Sunday, 30 June 2013

Liveblog: 2013 NHL Draft

So I'm going to try to liveblog the entire draft, if I don't have a callout I have to attend.  I've gone for a morning walk in the baking heat, attending to a couple chores, so I can feel semi-okay about being indoors on a day like this.

- Renaud Lavoie asks "Is there an NHL player who isn't traded right now?", in reference to the crazy amount of rumours going around.  He says the scuttlebutt is that there will be ten big trades today.

- Stéphane Leroux thinks the Canadiens might trade up in the first round, to the 15-18 range if a player like Samuel Morin or Bo Horvat is still available there.

- Leroux expects a couple of French-Canadian players to be drafted by the Canadiens.  He mentions Émile Poirier or Laurent Dauphin or Philippe Desrosiers as likely targets.

-  I wrote this about the possibility of signing P.A. Parenteau last summer, and I still believe this, and it applies to this draft.

In the very long view, it is important that kids growing up in Québec love the Canadiens and recognize themselves in the team, and a bit of the team in themselves. This generates more lifelong fans who will support the team, and more players who dream of making it to the NHL and wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge. In the salary-cap world we live in, this is an important strategic edge we have on the St-Louis Blues and the Florida Panthers. If Geoff Molson understands anything, it needs to be that there must be a strong, visceral, emotional connection between the fans and leurs Glorieux.

Having accepted that, we can begin to accept that signing Mr. Parenteau, or drafting local players and signing local free agents, and hiring homegrown coaches is not just a cynical pander to the unwashed masses, but a natural fit for this team and one that yields long-term dividends that are harder to quantify.

-  Anthony Mantha, seated on the RDS set with his grandfather André Pronovost, states that he's been a fan of the Canadiens since he was a child, and doesn't think he'd have any trouble dealing with the pressure of being a local star on the team.  I don't think he'll have to worry about that, he'll be snagged before we get close.

-  Alain Vigneault chortles that his team has a 'good goalie'.  He says he wants to have an assistant coach who's familiar with the Eastern Conference, but other than that thinks that hockey is hockey.  He doesn't believe that Glen Sather will try to trade up to get a pick in the second or first round, they'll be satisfied with their three third-rounders.

-  Trevor Timmins says his most cherished moment was the draft in Montréal when he got to pick Louis Leblanc.  He refuses to go into specifics about mistakes he made, but does say that the important part is to learn from mistakes.  While he doesn't have a high pick like last season, he still thinks he'll have a shot at some quality players.  He says that he wants to eventually win a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens, his boyhood team, but ultimately he would like to progress to a GM role somewhere.  He doesn't commit to the chance of drafting a goalie in the first round, he says he'll pick one when he's the best player available.  On the subject of Ryan McDonagh, he's glad to see him or other players he picked in the league and turning out as projected, but he wishes he was helping the Canadiens.

-  Luc Gélinas repeats that seven years ago there wasn't one dedicated LHJMQ scout on the Canadiens' staff.  We now have Donald Audette and Serge Boisvert scouting our backyard.  Serge Boisvert's marching orders are to not drop the ball on anything in the Province of Québec.

-  TSN using the "Hockey Night in Canada" theme is plain wrong, on many levels, but especially so on a Sunday June 30th before the draft.

The big reason that song is so good is because of its association with HNIC.  If that song had been published in a vacuum, and not been inextricably linked to our most cherished childhood memories, it would be long-forgotten now.

-   Gary Bettman is such a putz.  He tries to pull off David Stern's cringe-worthy performance, but that smirk of his just rankles.  If I had to swerve my car out of the way to avoid hitting him as a pedestrian, it wouldn't be a reflex, I'd have to think about it.  Love the way he uses a eulogy to quiet down the boos.

-  Nathan McKinnon taken first as expected, but Sasha Barkov second is a mild surprise.  Do the Lightning take Jonathan Drouin or Seth Jones?

-  By the way, good job New Jersey fans in your lusty booing of Gargamel.

-  Nashville ends up with Seth Jones at #4.  I wonder how much scouting they did on him, were they ever expecting him to be available?

Also,  is Popeye not in the house?  Did I miss him, or did he really not attend his son's draft?

-  Everyone says Carolina wanted a defenceman, and might trade the #5 pick.  Do you think they were hoping Nashville would let Seth Jones slip down to them?

-  Prediction: Calgary goes Sean Monahan.  Calgary is desperate for a frontline centre.

-  Pick #7:  Do the Oilers go with a defenceman like Darnell Nurse, or can they resist the big talented Russian forward?  Valeri Nichushkin would be hard to pass up.

-  They pick the big tough D-man, although I read his skating is suspect.  Tough, big, mean, sure, but maybe not a great talent.

- Pick #8:  Do the Sabres go for Valeri Nichushkin?  Add him to Mikhail Grigorenko from last season?

No, they take Rasmus Ristolainen.  It would have been great to see both Russians on the same line, but they go with the Finn d-man.

-  The Islanders trade away their former #5 overall pick Nino Niederreiter to the Wild for Cal Clutterbuck.  Hope the change in scenery does the young man some good.  Of course, leaving Long Island is pretty much always a positive.

-  Vancouver gets the #9 pick for Corey Schneider.  Good trade for both teams.  The Canucks solve their goaltending dilemma, get a great asset back, and the Devils get the heir apparent to Martin Brodeur.

I guess the Devils won't draft Anthony Brodeur in the 7th round after all.

-  Pick #9:  The Canucks spend the Devils' pick they just acquired on Bo Horvat, with Valeri Nichushkin still on the board.  Is this the same as picking Mike Ricci with Jaromir Jagr still on the board?

The Canucks want to get grittier, probably wanted to stay away from a Don Cherry-unapproved skilled European, even a big one.

-  Roberto Luongo gets to stay in Vancouver.  Of course, he is the one who asked for the trade in the first place, then stood in the way by restricting the trade options, negating many destinations.  He wears some of the blame.

-  Pick #10:  The Stars get Valeri Nichushkin at a relatively low slot.  Hope he helps sell hockey in Texas.

-  Pick #11:   I don't want the Flyers to take Samuel Morin.  It would be like Moose Dupont all over again.  Of course, they may also get Nikita Zadorov, which isn't much better.

-  They take the Rimouski d-man.  I hate this, hate cheering against local boys, but I hope the 'project' lasts longer than anyone had hoped.

-  I guess the Canadiens need to take Jonathan Ismaël Diaby in the second round now.

-  Pick #12:  The Coyotes take Max Domi.  I don't dislike the young man, nothing against him, but that last name...  Ugh....   I couldn't have stomached seeing Tie Domi at the New Forum running around like he owned the joint.

-  So for some of the draftees the Canadiens want to 'fall', some surprises have to happen, like Calgary last year with Mark Jankowski.  So far, none of that has happened.

Still, fingers crossed:  Nikita Zadorov, Frédéric Gauthier, Anthony Mantha...

-  Pick #13:  The Jets take Josh Morrissey.  A bit of a surprise according to Bob McKenzie's ranks, which is good.  Come on boys, keep falling.

-  Pick #14:  Both Sasha Barkov and Rasmus Ristolainen are gone, so we don't have to hear about Jarmo Kekalainen picking a countryman, as if he had no other choice.  Instead, he goes with Swede Alexander Wennberg.

-  Pick #15:   Sure, Ryan Pullock has a great writeup, but the Islanders go for a D-man again?  Their entire draft last season was defencemen.  Is Garth Snow on a lifetime "Punk'd" mission?

-  Pick #16:  Crap, the Sabres nab Nikita Zadorov.  We have to play that kid eight times a year for the next decade.  Friggin' lovely.  He was the impossible dream, I wasn't holding much hope, but this smarts.

-  Pick #17:  The Sens grab a player compared to Ryan Kesler in Curtis Lazar.  Relatively undersized, he may not have fit in with the mix the Canadiens need, so no big loss.

-   What a condescending twit Gary Bettman is.  He's talking to the audience as if they're kindergartners.  He richly deserves the booing.

-  Pick #18:  The Sharks grab Swiss d-man Mirco Mueller.  Good.  HIO would have had a meltdown if the Canadiens had added another Swiss defenceman to the organization.  Traded with the Wings to move up two spots.

My heart did flutter there while the trade was being announced.

-  Anthony Mantha and Frédéric Gauthier are still available.  A better chance now that one of them slides down.  I'd prefer Frédéric Gauthier, based on what I read.  Nothing wrong with a Keith Primeau clone.

-  Pick #19:  The Blue Jackets swoop down and claim HIO favourite Kerby Rychel, a kid who we thought was in range for #25.

-  Pick #20:  Stupid Red Wings.  They nab Anthony Mantha.

Pffft.  I didn't want him anyway...

-  So Frédérik Gauthier, or trade down if he's not there anymore at #25?  Grab an armload of Poirier, Dauphin and Diaby later?

-  Pick #21:  I want to throw up.  After the Flyers with Samuel Morin, now the Leafs grab Frédérik Gauthier.  Think about the conniptions Don Cherry will have?  Have they no mercy for an enfeebled old man?

-  Pick #22:  What the hay?  Now Émile Poirier is gone to the Flames?  Stay out west, grab some Alberta beef why don't you?

I wish it was like the old days, when we automatically had the two best French players in the world reserved to us every year, as every Leaf fan knows very well.

-   Last time I felt this deflated was while watching the results of the B.C. provincial election.

-  Pick #23:  Caps go with Andre Burakovsky.

-  Pick #24:  Boooooom!  Another dream shot down.  Hunter Shinkaruk goes to the Canucks.

