Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Snapshot Preview: Habs VS Jets - January 29th 2013

Montreal Canadiens (3-1-0) vs Winnipeg Jets (3-1-1)
Puck drop is at 7:30pm EST (RDS, TSN-HABS)

PK Subban who signed a contract to return to the Montreal Canadiens will not be in the lineup tonight as the Habs play host to the Winnipeg Jets. Subban instead will join the team tomorrow in Ottawa, not likely to play before this weekend at the earliest.

Yannick Weber looked like a player who hadn't played in awhile against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, and with 4 games for the Habs over the next 6 days it will be interesting to see how head coach Michel Therrien juggles his defensemen. I would expect Francis Bouillon to get at least one night off, and I don't expect Thomas Kaberle to stay in the press box.

Peter Budaj will start one of the next four games between the pipes for Montreal, but Carey Price will get the nod in goal tonight. Price is off to a terrific start this season with a .936 Save Percentage and a minute 1.73 Goals against through 4 games. Historically he has done well against then Winnipeg (Atlanta) franchise racking up 19 of a possible 28 points.   

I expect Al Montoya to get his second start in goal tonight for the Jets, who like Montreal are riding a three game win streak. Montoya is 1-1 lifetime against the Canadiens with a 2.88 Goals against and an .897 Save Percentage.  He stopped 21 of the 25 shots he faced en route to a victory in his only other start of this season.

Onndrej Pavelec had the night off for the last Jets' game on Sunday, but has not played well against Montreal historically. In his last 5 games against the Canadiens, Pavelec has just one victory for his efforts. He has lost his last 3 starts at the Bell Centre going 0-3-0 with a 4.01 GAA.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Of PK's, Generals, and Gally's...oh my!

Here I was planning out my post about last night's win by the Montreal Canadiens over the Devils, their first at the Bell Centre in a long long time, when news comes out about the team and Resticted free agent P.K. Subban agreeing to terms on a two year deal.

General Manager Marc Bergevin held firm to his guns, something I completely commend him for. P.K. Subban has been great for the team. His public face is extremely personable, likeable and charming. On the ice he is flashy, he is exciting, and he works hard. He sells jerseys, he sells the team, and he sells himself. The guy is fantastic. I believe he's an asset the Canadiens should lock up long term. Reportedly he wanted to be locked up long term. So what was the issue?

The issue, it seems, is that The Montreal Canadiens in their recent history have a way of doing business that involves signing their players to a "bridge contract". The theory behind the bridge contract is that it rewards hard work with a salary increase while allowing the player time to shine and earn a huge contract, not just in terms of dollars but in terms of length.

Both Max Pacioretty and Carey Price were given bridge contracts after their entry level deals. Both recently signed long term extensions, and in the case of Pacioretty, his extension actually only kicks in next season - he is still playing under his bridge contract.

Josh Gorges, coming off a serious knee injury, signed a 1-year bridge deal to show what he had when healthy, as soon as they were allowed, the Canadiens gave Gorges a long term extension. This is the way the Montreal Canadiens do business. It seems that although they may have saved some money by signing Subban long term now, they are prepared to pay more later on if they have to. They want the long term deal to be earned, something I fully believe P.K.Subban will have no problem doing.

Canadiens fans should be excited as the back-end now has two very dynamic puck movers, something that I can't ever recall seeing. Also Andrei Markov and P.K.Subban should finally see some time on the same bench together - something that has rarely been seen. I expect in a role secondary to the "general", P.K.Subban is likely primed to break out more than we have ever seen.

Lars Eller was expected to return to the lineup in time for yesterday's game regardless of Max Pacioretty being forced out. As the coach wanted, he was "more aggressive" throwing three body checks in the first period, but for the most part looked lost. This isn't something new. Every time that Eller has been put on the wing with the Canadiens before he seems lost. Pierre McGuire suggested on "Melnick in the afternoon" recently that Eller seems more suited to be a winger. If that's the case, someone needs to spend time teaching him the position. Lars Eller is still a young player and if he needs a serious retooling then the coaches should treat him the same way they would Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk - with kid gloves and extra care. Go over things with him, break down tape, and expect mistakes. Treat him like a rookie. I wouldn't give up on him just yet.

The two Gally's were informed today that they would be remaining with the Canadiens for the season. I'm not surprised at all by the decision to keep Brendan Gallagher up with the club, but am slightly more surprised at the decision to keep Galchenyuk.

Brendan Gallagher is in the first year of his entry level deal regardless if he plays in the American league or the National Hockey League, whereas Alex Galcheyuk would not be starting his entry level deal if he were to continue the season in Sarnia.

Both players have shown that there are able to play at this level, yesterday was a strong strong effort from both kids. Canadiens Coach Michel Therrien has done a great job insulating them. Brandon Prust has been assigned as a "babysitter" on the line.Gallagher is a little guy who likes to play big by barreling towards the opposing net, Galchenyuk is a skilled forward that opposing teams will want to attack. Prust being there gives the kids a veteran sounding board and also gives them a tough force to protect them from being roughed up by opposing players. Yesterday, with Galchenyuk 0/5 on faceoffs, the coach had Prust slide over to take them - an in-game adjustment that former coach Jacques Martin may not have made. The kids have been given many more chances to shine at home with matchups that favour them - something that proves that the coach is paying attention. Michel Therrien has a history of working well with young players, something that is once again being evidenced here.

