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Thursday, January 24, 2013



It's nice to be wrong every once in awhile. Once in awhile, okay?

My Habs vs. Capitals pregame thoughts were this: playing in Washington, Caps are 0-2, Ovechkin has yet to score and with all of that, figured we would should could be in for a long night.

Markov is back en force. Habs beat Caps 4-1 in Washington. AP

Then when the Habs took the early momentum on a power play just over a minute into the game and didn't capitalize, I thought "oh boy, I've seen this before." The Canadiens continued to create solid chances but couldn't finish. Brian Gionta open net, missed! Bourque in tight, no go! Alex Galchenyuk barging to the net and flicking a high backhand... nice save by Caps 'tender Neuvirth.

The Habs were skating, clicking, making solid first passes, turning the puck up the ice quickly and the Caps were completely flat. But yet the score was still 0-0.

That always scares me.

What I expected to come then was the Caps would get the first goal and then take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Instead, the Caps took two quick penalties to start the second period, went down 5-on-3, Tomas Plekanec scored his second in two games and the Habs never looked back in a solid 4-1 win in Washington.

The Habs' power play, its bread and butter for so many seasons of late -- except last year -- suddenly seems to have roared back to life with the return of Andrei Markov, who scored the second goal of the game and whose pairing with Raphael Diaz appears to be a stoke of genius on Therrien's part.

Should could would you have ever thought, even dreamt of uttering the following after the last few years of futility and hard times for the Russian:

Andrei Markov leads the Montreal Canadiens in goals!?

Well it's true. The veteran blueliner now has three. Not only that, with his goal and assist tonight he's now the fifth highest scoring defenseman in Habs history. Not bad. He's got to be feeling great for himself and what an impact a healthy, confident and surgically-repaired Andrei Markov has on this team.

When even Josh Gorges gets into the scoring action, you know things are going the Canadiens' way.

With all the good that is going on with the Habs -- for these past two games at least -- let's not forget how bad the Capitals were. Goalie Neuvirth could not be blamed for this one. The Caps came out completely listless. No energy, no tempo, no synergy. And the Canadiens took full advantage.

And all this without the first line really going on all cylinders as of yet. Pacioretty picked up a couple of assists and Erik Cole hit a post but that line has yet to fully assert itself.

Brian Gionta continued the trend of the bounce back with his second goal of the year on a nice set up by Rene Bourque. And you know what? Suddenly, Bourque brings a size element to the Plekanec line. Another nice move by Therrien. The man is pushing the right buttons so far.

And where was Ovechkin in all of this? Did he play!? Personally, I think he's not into it. He doesn't want to be in Washington. If he's going to play in the NHL, the guy wants to win. And it looks like already, the Capitals' time has passed.


Last night I had a bit of a negative twitter exchange with a hockey writer (who shall remain nameless) who was absolutely adamant that trading P.K. Subban would be an absolute disaster, and that I was completely WRONG for suggesting that he could be traded for the better of the team. Personally I found his tone completely unprofessional and insulting. But I guess that's the twitter-verse.

While I like P.K. and think he's a great player with so much upside, I also think that he isn't bigger than the team, and if Carey Price and Max Pacioretty can take the so-called "bridge" contracts of two years before they cash in longer term (which they did) then so can Subban. What makes him so special?? He didn't win the Norris. He didn't drive into the ground lead the power play last year. He still needs to grow up.

If Patrick Roy can get traded, anyone / anything is in play. Geez Wayne Gretzky was traded!! This talk that trading Subban would be a disaster is utter nonsense and is a purely emotional response. I'm not saying I want him to be traded. I'm saying if the deal is right, it's an option.

And the Canadiens all of a sudden seem to have depth on the blue line. Raphael Diaz is taking full advantage of the P.K. situation playing with Markov. Frankie Bouillon is eating up solid minutes. Josh Gorges is doing his thing as usual. And Kaberle is trying his best to stay out of their way. And with Tinordi and St. Denis just a call away and Nathan Beaulieu working on his development... well, I'm not saying I want Subban to be traded, but what I was trying to communicate to this "writer" was that Bergevin should do the best move for the team... whatever that should be.

With tonight's victory and Markov, Diaz and the rest of the defense pairings performing as they did, the score is now:

Bergevin 2 - Subban 1

It's certainly bringing up a lot of emotional responses from Habs fans. But hey, if we could get a Sean Couturier from the suddenly nosediving Flyers, well, why not?

It dawned on me today that the ebullient Subban is the Canadiens' version of Gary Carter. Carter was a bit despised by his teammates when he played in Montreal because he was always smiling, always camera-ready and always available to talk to reporters. He was misunderstood. We know he wasn't grandstanding. As we probably know that P.K. isn't grandstanding.

But the difference is, Carter took more than a few years to assert himself as a leader on the Expos' teams of the late seventies and early eighties and he did it with style, integrity and grit. Not to knock P.K. but it's true, the guy has rubbed some of the veterans on this team the wrong way; and if you know hockey, you know how tight the room has to be for a team to win.

