Thursday, February 26, 2009


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Just when we thought the month from hell was almost over, this final week of February (which will go down in the record-books as one of the worst months in recent Habs’ history) has brought even more upset.

First, Georges Laraque complained to the media that he hadn’t been used in enough games. Not only was this an inconsiderate thing to do in terms of being a team player, but way to get on Carbo’s bad side Georges! Someone needs to tell him the story of sorry Sergei Samsonov: the player who blabbed to the media and was never seen in a Canadiens’ uniform again. Not that I’d mind if Georges wasn’t playing in a Canadiens’ uniform. I have nothing against him personally, in fact, he usually seems like a nice guy, but I find that he doesn’t really have a role on the team. Gainey got him for toughness, but I can’t even recall one time when he stood up for a teammate (unless you include the voluntary hook he made on Bouillon’s behalf a couple of games back, you know, the one that led to the other team getting a powerplay goal? Well you get the picture…). He doesn’t fight unless someone from the other team willingly consents, and who in their right mind would agree to fight him? All this would be okay, if his salary were not more than, for example, Jaroslav Halak and Maxim Lapierre’s combined!!!!!! He wants to play more, but he is not useful hockey-wise, and doesn’t add much on the toughness side of things (especially considering that Greg Stewart is now playing and can definitely hold his own, as seen by the fight the other night with Shane O’Brien). But unfortunately, he will be in uniform Friday night, and he has disclosed to the media that he has a no-trade clause (what were you thinking Gainey?!), so I guess he’s safe. For now.

Next came the wonderful news, that in the wake of the Kostitsyns and Hamrlik’s link to a drug dealer that the whole team was tested Monday, and if anyone is found abusing any substance, they’d get a 20-game suspension. I’m not saying that this isn’t necessary (it definitely is in pro sports), in fact, I think that IF all the players are clean it will clear the air a little bit with the media, but this extra media attention, on something that probably would have gone unnoticed if it weren’t in this absolutely dreadful month, is a bit unnecessary.

Then came the announcement that Steve Bégin was traded. I feel quite bittersweet about this. I’m so sad to lose him. He is a member the Tom Kostopoulos school of work ethic, and I’d so much rather have him on the ice than Laraque, but seeing as we probably wouldn’t have been able to resign him at the end of the season, and that he wouldn’t be able to play many games because of all the young players coming up, like Stewart, I feel like he’ll have a much better opportunity in Dallas (I can just see the smiles when he and Ribeiro reunite!). He will definitely be missed… especially in the locker room. He was always one to give tons of his time to the media, and was always smiling, with that little twinkle in his eye.

Oh and then came this wonderful tidbit: Doug Janik (who we received in return for Stevey B.) had to be put on waivers to go down to Hamilton! So there is a chance that we will get NOTHING! And while this seems unlikely… it’s still February, which means that anything horrible that can happen to the Habs usually does! (On a side note, this actually did happen recently, when the Islanders asked Wade Dubielewicz to come back to the NHL from the KHL (since their number 1 and 2 goalies were injured) only to have him snatched up by the Blue Jackets since he had to be put on waivers… which is kind of sad, since not only did he come all the way from Russia to play with them, but they were also (standings-wise) the worst team in the league… so it was a little bit scheming on the part of the Blue Jackets, but enough said).

Then, TSN reported that Dandenault had “politely” asked for a trade. Is it just me, or did these past few weeks seem endless? It’s one scandal after another…

I’m not sure what tomorrow or Saturday will bring (though I’m at least hoping for 2 wins!), but all I can say is that come Sunday it will no longer be February, and hopefully the team and the fans can finally put this atrocious month behind them, where it belongs.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Also on All Habs! Check it out

So I just finished watching Friday Night Lights (the movie) and apart from realising what an odd movie it was (basically when a movie’s message is that if you lose there’s a good chance you’ll go nowhere in life, you wonder how it was chosen to be made into a movie –but all things considered I actually liked it!!), I finally realised how the Habs must feel about the constant media rumours and why no one wants to come play here. Granted the guys were only 17 in the movie, but that’s not a far cry from 19-year old Max Pacioretty or 21-year-olds Carey Price, Sergei Kostitsyn and Gui Latendresse.