We spoke about Andrei Markov a couple of games ago. I have been impressed with him not avoiding traffic. He's logging many minutes, playing both special teams, and scoring goals. Yesterday was the best game I've seen him play yet. He pinched at appropriate times, he created offense, and never lagged in his own end - with one exception; Just before the winning goal Markov pinched and the puck was turned over leading to a 3-on-1 against Alexi Emelin. Emelin played the puck well, and on the ensuing turnover Markov ended up scoring the winning goal. The General is getting close to being all the way back and Hab-fans should be excited.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Snapshot Preview: Habs vs Devils - January 27th 2013

Montreal Canadiens (2-1-0) vs New Jersey Devils (3-0-0)
Puck drop is at 6:00pm EST (RDS, TSN 690AM)

Lars Eller will make his return to the Habs' lineup this evening as they take on the undefeated New Jersey Devils. His return will come at the expense of Max Pacioretty who was operated on last night at a Montreal Hospital to have his appendix removed.

Early in the morning yesterday, Pacioretty showed up for practice with flu-like symptoms. The decision for Eller's return to the lineup had already been made before it became apparent how grave Pacioretty's illness was. The power forward will miss the next 3-5 weeks in recovery. Eller meanwhile will move over to the wing, where he is less comfortable, on the Habs' top line with Eric Cole and David Desharnais. Eller has shown the ability to pick up points against the Devils having scored twice in their eight meetings.

40 year old Future Hall of famer, and noted Hab-killer Martin Brodeur roll into the Bell Centre. In 66 career starts vs Montreal, Brodeur has won 43 times, shutting out the opposition 9 times. The future Hall-of-famer is also off to a torrid start this early season with a miniscule goals against of 0.98 and stopping 68 of 71 shots faced over the Devils 3 victories.

While Carey Price has only 5 career victories against the Devils in 14 tries, he too is off to a torrid start this year. The Canadiens netminder has stopped 81 of the 85 shots he's faced and has only allowed 1 goal at even strength. 

Habs' Captain Brian Gionta has faced his former club only 7 times in his career, notching a goal and 3 assists. While Thomas Kaberle has put up 5 goals and 31 assists in 49 career contests against the Devils. Andrei Markov who leads the Canadiens with 3 goals this season has never scored against New Jersey in 31 meetings.

Ilya Kovalchuk has owned the Canadiens, like many other teams in his career. He has averaged just shy of a point per game putting up 36 points in 40 games.

The Breakdown: Week in review

I've been told that on occasion it's hard to catch up on all my writings, or to go back and look at older articles. So starting this week, I'll be posting a week in review of stories from the previous week.

We started out the week with the first edition of HABS-TOWN for the 2013 season. Mitchell Kujavsky, aka "The Funny Accountant" stopped by during a busy week of Blog launching. Since 2001, Mitch has been splitting his time between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, honing his accounting skills. In 2009, Mitch opened his own Tax and Business consulting service, MK & Associates. In between, Mitch was fine-tuning his personal and corporate tax skills, diversifying his knowledge in the related fields of bookkeeping & business consulting, and finding himself a Wife. 

Mitch told us that the best game he ever went to was the Playoff game in 2006 when Saku Koivu almost lost an eye. "April 24th, 2006.  Game 2 of the Conference quarters against the Carolina Hurricanes.  Putting aside for the moment the result of the series and the gut-wrenching, crushed-to-the-core-of-my-being feeling that I went home with following the series-ending game 6 loss, this was the single most exhilarating moment I’ve felt as a Canadiens fan.  After wrecking the favoured Hurricanes in game 1, the Canadiens knocked out the Hurricanes goalie Martin Gerber just a few minutes into game 2.  The crowd was going absolutely bananas (please see explosion of noise reference above) but the drama was only just beginning! The Habs blew that early 3-goal lead and needed a double-overtime comeback win to take a 2-game-to-nil series lead back to Carolina.  Again, forget the result…the rollercoaster ride that was game 2 was one of the most exciting sports moments I’ve experienced so far in my life."

Read more here: HABS-TOWN: " A cup win is already in the books"

On Tuesday as Brandon Gallagher was getting pumped up for his NHL debut, the rest of the town was buzzing about the return of Alexei Kovalev. We previewed the game hours before puck drop: Snapshot Preview: Habs vs Panthers - January 22nd 2013

The Game with the Panthers ended up being a rather eventful night of firsts. Alex Galchenyuk, in a classy move, was named the first star of the game after scoring his first NHL goal. He had a great game. His line with fellow rookie sparkplug Brendan Gallagher was hopping all night. Shift after shift guided along by their "babysitter" Brandon Prust they drove to the net creating chances. 

There were many encouraging signs out of the Montreal Canadiens last night. Many players played well. Many players worked very hard. Many hits were thrown, players stood up for eachother and offense was created. Michel Therrien, as promised has even started to evolve his coaching tactics often pushing a defenseman into the offensive zone as a fourth attacker supporting the forwards. Last night, the Canadiens drove the pace. But, let's be honest here, this was a Florida Panthers team playing it's 3rd game in 4 nights.

