I have been asked to come aboard a league-wide blogging site called The Checking Line as regularly appearing Habs blogger. So Thursday, March 1 was entry number one. Click this link to check it out!
One of my favourite Twitter pals commented on my latest blog and for nearly three days I didn’t take the time to respond; actually, I didn’t even stop at my laptop long enough to hit the approve button.
So as my most sincere apology, I am responding to her words in a blog, as what she wrote rehashed some thoughts I’ve had for a very long time.
Here is the portion of cokeaddict’s comment that I’d like to focus on (she’s a Toronto-based Habs fan… I know, weird right?):
“I think the phrase that confused me the most on Twitter was the concept of “fan complacency.” Uhm…what is that? We’re supposed to “demand” more from the management & coaching staff. What?!
I like to enjoy the game for what it is; cheer for the team no matter who’s on it, leading it, or paying it; and hope for the best. Those unrealistic things like “trade Gomez for Stamkos or Iggy” are just…I have no word for it.
If people wanna armchair coach, they’re more than welcome. But I get a bit annoyed at being accused of being a complacent fan because I’m happy to cheer for the team the way they are. I didn’t realize I wasn’t sufficiently passionate in fulfilling my “fan” duties.”
See, what bugs me about this is she’s been accused in a similar way to what I get accused of sometimes, which is being much too easy on the Montreal Canadiéns. But when I come on here and tell fans to settle down and quit overreacting to everything, I’m not going easy on the team at all but rather trying to get a sense of the *“actual”* reasoning behind certain decisions and transactions. (Over-highlighting that word stems from the necessity to drill this home with an overwhelming mass of Habs fans who WAY over-think every single aspect of a team they legitimately know nothing about.)
Cokeaddict is accused of complacency from some of these people because she chooses to not get bent out of shape every time something doesn’t go the club’s way, or a player isn’t playing as well as they maybe should be, or a guy who never plays is traded, or management does the right thing and allows a young coach to find a job with an NHL team, or a goalie with but one 9-9 playoff run who inaccurately convinces a bunch of know-it-alls he’s a god gets traded in lieu of a kid with every quality a team wants in a superstar goaltender but had a few growing pains before his 23rd birthday… Should I continue, or has my horribly long-winded 113-word sentence proved my point?
The fact is, cokeaddict is the real fan and these other dipshits are nothing more than people my buddies and I would throw out of the living room during pregame.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with over-passionate fans. I am ridiculous myself and before, during and for about 15 minutes after every game of any team I cheer for, I shouldn’t be around people unlike me.
It’s something I understand about myself — have for years — and therefore work diligently to ensure my game-time surroundings are in compliance. But when it’s over, it’s over, and I instantly turn back into someone who much prefers logical thinking to useless, irrational idea sessions.
The funny thing about pro sports is at the end of every season, no matter what league, 29 or more teams are left asking the question “What went wrong?” The answers will inevitably be highly detailed and thought out by its management — accurately or otherwise — and over-the-top and dream-riddled by many of its fans.
Of course, the real answer for a lot of teams is simply that a particular opponent had a higher total on the scoreboard at the end of a very specific game on a very specific day because they happened to have more offensive success for any number of about 37,000 reasons. Meaning, on any other day, in any other game, the scoreboard results could easily have been different.
But they weren’t. And that’s the point.
Sure, for a portion of teams, the answer is an even simpler “because they weren’t good enough,” but in a league like the NHL and its orchestrated parity through a salary cap, that number is actually a fair bit smaller than the teams who simply didn’t enjoy favourable circumstance for one variable or another.
Take last year for example. The Philadelphia Flyers were a shoot-out-gone-wrong away from missing the playoffs and played for the Stanley Cup two months later.
So isn’t it fair to say the New York Rangers, who actually wound up on the wrong end of the same circumstance that game, had a chance to win it all? And if the ninth-place team in the East had a chance, surely you’d agree the ninth-place team in the West had a chance.