I personally feel P.K. needs to sign his "bridge" deal, find his place on the team's pecking order, and keep his flash for the ice.

Next game: The Devils are in Montreal for a somewhat rare Sunday night tilt at the Molson Centre.

And by the way: Alex Kovalev is no longer leading the league in points. :)

Follow moi on le twitter: @HabsFanLeafLand

Tuesday, January 22, 2013



One game does not a season make. Err, or something like that.

Maybe it's only a 48 game season this year but it's going to be intense and concentrated. Teams are going to play multiple games in multiple nights. That means there will be hockey on the tube practically every night.

I like that.

First goal for Alex Galchenyuk, first point for Brendan Gallagher and first win for the second coming of head coach Michel Therrien. Habs beat Florida Panthers 4-1 in Montreal. AP

So the Habs who hadn't played since their loss to the Leafs on Saturday night were able to take advantage of a somewhat sluggish Florida Panthers team playing their third game in four nights, taking them down 4-1.

What a confidence boost for beleaguered dman Andrei Markov, scoring two power play goals -- the first on a two man advantage in the opening period giving the Habs a 2-0 lead after Tomas Plekanec opened the scoring less than four minutes in off a nice feed from Brian Gionta.

Markov and Diaz looked pretty darn good quarterbacking the power play, for this game at least.

What a confidence boost for the power play.
What a confidence boost for the players, for the franchise.
What a confidence boost for Markov's orthopaedic surgeon...

That's how you take the pressure off of GM Marc Bergevin in the Subban contract negotiations.

Subban 1 - Bergevin 1

Who will blink first?

Markov's second of the game restored the two goal cushion after penalties caught up to the Habs allowing the Panthers to cut the lead in half with a power play of their own. Actually this game was riddled with penalties but this time around the Canadiens won the special teams battle and that's how you win hockey games.That fact alone might just have saved the Canadiens a few million bucks with Subban.

That's the first time Markov has scored two goals in a game in four years!

"Hey Carey, just saying hi." Alex Kovalev floats through this one. Get used to it Florida. AP

No doubt there's lots of work to be done, but the Habs came out with a lot more intensity than on Saturday. So much so that Alex Kovalev seemed more interested in watching the game rather than actually playing in it.

We've seen that before. Well Florida fans, welcome to the enigma that is ALEXEI KOVALEV.

And who should score, one #27 to another but the new Alex in town -- ALEX GALCHENYUK. First of many for his NHL career in bleu-blanc-rouge.

Pretty much across the board to a player the team played with much more urgency and intensity. And Kaberle wasn't really noticeable and that's probably a good thing too. Hopefully the team can sustain this as they head out to play the Capitals in Washington.

Lars Eller was the one who took the brunt of the new culture that Therrien is trying to instill. You don't compete, you don't play. Ultimately he wasn't the only one that deserved the wrath of Therrien but with the victory tonight, hard to imagine the lineup will change against the Capitals.

It's going to be pretty interesting if the Canadiens can string a few more victories together and if Galchenyuk and Gallagher can put some more points up on the board. Very interesting.

Et la premiere etoile, da first star ALEX GALCHENYUK!!! Remember voted by the fans (not by me). But nevertheless!! Let the lovefest begin.

Enjoy it dude. And keep it up.

Follow moi on le twitter: @HabsFanLeafLand

Sunday, January 20, 2013



It's a funny thing:

The Canadiens kicking the season off against the Leafs usually results in a loss -- last year they went down 2-0.

The Canadiens ending the season against the Leafs usually results in a win -- last year they won 4-1.

And so far this year is no different even with a condensed schedule; the Habs lost the home opener and will finish the season here in Toronto, probably with a win. Hopefully it means something.

It is universally accepted that the Habs' pregame ceremonies are the best in the business and last night was true to form.

Unfortunately for the Habs the results on the ice weren't that different either, putting in a lacklustre performance and falling to the Leafs 2-1. At least this time around they scored, though it took just over 54 minutes to get one.

Luckily for me, I had a previous engagement and didn't end up wasting my time watching the game. But I did check in from time to time over Twitter, and when I read Arpon Basu's tweet that the Canadiens' best line was the White - Armstrong - Prust line, you know it's going to be a long night.

And so the season begins with a dud. As my friend said: "It's an embarrassment to lose at home to the Leafs to begin the season." Hard to argue with that. The team's troubles at home continue and hopefully this isn't a carry-over from last year. There were some highlights though:

1) After being out of position on the first Toronto goal, Carey Price played a strong game and gave his team a chance to win;
2) Brian Gionta ended his scoring drought and so avoided the "Gomez treatment" of websites counting down the anniversary of his last goal (December 2011);
3) Brandon Prust dropped the gloves, showed grit and won his fight;
4) Alex Galchenyuk didn't impact the scoring sheet, but he didn't look out of place either.

Unfortunately though, the Habs put themselves behind the eight ball right from the get go by taking senseless penalties, with the game winning goal coming on a bit of an odd one: Plekanec got two minutes after giving goalie Ben Scrivens a snow job. While I don't agree with the call, Plekanec should know better than to put himself in that situation.