It’s not as though if they become media “hermits” and stop watching tv, reading newspapers and listening to the radio that they won’t hear about the next “scandal”. All they have to do is walk outside, go shopping, grab a coffee somewhere… if people don’t come up to them to talk about it, they’ll here pieces of conversations related to it as they walk, they’ll see covers of newspapers in store windows, people fighting over whether Gainey made the right move in sending Kovy home for a break, or whether the Kostitsyns and Hamrlik are actually involved in gang related activity. This does not make for a happy hockey player. Fans are great when they are with you, but when the whole city is out to get you, it drives people away. Roy, Carbonneau himself, and so many greats came to know and love Montreal, and were driven away, by the media, by the coaches, by the so-called “fans”.

When Kovalev made the statement that he didn’t actually go to the Russian media after the latest “affaire Kovalev”, I’ll admit I was more relieved than anyone. I had been so upset by Gainey’s decision that when watching the Capitals game, I’ll admit I was angry. So angry in fact, that for a few minutes I didn’t care about the Canadiens. When I saw Ovechkin’s goal, I smiled (well who wouldn’t… it was amazing)…but I was happy. Happy that the Canadiens were being scored on. Does this make me one of those fans, who drive the players away? Maybe so, though I’d like to think not. I wasn’t angry at the players per say. It wasn’t their fault (about Kovalev anyway, though I can’t say the same for their awful play during the past three weeks). It was Gainey who I was mad at.

So many people have been saying that Carbonneau would have and should have been fired, had his close friend not been the GM. And that was why I was mad. How could he make Kovalev look like the bad guy, and just pretend Carbo was in the right, with his funky line change-style coaching? It’s hard to criticize a friend, especially when it’s someone you have known for so long and have gone through so much with. But at the same time, you can’t treat someone differently, when it’s your job not to let that friendship get in the way. I was scared that Gainey was clearly picking Carbonneau over Kovalev, a choice that I thought wasn’t even necessary to make in the first place, but so far anyway, it seems that I was wrong. That it actually was just a chance for Kovalev to regroup. That it wasn’t an excuse to hang Kovalev out to dry the first chance he could.

Honestly if it had been that way, I doubt I’d be writing this, in fact, I doubt I’d be an avid Canadiens fan any longer. I never realised how important Kovalev was in my perspective of the Habs, and I think that without him we have absolutely no chance of going anywhere in the playoffs. It’s not for his skill, it’s not for his leadership, certainly not for his cross-ice passes that usually end up on the sticks of opponents. It’s for his presence. He doesn’t fit into the “norm” of the rest of the players. Most are hard-working grinder-type players who have an ability to score goals – pretty ugly ones – but hey, they get the job done. Kovalev personifies thinking outside the box. His creativity is what separates him from the rest… he thinks differently from them all, and is never afraid to say what’s on his mind. He doesn’t care what people think, and maybe it’s this quality that allow him and Koivu – in tandem – to be able to lead this team together. Koivu motivates, Kovalev calls people out.

The mistake that the French media is making in hoping for him to be traded is that we’d no longer have anyone like that in the dressing room. Everyone is pretty mellow, and some will get visibly frustrated when they lose, but Kovalev reacts differently. With all the things the media puts him through, he still wants to be here. And this is the most important thing of all. In the height of adversity, Kovalev stays. He could have easily packed up and been on the next flight out of Montreal. And this is not the first time he’s been picked on by the media (refer to l’affaire Kovalev #1 – the apparent blasting of Carbo to the Russian media). On L’antichambre the past few days, they have been saying non-stop that there is no way he will ever be able to play in the Canadiens uniform after this again. But they are wrong, and clearly don’t know Kovalev and what he is capable of.

Koivu may be the heart of the team… but Kovalev is the brain. One without the other is useless, but when both are working properly together, only then will things come to life. Kovalev is a necessary component to our team, and without him, we have little chance of getting anywhere in the playoffs. First though, the team has got to prove they can even make the playoffs. We can only hope the brain is a focused and ready come tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Also on All Habs:

I, like most Montrealers, have been sitting around lately thinking of what the Habs can do, or more importantly, what Carbonneau can do, to change their play around. So I came up with 10 steps that would greatly improve the team.

This one’s for you Carbo!

10-Step plan to fixing the Canadiens’ problems

Step 1 – Do something about the powerplay

-Start with Hamrlik and Bouillon who both have pretty good shots, and put them on the point. I’d suggest Markov-Bouillon and Hamrlik-Brisebois. This may seem like something small, but before saying we have no one who can play at the point, why not try everyone out?

-Put Markov and Kovalev on the same side (the right side) when they are on the PP. It worked for us last year… even more so than Streit on the point, but you insist upon not putting them together (see Step 2) and in doing so we’re missing a valuable key to our success. Markov and Kovalev have played together for a while and know where the other is going to be and what move the other will make next. Take advantage of that.