So at minimum, 18 teams in 2009/10 had legitimate shots at the Stanley Cup, yet without any doubt I can say 17 of those teams had portions of their fan bases questioning the team from the top down. This might be the ageless right for any passionate fan but tolerance of that in no way proves its worth.
This year, the Habs were eliminated in the first round after reaching the conference final the year before. But if you think this year’s team wasn’t as good as last year’s team, you are colossally stupid.
And if you try to use either version’s level of success to argue your point, your stupidity is no longer colossal. It’s galactic.
I’m sorry, but as you’re reading this the league is totally proving my point. Boston needed every decent bounce they could wish for to squeak past the Habs and are completely handling Philadelphia. The fact Philly could still easily come back and make a series of it only supports what I’m saying even more.
And if the Montreal Canadiéns had a reasonable shot to win, which it clearly did, wouldn’t it be fair to say Carolina, Calgary and Dallas, who all missed the playoffs by less than two wins, had the same reasonable shot?
So that makes at least 19 teams this season that could have made decent runs at winning the entire thing. And yes, some teams have the on-paper advantage but so what? That useless category couldn’t possibly have more examples of meaning jack shit.
My closing statement, on behalf of the grooviest Coca-Cola advocate I know, is this:
All you can ever ask for as a fan, especially in the post-lockout era, is did your team’s management ice a roster capable of making the playoffs? And if they can get in, do they have enough talent to take advantage of the good bounces that may come their way?
Moreover, it’s up to you to understand that just because the answers to those two questions might be yes doesn’t mean it will all work out in the end anyway because about 18 other fan bases responded the same way you did.
As for the Montreal Canadiéns, considering they haven’t used the new-age strategy of being the worst team in the NHL for 5 years and haven’t been able to stockpile two or three 100-point 19-year-olds, they’ve done pretty good in recent years.
And you’re right, there are currently examples on the roster of both great and poor draft choices, great and poor transactions and great and poor personalities, which the fans can argue about all summer and beyond if they’d like. But before you become one of those to start or join a bitch fest, try to remember one little thing.
Hindsight is the idiot’s encyclopedia.
The following is for lovers of Les Glorieux.
If you don’t know who that is, this is where you get off.
If you feel the need at some point to mention my bias toward the team, my simple reply is no shit, Magnum, I’m a friggin’ Habs fan. This is probably going to show some bias toward my team for the entire thing and if that turns you off, this too is your stop.
Now, for those of you still reading, let me start by start saying I have absolutely no ill feelings about losing out Wednesday night. The Boston Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiéns fair and square — more or less — and that’s that.
I could easily be pissed off beyond imagination. But I’m not.
I could talk the whole summer about the non-called throat spear blatantly missed by yet another reffing crew with better things to do than a good job and how the no-name, coat-tail-riding dipshit who did it then skated about nine strides and scored the go-ahead goal.
But I won’t.
I could talk about how much karma owes this franchise after every last one of them kept their mouths shut in the media all season, while any Bruin with a mic drifting near the gravitational pull of their oversized noses couldn’t wait to tell the world why they should hate the Habs.
But I don’t feel like bellyaching.
Besides, what’s the point? There’s no doubt it’s not supposed to go like it did, but what can we do? Of course Zdeno Chara should be in traction somewhere with pins in his tree-trunk femurs. Of course Dr. Recchi’s aging hips should shatter upon impact. Of course Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton should be refrozen and sent back to Paleolithic times so they can be with their families. And of course there should be a North American-wide cereal-box vote to find out which one of Brad Marchand and Andrew Ferrence is the bigger dickhead.
But none of that happened.
So now what? Should we have another summer of self-destructive insults toward management and whining about this player or that player from Habs fans? Not from this camp.
The Canadiéns weren’t done shaking hands yet and I was already thinking about next year. But, unlike much of the media/pundit/commentariut circuit out there, I am not going to use a bunch of paranoid clichés regarding Pierre Gauthier’s list of needs and holes he must address while staying within the cap, blah, blah, blah.