And the Canadiens' powerplay looked powerless even if their only goal was scored with the man advantage. This team continues to have trouble scoring goals.

And then of course the chants rang out for P.K. Subban. But let's be clear about something: last year's powerplay was pathetic, and P.K. was there the entire time. He is just one part of a larger cog, and is not the saviour of this team. Haven't we learned that it's a major mistake to base a team strategy around one puck-carrying dman!? Btw Andrei Markov got clocked from behind but is okay. He ended up playing 24 minutes.

Losses early in the season will play to Subban's advantage for his contract negotiations.

Whatever happens, happens. But let's hope it happens soon.


VANCOUVER: It was a rough night for many home teams around the league. But what about the Canucks? Couldn't have gone any worse for their goaltending situation. Schneider gave up five goals only to be replaced by Luongo, who's now starting their next game. Nice. Personally I think that team missed their chance and are trending downwards anyways, no matter who's in nets.

FLORIDA: Jonathan Huberdeau lived up to the hype and had an immediate impact helping the Panthers win last night. But lookee here, l'Artiste Alex Kovalev turned back the clock scoring once and assisting on two others. He even tried to get out of the way took a hit to make a play on Huberdeau's goal. He's now tied for the league lead in points!!! And Florida is in Montreal to play the Habs on Tuesday. Canna wait!

DALLAS: Jaromir Jagr also had a big night with two goals and an assist. What's with these old guys eh? Maybe it makes sense that these guys can benefit the most with the majority of players still in preseason mode. Let's be honest. Yesterday's games will not be labelled and shelved as classic NHL hockey, as predicted. The game will eventually catch up to them for sure. But for now, it's fun to watch guys like Jagr and Kovalev contribute.

Maybe Dominic Hasek really should make a come back?


Saturday, January 19, 2013



Well it's finally arrived, the start of the 2012-2013 NHL season. Kings fans must be ecstatic -- they can at least raise their one and only Stanley Cup banner and get on with it. We know the media is jumping for joy -- they now get to do what they're paid to do.

For us poor sod fans, we don't get much except what we wanted all along. That is, the chance to root for our home teams and debate about it at work. Is that so much to ask for???

But what about those rumours of free NHL CentreIce for us fans? What about something concrete to make us feel better about having our one and only pleasure watching hockey being robbed from us??

You know what we got? An apology... an apology from the NHL in the form of a letter, which ran this week in various sports pages, thanking us fans, asking us for forgiveness, and mentioning that our local team will be running special promotions for us.

Sounds like Nixon's famous secret plan to end the Vietnam War.


I'm not coming back because of anything other than the fact that I love hockey in all its forms and rooting for the Montreal Canadiens is who I am! I'm not going to let "them" take that away from me. I (we) already lost the Expos. And even if the Habs were "lost" last season, at least there was something to talk about, carnivalesque or otherwise.

And just so it's clear:

  • I'm not spending any money on anything NHL-related this season;
  • I'm not paying to see a single hockey game in person and if I do (should tickets should fall into my lap), I ain't spending a dime at the rink. I'll bring my own popcorn, thank you very much.


Here we are: a 48 game season kicked off with the Habs vs. the Leafs in Montreal. And what can us fans expect? Who knows!? Probably a lot of injuries.

Already Carey Price has tweaked a groin and as a goalie, I'm a bit concerned. I played through a groin injury one season a few years back and what happens is that it gets better as you rest it, then you play and it gets re-aggravated.

"I'm sorry. There will be no free NHL CentreIce this, or any other, season. I still get my huge salary though."

Over and over and over. Until you say finally, "I can't play for a few weeks" to let it heal once and for all. And that was just playing twice a week. So let's say I hope that Price and the medical staff know what they're doing, because it can really affect his performance and without a Carey Price at top form, the Habs are toast this year.

But will that be such a bad thing? Should our hopes really be high for this year!?

There's so much up in the air with this team, but one thing is for certain: the atmosphere has changed for the better, the talent on the ice is bigger and stronger, and a lot of players have a lot to prove:

  1. Andrei Markov: can he be the gamer we knew and loved? And keep those knees together?
  2. P.K. Subban: can the team move on without him, if necessary? (see 1.)
  3. Colby Armstrong: playing for the team he grew up loving, can he stay healthy and still play an effective, physical game?
  4. Rene Bourque: can he shut the naysayers up and show he's got what it takes to perform in the pot of pea soup that is Montreal hockey?
  5. Brian Gionta: can he lead this team once again with grit and perseverance, and stay healthy?
  6. Michel Therrien: from the land of RDS, can he stay within himself and not let his emotions get the better of him?
  7. Tomas Kaberle: fitter than he was last year, can he show that he still has it?
  8. Tomas Plekanec and co: can the pivot play with the same wingers for more than 3 games this year so he can form some sort of chemistry with them?
  9. Alex Galchenyuk: you made the team and that's great. But can you show us that you are ready for this stage full-time?