-  Marc Bergevin, please trade down, grab more picks.

-  Pick #25:  The Canadiens pick Michael McCarron, a 6'5" winger out of the U.S. National Development Program.  He was ranked as an early second-rounder.  Big size, aggressiveness, skill is a bit in question.

Sure, he'll bring size and toughness, but we kind of scoffed at Tom Wilson and Tyler Biggs the last two drafts, so I'm not sure why this guy is any better.

In Trevor Timmins I trust.  Ommmmmmm...

-  Pick #26:  The Ducks grab Shea Theodore.  Oh hum.  Who cares, let's get these out of the way and get to #34.

-  The fact that the Canadiens had a jersey with Michael McCarron's name on it is an indication that they chose a guy who they wanted, and not just as a reaction to all their guys being snapped up.  So there's that.

-  Pick #27:  The Blue Jackets take a complete dark horse, as in Marko Dano, an Austrian centre I've actually never heard of.  Not that it means anything, but maybe my man crushes will be requited at #34 and 36.

-  Picks #28, 29:  Flames take Morgan Klimchuk, Dallas takes Jason Dickinson.  Good, William Carrier and Jonathan Diaby are still possibilities.

-  Pick #30:  Chicago takes Ryan Hartman, a guy some Montréal fans wanted.  I'm not sorry to see him go.

-  William Carrier, Jonathan Diaby, Jacob De la Rose, Robert Hagg, Valentin Zykov, Laurent Dauphin,Justin Bailey still left on the board.  We'll get some good players with our next two picks.

-   I don't know if I would prefer Michael McCarron went to London to play at a higher level, or go to college and have more time for skill development.  I don't know anything about the Western Michigan program.

Michael Matheson last year talked about how he preferred to go to U.S. college instead of Junior so he could lift and get bigger, and work on his skills.  He said the game schedule in the Q hampers that.  So you get a lot of games, lots of game conditions, but you don't get to work on specific areas of your game.

-  We're going to have lots of options at #34.

-  Pick #34:  We get Jacob De la Rose, a guy who got lots of hype, good size.  Swedes I find tend to be undervalued compared to CHL players, so I'm happy with this pick.

-  I say again: William Carrier, Jonathan Diaby, Robert Hagg, Valentin Zykov, Laurent Dauphin, Justin Bailey still left on the board.

I vote William Carrier or Valentin Zykov, but what do I know.

-  I'll stand by my Carrier or Zykov comment, but I'll be white-knuckling it to #55 if we don't snag Jonathan Diaby.

-  Pick #36:  The Canadiens draft Zachary Fucale.  Not necessarily happy with this pick, but I have to trust their judgment on this one.  I would have preferred another sizeable forward or defenceman.  Taking the best goalie in this class this low is a steal I guess.

-  Bruce Arthur tweets:  "All in all, I think we can agree Roberto Luongo is the Michael Jordan of not being traded."

-  Who's the old man calling the picks at the podium?  Way better than the Buttman, but the poor guy isn't the most polished public speaker.  He's hacking up a lung on the microphone now.  Should the NHL have hired an announcer?

-  Canadiens combine star Justin Bailey gone to Buffalo.  We still have William Carrier and Jonathan Diaby on the board.

-  Pick #54:  A puzzling pick, the Canadians grab Arturri Lehkonen.  Not happy.  He plays the role already filled by Sebastian Collberg and Charles Hudon.

Look, I'd never heard of the kid before, so my opinion is worth a hill of beans, but a 163 pound shifty winger is not something we needed to add to the mix.  What we needed to complement our assets in the farm system was size and toughness.

-  And William Carrier, a bigger homeboy, is snapped up the very next pick by St. Louis.  As a very uninformed fan, I'm disappointed we didn't take him instead of the Finnish pipsqueak we got.

-  Talent is being proven to be unimportant, a marginal consideration by the current state of the NHL with its laissez-faire refereeing.  Talent is wiped out by size.  Mr. Lehkonen will have to work hard to prove me wrong, but in this day and age, I think it's a wasted pick.

-  Actually, Marc-Olivier Roy went to Edmonton before the Blues picked Mr. Carrier.  My point remains.

-  In the third round, I'd like one of Mason Geertsen and Jonathan-Ismaël Diaby.

-  Just as fast as I typed the above, Nashville get Mr. Diaby, to pair up with Seth Jones.  I'm losing my excitement for this day.

-  Not to beat this dead horse, but I really believe that when the Canadiens rush to pick up a player who's fallen to them, like Sebastian Collberg or Charles Hudon or now Arturri Lehkonen, it's not so much that the other teams failed to discern their great talent or puck skills, but rather a case of other teams making the cynical, counter-Gainey decision to sacrifice skill in favour of outright size.  Looking at the Blues or Kings or Sharks or the Bruins, they're basically daring us to pick those players.

"We'll see you in the playoffs," they're thinking as they rub their hands with glee.

-  Pick #71:  To help us forget about Erik Cole, with the third-rounder we got from them, we pick up Connor Crisp, an overage Junior with massive size but little talent to speak of.

We've got this weird pendulum swinging back and forth, with size but no skill at one end, and skill in a very small package at the other.  McCarron, to Lehkonen, to Crisp.

-  Pick #86:  Sven Andrighetto, an overaged 5'9" forward at #86.  I'm going to barf.

This was supposed to be an opportunity to correct the size imbalance in our system, with an injection of bigger players to surround those smaller, less physical prospects already on the farm.  We're failing miserably at that.

Mason Geertsen is still on the board, and we let him go for this guy.

This isn't fun any more.

-  I'm taking some flak, people are telling me we already picked three big forwards, I shouldn't worry about the small players.  These three guys will bring all the size we need, I'm told.

The thing is, it's not a guarantee that these three very large forwards will make it to the NHL.

We're already stocked with many, many small skilled prospects.  What we were supposed to do was now stock the shelf with many bigger prospects, to even out the odds.  Not alternate, as we seem to be doing.

-  Brian Bickell re-signed by Chicago.  That dream is dead.

-  Sample response to my increasingly histrionic posts: "In McCarron, De la Rose, and Crisp, they’ve drafted a heck of a lot of size today…."

The thing is, our forwards beside Steve Quailer in the system are overwhelmingly average-sized guys, or smaller.   Drafting three bigger guys now is great, but in reality the odds are that one of those guys will make it.  And we'll still have a preponderance of the smaller guys that Senators and Bruins love to feast on, to the complacent neglect of the refs.

I would have been comfortable getting big guys, or tweeners like Jackson Houck if that's what was on the board, but we're adding shifty forwards to a system that already has a surfeit of them.  Our prospect mix is all out of whack with what the rest of the league is doing.

-  Picks #93, 94:  Mason Geertsen goes top of the fourth, 93rd overall to the Avalanche.  His Vancouver Giants teammate Jackson Houck goes next to the Oilers.  Right around where I thought Mr. Geertsen would go, we should have grabbed him with our second third-round pick.  Mr. Houck I'm not so high on, think he's the second coming of Mike Hough, but some analysts thought he might go in the second round, which was insane.  Fourth round is appropriate for him also.

- Pick # 110:  Ryan Graves, a 6'4" d-man from the PEI Rocket goes to the Rangers.

- Pick #115:  Jordan Subban to the Canucks.  This really displeases me.

Sure, I'm being inconsistent, in wanting to draft the smallest Subban now, after ranting that we needed to size up, but at the fourth-round level, it's an acceptable cost given his pedigree and upside.  Call me sentimental.

-  It's much too early to pronounce on this draft, but I'm waffling between a debacle or a fiasco.

-  Pick #116:   And I pronounced it as such before I found out we'd drafted Martin Reway, a 5'9" forward who scored 22 goals in the LHJMQ this year.

Debacle?  Fiasco?  So hard to make the call.

En français, on dirait 'une débandade.'

-  Let me restate that the only reason these mini-players are available is because every other team understands that, as skilled as they are, the refs and Jeremy Jacobs won't let them be successful.

-  Congratulation P.K., interrupt your little brother while he's answering James Duthie's question, on his big day, and wrestle the topic of conversation back to you.

It's behaviours like these P.K., that make people wince and heap scorn on you.

-   I'm taking some flak on this, but my strongly worded objections are partly a product of the Liveblog effect, where you have to state an opinion on everything, as opposed to giving it a 'sober second thought'.  I tip my hat to Mike Boone, this ain't easy.

As far as never seeing these kids play, guilty.  My points still have value though, and repose on a philosophical basis I've already stated before.

So again, I don't doubt that these smaller kids aren't a wiz with the puck and aren't loaded with talent.  I do think the NHL as presently administered, and the Canadiens as currently constituted, do not offer these kids any chance of making an impact in the NHL.

The Bruins can inject a Torey Krug in their roster, and he adds to their mix.  On our roster, he just adds to the problem of Diaz, Kaberle, Weber, St-Denis...

A team has to have balance, with players who bring different attributes to the table.  We already have the attributes that Messrs. Lehkonen, Andrighetto and Reway bring, in Brendan Gallagher, Sebastian Collberg, Tim Bozon, Michaël Bournival, Louis Leblanc...  We're all out of balance.

- Pick 176:  The Canadiens take Jérémy Grégoire in the sixth round.  Again, I've seen some good writeups on this kid but haven't seen him play.  Funny that lists him as either 5'11" or 6', depending which page of their website you look at.

Happy to take a local boy here, might as well.

-  Did the Canadiens trade their seventh?  TSN shows Florida drafting at #25?

-  Looks like we trade the pick to Florida?  For a sixth next year I hope?  Or Erik Gudbranson?