Read more about the game here: "ONE" 

Back in a few hours with a preview of tonight's HABS/DEVILS tilt.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Last night was a night of firsts at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
A first career loss for Scott Clemmensen (6-1-1,  1.97 GAA) against the Habs.
A first career win at home for Carey Price (1-2-1, 2.22 GAA). against the Florida Panthers.
The first career point for Brendan Gallagher, in his first NHL game no less.
The first Goal and the first star selection for Alex Galchenyuck.
The first win of the season.
The first win for the new Coach and the new GM.

Lots of firsts.

Before the puck could drop,  The Canadiens paid tribute to Richard Garneau who passed away over the weekend. Richard Garneau for 23 seasons was the "French Dick Irvin" covering the Montreal Canadiens for SRC. When the Montreal Forum closed, when the Bell Centre (then Molson Centre) opened, when there is a jersey retirement, when the Canadiens celebrated 100 years, Garneau was there.

Alex Galchenyuck, in a classy move, was named the first star of the game after scoring his first NHL goal. He had a great game. His line with fellow rookie sparkplug Brendan Gallagher was hopping all night. Shift after shift guided along by their "babysitter" Brandon Prust they drove to the net creating chances. If we're to be fair however, Galchenyuck was not the best player on the ice last night, he wasn't even the best Hab last night.

Lars Eller was a healthy scratch last night as the coach said that Eller needed to "show more intensity". This was not a problem for Rene Bourque. Bourque last night played the kind of game that was advertised of him by former General Manager Pierre Gautheir when he was acquired. Michel Therrien has given Bourque new responsibilities and some rope to prove or disprove his ability. Last night he shined. While he did not collect any points on the game, Bourque created. By driving to the net hard twice, he drew two penalties. The Canadiens would score on one of the ensuing Power Plays. He used his body throwing 4 hits, and he killed penalties. Not only did he kill penalties, he killed them effectively. It's true, he was on the ice for Florida's only goal of the hockey game, but this is a work in progress. So far, I like the results.

Many will point to the play of Andrei Markov as being stellar. Markov scored 2 goals on the Power Play last night, and logged just over 23 minutes on 6 shifts. If there were any doubts about his health they should already be disappearing. While many will point to Markov's goals a a sign that he's "back", I was much more encouraged by the defenseman's play in his own end. Markov wasn't afraid of battles in front of the net or in the corners, he didn't shy away from contact, and he continues to have an excellent ability to read and anticipate the play. Offensively, he struggled with the puck. It is the case with many players early in this shortened season as many of them haven't played all year. In the case of Markov his amount of games over the last 3 years is limited, but he has played over 30 games already this season including his time in the KHL. I am encouraged by Markov's play, I think he is on his way back, but to say he's already there might be wishful thinking. There will still be some frustrating games for the defender, if not for the fans.

There were many encouraging signs out of the Montreal Canadiens last night. Many players played well. Many players worked very hard. Many hits were thrown, players stood up for eachother and offense was created. Michel Therrien, as promised has even started to evolve his coaching tactics often pushing a defenseman into the offensive zone as a fourth attacker supporting the forwards. Last night, the Canadiens drove the pace. But, let's be honest here, this was a Florida Panthers team playing it's 3rd game in 4 nights.

Many of the Panthers players looked tired. Jonathan Huberdeau came as advertised. He had only 2 shots on net, however both were excellent saves by Carey Price who had to be strong at moments. Huberdeau was strong with the puck and drove play on the ice whenever he was on it. Scott Clemmenson also had a strong game despite letting in 4 goals. He made 29 saves. Alexei Kovalev had a few nifty dangles and missed the net a few times on hard shots, but for the most part did not stand out positively or negatively.

The Panthers scratched Captain Ed Jovanovski last night, as they have said they will do multiple times this season. His age, coupled with his style of play and a condensed schedule don't mix well. This leads me to wonder how many games Francis Bouillon can play 20 plus minutes for. Bouillon gives everything he has in his body on every shift, a recipe for disaster with his small stature in a shortened season. 

Alex Galchenyuck is making the decision to keep him in Montreal or send him back to Sarnia a difficult one. He hasn't yet looked out of place in Montreal, but we have seen similar situations arise with young players here before. After 3 more games played in a Habs uniform, the brass will need to make a decision. Personally, regardless of his play here, I would send him back to Sarnia. I feel as though there are too many unknown's as to what will happen if he stays here. By sending him back to Sarnia, he is given a chance to play meaningful games, more minutes, and compete for a memorial cup. It would also give the Canadiens a longer training camp in the fall to re-assess the situation. 2 games, does not 5 make, but this can't be an easy decision. With other young players who also need to be rotated in (Eller, Gallagher) I wouldn't hesitate to scratch Galchenyuck for a couple of games. Scratching him, allows him to participate in practices with Montreal, while not using up games of eligibility. This would allow the team to have a longer look at the player, doing it for too many games however wouldn't be great either as he needs to play to develop. Let's re-assess in a week.

Look at the positives, get ready for Washington tomorrow. The Caps will bring it.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Snapshot Preview: Habs vs Panthers - January 22nd 2013

Montreal Canadiens (0-1-0) vs Florida Panthers (1-1-0)
Puck drop is at 7:30pm EST (RDS, TSN 690AM)

The artist formerly known as "L'artiste" is back at the Bell Centre tonight. This is not the first time Alex Kovalev returns to Montreal, however this time it feels different. Kovalev has not played at the Bell Centre since December 7th 2010. After disappointing stints in Ottawa, Pittsburgh and the KHL, The Enigma put up 3 points on Saturday night in his Panthers debut.