First of all, he already has a proven track record of making great moves, despite the difficulty and pressure behind his decisions at the time. In fact, there’s not a single move he’s made in his short time that wasn’t good for the club.
Secondly, and I say this with as much objectivity as a fan of this degree can have, the Montreal Canadiéns can, without question, contend for the Stanley Cup and not bring in a single player from outside the organization. If you think I’m retarded, whatever. I was also retarded last year when I said Carey Price was a stud.
Barring those pesky health ups-and-downs that end up dictating the outcome for every team, every year, people will be using that ‘contender’ word by Christmas.
Let’s start in goal.
Carey Price. Moving on.
The blue line.
I don’t know exactly how many GMs would need to excuse themselves for a five-minute ‘potty’ break upon being presented with the following list of potential defensemen. But it’s a lot.
PK Subban, Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, James Wisniewski, Hal Gill, Yannick Weber, Roman Hamrlik, Brent Sopel, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, Alexandre Picard, Brendan Nash, Mathieu Carle, Alex Henry.
I don’t give a crap if there are a few on there you don’t like, that list is gross. If Subban, Markov, Gorges, Wisniewski, Gill and Hamrlik/Sopel/Spacek are the top-six next year that’s maybe the best group in the league. Weber as No. 7? Can you say Mark Streit? It’s coming out in him more and more…
But even if the utopian blue line couldn’t work because of salaries, there’s no way Gauthier loses out on the absolute musts, which in my opinion are PK (already signed), Gorges, the Wiz and Gill. Who cares about the bottom pairing if that’s the top-four?
I love Markov beyond how much one dude should feel about another dude but if he wants too much coin, I think Gauthier should reluctantly let him go. Of course, he’ll probably come back and kill the Habs with his new team but his injuries have earned the club a free pass to not over-invest in him.
Anyway it plays out — pending unforeseen Erik Johnson golf-cart accidents — the Habs will have a very formidable defense crew next season and all they have to worry about is protecting the 2014 starting goaltender for Team Canada. Sick.
There is no question this will remain the team’s X-factor, as goal scoring will be the difference between another sixth-place finish and a No. 1 or 2 seed. Since the big money will obviously be spent on the blue line and at least ready-to-be-spent on Price, there isn’t likely going to be much room left for that coveted — doesn’t exist anyway — power winger everyone is always in a huff about.
But that’s OK, as much as I thought I’d never say this, I’d happily resign Andrei Kostitsyn. I know he doesn’t go stand in front of the net, but he’s really the only true size the top six has. Without AK, they just get smaller. ‘That big guy’ isn’t out there and even if he is, he’s not going to come at the same price AK will.
Kostitsyn won’t cost a dime more than he already does and when you look back at his season, it wasn’t all that bad. His 45 points in 81 games isn’t noteworthy by any stretch but it did come while being flip-flopped from line-to-line all season, mostly in the bottom six, and when he was in the top six it was to replace an injured player.
If he had a full season with Mike Cammalleri and Thomas Plekanec, they would all have higher point totals than this season. It’s not among the best, but it’s a pretty good top line , anchored by Mike ‘I’m-disgustingly-good-in-the-playoffs’ Cammalleri and centred by Selke-light. Works for me.
Scott Gomez sucks. What-in-the-hell-ever.
If you’re still hung up on it, you’re a tool. They can’t go back in time and not get him and even if they did I don’t think anyone would love the Kovalev-Higgins tandem on the first line with Pleks, as Cammalleri and Gionta would be playing for the expansion Anywhere-but-Montreals right now.
So he’s here. Oh well.
The good news is Captain Gionta and Motivation Max will make him a 50-point player again by default and the second line will be just fine.
As for the third and fourth lines, I’m not sure who will make up the combinations but I know Travis Moen and Larry Eller will be there and that makes me feel all kinds of happy.
Toss in a possible side of David Desharnais, Ryan White, Mathieu Darche and Tom ‘everybody-should-LOVE-this-kid’ Pyatt and I’ll start taking divisional bets with Bruins fans right now because that O-fer they just put up on the PP for seven games is a trend that will only continue.
