Archive for April, 2011

So they lost. Big deal.

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on April 29, 2011 by Scott Schmidt

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.

The forwards.

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

Subban            Gill

Markov            Gorges

Wisniewski            Spacek (sorry, but he’s signed), Weber

Price

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.