This will be the third game in 4 nights for the Panthers who are looking to rebound after a beating in Ottawa last night. Former Hab Jose Theodore is expected to get the night off, while Scott Clemmensen gets the nod between the pipes.

The Canadiens meanwhile are looking to avenge a 2-1 home-ice loss to Toronto on Saturday. The Habs have not started a season off with two losses since 2000-2001. Brian Gionta scored the Only goal for Montreal on Saturday.

With Brendan Gallagher making his NHL debut and Alex Galchenyuck moving over to Centre tonight, Lars Eller is the odd man out. According to head Coach Michel Therrien, Eller needs to up the intensity in his game. While that may be true, seems to me more like giving Galchenyuck a chance to show everything he's got before sending him back to Sarnia.

The two Goalies playing tonight's game couldn't have more differing records. Scott Clemmensen has never lost against Montreal (6-0-0, 1.68 GAA) while Carey Price has never beaten the Panthers at home (0-2-1, 2.62 GAA).

Michael Blunden and Yanick Weber remain healthy scratches for Montreal, while Petteri Nokelainen continues to rehab a back injury.

HABS-TOWN: " A cup win is already in the books"

Mitchell Kujavsky recently started tweeting, and today launches his website "The Funny Accountant". Since 2001, Mitch has been splitting his time between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, honing his accounting skills. In 2009, Mitch opened his own Tax and Business consulting service, MK & Associates. In between, Mitch was fine-tuning his personal and corporate tax skills, diversifying his knowledge in the related fields of bookkeeping & business consulting, and finding himself a Wife. 

While funny is a subjective thing which you'll have to glean for yourself, some of Mitch's humour shines through in this editon of HABS-TOWN. 

What got you into hockey, more specifically the Habs? 
I was born and raised in Montreal!   

It’s difficult to grow up in this city and not become at a minimum interested in hockey, and fanatical at the max.  I consider myself somewhere in the center and a classic example of an armchair fan as I was never much of a skater and never played organized hockey even as a kid.  
So what got me into hockey?  Easy – growing up in Montreal.  What got me into the Habs?  Easier – growing up in Montreal.

Do you remember your first Habs game? 
It took some research because I remembered just a handful of details about my first Habs game. Upon further review, after an online search and a discussion with my Father (who brought me to the game along with my sister), it was May 9th, 1986, the day the Canadiens eliminated the New Rangers in the Conference finals enroute to winning the Stanley Cup 2 weeks later.  I remember very little about the details of the game, aside from what I’ve watched and read about it since then.  All I really remember is that I had never before experienced a sound quite like the explosion of noise at the end of the game and hadn’t experienced it again until years later at the Bell Center.

Do you have a favorite Habs player ever?
Not really….if I had to choose one all-time favourite though it would probably be one of the many so-called grinders that have come through Montreal.  A gritty guy like Claude Lemieux or Chris Nilan.

Where do you like to watch games?
I watch 99% of games on the 93-inch projector in my living room. In the past, I’ve preferred watching alone but since getting married, I’ve occasionally invited the wife to watch with me. Soon, my 1-year-old will develop the same obsession as her Daddy and I’ll have to free up another spot on the couch.
Do you have any pre-game rituals or in game superstitions?
Just one – and it’s shared I’m sure by most Habs (and hockey) fans. Don’t talk about the victory until the final siren. Just don’t!

What's the best game you ever went to? What do you remember about it? 
April 24th, 2006.  Game 2 of the Conference quarters against the Carolina Hurricanes.  Putting aside for the moment the result of the series and the gut-wrenching, crushed-to-the-core-of-my-being feeling that I went home with following the series-ending game 6 loss, this was the single most exhilarating moment I’ve felt as a Canadiens fan.  After wrecking the favoured Hurricanes in game 1, the Canadiens knocked out the Hurricanes goalie Martin Gerber just a few minutes into game 2.  The crowd was going absolutely bananas (please see explosion of noise reference above) but the drama was only just beginning! The Habs blew that early 3-goal lead and needed a double-overtime comeback win to take a 2-game-to-nil series lead back to Carolina.  Again, forget the result…the rollercoaster ride that was game 2 was one of the most exciting sports moments I’ve experienced so far in my life.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories that are somehow related to the Habs?
It’s funnier and more interesting for others than for me but while living in Toronto in December 2009, my apartment was robbed one afternoon (luckily no one was home at the time).  They got my wife’s jewelry, some electronics equipment and…..wait for it….my official (with fight strap in the interior lining) #31 Cary Price jersey.  Now, while I’m sure a Price jersey carries a very nice resale price on the Montreal black market, I’m pretty sure it’s good for nothing more than kindling on the streets of Toronto.  Enjoy my jersey you dumbest-thieves-ever.  I hope you tried it on and got tangled in the fight straps.

What do you think of the hiring of Marc Bergevin and his moves so far?  

So far, so good.  I don’t know much about the guy other than what I’ve read since his hiring but he certainly isn’t afraid to make bold moves.  The transactions he’s responsible for so far seem to have added a bit more of a physical aspect to the team.  Plus, even though we didn’t get our hands on a big-ticket player this past summer, with the Gomez issue behind us, hopefully there is some opportunity for a very exciting group of rookies/sophomore players (Leblanc/Galchenyuk?) to get some regular ice-time.  