Scott Gomez of course would have been on this list too... speaking of which:

So now that Scott Gomez has been officially bought out by the Canadiens, the man is free to sign with another team and good for him. There's reportedly been a lot of interest, and he may end up back in New Jersey.

Veteran defenseman Wade Redden signed a one year deal with the St. Louis Blues. Wow talk about coming out of exile. He played for the Hartford Connecticut Whale in the AHL last year. He must be happy to at least show he still may have a few years left in the tank. Or it could be a disaster, but from the Blues' point of view, there's not much to lose.

And our old friend Steve Begin has signed a league minimum one year deal with the Calgary Flames. Couldn't happen to a better guy. He never gave up, trained his arse off and came to camp ready.

Now what about Matthieu Darche? No contract as yet, but he's still with the team.

And then there's l'Artiste... AK27, way down in white-belt, white-shoes-land. ALEX KOVALEV MADE THE FLORIDA PANTHERS!!! The man is back, and not only that, he'll be in Montreal on Tuesday to play against the Habs. LOVE IT!!! Will he pull a Guy Lafleur and score a couple of goals? I hope so (Habs 6, Panthers 5).

Btw, I was following and tweeting about Kovalev all week without any fanfare, response or mention by any of the pro sports media. Then he gets a contract and it's news. You know, this twitter thing let me tell you, it's cool for instant info, but then you get hundreds of people tweeting the same thing and it's kind of boring.


That's what I'm trying to do folks. Follow me: @HabsFanLeafLand

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Big Day... Well Sort Of

Intersquad game at Molson Centre; Scott Gomez Saga Continues; No News on P.K.; Who Will Win the Habs/Leafs Season Series??

Spirits and optimism runs high as the Canadiens continue their training camp. Today the big news was the return of Tomas Plekanec, whose status for the season opener on Saturday is still up in the air. But with his return we were provided a glimpse into what the starting forward lines might shake up to look like:

Cole - Desharnais - Pacioretty

Gionta - Plekanec - Galchenyuk

Moen - Eller - Bourque

Armstrong - White - Prust

Galchenyuk definitely looks like he's going to get his chance, at least for five games until a decision needs to be made. But the biggest surprise, according to what everyone is saying, is dman Jarred Tinordi. At 6"6, the power defender could be a cross between Craig Ludwig and Zdeno Chara. The coaching staff seems to be impressed with his progress. He may not make the squad, but he definitely could be a mid-season call up if the situation arises where his services are needed.

The Canadiens are trying to treat the intersquad game at the Molson Centre like a preseason game. So it should be good. It'll probably be a mob scene down there as entry is free. Enjoy it.


The NHLPA and NHL have made some adjustments to the whole buyout clause as you may or may not heard. Funny how the two main characters in this saga, Wade Redden and Scott Gomez, are both in this situation due to the contracts they signed with Glen Sather and the New York Rangers.

Today both were placed on waivers. If they clear waivers as expected, both can then be bought out  before the puck drops on Saturday. That at least gives both players the chance to be picked up by another squad. The consensus is that the Canadiens did the right thing with Gomez, but I'm also happy that Gomez at least has the chance to get picked up and play this year. Even happier it'll be with another team. Maybe the Bruins!? :)


No news from the P.K. Subban contract negotiations. Yahoo had a story on it today. My comment was that the Canadiens probably want to sign him to a two year deal -- like they did with Carey Price -- see how he matures, and then he can get his big deal. P.K.'s a big personality and it's no secret that he may have rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way inside the room. He needs to know his place and save his outgoing personality for the ice. Well I got three thumbs up in any case:

AriG  •  8 hours ago
If the Habs brass wanted to sign him to such a deal they would've before the lockout. They signed Price to a two year deal then gave him his term. That's what ideally they'd like to do with Subban, especially since he may rub some of his teammates the wrong way in the room. I think management would prefer to see how he matures over a couple of years rather than gamble on a longer-term contract.


Who Will Win the Habs/Leafs Season Series??

The Habs play the Leafs five times this season... and no matter how bad they are, the Leafs always seem to play the Habs tough. I'm going to call it 3-2 in the Habs favour. What do you think?

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Scott Gomez Told to Stay Home; CBA Memo of Understanding Signed-Off; Training Camps Open; Classic Habs vs. Soviets '75

What was to be the big news Sunday was that the CBA Memo of Understanding was approved by the NHLPA and that training camps would officially begin -- but this morning Habs GM Marc Bergevin informed the media that veteran forward Scott Gomez was told to stay home and that he would be bought out this summer.

A surprise move to me at first given I felt the coaching and management staff would at least give the guy a chance. But with the P.K. Subban contract negotiations still not completed, it starts to make a lot of sense -- ultimately it's a cap decision. And after scrutinizing the new CBA, teams may not buyout an injured player and next year the salary cap will be going down -- so the team rightly doesn't want to take a chance.

The Canadiens have a lot of competition for the remaining spots on the roster and specifically for the third and fourth lines. On TVA the other night the pundits there debated as to what the starting roster will look like on January 19th when the Habs play the Leafs. With Lars Eller probably set to be the third line centreman, and Ryan White to probably pivot the fourth, Gomez becomes expendable.