The Montreal Canadiéns were absolutely decimated by injuries and a healthy Boston Bruins needed seven games, three over-time goals and one of the shittiest no-calls ever in order to get passed them. The season series still ended 7-6 Montreal.
What do you think that record would look like if this was the Habs lineup next year:
Cammalleri Plekanec Kostitsyn
Pacioretty Gomez Gionta
Moen Eller Darche
Pyatt Desharnais White
Wisniewski Spacek (sorry, but he’s signed), Weber
Take into account the experience, leadership, camaraderie and off-the-charts level of motivation this group would have next season and only a fool would see them anywhere but on top of the Northeast Division, a position they were only three-and-a-half wins away from earning this year.
This team learned something about itself and about the rest of the league’s perception of them this season and it will be entering its third season together. I guarantee a fire will burn in the pit of the stomach of every player on that roster all summer long and when the season starts, the rest of the conference had better be ready.
Because the Montreal Canadiéns will be a force and despite what you can say about their size, when force meets this type of unity and motivation, no one wants to be in the way.
Especially Team Poo. I mean Boston.
The following was written Friday, Nov. 5 after the Habs played the Sabres and is the full version of the piece I wrote for The Checking Line. Watch my Twitter for the link to tonight’s live pregame panel, which includes George Prax and Iain Carnegie of The Checking Line, as well as Rosalyn Roy and myself, who will be guest panelists. It all starts tonight at 6:30 ET, one hour before the Habs host the Canucks.
I know I don’t get on here very often these days and most likely don’t deserve the invitation I have received but it doesn’t change the fact I am extremely honoured to have been asked by bloggers George Prax and Iain Carnegie of The Checking Line to be a guest on the first-ever, um, whatever this is.
The request is to answer – to the best of my ability – three seemingly burning questions regarding the Montreal Canadiéns and to then participate in a live, game-day blog this coming Tuesday before the club takes on the Vancouver Canucks.
The questions, derived from the minds of the show’s hosts, are based on hot topics from the local media and the team’s fans. Before I get into the questions, I must make a point.
How bizarre has the first baker’s dozen-ish games been for this team and its following?
At the conclusion of Friday night’s games, the Habs are one point out of first place in the entire NHL and I guarantee you can’t think of one aspect of their game worthy of being labeled spectacular. The only thing even getting honourable mention so far is their penalty kill, which shatters the meaning of importance considering how many jackass two-minute trips to the slammer this club takes.
In contrast, this team is but one point from the top of the NHL heap and I guarantee every single one of you who follows them can think of at least two absolute crises. Arguably the league’s best power play over the last five years is now statistically the worst (and the numbers are atrocious), while no fan can even see a capital ‘G’ without birthing an ulcer over the Rochester Rocket and his overpriced Alaskan fishing buddy.
Even more hilarious, the once hot No. 1 line has cooled, the grossly-anticipated return of Andrei Markov has only proved how important training camp is, and the best three players on the team right now make a combined $37 an hour, yet literally every human being that even cares is still convinced Jacques Martin is the worst coach in the Milky Way.
Even Carey Price, who has been excellent to those with a brain, isn’t sporting off-the-charts statistics. Yet somehow, with all of this bad and so little good, the team remains just that one point from the top.
The point to all of this is, with 69-ish games left in the season and the team finding ways to win hockey games regardless of who gets the job done, you’d think there would be just a tad less panic. But that’s not how things are done in the world of Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
Anyhoo, on to the questions.
1) Is there space for Jaroslav Spacek? What do you do with him, knowing that his salary can’t come off the books and you’re stuck with it until the end of next season?
Of course there’s space for the Space Cadet. I call his space the press box. He can call it whatever the hell he wants. As far as this season is concerned, who gives a rat’s ass how much money he makes? They are within the salary cap, he’s already here and the club has six perfectly capable defencemen that could play before the deep-voiced creep from the Czech Republic.