-  Apparently traded for the 2014 7th of the Panthers.  Weird, usually the premium is to go up one round the succeeding year.  Maybe the Canadiens were the ones offering it, as opposed to the Panthers, uh, panting for it.

-  And that wraps it up, thankfully.  I had high hopes, pretty much all of them dashed.  Let's hope that Trevor Timmins and Marc Bergevin are better judges of hockey talent than I am.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Will Yannick Weber walk away as an unrestricted free agent?

Interesting that on RDS they're interpreting the lack of a qualifying offer to Yannick Weber to this point as indication that he won't receive one.  As in, we'll let that asset walk away.

Which must mean that they've tried and are still trying to shop him for a pick or prospect, but if they get no bites he'll be let go.  Which I still find hard to believe, that a team wouldn't ante up a low draft pick for a guy who has some skills, and is still young and can improve.  With the right partner, he can be a #6-7 defenceman who plays the second wave of a powerplay.  Just because we can't use him doesn't mean nobody can.

Will tomorrow's draft bring the Canadiens an impact player like Alex Galchenyuk?

This sobering list by is what brought me back to reality.

The Canadiens’ website put together a list of the Top 10 No. 25 draft picks, which went like this:

No. 10 – Marc Denis, 1995, Colorado

No. 9 – Patrik Berglund, 2006, St. Louis

No. 8 – Chris Simon, 1990, Philadelphia

No. 7 – Gilles Gilbert, 1969, Minnesota

No. 6 – Todd Gill, 1984, Toronto

No. 5 – Tomas Jonsson, 1979, New York Islanders

No. 4 – Brenden Morrow, 1997, Dallas

No. 3 – Cam Ward, 2002, Carolina

No. 2 – Mike Murphy, 1970, New York Rangers

No. 1 – Mark Howe, 1974, Boston

Sure, a few picks in the second round are nice, but we need to keep our expectations in line.  Looking at the kind of players on this list, we shouldn't get too jazzed up about tomorrow.  If we can find an Yvon Lambert or Mike McPhee, maybe a Craig Ludwig or Eric Desjardins, we should be very happy.

Needed: Hockey players. Ex-Bruins need not apply.

Trevor Timmins in his pre-draft media scrum: "The players that we have on our list are players that we believe will be future NHL'ers, that we want to be Montréal Canadiens, to wear our jersey."

Good insight into how Andrew Ference and Nathan Horton won't be fielding phone calls from Marc Bergevin on July 3.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Doug Wickenheiser vs. Denis Savard, Part Deux

 Interesting debates online before the draft, lots of revisionism going on, some of it sparked by's list of Canadiens' draft busts.

About Doug Wickenheiser being picked over Denis Savard, that was the overwhelming consensus at the time.  Doug Wickenheiser was playing in a tougher league, and had better stats his draft year.  In fact, when reviewing that year's draft, we see that the Winnipeg Jets chose second and went with Dave Babych, instead of Mr. Savard who went third.  So Denis Savard, while a spectacular prospect, was not a slam dunk pick, and was maybe hampered by the too small-too-soft-Québec-player tag.

As far as Irving Grundman overruling his scouts, including Claude Ruel, and going with the WHL player instead of the kid from his own backyard, I have never heard that story.  Ever.  I would love for someone to dig up any reports about that, any after-the-fact analysis or reminiscences.  What I do remember is Ronald 'Le Professeur' Caron, the guy who was actually in charge of the draft for the Canadiens, crowing about his pick, and how he would be "le gros joueur de centre" that we were lacking, and how he'd slot in effortlessly between Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt.  And every fan salivated.

It's not impossible that some Canadiens scouts were in the Denis Savard camp.  Heck, some of them may never have seen Mr. Wickenheiser play before the draft, so in the room they would have been advocating for the player they'd seen and pushing hard that he be selected.  The thing is, that happens at every draft.  It's rarely unanimous that one player is the guy that floats everyone's boat in the draft war room.

Just last season, Serge Boisvert started pushing for Charles Hudon to be picked in the second round, according to Stéphane Leroux of RDS, and had to sit as Dalton Thrower, Tim Bozon and Brady Vail were picked, growing ever more strident with each round passing.  Before the Brady Vail pick, he kind of shrugged and shook his head at Mr. Leroux, indicating that it wasn't going to happen.  Then, as he walked to the podium with the card for the fifth pick, and having the honour of announcing the choice, he gave Mr. Leroux a nod to confirm they were selecting Mr. Hudon, and RDS viewers knew what the pick was before it was announced.

So there may have been one or two Canadiens scouts pushing for Denis Savard at the 1980 draft, but they were just doing their job, giving info on the players they'd seen and selling the ones they felt were the best candidate to pick.  It's no sinister conspiracy, and there's no need to fabricate histories to blame Irving Grundman for fanciful sins beyond the multitude that he did actually commit.

Poor Rocky Wirtz just can't seem to turn the corner and make a profit

From the Sporting News' article on increasing revenues in the NHL:

Although the Blackhawks have sold out 227 consecutive games at the United Center (regular-season and playoffs), Wirtz maintained that the Blackhawks are still not profitable, though things have improved since he took ownership in 2007.

“Maybe in two or three years,” he said of profitability, “especially if our sponsorship sales continue to increase."

So Rocky's family has owned the Blackhawks for almost 70 years, and three generations.  They're still paying off that mortgage, evidently, and can't wait to be free and clear of those monthly payments.  Get some room to breathe...

He shares ownership of his arena with the owner of the Bulls, which is nice, since he can split the costs of these money pits that can only feasibly be built and operated with massive injections of public money.  How are you going to make money selling $9.00 beers to 20 000 fans 50 times a year?  Especially if the liquor distributor is robbing you blind?

So he can't quite manage to eke out a profit.  Soon, possibly.

Maybe if he got a better local TV deal his team would fare better, but there's six more years on the current one to go still.  Until then, the owners of the consortium of Comcast Chicago will have him over a barrel and make millions off his team.  That's not fair to him, that those leeches, namely Tom Ricketts, Jerry Reinsdorf, NBC Universal, and, uh, Rocky Wirtz, are stealing from him, shrinking the amount of hockey related revenue he can generate and throw on the pile to be shared equally (50-50, fair's fair) with the players.

Good thing we had a lockout to bring those insane player salaries in line, now Rocky has a decent chance to earn a living.  It's not plutolatry to root for a man whose declared personal wealth comes in at half a billion dollars.  He's just like us, a lowly bachelor of communications grad who earned everything he has.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champions


1)  The Ruins' fans are doing a urine-poor job of booing Gary Bettman, they're barely audible.  The Canucks' fans were way, way better.

2) Gary Bettman:  "Blah, blah, blah, Stan Bowman, blah, blah, blah, but most importantly, the
cash machinesfans, and these great (replaceable, cannon-fodder) players...(sotto voce) that I locked out for half a season and will lock out again as soon as I get half a chance.  That is, until the Bauertron 5000's and Reebokoliaths are finished field testing and we can lay all these moochers and revenue vampires off.

3)  The Blackhawks may now be my second-favourite team, over the Canucks who didn't get the job done the last time they were in the Stanley Cup finals.

4)  The new Stanley Cup ceremony is awful.  The guys doing little circles in front of cameramen is trite and somewhat embarrassing, how many times do we need to hear "Whooooooo!", and the F-word.

Mr. Molson, since you're reading this, can you ensure that when we win the Cup in a couple of years, that you'll ensure that cameramen, dignitaries, VIP's, analysts, and Pierre McGuire don't get in the way, it's not about them.  Clear them all off the ice, and have our team do laps around the New Forum, presenting the Cup to the fans, as it used to be, and as it should be.

5)  The 'Hawks just saved Brad Marchand from another awful, illiterate tattoo.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

If Mantha, Gauthier and Morin are taken, do the Canadiens trade down and snag Diaby in the second round?

 I've been trying to read entrails, and maybe I'm putting too much weight on an off-the-cuff remark, but Marc Bergevin now says that it's possible he might trade down, if I interpret his "We could have six (picks), we could have four or we could have eight" quote correctly.

Last week, Trevor Timmins threw cold water on the trade-down for more picks scenario, bringing up the 50-contract rule as one consideration.  Obviously, it's better to have one solid prospect than two borderline ones when you're up against that limit.

The only way I see trading down from #25 as likely is if all the players the Canadiens would like in that range are gone when their turn comes, and their next tier is of players they feel they could mostly pick up later.  They'd trade down to amass more picks, and then be in a position to 'reach' for Jonathan Ismaël Diaby in the second round, and possibly snag Jordan Subban with a later pick.  This is semi-analysis, semi-daydreaming.

I think Mr. Diaby, as rough a project as he is, is the sort of one-of-a-kind player that other teams will have difficulty matching.  Even if he never develops as a reliable defenceman, he'll still have value as a huge enforcer type who can be put in a lineup based on situations.  He's already 6'6" and 240 lbs at 18, with a mean streak.

You don't wait and hope that guy falls down to you, you have to go and get him.  The Canadiens' comparative lack of size in the system would make him extra valuable to us.

The Canadiens' thin blue line: do Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu play in the NHL next season?

In an ideal world, both Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu are mature enough physically and mentally for the grind of an NHL season next fall.   So we plug them in and they improve by getting their minutes in the NHL, not AHL.

Practically, in our world, where Adam McQuaid gets a grudging, belated two-minute penalty for a(n) two-hand punch/crosscheck/outright attack on Andrew Shaw, right in front of the referees, I don't think our boys are ready.  Certainly Nathan Beaulieu, who showed up to camp last season out of shape, and has shown some indiscipline, may not be ready yet for the spotlight and pressure of the big stage.