Step 2 – Stop with the incessant line changes

-5 minutes with someone isn’t enough to determine whether or not there will be chemistry… you need to spend a lot of time on the ice with them until you start being able to know in advance what their next move will be, but Carbo, you don’t seem to allow this. I think this is one of the most important points I’m trying to make… by giving them a few games to play together, they’ll learn to adapt to each other, and this is the ultimate goal.

Step 3 – Bring on the video replays

-Show them all the horrible things they have done in the past few weeks, followed by great things that they have done in the SAME types of situations in the past. This will help with their confidence, and show them that they actually do have the capacity to do this.

Step 4 – Hold a meeting with Kovalev, Koivu and Komisarek

-You need to ask them for their input about what they think will help motivate the team… Even if you don’t use it, it’ll make them feel like you have confidence in their ideas and make them feel more like the leaders they are.

Step 5 – Practice, Practice, Practice

-Practice all of situations that the team has been having trouble with… it will make them feel more at ease if they are prepared in advance. Faceoffs, the forecheck, clogging up the neutral zone… we all know this list goes on forever these days, but the only way to improve is to put in the hours of hard work and deliberate practice…

Step 6 – Make hockey fun again

-It’s a game remember… They need to think of it that way, and they haven’t since the all-star break. Stop talking about Centennial seasons, media pressure and anything of the sort, and just tell them that the next game, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose but that they’d better have fun. The players will be a little shocked by this but I feel that getting rid of the outside pressure will take a load off of their chests.

Step 7- Set up a motivation speaker

-In Montreal, we have plenty of them, so it shouldn’t be too hard: Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau- people who have won, and can tell them what it takes to win. They need to be told that they are a good team and that if they dig deep enough, they’ll realize they have what it takes.

Step 8 – Give them time off

-Yes, this seems like a complete contradiction to step 5, I’m aware, but all work and no rest will leave them tired come game time… a day off here and there will do them good. Plus it gives them time to spend with their family and friends, which can take their minds off of being afraid of losing.

Step 9 – Encourage group bonding activities

-Yes, everyone made fun of the bowling, but these type of activities let them release tension and allow them to have fun together in a neutral setting, something they aren’t getting out of hockey these days… So they need to keep at it, and just keep spending time together.

Step 10 – Don’t badmouth them to the media

-These are your players – treat them with the respect they give you. You don’t see any player calling you out as a bad coach, so you shouldn’t be calling them out. Give them the praise they deserve and when there is a problem, talk to them one on one. They will respect you more for it and the locker room will be a much more harmonious place to be.

So there you have it Carbo! By implementing these steps, the team will be much better off. For your sanity – and the sanity of many Montrealers, including myself – I hope that you do something soon. The team needs you. Be a coach.

Friday, February 13, 2009


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Jaroslav Halak saved the day. Hell, he saved the season.

In a month where any excess confidence seemed to dissipate into thin air, Jaro (whose play in this game should knock down claims that he’d never be a number one goaltender) made 46 saves, mostly without the help of any of his teammates, to lead the Canadiens to a 4 – 2 win over the Av’s Friday night.

This game was important for three main reasons. First, because the Habs needed to realize that they were still able to win (and with that, gave them the ability to have confidence in their goalie). Second, it showed them that they are still able to steal games. And lastly it showed them that they still have much work to do.

Some of the positive points:

- Koivu, as always, is at the top of my list. He sacrifices the body, and makes every effort possible to succeed in his plays.
- Kovalev played a solid game, kept it simple (for once), and made a really nice pass on the Breezer goal.
- Tommy Kostopoulos looked great out there, and I think the line of Kovy-Koivu-Kostopoulos has its merits. And how can you not have been anything but thrilled when he scored his empty netter?! (P.S. I totally called it after he had that great scoring chance with Kovy… He played with fire, and I knew something was coming.)
- Higgins played hard and battled.
- Andrei Kostitsyn slept through most of it… but came up big when he needed to.
- Dandenault played really well, used his speed to create scoring chances, and picked up another assist (hey, it’s 3 points in 2 games… not too bad for a jack-of-all-trades like Dandy!).
- Laraque (yes, that’s not a typo) saved an icing… and I was as shell-shocked as I’m sure everyone else was, even though sadly it lead to a Colorado goal.
- Bouillon scored a beauty, and gave Tucker a wake-up call, so how could I not include him?
- And of course Breezer… well what can I say? Those who were iffy about O’Byrne being scratched (myself included) had a pleasant surprise in store. He had one of his best nights in a long time, and played with the energy of a guy half his age.