Are you looking forward to the lockout shortened season?
I always look forward to hockey season, shortened as it is.  While I was initially planning some sort of statement or boycott, is there really a point?  Yes, the lockout could have been avoided.  Yes, there was a complete lack of forward-thinking on both sides of the table as the CBA expiration day approached.  Hopefully, the Canadiens organization comes up with some kind of gesture to fans that will placate the masses.  If not, it will just create a bitterness that will definitely hurt the game in the long-run. Rebuilding the trust and goodwill of fans will be a longer process in Montreal than in other NHL cities due to the fact that the sport is such an integral part of our fall/winter/spring culture.

How will the Habs fare this season?
On the record, a cup win is already in the books.  Off the record, if we stay relatively healthy (especially core guys like Plekanec, Markov, Subban Pacioretty et al) and if another over-performing rookie emerges (see - #94), in my opinion the 5th or 6th seed in the East isn’t out of reach.

For more from Mitch Kujavsky, follow him on Twitter @HahaAccountant

Friday, 18 January 2013

Can't wait anymore - Habs Season Preview Part.2

Part 2 of our Canadiens Pre-season series offers up a look at some of the more interesting questions surrounding the team going into the 2013 campaign.

To help me answer some of these questions, I have assembled an eclectic team of Montreal Hockey experts to see if we can come to a consensus on anything.

Avi Goldberg is a sociologist who teaches full time at Vanier College and part time at Concordia University. He writes on connections between sports, culture, and politics for the AllHabs digital magazine.

Conor Mckenna is a familiar face here at "The Breakdown" having appeared in an excellent edition of "HABS-TOWN". Conor hosts multiple shows on TSN 690 radio in Montreal, including the Habs post-game show.

Mike O'Brand has visited "The Breakdown" before. Although he is currently abroad, he maintains his "HabsLaughs" Blog & Twitter account. Mike offers a passionate and humorous viewpoint of the Habs world.

Jessica Rusnak is the TSN 690 reporter on the Habs beat. She covers every practice, every game, every media scrum, she's always there. Recently she has also started filing "Habs Report" on the TSN website. 


The last time the NHL played a lockout shortened season in 1995, Peter Bondra led the league with 34 goals, how many goals will the Habs leading scorer pot this year, and who will it be?

Obrand: Easy: 95 goals-Alex Galchenyuk

Goldberg: I see Therrien letting the team loose offensively far more this year than under Martin and Cunneyworth. In the goal-scoring department, Galchenyuk will be the real wild card this year. Sticking, however, to a conservative logic, I predict Max Pacioretty as leading goal scorer. 26 goals.

McKenna: I think Max Pacioretty will lead the Habs with 20-23 goals this year. 

Rusnak: I agree with Conor as well I say Pacioretty 20-25 goals

Hermelin: I'm going to have to agree with everyone here, and give the lead to Max Pacioretty, but I'm going to say he'll get in the 18-20 goal range. I'd Also caveat that by saying I think Eric Cole and Brian Gionta with both also likely wind up in that ballpark as well.

When do the Montreal Canadiens and PK Subban reach a deal? Is it in time for the start of the season?

Obrand: The funny thing is that he signed a contract to be on my fantasy team last week…he says he’s showing up for that…

Rusnak: I do not believe Subban will sign with the Canadiens before the start of the season.

Goldberg: I have paid little attention to this, have very little understanding on why this is so difficult to get done, and can’t figure out why it is always these defensemen who hold out for a better contract. 

McKenna: It's looking less and less likely that PK signs before the 19th, but these things can change very quickly. 

Hermelin: I'm a little bit frustrated with this. I got into a bit of an argument about it with someone on Twitter the other day actually. Let's be honest here, the Canadiens aren't winning a Stanley Cup, and PK Subban at this point in his career is not the one missing piece to get them there. If I'm Marc Bergevin I let him sit out. 

Rusnak:  If the Canadiens start off the season well then there will be less pressure to sign Subban and the Canadiens will have the upper hand. If the Habs get off to a rocky start then I could see them coming to an agreement sooner rather than later. I say the Habs sign Subban by February 1st.  

Goldberg: Based on my complete lack of a spider sense on this one, I say early February deal, just in time for the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre. That would be the second Saturday night home game for the Habs this year.

Obrand: They have 5 days to sign him? I think it gets done within the next 48 hours and he reports to camp on Thursday.

Hermelin: Carey Price and Max Pacioretty had to wait until their second contract was over to get a long extension, PK needs to be in the same boat. I think the best comparable player in the league to PK Subban is John Carlson in Washington. The Capitals gave Carlson a long term deal (he's signed through the 2017-2018 season) but he's also signed to a reasonable cap hit of just under $4 Million dollars - something that PK Subban's camp is reportedly not willing to accept. It seems to me like Subban and his camp think that being a popular player on a popular team with a fantastic personality means more dollars. The longer he sits out, the more that popularity will wane.  


What do you think about what happened with Scott Gomez?

McKenna: Unfortunately for Gomez, this kind of had to happen. He's still young enough that if he gets into the right system, he could become an effective player again but between the city and the team, Montreal was simply the wrong place for him. 