Although injuries could change this very quickly, Gomez is still loose change. Petteri Nokelainen is injured but when he returns he could be a viable option for fourth line minutes. It also gives more creedence to the idea that Galchenyuk will get all the chances in the world to make this team.

Personally, I think Gomez cursed himself changing his number to "11" after he played with "91" during his first season with the Habs and put up very respectable numbers. That was Saku Koivu's number...

In the end, the Canadiens will pay his entire season's salary of over 5 million bucks, but next year after the buyout is completed his salary will be cleared from the team's cap space. Something kind of important when you are trying to sign one of your blue chip blueliners.

Bergevin was in Toronto yesterday to meet with Subban's agent Don Meehan and rumours have it that the latest offer was a four year/23 million deal -- which was summarily rejected. The goal was to have Subban signed in time for the start of training camp. Hopefully this will be resolved sooner than later as it'll only hurt the team and Subban's game-readiness if this drags on much longer.

As for Scotty G. his playing days with the Habs are now officially over. Bergevin mentioned in his presser that he took it like a professional. It's still possible he could be traded, but that would be a long shot at best. Let's wish him well.


More news to come from Brossard from the Canadiens' training camp but for now we know that Nokelainen is still a few weeks away and now Tomas Plekanec is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

On a another note, it was also surprising to hear that Erik Cole is contemplating retirement at season's end and it was a bit astonishing to say the least that he would reveal this days before training camp was set to begin. Ultimately, it sounds as if he was very frustrated with the lockout and really enjoyed being home with his family. Hopefully he shakes it off and it doesn't affect his or the rest of the team's play. Thankfully the media has put it to rest and I will too...


The other night RDS aired the classic New Year's eve '75 game between the Soviets and the Montreal Canadiens at the old Montreal Forum, who would go on to win their first of four straight Stanley Cups later that year.

Classic for sure. The byline goes that Ken Dryden didn't have the best game of his life, giving up three goals on thirteen shots, while Vladislav Tretiak shined with thirty-five of thirty-eight shots.

But man, what a team the Canadiens had!!!! Still gives me goose bumps: Steve Shutt, Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Guy Lafleur, Bob Gainey, Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Peter Mahovlich, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire -- and that's not even counting the likes of character players like Tremblay, Riseborough, Jarvis, Lambert and of course Coach Scotty Bowman!!!

Ahhh, a time when the Habs were da best and Montreal as a whole exuded a winning attitude. Even their singer of the national anthems, Roger Doucet, was the best.

How much would a team like this cost today?

No wonder the era of hockey dynasties is a thing of the past.


Habs Fan in LeafLand now on twitter!! Catch it at #HabsFaninLeafLand

Friday, January 11, 2013


HOW the HABS will SHAPE UP in 2013

I'd like to see an NHL where the Oilers and Habs are the top teams once again.

Good times.

Well according to some, half of that equation might come to see the light this year. Some are actually picking the Oilers to breakthrough in this lockout-shortened 2013 season. With three first round picks overall in a row, joined by Mr. Clutch Jordan Eberle and a host of other, young and promising talent, you never know.

And the Habs!? You just never know too...

This is going to be a bizaare, crapshoot of a season. So who's the say the Habs won't put it together right out of the gate? Quite a few players have a lot to prove.

Let's start with Captain Brian Gionta. He had a terrible season last year, riddled by injuries and so-so play. But he's a heart and soul guy, and I have no doubt his strong work ethic will be a shining example for the rest of the team. I'm not worried about him and expect good things from the guy.

Now let's go the other way. Scott Gomez. He's going to play in Hamilton, he's going to get bought out, he's going to get traded... anything but playing with the big club. But let me tell you something...

Randy Cunneyworth couldn't get through to Rene Bourque. Will it be any different with Michel Therrien?

The Habs are starting afresh and that gives Gomez the opportunity to reload, replenish, rebound, re-everything!! He'll be on the squad because the guy still is a good passer and maybe the lockout was a good thing for the guy, get away from it all and regroup. I'd like to see a more serious attitude from him instead of his loosey-goosey style of the past few years, but in the end he has to be himself. He's a good passer and could still be effective on the powerplay -- which couldn't get much worse than last year. 

But I can't see Scotty G. playing any higher than the third line. And with the new CBA, he can't get bought out until next year so... does he have it in him to have a bounce back year from his bounce back year!?

There's no doubt, the Canadiens will be a tougher, grittier team this year under the guidance of Coach Therrien. If the team buys into his system, the addition of Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong should give them some much needed toughness they've lacked for quite some time. Armstrong is another who has a lot to prove. He was on my list of players who was perenially hurt (like Rick-ety DiPietro) and is another of Brian Burke's mistakes as GM in Toronto (more on this below). But he had his best year with Therrien when they were both in Pittsburgh, and the guy grew up a Habs fan. So put up or shut up. I didn't like the signing at first, but given he's not taking up too much cap space, we have a lot to gain and little to lose.

Add a healthy Ryan White to the mix and we now have more than a few players who will drop the gloves and stand up for their teammates.