Some major problems:

- Markov, Komisarek and Gorges did not look good out there tonight. That’s 3 of our top 4 defenseman. Never a good sign.
- Sergei Kostitsyn was MIA along with his brother… but at least Andrei did something. (Sergei actually got the 1st star of the game – clearly a mix up between the 2 brothers by the Colorado press!)
- Max Lapierre took a really stupid penalty at a really inopportune time. I’m a big Lapierre fan, but that was just not a smart move.

One thing is for sure. The list of pros is way bigger than that of cons. The Habs had an amazing first period, and Jaro did the rest, along with some help from the older Kostitsyn and TK. But Jaro really deserves all the credit for this one. Hopefully the Habs can play off this momentum and take it with them to Vancouver and start building themselves up to where they once were. They still have it in them. It only took 2 awful periods and 46 saves by the young Slovak goaltender to realize it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


This post is dedicated to R.P., someone who had amazing heart and lost her life way too early. My thoughts are with you.

This past week the Habs have been having a really tough time finding themselves… Their group identity is slowly disintegrating, and with it, the flow that they had throughout the first half of the season. Not much to be inspired by… but maybe that flow (or lack thereof) is what should be inspiring our boys in blue, white and red. Instead of endless practices, which won’t really help them be anything but exhausted… maybe a different approach should be taken.

At the beginning of the season, it was all smiles, fun and games. When was the last time you saw ANY of the players smile in post-game interviews, let alone crack jokes, throw towels on the Renaud Lavoie’s head, or even laugh? Yesterday, most of them seemed on the verge of tears… Hockey isn’t fun for them anymore, and I think that the route to fixing this starts in mending the bond that they share. They are a team, and need to start acting like one. Once they do that, the points will come, and I’m hoping this road trip will have that effect on them. They need to go to dinner, see movies, whatever… as long as they’re all together. Once they have confidence in each other again, it’ll translate onto the ice.

It’s all about inspiration. From what we think to how we feel, inspiration is an important aspect in everyone’s life. It comes in all shapes and sizes and affects what we do and say. For me, writing is an escape from the day-to-day responsibilities that life entails, and it’s this frustration that inspires me. It can also be a kind gesture that was witnessed; sometimes it can be a person or something as now seemingly trivial as a win or loss. The point is, it’s important to take hold of your opportunities and don’t let them go to waste. Yes, the centennial year comes around only once, but more importantly you often don’t have such a talented team of the perfect mix of young guys and veterans. Seize this amazing opportunity and run with it. Good ones like this only come around every so often.

Friday, February 6, 2009


This is my guest article for All Habs You can go check it out on their site as well! My thanks to them for the opportunity!

Montreal has been a sea of rumors these days...
From Vincent Lecavalier, to Brad Richards & Matt Niskanen, from Olli Jokinen to Jay Bouwmeester, it seems the possibilities (or rather impossibilities), are endless.

I still maintain the fact that a trade is not the answer, that the key to our success lies within Kovalev and the fact that Carbonneau needs to be a coach and find some way to motivate him. When Kovalev excels, the rest of the team follows suit, and as seen by their poor performance in the last 30 minutes versus the Sabres Friday night, they are clearly in dire need of some jump to their game.

But what has been concerning me lately (and the rest of the Montrealers who have come to know and love the players on the Habs roster) is the fact that almost half of them will no longer be under contract next year. While Bob Gainey doesn't seem worried, I get the feeling that many of our beloved Habs won't be back in the 2009-2010 season unless the team somehow pulls a Stanley cup out of their sleeve... which is unlikely to happen if they continue playing keep-away with the puck, and skating as if they didn't want to get a ticket for speeding. Personally, I think they have what it takes, but with their overall confidence level slowly approaching zero, it's going to take a miracle (I'm suggesting the return of the 2007-2008 Kovalev or a dual-instantaneous healing of Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay).

That being said, some of the major problems we have are whether or not we have TIME to sign all 10 of our free agents before the deadline, if they'd actually be willing to stay, and how much money they'll be asking for. Case in point: Mike Komisarek.

Komisarek's play has not been great the past few games (the whole season actually, if you ask me). Last season, he was at the top of his game. He was very reliable, he blocked shots, gave out a huge amount of body checks, sacrificed himself... basically had all the workings of an excellent stay-at-home defenseman. The problem is that although he still does most of those things this year, his reliability is a little iffy. Whether you attribute this to his injury, to some innate reliance on Markov, or even find a way for Kovalev to be at fault (he seems to get the blame for everything around here), he isn't playing as well as he can.