Goldberg: There is certainly a lack of fairness from the perspective of the player, but from the perspective of team (both in terms of wins/losses and business), telling Gomer to sit is the best decision that can be made. The problem with Gomez has not been the absolute value of his contract, but rather the fact that he has contributed no meaningful tangible results for the team aside from the allegedly good humor he has dispensed in the dressing room.  

Hermelin: I've actually gone on at length on this very blog about Scott Gomez. In short he was never worth the contract he signed in New York and he could never live up to it. I'm not a big fan of his being unceremoniously sent home to avoid injury, but it seems the league and the players association have worked that out. I absolutely agree with Mike here too, I think Scott Gomez does have some value as a player and he should have at least been given training camp to prove it.

Obrand:   It kind of leaves a bitter taste in my mouth for a few reasons. 1. The wasted money. 2. They probably should have let him show what he could do in camp…I think they owed him at least that despite his many failures.

Goldberg: With a salary so high that his body has effectively taken the place of at least two other players who actually could have been contributing to the team’s on-ice efforts, this had to come to an end. I’m glad it did now.
Last week, Gomez gave an in depth interview to the Gazette's Dave Stubbs saying that "I’m happy to be back and a buyout is the last thing on my mind. I’m here to help the team win in whatever capacity they want. I’m going to give my all." He wasn't given that chance, do you feel he deserved a chance at all? Did he or does he have anything left to offer to anyone?

Obrand: This will change his career for the better. Nobody like to be cut, he has to have a shred of pride in him. After the buyout a team will take a chance on him for league minimum and he’ll burn the Habs whenever they meet. 

I guess it’s a good thing because now he can literally earn money by doing nothing instead of doing the same in a Habs jersey.

McKenna: He does have something to offer, but as I mentioned earlier, not here in Montreal. He has been saying all the right things for years but the fact is, something had to give. Reading between the lines during the press conference when Bergevin addressed the Gomez dismissal, you could tell that he wasn't happy with the work ethic and effort level he was getting from #11. This was the only thing to do and I applaud Bergevin for having the balls to do it. You simply can't have a guy who is by far the highest paid on your team going out there and not contributing. It undermines everything a winning organization needs to have and that's why this had to happen.

Goldberg: Someone on Twitter (I can’t remember who) said we should not underestimate the symbolic message that was sent by this move: in part, this is Marc Bergevin showing that, from now on, he does not want to be associated with the vision or decisions of the previous regime as he works on rebuilding the Habs in his own image. So, with a new boss, and with the boss’s obvious hunger to create a legitimately competitive team, no, Gomez did not deserve a chance to prove himself in any abstract or absolute sense. As for whether he has anything left to give, I would say that if he wanted to commit to it he could be a penalty-killing specialist. Is there any team willing to pay a penalty-killing specialist that kind of salary? Get Charles Wang on the horn.    

Last season, Thomas Kaberle showed up to Hurricanes training camp very out of shape. Although he did pick up his share of points with Montreal, his play left much to be desired. After the season, Kaberle admitted to reporters that he was out of shape and needed to work hard in the offseason to prove himself again. Kaberle's not an old man, and he has shown up in camp in considerably better shape this year - what do you expect from him?

Obrand: I have no expectations. He was by far the worst Habs D-Man last year in terms of defensive play. Good for him for getting in shape but I grew to resent him long ago…hopefully he proves me wrong.

Goldberg: My best hope for Kaberle is that we don’t really notice him too much on the ice, but that he also has a rejuvenated ability to quickly move the puck from the defensive end up to the forwards. But, honestly, what I really expect from him are those rosy red cheeks and lots of those little saucer passes to his partner at the blue line while Habs fans scream “SHOOOOOOT!” at the top of their lungs.

Hermelin: I hate that he's soft in the corners. I can respect that he came in to camp in better shape. He's overpaid, however he picks up assists even when he's invisible. The guy has one great skill, he makes excellent first passes, as a bottom pair defenseman who will see time on the Power Play, I think there can be some use from him yet.

Rusnak: I'm going to give Kaberle the benefit of the doubt. He showed up at this year's camp in much better shape and seems more focused on hockey. He has a good attitude, he wants to prove to everyone he is still a good hockey player. I'm going to give him 5 games to prove that he has changed since last season.

McKenna: I expect Kaberle to be a factor offensively and a disaster defensively. The longer Subban isn't available, the more of a role he'll play and I can't see that being good for the Habs. Kaberle has not been a positive force on a winning hockey team for a long, long time.
Who is the most important player for the Canadiens this year?

Obrand:  Petteri Nokelainen.

Hermelin: The obvious answer here is Carey Price, but I am going to say Andrei Markov. If Markov is even close to the player he was before he started running into injury problems the Canadiens become infinitely better. Suddenly they will not only have a top shut down defenseman who can play 20+ minutes, but there Power Play looks dangerous too. 

Obrand:  But actually it’s Peter Budaj. If Price goes down with an injury Budaj will have to play out of his mind for the Habs to have a chance.

Rusnak:Carey Price. I agree with Mike, If Price gets injured early in the season I don't know if Budaj will be able to get the job done for the Habs.