Another important consideration is that skill development is not just a function of time, of waiting for the calendar pages to flip.  You learn skills by doing, by practicing.  Progression is important.  If you're in an environment where you don't have the time and space to practice these skills, to attempt them in game situations, they don't develop.

For example, take juggling.  Most everyone can learn how to juggle, you just need time and practice.  YouTube must have great videos to guide you.  Anyway, if you have the time, the equipment, and a practice space conducive to learning, you learn how to juggle two balls with one hand, then with the other hand, then three balls with two hands, then maybe against a wall, or bouncing off the floor, or you increase the difficulty with four or five balls.  With time and practice, you hone your skills and cut down on errors, and can work with eggs or chainsaws.

If however you're in a situation where every time you try to learn, someone comes out with a camera and points out your mistakes every time you drop a ball, and a bunch of people on a couch laugh and taunt, and an authority figure with a megaphone berates you when you don't learn quick enough, and some people want these balls from you and tackle you to get them, you'll never learn to juggle.

Take the first person who's now juggling with five balls or with chainsaws though, and plug her in that inauspicious environment, and that girl can cope with the increased degree of difficulty from the couch dwellers and Captain Video and the Haranguer in Chief.  She can still juggle, and will be able to juggle in most situations.

So back to Nathan and Jarred, if they're in the NHL, and the puck is on their stick with Chris Neil or Jason Spezza bearing down on them, and the scholarly, arch Mike Boone is in the press gallery taking meticulous notes of every miscue, maybe they learn that the best, the only thing to do is to bang the puck off the boards, but quick, and every time.  Doing this, they'll keep their head above the raging waters.  But they'll never learn to juggle.

In the much calmer AHL pool however, faced with the same situation but going up against Ben Maxwell and Toby Petersen, they can learn to take the half-second to scan the ice for the outlet pass, or to decide to skate around the net while protecting the puck à la P.K. Subban, in addition to the obvious, safe, Don Cherry bang-it-off-the-glass solution.

So if they show up to camp and present the Canadiens with an inescapable conclusion, that they are more than ready, and if they, as Rick Dudley described, win the job outright, then sure they stay up with le Grand Club.  Or, if it's not decisive, we play it safe and send them down for further ripening.  As Marc Bergevin famously said, we won't regret leaving them in the AHL too long, but we might bringing them up too soon.

The Globe and Mail agrees: the justice system needs to assume the responsibilities that the NHL abdicated

We've seen how tyke hockey players learn by watching the pros, how they'll front each other in scrums and crosscheck and facewash each other's protective grille.  We've discussed how the NHL sets a very low bar as to conduct on the ice, with both the National Hockey League Players' Association and the League itself acquiescing to acts of thuggery and assaults by indulgent slaps on the wrist or contortions to describe these events as 'hockey plays', inherent unavoidable incidents in a sport played at a high speed with collisions, by honourable men with 'character'.

Except that none of these violent events would be tolerated in normal society.  On the street, these same assaults would be met with arrests and charges being laid.  So why do we allow the NHL a dispensation?  When what they offer is played on a stage to the general public, and broadcast on public airwaves?  In stadiums that are largely financed with public monies?  Why do we allow the business of pro hockey to pollute our youngsters' morality so that they may (misguidedly) pursue greater profit?

If the NHL won't police itself, it's high time we started doing the job for them.  And billing them for our time.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Should the Penguins re-sign Kris Letang?

Kris Letang is an amazing talent who had a tough playoff.  This enters the discussion because the Penguins are hard against the salary cap and have lots of salary committed to Sidney Crosby and now Evgeni Malkin.  The obvious question is whether they can afford another high-priced elite player as he nears unrestricted free agent status.  Of course, this may be a 'buy low' opportunity for the Penguins, or failing that another team.

Some critics are jumping on this opportunity to pile on Mr. Letang.  He's being knocked for two main reasons, and I think both are off the mark.

First, the idea that he's 'soft' and not physical is inaccurate.  Sure, he's no Zdeno Chara or Shane O'Brien or Kevin Bieksa, but he's still 6 ft and 200 lbs, and can take and dish out a hit.  Any notion that he's weak is dispelled by going on YouTube and watching his workouts.  Don't let his dude haircut fool you, he's a strong kid, hard to knock off his skates.

Second, he's taking his lumps for being 'weak defensively', and watching him against the Bruins there were a few times when he did look pretty bad.  Still, I think this was more of a case of the team defence failing, as opposed to one player.

Granted, he's not the best at mucking and grinding in the corners, he'll look bad against Shawn Thornton or Milan Lucic sometimes, but 95% of defencemen will.  While he's not a Craig Ludwig, his defensive play is still strong, in a Petr Svoboda-Bryan Leetch kind of way.  He'll be quicker to get to the puck in his own zone and savantly move it out again with a good pass or rush.  We've all played against guys like that, the defenceman who's not imposing physically but is always around the puck, and when you're trying to deke him or get past him around the boards he just foils you with his stick and he's gone.

Having Kris Letang out on the ice is not a weakness defensively, but a great strength for your team.  He'll most often make the right play and transition your team from defence back to offence in a jiffy, and that's gold.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Can the Canadiens draft both Samuel Morin and Frédérik Gauthier in the first round?

Robert Rice and Arik Parnass of Habs blog "Eyes On The Prize" go back and forth choosing players in a mock draft of the 2013 NHL draft's first round.  As always, I'm drawn to that flame like the moth I am, and scrutinize their selections for auguries of the Canadiens' likely haul in the early rounds.

The eye popping detail for me is that in this version both Samuel Morin and Frédérik Gauthier are available when the Canadiens' turn to choose comes up.  Mr. Parnass selects the promising 6'6" Rimouski defenceman for the Habs, leaving Frédérik Gauthier to be snapped up by the Dallas Stars four picks later.

In recent interviews, Montréal General Manager Marc Bergevin and Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins both expressed some interest in trading up if the right opportunity presented itself.  If this scenario played out, there would be such an opportunity.

If the Canadiens value these players as they are generally ranked by scouting reports and NHL Central Scouting (Mr. Gauthier is ranked 8th among North American skaters, Mr. Morin 23rd), and due to the organizational need for more size in its prospect ranks, as well as the added appeal of adding native sons to the roster, then they should jump at the chance to snag them both at this late stage of the first round.  

Let's eliminate the possibility that the Canadiens have a plan in place on draft day to move up if Frédérik Gauthier is still available at a certain point in the first round, say #19, and have a deal worked out with the Blue Jackets in that eventuality.  Instead, let's say they sat back and 'let the draft come to them'.  They would thus be faced with the choice of both players in question at #25.  We can guess that they'd snap up Mr. Gauthier, he being the higher-ranked player generally and less likely to last much longer.  

Now Samuel Morin would be up for the next interested organization.  While he's not a 'safe' pick but rather a 'project', his combination of size, attitude and potential will probably make him too attractive for teams to pass him up much longer.  As they say, all you need is for one team to like a player for him to be drafted; it's not necessary that there be a general consensus.  

So the Canadiens would need to act fast.  Waiting and hoping for him to fall nine more slots might be unrealistic, not to mention agonizing.  Trading up would be the course of action here.

Looking at a couple of draft pick value charts, we find that the cost of acquiring a late-first round pick is very reasonable, especially with the ammo the Canadiens have amassed over the last couple of years.  One of our seconds and one of the thirds should be more than sufficient to barter with, all that would remain would be to find a team eager to trade down, and how much they'd want back in compensation.  As the old joke goes, at that point we'd have established what kind of a lady she is, and all that would remain is the dickering.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Canadiens will draft Frédérik Gauthier, Émile Poirier and Jacob de la Rose in the 2013 draft

I've been following the NHL mock drafts, and have done two critiques so far (here, and here).  They've got a new updated version, so here is my savant analysis.

First off, I want to comment that it's unfortunate they do not archive and date their mocks, and explain the reasoning behind their changes.  I've contacted the editors of the site, and they've explained it has to do with technical reasons, which is fine as an excuse, but it's still a detriment to the fans who visit.  They need to sort that out.

Second, they don't have us drafting goalies in the second and third round, like they did in the second version of their mock that I commented on.  I'd tipped them off that it was unlikely to happen, and good for them, they listened.  Now, it's up to Mr. Bergevin to take heed...

1)  In the first round, they have us drafting Frédérik Gauthier, which would be great if it happened.  Most mocks I see elsewhere now have him tantalizingly out of reach.  Looking at the guys who bump him down, there are no big surprises, no 'fast risers', it's just a shuffling of the usual suspects and somehow the big local boy centre falls in our lap.  Cool.

2)  Actually, they now have Samuel Morin slated at #11, so there's your fast riser.  I guess in their view, his combo of size, snarliness, mobility and potential is too enticing for the Flyers to pass up.  Pity.  He does get a lot of buzz on the blogosphere, and has grown more prominent in people's awareness.  Before, he was deemed a big project some teams would go for in the early second round.

3)  At #34 and #36, they have us picking up Émile Poirier and Jacob de la Rose, respectively.  I've heard more hype about the latter than the former, but don't know enough to complain about either player.  Other homeboys that would be available in these slots would be William Carrier, Laurent Dauphin, Marc-Olivier Roy, and Anthony Duclair.

4)  Our third second-rounder, #55, nets us Rimouski goaltender (see what I did there?) Philippe Desrosiers.  In the last version, we picked him up early in the third.  

5)  In the third round we have two picks, Dallas' from the Erik Cole trade at #71, and our own pick at #86.  We're slated for Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau, a centre from Baie Comeau, and Alex Henriksson, a forward from Farjestads.  