The team at least has a genuine first line. Max Pacioretty had the break out season we all knew he could have -- made that much more spectacular after the neck injury he suffered the year before. And he's only going to get better. 

Erik Cole was everything we could've asked for and ultimately will go down as Pierre Gauthier's best signing. He's big, powerful, a terrific skater and teammate and a leader on and off the ice. And David Desharnais? He's the straw that stirs the drink and he's also only going to get better.

Third overall pick Alex Galchenyuk will be the elite scorer for years to come. But probably not this year. I'd be surprised if they keep him with the big squad. But I'd like to be wrong. He had a good World Juniors tournament, but didn't put up points against the tough teams. And the Canadiens are chronic in taking their time with talent. But the new management might have other ideas. 

Maybe Lars Eller will continue to grow and take his game to the next level. He had a respectable year given everything that went on, put up some good numbers during the lockout playing in Finland and he's pretty solid defensively.

Travis Moen has a new contract and he's a great character guy who can chip in with some key goals.

Tomas Plekanec had a tough year too but he had to deal with the head case that was Michael Cammalleri in 2012. He's still our best two-way player and he also should be ready to go after playing in Europe during the lockout. 

Speaking of whiner boy Cammalleri, he took a puck off his face the other day and lost his front teeth. Karma baby! And the guy we got in that trade, Rene Bourque, just didn't look comfortable last year. To me, I think he was shell shocked by the trade and came in to an already tough situation. So now that he's had the time to digest it all, the guy could be a big surprise. He's huge and if he uses his size to his advantage and goes to the dirty areas -- with consistency -- he might be a welcome addition to the squad.

So as a team, we're a lot bigger up front. And that's a good thing. But what about the defense?

The Canadiens have a lot riding on young Alex Galchenyuk and hope he can be the big-time scorer the team hasn't had for years.

Well P.K. Subban is our most dynamic d-man and you know he'll be signed. Gorges is our most reliable. And Andrei Markov is as healthy as he's ever going to be. Now's the time for him to take back his elite status that he lost to injury the past three seasons. He's still got a lot left in the tank. The team is much, much better when he's in command of his game. He should have built up his confidence playing in the KHL so he should be ready to go.

We kind of have a bit of a glut on the backend and that's good. With Emelin set to build upon his strong second half of last year, Francis "the bull" Bouillon ready to make his triumphant return in Montreal, we also have Raffy Diaz, Yannick Weber and Kaberle in the mix. Jared Tinordi is playing well in the AHL and will eventually be a beast on the Molson Centre blue line, Frederick St. Denis proved last year he belongs in the NHL, and veteran blueliner Mike Commodore was invited to camp as well. So it's going to be a fight to the death to get that sixth d-spot. Personally, I like Diaz. He's a strong skater and seems a bit more at ease in tough situations than Weber. And Kaberle's effort just isn't consistent enough but he could help the powerplay.

A lot of "coulds" eh? Yep, a lot is up in the air.

One thing I do know for sure: CAREY PRICE IS THE MAN! He''s newly signed and locked in, newly married so his mind shouldn't roam dreaming of the finest Montreal has to offer and he's a year older and wiser. With him between the pipes, we always have a chance. I wouldn't be surprised if he plays 40-45 games this year. Sorry Budaj.

But how does it all stack up? If the Canadiens get off to a strong start, they could gain a lot of confidence as a unit, and surprise a lot of folks. They certainly weren't as bad as where they placed last year. But they're not quite ready to compete for the big prize. Too many "ifs" and "coulds". But you never know... the Kings proved that last year. It definitely hurts the team that there won't be any preseason games to test things out and allow some gelling to happen and for Therrien to implement his system. So the Habs squad of 2013 truly is a crapshoot. Put the puck in the net and get the most of their potential and they could go places. Stumble out of the gate and fall behind early and the golf season might start early.

But I'm going to take the optimistic route and predict that the Habs 2013 will make the playoffs and finish seventh in the conference. There's no way they're going to be any worse than last year and especially at home, where they were LAST in the league at home with 16 wins. That's not going to happen again.


I like Brian Burke. He's a no-nonsense guy who speaks his mind and rolls to the beat of his own drum. And that's probably what got him the ax yesterday. We can only imagine how he rubbed the Leafs' new ownership consortium the wrong way. And he made a lot of bonehead moves. But what I didn't hear in the hockey media was that maybe ownership wanted to send a message to the team!? Maybe they want the players to think that nobody is safe and it's time to put up or shut up. And that's why he became the obvious choice to be the sacrificial lamb.

Burke is a quality hockey man and great for the community. And he had a tough go of it, losing his kid in a car accident and dealing with all the hoopla here in LeafLand. But some of his moves were questionable if not despicable in my view. Signing Ron Wilson to an extension, mid-season, when his teams never made the playoffs!? That was unacceptable. The team tanked after that. The Mike Komisarek contract? Ecch. Signing James Reimer after a good half of a season and anointing him as the starting goaltender? Big mistake. And the one he gets broiled on by everyone, the Phil Kessel trade. Kessel has performed and performed well. But he's an out of shape doughy little man coasting on his god-given talent and he ain't no leader. Burke gave up too much for him and worse, gave the bounty to the Bruins. For that, he probably deserved getting fired the way he did. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013



So at least the hockey pundits on television are excited -- they have real hockey stuff to talk about. 