Goldberg: Very hard to limit this to just one player. I will cheat by identifying two sets of the most important players. Set #1: Plekanec and Eller. The Habs need solid and effective work from their second and third line centres. Will Plekanec come back and perform offensively and defensively to allow the second line to take pressure off the first line? Will Eller figure out his role and be consistent in anchoring an aggressive and better-defined third line? Team success depends on sorting this out. Set #2: Markov and Subban. Markov doesn’t want to talk injury but is he healthy, able to come closer to his normal playing level, and strong enough to play through an entire shortened season? Will Subban sign a contract? Will he continue to develop as a player and grow into his potential as an exciting defenseman with multiple skill potentials? The Habs are currently shallow on D and really need the back end guys to defend well and, even more importantly, to be able to efficiently move the puck to the forwards to generate offense. Will Markov and Subban be able to contribute to these vital needs? The work of the players comprising these two sets will be most decisive in determining the team’s fortunes this year.  

Hermelin: Shallow on Defense? In what world? You might not like the defensemen they have in camp, but even without Subban the Canadiens have 8 NHL defensemen in camp - and that's without discussing any of the prospects.  There are questions on some of those defensemen, true, we've already talked about Kaberle at length, but I actually think the Canadiens have significant depth on the back end.


If any one player can be singled out for Montreal as needing to offer more to the club this year than last, who is it? why? how big an impact can they make?

Goldberg: The most obvious answer has to be Rene Bourque. You love this guy’s size, you see the near-30 goals on his stats from a couple of years, and you have faint memories of watching him score goals when watching highlights from the Western Conference late at night and you wish he could be a powerful scoring winger for the Habs. 

Obrand: Rene Bourque. He isn’t a Hab yet if you know what I mean. Bourque needs to know what it means to be a Montreal Canadien. You can’t play flat on any team and that is especially true in Montreal. Bourque can be an effective top 9 winger who can play big and score the dirty goals. We had tiny glimpses last season but nowhere near enough. 

Rusnak: Rene Bourque. This team needs to play a tougher more physical game. Bourque can do that while also producing points something that was also missing from the team last season. If Bourque is playing to his full potential it will be a huge bonus to the team.

Goldberg: If Bourque could be what you want him to be, you would welcome the dilemmas created for the coach. Can he be a force needed to bolster a second line? Can he help to give the third line an identity and an ability to crash and bang against the opponents’ third lines? If the guy returns to being the ghost that he was last year, this is yet another player whose so-called presence on the ice basically gives the other team a man advantage each time he’s out there. If, however, he’s able to ramp it up, then Bourque could be an element that helps bring the Habs to a level of respectability and depth not seen in a while.    

McKenna: Carey Price needs to do better. There are other options here, but most are guys who were hurt last year. If Price can be at his best through a shortened season, the Canadiens are a playoff team. If' he's sub-par, they could be in the mix for the top pick in the 2013 draft. He's that important.
Michel Therrien told TSN 690's Mitch Melnick that he plans to have the players play this season "on their toes" not "on their heels" alluding to a more offensive system. In the past, Therrien has been a defensive coach, do you believe that, like Alain Vigneault in Vancouver, Therrien has evolved his coaching system and style OR is this much like when Jacques Martin came in and made similar promises?

Obrand: People grow up but talk is cheap. We’ll have to wait and see. 

Rusnak: Only time will tell

McKenna: Of course this is purely speculation but I do expect a more uptempo style from Therrien's version of the team. Unfortunately, the personnel is largely the same from a year ago, so the question is whether that higher-risk strategy will result in the Canadiens getting exposed defensively. Frankly, the pain of another bad year would be reduced during a shortened schedule and getting another top prospect could be the best thing that could happen to this team going forward.

Hermelin: I honestly believe Therrien will try to change his system, and the Canadiens I've believed for awhile have the horses to play an up-tempo aggressive offensive game, but if and when the going gets tough I worry the Coach will revert back to what he knows best. 

Goldberg: I’ll answer this question by first explaining my absurdist theory about Jacques Martin. Do you remember when he was coach of the Sens? My memories are of a fairly high scoring team but one with mediocrity in goal. Pundits seem to think the latter might have prevented those teams from going all the way. So, aside from personnel, what else can explain the stifling play of the Jacques Martin Habs in comparison to those Sens teams that had some offensive punch? My absurdist theory is that Martin dropped two components from his coaching repertoire since he served as Ottawa’s coach and maybe this was a factor. First, Sens players were always filmed after games riding the stationary bike. I don’t know if this ever happened with Martin’s Habs teams. Maybe they were out of shape. Or, how about the three-piece suits? They were fairly out of style even when Martin coached the Senators but maybe that sartorial choice back then actually brought those teams some luck. How does all of this relate to the question of whether Michel Therrien will have changed enough to become more of an offensive coach? Well, since Martin seemed to regress as a coach by clearly altering some of his coaching ways, maybe there is a chance for Therrien to greatly improve as a coach with some changes of his own. So, I’ll be looking for a new hairstyle, evidence of a long sleeve shirt under his suit, or for the players to have some kind of a quirky post-game fitness regimen imposed on them. As long as there are clear signs of a new routine imposed by the coach, I think there is a good chance that the Therrien has upgraded his system. If not, it won’t take long for fans to be praying that the Habs can repatriate wonder boy, Guy Boucher, to Montreal once his time with the Lightning comes to its inevitable conclusion. 
Alex Galchenyuck. What do you do with him?

Obrand: Top 6 immediately. He’s the most offensively talented player on the team.