It’s a no-brainer to play Alexandre Picard ahead of him and I’d even elect an opportunity to Ryan O’Byrne ahead of him at this point, though the Irishman’s supporters ought to cease their delusional claims that Martin wrecked him, as O’B was suckin’ it up before our little pear-shaped bench boss arrived last year.
All that being said, Spacek is another example of a player nowhere near as bad as the conglomerate of over-reactive fans makes them out to be. He has no doubt played himself off the roster for right now, but has a pretty decent NHL career and resume to suggest another chance should someone else play themselves into the proverbial doghouse.
Get this part clear right now. Not even Mike Milbury would trade for Spacek right now so expect an awfully corrosive reaction to any person wanting to discuss this avenue with any length. He’s so untradeable, it’s a wonder Eklund hasn’t rumoured him to half the league yet.
But I digress.
Spacho is a Hab, at least for now, so get what you can out of him. I also maintain as Markov gets his sea legs back, whoever plays with the Roman Hammerhead will see less and less ice time, which will likely improve the pairing’s stat sheet.
2) Why is the second line struggling so much, after a fair amount of success last season? At this point, what do you do in order to ice two lines that can actually score?
Ok, now I’m really going to look like a Martin advocate – which I am not, regardless of my sporadic defence of his nuthouse decisions – but that bugger stole my answer to the second part of this question with his pregame lineup. Putting in Andrei Kostitsyn, a big-arse body who can dangle, hit and score is precisely what a speed combo like G & G needs, and giving Eller a shot with Cammalleri and Plekanec – even though Plek’s flu messed it all up – was what I’d like to call, ‘about GD time.’
If Travis Moen and Tom Pyatt are worthy of multiple-game opportunities in the top-six then the glazed Danish should get a turn. And considering the newly dubbed PhD line of Darche, Halpern and Pouliot is apparently going to carry the team from now on, it turns out Marin has jack squat to lose with a little Eller experiment.
As for why the two aforementioned G’s can’t seem to score, pick a cliché. They’re trying too hard, they’re trying to do too much, they’re gripping their sticks too tight, they’re being too fancy, it’s all in their heads, and so on and so on.
Unfortunately, clichés can’t become clichés without commonplace and what is happening to these two high-priced forwards has happened to thousands of players before them. If it’s me, the Kostitsyn move is my last before splitting the G’s up. I know they built success together and all that but there is no need to stay married to the something forever, especially if the hanky-panky goes flat.
The team has no choice but to wait them out, however, as one is the captain and the other the highest paid player. To think lengthy demotions or, as I even read Friday night, a trip certain fans need to replace their passion with a logical thought from time to time. Take some solace in the fact the club is compiling much-needed points while $12.5M in salary plays like Betty White.
Someone get them an effin’ Snickers bar.
3) Call up one player right now from Hamilton. Who does he replace, and where does he fit into the line-up and why?
Again with a disclaimer to start. I wouldn’t call anyone up right now if we must get right down to it. Assuming I’m in the position for a moment, I have chosen this group for the start of the season and I’ve done so with reason. When I look back at the things we all talked to death about during the summer and throughout training camp, I see most of our questions were answered with positives and only the aspects we were relatively assured of are we now seeing as club issues.
And so, when I’m 8-4-1 and leading my division, do I send down someone after only 13 games I was positive would play well, in lieu of a player toting zero guarantee upon arrival? Or do I send down someone I was weary about, like a Darche, when they are clearly major reasons for our early success?
My obvious answers to those questions lead me to choose no one.
If I have to, there are only three avenues I would explore right now. No. 1, Tom Pyatt, whose speed and effort I love, has to be my first odd man out if a gun is pressed against my temple. He’s been asked to play numerous different roles in a short period, which have more than likely helped his inconsistent play, but nonetheless, it HAS been inconsistent.