Now, I don't know anything good or bad about these guys, but again I'll beat my drum and point to Mason Geertsen, still projected to go in the late third round.  Not a huge talent guy, but big and strong and plays tough, a little mean, I say we bet on him.

More perplexing, they still have Jonathan Ismaël Diaby going in the fifth round.  He's gotten a lot of attention, and is ranked 37th among North American skaters, so I don't understand how he'd still be around in the fifth round, with the premium put on size and toughness in Colon Campbell's NHL.  

Mr. Diaby is another guy who won't be confused with Paul Coffey or Larry Robinson, but maybe he can be a Gilles Lupien, or even better a Craig Ludwig if we develop him properly.  If he's really available that late, we have to make a move to get this guy.  I wouldn't mind if we took him much earlier.

6)  Oh, did I mention we don't have a fourth or fifth-rounder?  Parce que James Wisniewski et Davis Drewiske (ça rhyme en crime)?  Anyway, Mr. Bergevin, let fly with Michael Ryder's rights, and Yannick Weber's, and get us more picks.  'Stie.

They have Jordan Subban slated to go in the mid-fourth.  At that price I wouldn't blink.

7)  In the sixth round, at #176, we get Andrei Sigarev, a left-winger out of St. Petersburg.  Christopher Clapperton, a guy out of Blainville-Boisbriand who had a bit of hype at the start of the season, goes three picks later.

8)  In the seventh, we get a 6'1", 215 lbs. left winger out of the States.  Isn't there anyone bigger we could get, like the 6'5" winger a couple of picks later?

9)  They have Nathan McKinnon going first overall, then Seth Jones, then Jonathan Drouin.  Sasha Barvov goes fourth overall.  Nikita Zadorov stubbornly refuses to fall to 25th, going at #10 in this mock.

10)  They still project Mads Eller to go undrafted.

Danny Kristo traded to Calgary to reunite with Corban Knight?

Sportsnet's Roger Millions quotes new Flames signee Corban Knight in a tweet that "Danny Kristo could suprise" at the draft in New Jersey next Sunday.  Kind of obscure, and he hasn't clarified what that means.  If we're going to conjecture, let's go ahead and do so with gusto, since what better time is there for that than a couple of weeks before the draft.

I think the logical inference for a draft nerd like me, is that he was wooed to sign with Calgary with some 'nudge nudge, wink wink' allusions to a trade being in the works with the Canadiens whereby the Flames would acquire him and reunite them as linemates.  It might make sense in that Calgary is desperately thin at the NHL level, and may not be able to wait three or four years for a late-first rounder to pan out.  Danny Kristo holds a more immediate promise, especially if paired with a player he already has some good chemistry with.

The Flames have the #6, 22 and 28 picks in the first round of this year's draft, which is nice, but Jay Feaster has been told by owner Murray Edwards that he expects the Flames to be in the playoffs next season.  So Mr. Feaster may feel a need to convert the lower first-rounders, who won't play in the NHL for at least two more seasons, into players who are developed and ready to go.  Such as a 2008 second-rounder who played for Team USA at the World Championships, and flashed some encouraging signs.

The Canadiens meanwhile can flip a valuable player who maybe doesn't complement what we have on the farm right now, and go back to the well for one that does.  Since there are a lot of big forwards in the late first and early second, maybe that's taking a step back to be in a position to take two steps forward.  Or, that extra pick might be packaged to move up in the first round.

I'd like it if we could be the recipients of throw-ins this time, maybe pick up longshot bruiser Michael Ferland, or some late-rounders.

And as an aside, I have to say also that it's kind of cool that Corban Knight turned down the South Beach babes and year-round golf and sunshine to go to Calgary.  I take stories like his and Justin Schultz positively.  While Mr. Knight's decision may have more to do with the Panthers' prospect depth at centre (hello to you, Nick Bjugstad, you'd have looked great in a Canucks uniform), and less to do with him wanting to play in a hockey market, it's still encouraging that some young players prefer Canada over surf and palm trees.

Dalton Thrower nemesis Lorne Molleken steps down as coach

So it's official, Lorne Molleken is being replaced as Head Coach of the Saskatoon Blades by Dave Struch, the former assistant coach, but will remain as General Manager.  Not that it's very topical for Canadiens fans any longer, now that Dalton Thrower has been traded to the Vancouver Giants, but it does confirm our suspicion that Mr. Molleken was a fiery head coach who obviously cares deeply about his boys, but is definitely old school and may wear thin on certain players.  Dave Struch seemed like he was caught between a rock and hard place during the "Road to the Memorial Cup" documentaries, the loyal soldier who toed the line but maybe felt another approach might work.

A few weeks ago, when we discussed this issue, I mentioned that I looked for clues in these documentaries regarding Dalton Thrower's disappointing season.  I'd noticed there was precious little camera time for Dalton. Through other channels we heard of his suspension for not playing according to team rules, and of the rumoured fight in practice during which he supposedly suffered a concussion, a fight that stemmed from the fractured dressing room. In the episodes, nothing.

Watching these, I feel that Lorne Molleken is the kind of coach who some players might have problems with. He cares about his players and winning, but he definitely is a ‘my way or the highway’ guy, and if you got on his wrong side he might have a hard time getting to the ‘forgive and forget’ stage. I never heard him say anything that was creative or insightful, he just insisted on complete effort and making the safe dump-and-chase play all the time.

Some people posited that Dalton Thrower and his coach had differences that affected his play. That’s plausible, we figured, and we think he needs another season in Junior, and being with the Giants might be just what the doctor ordered. He'll be watched over by a strong coaching staff and he can put his game back together. Considering that Hamilton has a lot of young defencemen already, and Magnus Nygren and Darren Dietz will be heading there next fall, I don’t know if Dalton Thrower has a spot there.

Let’s hope that this year is a hiccup, and the kid delivers on last season’s promise. He says he patterns his game after Kevin Bieksa’s, and I’d take anything approaching that in a heartbeat.

Marc Bergevin doesn't 'do' No Trade Clauses

Looking at the Canadiens CapGeek page, I noticed that Max Pacioretty doesn't have a No Trade Clause, which I thought was odd, as every player of note on the Canadiens seems to have one.  Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, René Bourque, Travis Moen, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges all have NTC's, full or otherwise.

Scott Gomez, Erik Cole and Mike Cammalleri had them as well.  They seemed to be the cost of doing business, if the Canadiens wanted to attract frontline unrestricted free agents.  The previous administration doled them out like candy, it seems.

The Nouveau Régime's first contract on a roster player was for Travis Moen, shortly before the start of free agency.  Travis did get some no-trade protection, but since then, not one contract signed by Marc Bergevin has one: Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong, Francis Bouillon, Carey Price, Lars Eller, Raphaël Diaz, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, David Desharnais.  None carry a NTC.

I think it was Pierre Gauthier who, while discussing NTC's, explained that these carried a monetary value, and that if a player insisted on one, then the monetary amount of their deal would drop correspondingly during negotiations.  In practice, we didn't really see that.

The Canadiens free agents from the 2009 summer  all seemed to receive very generous offers, more than they could have expected elsewhere.  Mike Cammalleri was famously rebuffed by the Leafs, who thought he was too small, before being showered with millions by Bob Gainey.  Brian Gionta, conflicted by the amount and term offered by Mr. Gainey, but wanting to stay in New Jersey, spoke in confidence with Lou Lamoriello about what he should do, to which apparently the Devils' GM responded by laughing and urging him to take the offer while it was there.

Based on these supposedly non-apocryphal anecdotes, we can see that the Canadiens were offering at the top end of what the market did, and tacked on a NTC for good measure.  Which did nothing to enhance the tradability of some assets in the fold.  The Mike Cammalleri deal, which might have brought in a greater haul had he been shopped around, might be explained by the fact that Calgary was one of the few destinations he would waive his veto for.  There was no market to speak of, because of the NTC.

So the new administration seems to have given in to Travis Moen at the eleventh hour, before he reached UFA status on July 1, but since then they've managed to avoid doing so.  For fans who think that players are too pampered nowadays, and have little or no external motivation to perform, this should provide some level of comfort.

It's laudable that Mr. Bergevin managed to sign Brandon Prust without the NTC, which previously had been the figurative 'free oil changes' or 'bottomless coffee cup' of the sales pitch, thrown in without much resistance, as part of the package deal.

Also, when detractors of Carey Price correctly point out that he has no internal competition for his job, and therefore has little incentive to 'push himself', the lack of trade protection may ultimately deliver this effect.  The thought of Winnipeg or Edmonton might be enough to spur him to work harder, if that had been an issue before.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Dustin Byfuglien played at 300lbs?!

Wow.  Is it possible that Dustin Byfuglien weighed 300 lbs at the end of the season?  That's amazing.  

Too bad for the guy, if he can't get this under control.  And that's the sad part, is that it is squarely within his control, it's not like blowing your ACL, or what Josh Harding is going through.  But obviously, there's a big issue there, if it was easy for him to control his weight, we wouldn't be having this discussion.  

Big Buff had a difficult upbringing, growing up with an absentee father, some hardships, you just hope that he can find the right avenues for support and get his career back on track.

A broken nose, concussion, bruises and cuts are a a foreseeable, acceptable outcome in minor hockey

This is what happens when P.J. Stock and Mike Milbury and Don Cherry set the moral bar for the sport of hockey.  Somehow a 16-year-old player getting his helmet ripped off and getting filled in with rights, for the crime of snowing a goalie, is thought to be an acceptable consequence, a risk he consented to when he signed up for hockey.