Rusnak: I want to see what Galchenyuk can do in an NHL game before I decided. But I believe the Canadiens won't keep him if they don't think he'll be able to play on the top 2 lines.

McKenna: I don't think you can properly assess Galchenyuk without seeing him in actual NHL game action first. Having said that, my instinct is that he will make the team. You have to hope that means he gets to play an actual role and get minutes that matter at the NHL level because it would be painful to watch him regress after the strides he's made in Sarnia and for Team USA at the WJC this season. 

Goldberg: I’ve been convinced by all those who point to players like Latendresse, Ribeiro, and even Pacioretty and say that the careers of young players can be stunted or ruined if they don’t have enough time to develop before joining the big club. Like everyone else, I want an aggressively offensive power forward on the Habs. And, while it seems as though Galchenyuk has the potential to eventually surpass Pacioretty and Cole in this role, I don’t want to risk the future by taking too many chances with the kid in the present. So, I say keep him here for the first five games and then send him to Sarnia to finish the year. Let him work on his skating, chase the OHL scoring title, and allow him to get hungrier to play in the NHL. We will all miss him while he is gone, but the benefits of allowing him to continue his development will outstrip the potential pitfalls of pushing him too fast.

Hermelin: I personally think he should go back to Sarnia to finish out the season and try to win a Memorial Cup. The problem I have is next season. He looks too dominant to spend another year in Junior, but he's not allowed to go the American league as yet. 

I'd give him the 5 games to see what he's got, but unless he's setting the world on fire, re-evaluate him in the fall. No damage can be caused by him going back to Sarnia, but like Conor and Avi have said it would be painful to see him if he struggles in the NHL and follows the same trend that Guillaume Latendresse and Mike Ribeiro did. The American Hockey League route worked out pretty well for Tomas Plekanec.
Of the players in camp currently, who does not start the season with the Montreal Canadiens?

Obrand: Players who don’t play for the Canadiens? 

Rusnak: Dumont, Gallagher, Tinordi, Commodore 

Goldberg: In my perfect world, there is no need for Petteri Nokelainen, Yannick Weber or Tomas Kaberle on this squad and it wouldn’t sadden me if any or all of them are gone!

Hermelin: I can't see any way that both Diaz AND Weber stick with the club. Part of me would like to see Gallagher or Dumont get a shot of Galchenyuck on that line with Plekanec and Gionta.

Where do the Canadiens finish this season? 

Obrand: 8th and above or 15th.  

Rusnak: 6th in the east

Goldberg: Seventh in the North East and twelfth in the Eastern Conference. I should add that my optimism is artificially inflated by the fact it would sicken me to predict them finishing behind the Leafs.

McKenna: I'll pick the Habs to finish 6th in the East.

Hermelin: In a shortened season like this, it's really a crap-shoot. So much depends on health. Assuming there are no major injuries for the Canadiens (or any other teams in the East) I see the Canadiens battling for a playoff spot. I can't see them finishing higher than 7th in the conference, but I don't see them finishing lower than 10th either. 
Which Bell Centre concession item did you miss most during the lockout?

Rusnak: The cookies!!!

Goldberg: Since I rarely go the games and do not eat red meat, poultry, or pork, I can’t say that I’m a connoisseur of Bell Centre Fare. From direct experience, however, I can tell you with certainty that I didn’t miss the “beer.”

Obrand: Smoked Meat…when I feel like taking out a bank loan to buy one.

McKenna: Hot dogs, man! That's mostly because they're the only item that we lowly reporters get for free in the press lounge. I know, poor us!

Hermelin: I'm kind of partial to the Pizza. Although, it often burns the top of my mouth. I also really miss having Felix and Norton cookies at the games, those were awesome. We used to buy them during the playoffs whenever the Habs would go to Overtime. That tradition seemed to stop after Game 4 vs Carolina in the 2002 playoffs. Something to do with Bill Lindsay taking a face-off making me lose a cookie or four.

It's not much of a surprise to see fans in this market flocking back to the Canadiens as if there was no lockout, Do you think however there was damage done? If so have the Habs done enough to repair the damage? what do you think of their initiatives so far?
Goldberg: In Montreal, where hockey is an integral part of our day-to-day life and culture, the only serious damage that has been done is economic, either to local businesses or to those whose incomes depend on hockey. This is not to be underestimated or downplayed, especially if individuals or families have suffered as a result. As for regular hockey fans, a) they experienced a temporary respite from their most favorite cultural pastime; b) they may have actually benefited during the lockout by taking up other sports or activities; and c) after having time away from hockey, they are now poised to resume the love affair with their game, and possibly even to experience the joy of their teams and the competition at an intensity not thought to be possible. The question of whether the Habs, or any other Canadian team, has done enough to repair the damage, in reality, is moot. The notion of compensation has been amplified by the media who, having showed uncharacteristically direct criticism toward both the players and owners during the lockout, may be projecting their own legitimate anger for having their jobs cut out from underneath their feet onto the fan base. The fans will take what they can get in terms of compensation, but the most important thing for them is the playing of the games. The fans are waiting to plant their fannies in their seats, they are already filling the talk shows and Twitter timelines with their passion, and by the time they are belting out their first rendition of “Ole Ole Ole Ole” at the Bell Centre, their bad dream will be practically forgotten.

The wait is over. Only hours to go. 
Habs. Leafs.
Hockey. Night. In. Canada.