Like Alex Kovalev -- he was invited to the Florida Panthers camp!! Why not!?

Let's wish him well. The guy's 39 and hasn't played for over a year...

So the lockout is over, though not officially. The NHL Board of Governors are voting tomorrow but it should be a forgone conclusion. Andrei Markov decided to stay in Russia... for one more game. He's expected in Montreal on Thursday and training camps open this coming Sunday. Hey he needs all the ice time he can get.

The league officially announced a 48 game season today. Teams will play only within their conference and it breaks down like this:

5 games vs. two divisional opponents (10)
4 games vs. two divisional opponents (8)
3 games vs. ten conference opponents (30)

= 48

Giddy up.

So another reason the Stanley Cup final will be interesting this year is because in some ways it's akin to MLB's World Series where the competing teams never face each other in the regular season.


Now everyone has been asking me if I'm happy hockey is back and if I will watch blah blah blah.

Of course I'm going to watch and follow it. I mean, I've been following hockey as long as I can remember. I'm not going to let all of these overpaid bums ruin something that I enjoy and care about. It would be like removing my right arm. Forget that. Not to sound like some cheezy Tim Horton's commercial, but it really is who I am!!@

And given I'm not even playing hockey because of my injury, man I need some hockey-love!!

If you're someone who has already committed to tickets, don't buy anything at the games! No beer, no  chien-chauds, no jerseys or foam fingers, nothing. Don't spend any money on this league. We the fans who get nothing out of this charade and this is the only way to give it to the man.

Good luck in la Florida Alex. Isn't that where retired folks go?

But what I won't be doing is going to the games. No hockey tickets, no merchandise, no nothing. I already have TSN and RDS, so that money is spent. And I'll try not to watch CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, just because I can't stand the ongoing bastardization of that once proud and true hockey telecast.

TSN ran a poll and two thirds of responders said the league won the lockout. Guess what? There's no winners here. Especially those good folks who make their living working in hockey like the concession people at the rinks etc. No doubt, the business structure of the NHL needed fixing to remain profitable, and that helps everyone involved. ESPECIALLY THE PLAYERS.

I have to admit, it was hard for me to feel any empathy for the players through this affair. I mean, here's a bunch of twenty and thirty year olds, playing a game that we pay to play, make millions of dollars of year, get the top shelf women, the best restaurant tables, dates with Paulina Gretzky -- the perks are endless. Hey, I've said all along, I'd start in nets for the Leafs for a 100K a year. What a deal?
But no doubt, some of the owners are a  bit sleazy, they make an even bigger pile of dough, and they're just as greedy as the players. 

So how does the deal affect the game we're going to watch this year? Well this year, it's a crapshoot as to who will win, and that could be fun. No real rule changes to report. But one thing the league is implementing is a change in the draft lottery. Now teams can't tank the rest of the season to improve their chances for the top pick because all 14 teams who miss the playoffs will have a shot. Makes the lottery that much more exciting too.

You can read about the specifics about the new CBA and all that stuff, but one thing I'm happy about is the fact that it's a 10 year deal with an opt-out at 8. At least we won't have to go through this in another 5 years and one thing is for certain: Gary Bettman will no longer be the commissioner when that time comes. Now I don't have the same kind of hate for him that other have, but the fact is he's been commissioner for 20 years now, and I can't see it lasting longer then the next few years. This deal is his swan song. 

Of course king windbag Donald S. Cherry had to flap his yap and say we wouldn't have hockey at all this season if it wasn't for Bettman. Whatever... you'll be off television next year when the CBC loses Hockey Night in Canada.

And hopefully this is the last time we'll ever see Donald Fehr... because when he shows up it means the fans get the shaft.


Monday, January 7, 2013

It was quite the summer... and fall... and winter...


Yes the summer was off to a great start.

The Kings were the deserved Stanley Cup champs, proving that any team in the big dance at season's end has a chance if they get on a roll. Clutch scoring throughout the lineup combined with great goaltending is usually a recipe for success.

Oh man and when the Caps beat the Bruins in OT to win that series -- man that was good.
Finally the long nightmare was over.

Teams made some big-time signings, the biggest fish being Rick Nash who was nabbed by the Rangers. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter both signed with Minnesota. Guillaume Latendresse signed with the Sens. He'll be an impact player there, for sure. Uh huh.

On the Habs front, much news. We know Bergevin came in as GM then hired Michel Therrien for his second go-round as Habs head coach. Although I have to say I'm not a huge Therrien fan, he is much more experienced this time around and he did take the Pens to the finals. So let's hope for the best.

Then shortly thereafter the draft came along and the Habs picked Alex Galchenyuk as the third pick overall. Big, gifted scorer whom everyone says that if he was healthy, he would've gone number one instead of Yakupov. Well we'll see. But he looks promising for sure and hopefully this one pans out. The last thing we need is another Doug Wickenheiser.

