriate.  Except that after this string of very reasonable moves, we're now quite small and inviting targets.  Again.  And as Denis Gauthier explained on L'Antichambre, when you're not headed to the playoffs, when things aren't going well, players don't really want to get involved in these battles, these scrums, if they don't have to.

In sum, we're back to where we were in 2012, losing game after game, and Habitants tip-toeing skittishly, avoiding eye-contact, Jakub Voracek assaulting powerlifter P.K. Subban with no real response from anyone.  In 2012, eventually, Pierre Gauthier had to throw in the towel and claim Brad Staubitz off waivers to quell the carnage.  I now wonder what Marc Bergevin, who avowedly wanted to size up this team, will do.  He has to do something, to deal with this specific issue.

--Sucks being Lucas Lessio.  The kid was flying out there, wasn't doing bad at all.  I hope it's just a mild hyperextension.

--And since you ask, hell yeah I want Brandon Prust back, now that he's being waived.  I don't know if the GM should necessarily claim him outright, but maybe trade him for a no-hope prospect, one-for-one in terms of contracts, and get the 'Nucks to keep some salary.  Right now, they're desperate to be rid of him, the experiment really didn't work for them.

Our team isn't right.  I don't think he'll necessarily get our guys back winning, but I sense he'd right things in the dressing room, and impose some sort of order out on the ice.  Bobby Farnham wouldn't act so frigging tough with Prusty out there.

--My favourite site these days, , required four spins of the wheel for us to land the 3rd overall, with the Hurricanes first and Flames second.   On the tenth try, we got first, the Canucks second and 'Canes third.

And that's before they adjusted the odds, after we lost and the Leafs won.  I want our odds to be so high that we all pout like Tim Murray in June, when we don't land the first overall pick, and figure with those odds we shouldn't, couldn't possibly lose.  Like, 20%, that's guaranteed to turn out, right?