Gary Bettman, with his remarkably consistent refereeing, wears that.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Thoughts on the Nathan Beaulieu assault charges and court case

There's not much new to report on the Nathan Beaulieu assault charges, and resultant court case.  He had an appearance on June 11th, and a date was set for another appearance on July 9.

Some people are dismissing it as a mere bar fight, and nothing to worry about.  They rely on their personal experience that such incidents don't carry much consequence, but I think that's underestimating the severity of the situation.

Something we have to remember is that if this was just some bar fight, the Beaulieus wouldn't be going to court over it.  You're not charged with assault during a normal punchup.  When two guys stand toe-to-toe and go at it, they're both deemed to consent to the fight.  As such, neither can claim to have been assaulted, which is defined roughly as any unwanted application of force by someone on someone.

Practically, this force has to be more than trifling and transitory in nature, for the incident to be considered assault.  I've often had to direct someone's behaviour with a gentle touch on the shoulder or back guiding them in the direction I wanted them to go.  Sometimes my 'adversary' would jerk away and loudly proclaim to be a lawyer or a law student, and that what I'd just done was an assault.

"Oh, so you're a law student?" I'd reply, borrowing a quote from a partner, "Well then let me give you a lesson in law."  And I'd hit them with the 'trifling and transitory' phrase taken from case law, and that would usually shut them up, if they weren't way too drunk.

So in this case, for the Beaulieus to be going to court for assault, either the other party(ies) didn't initially consent to a fight, or the fight got completely out of hand, ie: shoving match to get someone out the door escalates to someone getting booted in the head, or two pugilists gang up on one person, or the 'winner' of the fight persists long after the fight is reasonably over.  According to the Sun article, the injuries were relatively light, but there was a case of two guys teaming up on one adversary.

As much as I'm looking forward to finding out what actually happened, and I hold out hope that Nathan will be exonerated or get off lightly, I can't be as cavalier as some commenters are, and just shrug it off as boys being boys, and that we're just dealing with a dustup commonly seen at parties and drinking establishments.  Police officers see these run-of-the-mill encounters all the time, and are capable of sending these combatants on their way without recommending charges to Crown Counsel.  That they did, and that Crown decided to proceed, indicates that we're dealing with something more serious.

Stuff like this reminds me of a senior colleague who scoffed when some of us were discussing a particular event, and whether someone was innocent.

"Innocent?"  he cried. "People aren't innocent.  Some are found not guilty, but nobody's ever innocent."

Should Josh Gorges be traded, or should we just get him to pack on the muscle?

I've never been a big fan of Josh Gorges.  I'm not a 'hater', my world isn't black or white like that, but I've never been as impressed as some analysts who love his steady, dependable game.  I've always felt that a defenceman like him should either bring more offence to the table, or more toughness.  Josh is a 'tweener', not small and slick with the puck, not a big bruiser who'll make the opposition pay, and maybe it's my fault for not seeing the value he brings while not necessarily being easy to pigeon-hole.

I winced when his new contract was announced by Pierre Gauthier, appalled at how much money he was set to make and the term he received.  We were overtaken by circumstances, having let Roman Hamrlik walk in free agency, and being bereft of quality defenceman.  Now, I applauded the decision to let the veterans go and give minutes to Raphaël Diaz, Alexei Emelin and Yannick Weber last year, but it effectively pushed Josh Gorges into the #2 role, and we were forced to compensate him as such.  I like to characterize that as Maple Leaf disease.  Dmitri Yuskevich had a good season?  Ladle on the dollars.  Luke Schenn is having a promising start to his career?  Let's pay him like a superstar, but now, quick!

Anyway, Josh had an underwhelming season, he struggled on a few nights, especially against bigger teams.  This has brought out two distinct reactions by some fans, which is that he should either be traded, or be asked to bulk up so as to be bigger and tougher.

First, the idea of trading him is silly and ill-timed.  You don't trade an NHL-regular defenceman out of spite, or frustration at a relatively uneven season.  That's the classic definition of selling low.  Josh is a valuable asset, and we need to retain him and avail ourselves of his services, and if we are to trade him eventually, it has to be when he's playing well and there is demand for his services.

Right now, every team believes that some youngster or two in their system is ready to step in and play a role next season.  After training camp, when these guys disappoint, or later in the season when injuries hit contenders, is the right time to trade Josh Gorges.  Near the trade deadline, as an injury-depleted team is contemplating its playoff chances, would be a better opportunity to be discussing such a trade.

The second fan reaction, to require him to add on ten or fifteen pounds of muscle over the summer, is not realistic, unless Josh has a way to contact Dr. Jamie Astaphan.  Which admittedly would be quite the trick.

For Josh Gorges to 'muscle up to at least 215' is not possible by legal means.  He's a mature, trained athlete, he's not a growing boy of 18 or 19 who still has a lot of growing and filling out to do.  Josh's frame and body type isn't that of an ectomorph who puts on muscle in his pecs and lats every time he has a steak.  He's a leaner guy with a frame that tops out around 195-200 lbs when he trains for hockey.  That's who he is.

Josh Gorges works out every summer with his former Kelowna Rocket buddies, including Shea Weber.  Players who spend their summers in the Okanagan join them for these training sessions, including notably Carey Price.  He's not lazy, he's not shirking his conditioning, he's not failing to realize some advantage by not training.  He works out very hard, by all reports.

A lot of people have unrealistic expectations of what is possible for an athlete to achieve just through training.  For a player to put on five pounds of muscle in a year is a herculean achievement.  When you hear that a player "put on 15 pounds of muscle over the summer", you should be very skeptical.  If that number is accurate and verifiable and not pharmaceutically-derived, it takes as a baseline the athlete's weight at the end of a difficult season, when he was beaten and sore and overtaxed.  Just by taking a month off to recuperate and heal, he probably put back on 10 or 12 pounds of body weight, and not all that was "pure muscle", a lot of that was water weight or reserves stored as fat.  The last two or three pounds may be muscle put on through extraordinarily hard work in July and August.  That's the real story about the 10 or 15 pounds of muscle put on during the summer.

So we need to moderate our expectations of Josh, and accept that he's a steady, dependable defenceman who'll give everything he has to the team, but he'll not be the big bruising type, just the guy who's good enough to block shots and then clear the zone efficiently.  Which isn't bad, and certainly shouldn't mean we should run him out of town for a low draft pick.

Should the Canadiens 'overpay' for Brian Bickell?

Brian Bickell has been a hot topic of conversation for Canadiens fans, if not around the entire league.  He's a big strong guy, at 6'4" and upwards of 230 lbs, but combines that with some skill and finish around the net, and an ability to keep up with Top 6 linemates.  Since size is going at an ever-higher premium these days in the NHL, he's chosen the right time to have such a good season, this being his last contract year before hitting Unrestricted Free Agent status.

Before this season, we'd never heard of this guy, he'd been drafted in the second round in 2004, to little fanfare, and spent four seasons in the AHL working on his game, earning brief callups with the 'Hawks before sticking for good at the start of the 2010 season.  The first time his name was mentioned as a trade target was at the trade deadline, when it was rumoured he was one of Marc Bergevin's targets to improve his team, along with Kyle Clifford and Mike Rupp.

Now, he's the flavour of the month, and teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs are stopping just short of tampering by openly courting him, letting team mouthpieces do their bidding in columns and news reports.

"Expect the Red Wings to target Brian Bickell on July 1..." they say, obviating the need for interested GM's to go up to his agent and slip him their phone number on a thousand-dollar bill.

So Marc Bergevin has his work cut out if he wants to add him to the roster.  His asking price went from a Brandon Prust-like contract to double that, and some team is bound to give it to him.

Which begs the question, is he worth that much?  Cautiously, we'll say that it depends.  On the right roster, he could have a tremendous impact, and be worth it if all goes well.

Let's look at Mark Streit, an undersized but slick offensive defenceman who apparently has just scored a four-year, $21M contract from the Flyers.  There is no way he would have been worth this much money or term to the Canadiens, replete as they are with that very type of player.  Mark Streit to us is the proverbial selling ice to the Inuit.  For the Flyers though, as injury-riddled as they were last season, as starved as they were for a puck-mover and powerplay quarterback, he's worth that kind of investment, including the risk an 'over-35' contract carries.  (As an aside, quick, let's trade to the Flyers Yannick Weber for a second-rounder before their tumescence subsides.)

In similar fashion, Brian Bickell may not be worth the contract he'll command to teams like the St. Louis Blues, the L.A. Kings or San Jose Sharks, they're full up to the gills with big bruisers.  They need to round out their rosters with other types of players, and spread their cap hit more evenly.

To teams like the Vancouver Canucks though, adding Brian Bickell to their lineup radically transforms their makeup.  Combine him with a maturing Zack Kassian, a returning David Booth and a healthy Ryan Kesler, and now their forward corps is more imposing, and they have players who can line up with the Sedin brothers and protect them.

Same with the Canadiens.  The relatively smaller lineup would benefit greatly from this injection of size and toughness, it would be a big yank on the steering wheel in a different direction.  To the Canadiens, and the Canucks and the Red Wings, he's worth the premium, because the skillset he brings, the total package, ticks a bunch of needs off the list.

So we need to take the possibility of acquiring Brian Bickell as a free agent in context, taking all factors into account.  Yes, the Canadiens will have to overpay, but maybe Marc Bergevin and Rick Dudley can use their personal knowledge of the young man, because of their time in the Chicago organization, and pitch him like they did with Brandon Prust last season.  They can sell a young improving team, a great hockey town, great facilities, a chance to play a pivotal role instead of being asked to goon it up.  All that'd be missing is a Québécoise girlfriend.  Maybe Mariepier Morin has some friends she can introduce to Brian.