Therrien already has an improved team to work with. Price was signed, Darche was not. Brandon Prust was signed, Brad Staubitz -- not. What about Campoli!? You're out. Francis "the bulldog" Bouillon? You're back baby!! Add Colby Armstrong who has much to prove and you have a team with a lot more sandpaper.

And then there's Andrei "keep away from my knees" Markov, who made his return thankfully at the end of the season -- but who can honestly say that was the "real" Markov!?

Smiling "Mike" Therrien, new head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Let's hope the smiling continues.

He looked like he was playing shinny out there, and he should be thankful there is a note of compassion with players in this league, who stayed away from him like he was Wayne Gretzky circa 1982, where if you breathed on him you got a face full of Dave Semenko.

This could be the biggest ? for the Habs this shortened-season. Will Andrei Markov return to his pre-injury form and be the man for the powerplay? Big question... soon to be answered, thankfully. The man has been playing in the KHL so at least he's game shape.

Captain Brian Gionta looks to put last year's injury-riddled debacle behind him and have a bounce back year. He definitely has it in him. He's a battler.

Then there's P.K. Subban. Man this guy has been everywhere during the lockout. I'm almost sick of seeing him. Now's the time to shut that big yapper and play. And play well my friend. The Habs will sign him probably over the next few days.


And what about me? I was taking a nice writing-free hockey vacation, enjoying the summer and playing lots of sports which included hockey, softball and golf mostly, when just before the Canada Day weekend -- I PARTIALLY TORE AN ACHILLES TENDON!!!

Yes, go on and say it. "Ooohhh." Man if I had a buck for all the times I heard "Ooohh" over the last six months, I could maybe afford to go see a Leafs game. Not that I'm going to any games this year, nor should you...

But here's what happened: playing softball, I hit a clutch two-out single to drive in a run. The next batter hit a solid single into short right field and I exploded off of first base, took two strides then suddenly BAM! The first sensation was the feeling of getting hit in the leg, like the ball hit me. But then I saw the ball in right field. I've read the sensation is akin to getting shot. Now, I don't know what that's like, but you should know this: the sound was audible. Then the next sensation was as if I stepped into a pothole. Just nothing down there.

This is what happens when a forty-year-old man still tries to play sports like he's twenty.

HabsFan in Leafland with Mr. Teddy recouping from the torn achilles. Good thing this dog doesn't know how to mix drinks...yet!

Still, I somehow "legged" it out and got myself down to second base, safely, before dropping to the ground.

Before I was carried off the field, I already had the diagnosis -- my teammate had the same thing happen a few years back. "Torn achilles, see?" He pointed to a 4 inch scar at the back of his ankle. "Get the surgery." "How long?" I asked. "Well, maybe 4 months."


I couldn't drive, I couldn't walk, I couldn't do much except for sit. So I sat. I ate, I drank, I self-medicated, I watched a lot of movies and worked from home. I cursed my house, which has wayyyyy too many stairs. AND THIS WAS ONLY A PARTIAL TEAR. Luckily for me, I supposedly had one of the good tears. Yeah, whatever. I HAD TO SIT DOWN TO TAKE A SHOWER!! That freaking shower chair was a symbol for my predicament, for sure. Hard cast for four weeks, walking cast for another four. Physio for months. Fear of not walking properly and being known as the gimp hereafter. Even my girlfriend at the time laughed at me -- which I didn't appreciate very much, she's a goner. Worse, maybe never playing golf and hockey again, my two passions. Softball!? Stupid game, probably never going to play it again. Just not worth it.  And here I was thinking I would write, write, write. But I became very demoralized and unmotivated to do much of anything to be honest.


And then this stupid lockout happened and so I figured, I'll just write this blog again when it ends. I took the fall/winter off from sports, did my physio, worked hard to get better and now I think I'm about 90%. Ready to start working out and getting back to where I was at when I was standing on first base back in June.

And today the lockout is over. So here I am. Who would've thought it would have taken so long!? Well, sort of predictable when you get two stubborn, egotistical SOBs like Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr facing off against each other. As Lindy Ruff so aptly said last season with what I will continue to use whenever and wherever it's appropriate: "It's A JOKE!!"

One word of wisdom from my injury: drinking while on crutches might sound like a good idea, but it's really not...

Anyhow, it's good to be back. Wish it was to a million dollar salary like those players but whatever... so long as the beer's cold, right?


Sunday, January 6, 2013


Hello folks. Remember me?

It's been 7 months since my last posting...and as it turns out there's quite a lot of backstory to why; but in the short-term let me say that I am in the business here of writing about NHL! Not the business of hockey, not the KHL, juniors or how large George Parros' moustache is. No, I write about NHL hockey as it plays out on the ice and the moves made around what happens between the red lines.

So let's get going and drop the puck. As it stands, this circumcised season is going to be a transitional one for some teams, the Habs included, leading up to the full season of 2013-14.

More to come...