Secondly I choose Dustin Boyd, though I think he’s the exact same poison (to steal a line from @nasty45) as most of the players I would call up to fill a bottom-seven spot. Again, I like a lot of what Boyd can bring but he’s not even recognizable out there much, which means he’s not making an impact. A kid from the minors with the standard firecracker up his butt would likely be more impactful, at least for a few games.
The last, and most controversial I’m sure, is young Lars Eller. BUT, this move only happens after a significant trial run on a stable top-six line. I traded quite a player to get this kid and it’s because his potential is just ridiculous, but the only reason I have him is to put up points.
I don’t give a crap whether he can anchor the third line, this season or any other. So if he’s not ready to play on the top-six in Montreal yet then he should be playing on the top-six in Hamilton.
But, as everyone knows, there’s only one way to find out.
As for who I’d call up? If Eller goes down, it’s a guarantee I replace him with the red-hot David Desharnais. If either of the other two are my choice, then I bring up Ryan White, whose firecracker potentially has the biggest bang, which would be great alongside Lapierre and Moen.
PS and for the record — in the wake of comments made by Max Pacioretty this week, the 21-year-old dummy has a LONG tenure in southern Ontario ahead of him where he can learn the concept of how radio is broadcast to the public.
I know to some of my readers the thought of a sport not played on ice is just plain silly, especially with the start of the NHL season only hours away. But if you can believe the bizarreness of it all, not only do other sports exist, one of ‘em is even into its post season right now.
If it helps any, I put the TSN NHL Season Preview on in the background for about 15 minutes earlier, but it was in low volume and I didn’t pay much attention so I barely made out Pierre McGuire saying ‘Canadiéns’ and ‘last.’ The point is, the following post does not reflect my lack of excitement for the start of hockey season – in fact I’m absolutely retarded with anticipation – but I am a huge baseball fan as well and yesterday began a post season I’ve been waiting a decade for.
Roy Halladay is my favourite baseball player of all time. I watched a TON of baseball before he came around and witnessed many players have some pretty substantial careers but never have I EVER loved a player like I love the Doctor.
Yesterday, in the first playoff performance of his career, Halladay served up only the second post-season no-hitter in history of the game and he did it against the best offence in the National League. He had one walk, eight strikeouts and needed just 104 pitches to do it.
After this there will be no arguments about who the best pitcher alive is – a fact only previously unproven due to a career cutoff by a border – and the things I have to tell you are no longer going to prove jack squat to anyone. But I did a good 25 minutes of legwork a few days back and I’m telling you what I learned whether I’m playing Captain Obvious or not.
This was supposed to demonstrate Halladay’s clear Cy Young-winning season but will now simply be a display of the man’s greatness. So many sports writers jump to use the word ‘otherworldly’ for any superstar but I believe it should be reserved for the truly magnificent.
Roy Halladay is otherworldly.
Philadelphia’s first taste of Doc has been a good one, as the 33-year-old horse tossed up typical Roy Halladay numbers: a ton of innings (250.2), top-five strikeouts (219), top-five wins (21-tied for first in baseball), top-five ERA (2.44) and a massive lead in complete games (9).
But, as I will demonstrate, these numbers, which are good enough on their own for a Cy Young, are a stunted version of what could have been. As was always the case in Toronto, even what I thought was the best batting lineup in baseball often failed to provide Halladay with a clutch hit and/or run this year to get him the win he almost always deserved.
I looked a little further into it and went through Halladay’s game log for the entire season. What I found was even more disgusting – in a good way – than I first thought.
Here’s a glance:
Aside from being just another example of how unbelievably nuts the statistical aspect of baseball really is, those figures tell some crazy truths about how good Roy Halladay’s season might have been had he gotten a little luck.
With just a little more run support from a lineup that should have been giving it to him in spades in the first place, Doc could have easily won 25 or 26 games this year. Not that a perfect game, a no-hitter in the playoffs, a Cy Young (let’s face it, he’s getting it) and a World Series title (please, please, please, please) don’t make a memorable season but tossing in a record of 26-5 would’ve made it one of the greatest seasons of all time.
If it isn’t already.