Personally, I don't think it's very likely that Mr. Bickell will end up as a Hab, since Marc Bergevin has been very clear that he wants to build through the draft and not free agency.  His targeted signing of Brandon Prust was comparatively cheap at $2.25M a season, but even that was thought to be an overpayment by analysts and a lot of fans.  The opportunity to 'target' Brian Bickell with such a cheap contract has probably vanished, and he'll be chasing other rabbits on July 1, but let's give it a chance and see how it plays out.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Jonathan Huberdeau wins the Calder Trophy. Could Alex Galchenyuk have won it with more ice time?

With Jonathan Huberdeau winning the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, some Canadiens fans question whether Alex Galchenyuk could have been the recipient if he'd been given as much ice time as the Panthers rookie.  I think it's possible, but I commend Coach Therrien and his assistants for his handling of his rookie.  It would have been easy to start riding the big lad when the offence stalled and injuries mounted at the end of the season.  They could have tried to squeeze out an extra goal or two from him, at the risk of killing the Golden Goose.

Conversely, it would have been just as easy to bench him or scratch him from the lineup for a few games when he went through his drought past the halfway mark of the season.  While that wouldn't have been a disaster, as Alex seems like he has his head screwed on straight, and has a good support network with his coach-father, and his mom and sis living with him, the Canadiens opted to let him learn by playing through his drought, working his way out of it, instead of observing from the press box.

Instead of messing with his icetime, the coaches stuck to the plan, they gave him manageable minutes in controlled situations, keeping him hungry, never putting him in over his head, and kept his development as the primordial goal when doling out minutes.  Long-term thinking, for once, something we've been in short supply of lately.  As long as the kid worked hard, and he never stopped, even when the production tailed off, he was busting his butt, he was encouraged and cajoled, and it will pay off down the road, more than any trophy would have.

Jonathan Huberdeau was in a different situation entirely.  His coach and GM could give him as much or as little ice time as they wanted, based on the situation.  There was no pressure to achieve results in the standing and playoffs. He also was a year older, and thus had played a full two seasons more of hockey than Alex, who lost one season due to injury.  That extra maturity meant that Mr. Huberdeau could be treated as the more 'ready' player he was, especially when considering the comparative lack of quality forwards in Florida.

Coach Therrien had a playoff run to worry about, while thinking about his rookie's ice time.  The fact that he showed so much restraint in his use speaks to the security he feels in his job, he's not in a 'win now' situation.  It also shows that he and Marc Bergevin have a good rapport, they're in agreement about building for the long haul, as opposed to Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau with respect to the Carey Price situation, for example.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Zdeno Chara is the leader of the Bruins. He captains their dirty team.

As if there was any doubt, Zdeno Chara is a mean, dangerous, dirty player.  Plus, he cravenly, blatantly lies about it.  Where have we seen this before?

The reason this is treated as topical, as opposed to a well-known, well-understood fact, is that video has surfaced of Mr. Chara, involved in one of those tiresome scrums after the whistle has blown where everyone pushes and slashes each other, that for some reason the NHL tolerates.  In this video, Mr. Chara gives a direct, not in any way accidental, punch to Sidney Crosby's jaw.  Mr. Crosby, the acknowledged best player in the world, had his jaw shattered earlier in the season courtesy of a teammate's deflected slap shot.  He had worn extra facial protection since his comeback, but received permission from his doctors and decided to remove it for the Eastern final.  And a dirty, dirty Bruin, the leader of the dirty Bruins in fact, immediately targeted him, in the first game.

This is an intolerable situation.  The NHL has to protect its meal ticket, the face of the modern game.  It cannot allow less talented players to neutralize, or even worse, attempt to injure its stars with cheap goon tactics.

Why the NHL allows this climate of intimidation and cheap thuggery to be the defining aspect of its sport is baffling.  Every other sport is opening up its game, encourage scoring, favouring the skilled stars over the defenders, liberalizing rules to showcase its best performers.

Meanwhile, pro hockey is suffocating under a blanket of unimaginative coaching, of interference tactics, of intimidation of skillful players by lumbering behemoths.  Crashing and banging are the most important aspects of NHL hockey in 2013, ahead of passing and shooting top corner, and dekeing the defenceman to go on a breakaway.  It's absolute madness, and it's business as usual, somehow.

There will be, at this summer's entry draft and free agency period, a great gold rush for players 6'3" and above, 'character' players who can 'finish their checks' and 'protect their teammates', while players who make plays and actually put pucks in the net will go unclaimed.

It's not even questioned that the Bruins as an organization champion this mindless thuggery.  There's no rebuke or opprobrium.  They're the Big Bad Bruins, after all.  Terry O'Reilly and Stan Jonathan are more celebrated than Phil Esposito.  Their carnival barker of a play-by-play announcer, Jack Edwards, shills for his team and distorts facts and bends the truth into a hammerlock until it surrenders, and creates a culture among its fans that intimidation are a valid tactic, central to the sport of hockey.  Its coach Claude Julien sees his band of hookers and muckers and grinders as victims of embellishment calls and impressionable referees.

One revolting aspect of this assault, out of many, is that when confronted by Darren Dreger of TSN about this, even when shown the video, Zdeno Chara tried to lie and obfuscate his way out of it.  He apparently insisted that since he didn't receive a penalty, the event didn't happen.  He even challenged Mr. Dreger to prove that it was his arm delivering the punch, as if it wasn't clear as day that it was.

Such shocking mendacity isn't uncommon to the Bruin's organization, and its band of cheap shot artists. There's Andrew Ference who flipped the bird to the Montréal crowd during the 2011 playoffs, then dissembled to the media after the game, explaining it away as a "glove malfunction", that his middle finger "got caught".  It was such a transparent lie that not only he was shamed, but everyone who heard it as well.  Still, Greg Campbell's daddy's cronies exonerated him, he escaped suspension, and with him in the lineup, the Bruins eked out the narrowest of victories in Game 7 overtime.  A year later, he 'came clean', admitting that what everybody plainly saw was what indeed happened.  He couched his belated outbreak of honesty in philosophical terms, stating on his charity/vanity project-blog that personal responsibility and accountability are sorely lacking in the modern world, and he was trying to make amends.

Fast forward to this year's playoffs, and Mr. Ference takes a cheap shot on Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski in Game 1 of the opening round.  What does Mr. Accountability do now?  Post-game, when questioned about the elbow, he again openly lies, pretending not to know what the reporters were talking about.  It was as soul-crushing as when a three-year old lies right to your face, and you know he's lying, it's not that good a lie at all, but the toddler is too dumb and hasn't developed a sense of morality yet, so he sticks to his lie.

There are more lying Bruin thugs.  When Milan Lucic intentionally ran Ryan Miller in open ice, giving him a concussion, he gave a ridiculous explanation that he didn't have time to stop, only to brace for impact, which is obviously false when reviewing the video.  Surprise, he got away scot-free, the Department of Player Lack of Safety deciding that the two-minute penalty was punishment enough for the remorseless Bruin.  As Kurt Vonnegut wrote, so it goes.

When Zdeno Chara almost made Max Pacioretty a paraplegic, he then also wouldn't own up to his responsibility, downplaying his assault by saying he didn't know which player he hit, and didn't know the stanchion was there, both egregious lies to avoid suspension by Daddy Campbell.  Sure enough, the deliberate, retaliatory assault was deemed a 'hockey play' by the league.  Gary Bettman went so far as to say the league was extraordinarily comfortable with the ruling (!)

So a Bruin took a whopper of a cheap shot and went unpunished.  And now they're 4 wins away from winning the Stanley Cup again, even though it's meant to be awarded to the best hockey team, not a bunch of brawlers and backstabbers and reprobates.  As Lord Stanley wrote when he first thought of bequeathing his Cup:
I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion (of Canada). There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team.
Yet the Bruins are again slashing and gooning and crosschecking their way ever closer to another Cup.

And the Commissioner, the man entrusted with the safeguarding and stewardship of our national game, is drunk with power at the wheel.  When questioned by Dave Nailor of TSN about the state of refereeing, he exclaimed that it had been "remarkably consistent".  Sure, he continued, the game is played at breakneck speeds, so they'll miss calls, but those will even out between the teams.

Which proves that he doesn't watch a lot of hockey, and has even less knowledge.  The only thing consistent about the refereeing is that it has ceased occurring.  They have abdicated their responsibility.  They're like substitute teachers who have made a couple of meek attempts to inculcate their students, but faced with resistance, now have their feet up on their desk and are running out the clock on the period or week, while their charges are going at each other Lord-of-the-Flies style.

Next week, when the American sports shows recap the weekend's events, shows like "Pardon the Interruption" and "Around the Horn", you can bet that they'll be replaying the Chara punch, not any slick play by Patrick Kane or Patrice Bergeron.  And that's where the league has arrived, with Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell at the helm.  Yet they'll crow about increased ratings and revenue, and state that the game is healthier than ever.

They've stifled the game, weighted it down, it's only due to external factors that are causing all sports properties to skyrocket in value that the NHL doesn't succumb to the many injuries perpetrated on it.

The NHL had a Wayne Gretzky-Mario Lemieux Golden Age that it failed to capitalize on.  While the NFL rode Dan Marino, Joe Montana and John Elway to absurd growth and success.  And while the NBA marketed Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson to explode onto the public's consciousness, and obsessively nurtured the legend of Michael Jordan, like Gollum with his Precious, the NHL allowed Mike Hough and the Sutters to hook and slash Mario until he couldn't take it anymore.  Meanwhile, Michael Jordan couldn't be breathed on by an opponent without a foul being called, to the delight of fans, video games players, movie goers...