The thing is... I love Komisarek. It would be a huge loss if he weren't re-signed at the end of the season. But when I hear numbers like 5 million and 6 million being thrown around... to be honest, it makes me feel a little queasy. Markov is making $5.75 million a season, and he is the best defenseman, if not the best player, on our team. BY FAR. Komisarek is not putting up his amount of points, and is also not as reliable (this year anyway). If he can be signed for 3 million... maybe even 3.5, I'd keep him... but above that, it would not only make no sense, but we also wouldn't be able to afford it, unless somehow miraculously Koivu, Higgins, Plekanec, Kovalev, Lang and the rest of the free agents are willing to agree to pay cuts. Out of all the potential free agents, Koivu is be the number one priority in my mind... but maybe Gainey sees things differently.

I just hope that come July 1st, we aren't a broken team, reduced to the "re-building" stage, which I finally thought we had escaped after so many years. We have all the needed young guns now, and it's the veterans that we'll need to fight to keep if we hope to have any chance of seeing Lord Stanley come home to Montreal in the near future.

Leafs tonight. We can only hope for a miracle. Preferably Sergei Kostitsyn–Mikhail Grabovski related.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Before I start, let me just make one thing clear about yesterday’s game. We needed a confidence-booster to give us the momentum to make a good run to the playoffs and didn’t get it. That fact is scaring Montreal fans into thinking the worst: that our Montreal Canadiens may not even make the playoffs despite all indications at the beginning of the season pointing the other way.

Looking a little “Where’s Waldo”-like, in the 1912-1913 Canadiens’ uniforms, the Habs lost a big one yesterday afternoon against the big bad Bruins. One game doesn’t seem like that big of a loss… but a weekend culminating in the loss of Josh Gorges, a solid and mostly consistent defenseman, Guillaume Latendresse, who has been playing well of late, and Robert Lang, our number one scorer, does. The question is, what are we going to do now?

When about 20 games back we lost Koivu, Higgins and Tanguay among others we thought the worst. But guys like Pacioretty and D’agostini showed us that there wasn’t much to fear. The problem is that when the Canadiens called Hamilton for help, they answered, BIGTIME. But now, who is left down there in the reserves, able enough to give us a much needed scoring jolt?

We’ve called up Chipchura in the past, but his potential is a solid PK guy, maybe a 3rd or 4th line centre. Not the scoring touch we’re looking for. We’ll probably need to call up Weber, now that Gorges is injured, and Breezer is ailing. Maybe give Greg Stewart and Ben Maxwell another go… But these are clearly not the long-term answers.

I’m the last person who’d sanction a trade, but I’m thinking we may have no choice, and that depresses me beyond belief. I think our guys can do it themselves, but if they are all injured then I don’t know how that’ll be possible. It’s a little scary, how injury-ridden the team has been after a great start. Komisarek, Price, Laraque, Dandenault, Andrei Kostitsyn as well as all those mentioned above… it seems like there are more players who have been injured at sometime during the season than those who have been healthy straight through.

Thankfully Markov has been fine, because without him, we’d be lost. He has been the only consistent defenceman (and player in general) of late, and has remarkable offensive skill to boot.

I feel like a broken record, but Alex Kovalev needs to do something. Anything. It seems like the high from all-star weekend is wearing off, the “C” on his jersey has disappeared and with it his desire and the undeniable presence that usually transpires just from his being on the ice. I noticed him twice all weekend. Once because I couldn’t find him on the ice and spotted him on the bench shaking his head (Carbo was sitting him in the third as punishment for his play (or lack thereof)), and the second was for one of his trademark cross-ice passes, that ended up on the stick of a Bruin. He has the talent, he has the skill, he should have the desire… what’s missing? Is it possible it’s the energy? He looked tired both days… and it showed on the ice. His plays were sloppy, and his passes rarely reached their targets. He had 1 shot on goal through 2 games. He was a -2 on the weekend. He needs to find some motivation… a reason why he wants another Stanley Cup ring, and needs to rest up and recuperate from whatever is making him so tired, otherwise I’m not sure if I see him being re-signed for the next season. It’s sad because, if he does end up leaving, it will be a great loss for the city of Montreal. As one of his old colleagues said on CBC recently, every team that doesn’t have a Kovalev wants one, but those who have one don’t realize his worth until he’s gone.

Now all we can do is push that game into the back of our minds, and focus on Crosby and the Pens Tuesday night. We really need to step up and change our luck around. We need to stop relying on other teams’ mistakes, and make our own chances. Otherwise, teams like Toronto will be laughing all the way to the playoffs.