Thursday, August 27, 2009
Curtis Sanford (photo taken from canucks.nhl.com).
Yes, the Habs signed a bunch of new players this year, and yes, most are talented, but how much do we really know about them? With that question in mind, I decided to write a series of blogs profiling each of the new players. With some of the players, I’ll have tons of information, others very little, but my goal is to shine some light onto who these guys are, on and off the ice.
Name: Curtis Sanford
Position: Back-up goalie / AHL goalie
Hometown: Owen Sound, ON, CAN
What did I know about Curtis Sanford before researching for this blog? Well I knew he played in Vancouver and was Luongo’s back-up, but that’s pretty much it. Back-ups aren’t interviewed as much as the starting goalie, and the team doesn’t focus on them for their website info as much either, so it was extremely difficult to find new and interesting things about him, but I managed.
Let’s start with his on-ice performance. What I came across over and over again was that he had an excellent work ethic and personality and that his coaches and teammates really liked him. He was signed in 2000 by the St. Louis Blues, having been passed over in the 1998 and 1999 drafts. His first NHL game was October 17th 2002. Although the Blues won that night, he was not credited with the win. What had happened was that the starting goalie was injured in the first period when the Blues were up 3-0. Sanford replaced him, and the team won 7-1. So since the winning goal was scored before Sanford was in nets, the starting goalie got the win. He didn’t have to wait long for his first official win though, because 2 days later, he was in nets, beating the Stars 5-3.
His scouting report put him as a #2 goaltender, stating that he had a tremendous attitude and perfect demeanour for the position, and that he had the ability to make big saves at key moments. It also stated that he wasn’t durable enough to be a starting goaltender. Looking at his injuries over the last few seasons, this has proven to be true. He had a sprained ankle in 2002, hip flexor injury in 2005, knee injury in 2006, groin injury in 2006, another groin injury in 2007, back injury in 2008 and another groin injury in 2008. But he works extremely hard at getting back into game shape each time, so hopefully it won’t be too much of an issue.
Now for his stats. He’s played for 4 AHL teams and 2 NHL teams before joining the Habs. In his NHL career his Goals Against Average has been about 2.70 and his Save Percentage hovers around 0.900. Nothing too impressive, but not too bad for a back-up. He’s had 5 shutouts, has won 37 games and lost 37 games, and has had 16 ties. He has never played in an NHL playoff game.
He likes very intense practices that make him feel as though he’s in a game situation. Because he was with Luongo he didn’t have too many opportunities to play, so he wanted to make sure he was ready when the time came.
His Vancouver mask was actually designed by a fan who was chosen through a contest. It featured an orca with its teeth open surrounding the cage part of his mask.
Off the ice he seems to be a nice guy. He’s married (his wife’s name is Malinda) and they have 2 sons, Landon and Kendrik. He loves cycling, and is a fan of Lance Armstrong. His hockey idol is Wayne Gretzky. He goes to Blue Jays games, has been to Scotland a few times and loved it, and likes playing golf.
Whether or not he actually plays in NHL games for Habs this year (most likely he’ll be in Hamilton most of the time) I think he’s a good veteran presence that will be nice to have if needed. Personally, I think Halak does a stand-up job as a back-up, and I don’t think Sanford will be used that much, but I think that he might be a good person for Price and Halak to talk to if problems arise, because he’s been in the league for a while, but is still young enough to relate to them. Overall I think that Gainey improved by getting him instead of resigning Marc Denis.
Stay tuned for the next profile in the series, coming in a couple of days!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Two longstanding C's. (Photo taken from habsinsideout.com)
It’s summer, the weather is finally starting to get warmer, and here I am thinking about hockey. The loss of all of our unrestricted free agents, as well as Chris Higgins, was a bit of a shocker, at least to me, and I had resorted to ignoring hockey for a little while. I needed to sort out how I felt about the team, and to be honest, I’m still not so sure. They sure aren’t the Montreal Canadiens we knew and loved anymore, not without Saku or Kovalev, even Komisarek and Higgins. But for the first time in a long time, we actually got some players when the free agent market opened, but what that means is still unclear to me. Right now our team seems like a bunch of randomly chosen players that don’t seem to fit together in any plausible way. We are all hoping that chemistry forms between some of the newcomers, and that Mike Cammalleri finds a way to repeat his great season, but I’m trying to keep my expectations low, because on the off chance they do have chemistry, I wouldn’t mind being surprised by it. It’s sure better than being disappointed if things don’t go our way.
There is something worrying me though, and that is the fact that Jacques Martin is at least entertaining the possibility of not having a captain. I think this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. He claims that it worked in Florida and on some other teams, and so it may be an option for Montreal. Did it really work though? Florida didn’t win a cup... so not really. They didn’t even make the playoffs. In my opinion, there needs to be a set leader. Without one, there will be no one who sets an example, no one to talk to players who are having difficulty, no one to step up in the room after a bad period, and no one to make everyone feel like part of the team. Even with co-captains, I think that it wouldn’t work as well. It would cause decision-making to take longer, and I feel as though it would be more of a hindrance to have two opinions in that type of situation than a help. So a little obsessively, I decided to see how right he was right by compiling some data. In NHL history (but only including the current NHL teams), there have been 101 occasions where there was no captain or more than one captain. On only 3 of those occasions have teams ever won a Stanley Cup. Twice it was the Bruins, in 69-70 and 71-72 who had no captain, and once was the Flames in 88-89 who had Co-Captains. For both the Bruins’ cups they had Bobby Orr... No offense to Gomez or Gionta, or any of the rest of the newcomers, but none of them even come near to the point totals or plus/minus he had, and he was a defenceman! We can’t compare exactly, because clearly the league was different 40 years ago, but still, no one compares to him. So if that is the case, how can we even think that we can get far without a captain!
The question is... who? Personally, I think that it should be Markov. Despite the language barrier, he is clearly a player that all the others look up to. His English is not bad at all, and if they make Lapierre and Gorges alternate captains, the entire city would be happy and Markov wouldn’t have to do as many interviews, since they could take care of a lot of them for him. There is no one else left. Some are suggesting Gomez, but I really don’t think that would be good. He’s new in town and doesn’t yet know the pressure that the Montreal fans and more importantly the media provide. Markov is our best player. He loves Montreal. He’s not a fan of change so would want to stay here for a while. He’s a good person. Whoever has to fill Saku’s shoes is in for a challenge. I think Markov is the man for the job.