The NHL is currently wasting what should be another Golden Age, that of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.  Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, the Sedin brothers, they should be playing the roles of Peter Stasny and Dale Hawerchuk, amassing 130 point seasons while they try to keep up to the two superstars.  Instead, we live in the Age of Brian Bickell and Chris Neil.

So.  We have proof of a repeat offender deliberately punching the best player in the world, intentionally, on his injured jaw, to cause pain and possibly knock him out of the series.  And the NHL will not do anything about it.

Shame on you Gary Bettman.  Shame on you, National Hockey League.

Friday, 14 June 2013

What is and what should never be

A lot of the time I post about how things should be, not how they are.  Insofar as I'm ranting about hockey, I'll whine about the refereeing, and rue what could have been had the Canadiens not drafted Terry Ryan, or yes, Alfie Turcotte.

People will often roll their eyes, and tell me, for example, that pro hockey is a business, and if I don't like it I should stop watching.

So, agreed, the NHL is a commercial venture, but it is also the highest expression of our national sport, and has a responsibility to protect and promote our game.  The fact that they're doing a very poor job of it doesn't invalidate that duty.  The fact that it relies on public subsidies for its arenas and funding for special events and on Hockey Canada to supply it with players cements it.

We've seen various degrees of government scrutiny or even outright direction when a putatively for-profit league or sanctioning body wasn't satisfactorily acquitting itself of this duty.  Think of the Black Sox Scandal, college football being forced to introduce the forward pass (horrors!), or criminal charges and imprisonments in match fixing incidents in international soccer.

It's the same as if a local opera house or ballet company used all the grants and civic funds and the fund-raising and tax-deductions to put on Cats musicals or resorts to 'pie in the face' gags.  Misappropriation of funds shouldn't be allowed.

Or, Jeffrey Loria.

So go ahead if you want, go with the flow, be cynical, don't rock the boat, but I'll be over here, kicking the money lenders out of the temple.

Davis Drewiske re-signed by the Canadiens

The Canadiens announced that they have re-signed Davis Drewiske to a two-year contract at roughly league minimum salary.  Somehow, some found that controversial.

I don't know why anyone is shocked by this.  Sure, Davis Drewiske wasn't a world-beater this spring, but certainly the Canadiens management staff have had their eye on this guy, to go after this relatively obscure player at the deadline.  They think he has some upside.  He's an asset we have, and we're not pinched by the 50 contract limit.  At the league minimum, cap hit is not an issue.  He provides depth, as Marc Bergevin pointedly refers to in the press release.  He allows the young defencemen in Hamilton to stay there next season, instead of being thrown into the mix before they're ready.

If he becomes expendable, the team can flip him for a draft pick.  If he can't be traded, at worst he's sent down to Hamilton, or is lost on waivers in the process.

There is really no downside.  The team retained an asset for which it already spent a fifth-round pick.  That's a sunk cost, but now we have to invest very little to see if we can get some returns our our investment.

Good deal.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A shopping list for Canadiens' Marc Bergevin: Jeff Schultz, Matt Hendricks, Mike Rupp, and Kyle Beach

Since the Canadiens were eliminated from play, the leitmotif of Canadiens fans and observers has been that the team needs to get bigger and tougher to play against.  Various names are floated about as options to pursue to meet this challenge, some more reasonable than others.

I've already covered this in other posts, but to recap, the Canadiens need to pick up some size to transform their roster.  This won't necessarily make the team a contender next year, but it will give opponents pause when they're about to crosscheck Tomas Plekanec in the mouth after a whistle.

The best approach to achieve this would be to 'buy low', not chase after sexy free agents, the David Clarksons and Brian Bickells, as attractive solutions as they may be to our plight.  These gentlemen would serve very well as the big, talented players we pray for, but they won't necessarily be cost-effective.  We'll get more bang for the buck and retain flexibility by buying free agents or trading for players who aren't necessarily stars or even very good players, but rather players who have the skills and size necessary to contribute.  From there, we can hope that with coaching and an opportunity to contribute on the ice, with no one higher on the depth chart stealing icetime and situations, these under-regarded players seize the moment and shine.  They'll improve the 'mix' on the team, and make it better by the simple fact that they bring to the table something that was very deficient last season.

So without further ado, here's my wish list.

On defence, we give a bunch of nothing to the Caps to take Jeff Schultz off their hands.  They'll want to be rid of his $2.75M cap hit, and won't be too greedy.  He'll not have John Erskine, Karl Azner and John Carlson ahead of him on the depth chart, already filling the role of the big, tough, defensive d-man, he'll be the man in Montréal at least until Alexei Emelin returns.  He'll allow Jarred Tinordi to continue his apprenticeship in Hamilton, or at least not be the only one carrying the load with the Grand Club.

Now I know that Jeff Schultz isn't an All-Star, he's no Shea Weber, that he's been a healthy scratch the last couple of seasons, but that's part of the buried-on-the-depth-chart angle, and the buy-low scenario.  We're not bringing him in as a first-pairing defenceman, but rather as a #6 who we can depend on.  He's under contract for only one more season, so if it doesn't work out, we're not stuck with a huge contract, we can even flip him at the deadline.

At 6'6" and 230 lbs, he'd be a significant addition to the size profile on the blue line.  Davis Drewiske's modest contribution in that department wasn't enough to tilt the balance in our favour.  While Mr. Schultz isn't fleet of foot, we can hope that with the right partner (Raphaël Diaz?), his skillset complements what we already have on our team.  He's a more useful piece to us than Mr. Drewiske or Yannick Weber, the redundant one.

At forward, we get to plunder Washington again and steal away Matt Hendricks as a UFA.  We'll have to give him too many years, there'll be other teams vying for his services.  Still, we make the Brandon Prust pitch to him, that he's being brought in to be an integral part of a team on the rise, that he's not going to be asked to goon it up but to add character and hard work.  He slots in to the fourth-line centre role, taking the Jeff Halpern/Petteri Nokelainen role.  While he doesn't quite have the skill these two have, he's effective in other areas.  That's the way the NHL is going, we can't afford to refuse to accept the situation.

As a left winger, to help out on the fourth line and spot duty at centre, we trade for Mike Rupp, again for spare parts.  The Minnesota Wild aren't a rich team, they'll want to shed salary, and they already have Zenon Konopka and Stéphane Veilleux on their roster for goonery.  They'll be happy to kiss his $1.5M cap hit goodbye, whereas we'll easily be able to afford it.  He's also got one year left on his contract, so we're not hampering our flexibility, we can reassess as the season progresses.  If the season doesn't go well, he's also eminently tradeable at the deadline.  If the Sabres got a first-rounder from the Preds for Paul Gaustad, we can possibly get a second for Mr. Rupp.

Now, he may be molasses-slow, but he brings character and experience.  He's not a skilled player, but he's also smart and relatively disciplined for a tough guy.  He'd be reunited with Brandon Prust, with who he had great success in New York providing the Rangers with a physical edge.  He takes Colby Armstrong's spot on the roster, and doesn't quite have the same effectiveness, he can't kill penalties, but that's the direction we're steering the ship in.  Colby tried hard, but ultimately didn't bring anything special to the table.  Mike Rupp would.

The last forward we need to bring in will be tricky, but that's where Marc Bergevin and Rick Dudley can bring their Chicago experience and knowledge to bear on the situation.  I'm speaking of Kyle Beach, who is often batted around as a trade target by Canadiens fans, and that we only really know for his high draft position (11th overall in 2008) and meager results so far.  He's been bypassed on the depth chart by recent second-rounder Brandon Saad, among others, and has toiled for three seasons in the AHL exclusively.  Depending on the judgment of the management team, he may be the kind of player who needs a change of scenery.

On the Canadiens, he'd be a godsend, as a big forward who can play a physical role.  He's a left winger, a position at which we're not just worried about depth, but actual bodies to fill the spots on the four lines.  He's the player we all say we need, the big winger with skill, although it hasn't been displayed in the pro ranks yet.  The kid is still young though, he may yet put the indiscipline behind him, and put his game together.

For a player like this, we'd have to give up a lot, a pick(s) and/or prospect(s), but if Mr. Bergevin thinks it's worth it I'd be in support of the move, as much as it might sting.  Our GM has stated that he wants a talented team that is tough to play against, and adding a piece like Kyle Beach, to potentially take the place of Michael Ryder in the Top 6, might be a step in that direction.

So we get:



That was easy enough, we've improved our team, and it didn't cost us all that much either.  Who says being a GM is hard?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Justin Bourne should be a part of the re-tooled Hockey Night in Canada

We often whine about PJ Stock and his inane, protracted turn on Hockey Night in Canada, yet, like with the weather, we never do anything about it.

Here's my suggestion: Justin Bourne should work on the panel at HNIC next season.  If we must have a failed untalented forward to offer his views, let's have one who's literate, thoughtful, and as a bonus can offer a bunch of anecdotes related to the Islanders dynasty of the early 80's, due to his being the son of Bob Bourne.  

Justin Bourne does an outstanding job running The Score's hockey blog "Backhand Shelf", is funny and entertaining during podcasts (although somewhat profane, he'd have to clean up the language for the CBC), and has well-thought out and presented opinions on hockey and the topics of the day.

He and Kevin Weekes would form a youthful, energetic team, and complement the various other pieces on the show, as opposed to Mr. Stock who is more like the stick introduced in the spokes of the smoothly spinning wheel.