Archive for the Montreal Canadiens Category

Losing and sucking: much different.

Posted in Coaches and General Managers, Montreal Canadiens, NHL on May 5, 2011 by Scott Schmidt

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.

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.

3 Q’s from The Checking Line

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on November 9, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

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.

But.

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.

 

 

Random nonsense. But read it anyway.

Posted in Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers, Mike Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Nino Neiderreiter on October 4, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Cut down nerves aplenty

As thus-far-surviving NHL hopefuls everywhere sit on pins and needles today wondering if they will remain a member of the parent club or be sent back down to the minors to further their development, I thought it interesting to note I write this blog from the lounge/waiting room at Milestone Mazda in Lethbridge – awaiting an oil change on my girlfriend’s car.

Why is that worth mentioning you ask? Well this dealership just so happens to be owned by Barry and Doug Dubnyk, father and uncle of Oiler prospect Devan, who just so happens to be neck deep in that did-I-make-it feeling of pure nausea as I write to you.

They’re all hiding it well but I’m guessing that same sickness is plaguing much of the staff in this building. I spoke with Barry briefly, who is quietly confident but knows one of either his son or Jeff Deslauriers is likely to get the axe. He thinks this is Devan’s year.

So do I.

When the 6-foot-6 monster was drafted 14th overall by the Oilers in 2004 from the Kamloops Blazers, it was clear he was pegged by management for a career in blue and orange. He’s maybe not developed quite as fast as they had hoped but he has had some decent AHL numbers considering he has played on some awful teams.

In his longest season in the minors (62G with the Springfield Falcons), the club was so bad he compiled a record of 18-41-2. However, through all of that he still managed a .910 save percentage and a GAA under three, which is pretty remarkable considering how much attack he was obviously facing any given night.

Anyway, seeing as how the Oilers are obviously riding the youth movement – mostly because it’s the only movement they have that has a chance of actually moving – I would imagine no matter which one of the two goalies in question makes the Oilers, they will see some significant time.

That basically means it comes down to which one the Oilers see as their long term guy after the Bhulin Wall’s career finally topples. I would personally be partial to a 6-foot-6, 210 lb frame but I made that clear with my unwavering advocating of Carey Price long before you know who was traded.

I asked my buddy Evan (@nasty45)  — a massive Oil fan — what he thought and he said: “I’ve always been partial to JDD (Deslauriers) but I think they’re the same poison at the end of the day.”

Meaning: Either/or would be just fine.

*Update to this — Both Dubnyk and Deslauriers remained with the club after today’s cuts. However one more player must come off the roster by Wednesday and one can only imagine that will be one of the aforementioned goalies.*

A little love tap for a rookie

Quick thought on Mike Cammalleri’s slash of Nino Neiderreiter and subsequent one-game suspension: I’m not defending Cammy, nor am I saying he shouldn’t be reprimanded. But to me the poke to the face was worse than the slash, yet it gets MUCH less discussion. Meanwhile, the slash has been referred to as “Paul Bunyan-like.”

I know from experience adjectives can be hard to come by when you write everyday. But Cammy, who spends most of his time on the tongue of the media being referred to as a Smurf, never even took his back swing past his tiny little blue-skinned waist, so let’s ease up on the lumberjack references.

And since El Nino left the game with a bruised calf, can we agree to stop with the attempt-to-break-his-ankle crap? Mike Cammalleri does not = Bobby Clarke. So suspend him, fine him, hell, hold him down and let Nino slash him right back but please quit making the rookie a victim of a vicious attack. He got nipped in the lips and then smacked in the leg, leaving absolutely zero marks on his face and a bruise on his calf. No offense to Nino, who I’m positive is a tough kid, but if people keep talking about a bruise on his leg not named Charley as if it’s an injury, he’s going to look pretty silly.

He’s a rookie and a veteran reminded him of it. Sure Cammy was wrong and will pay $32,258.06 plus put his team down a superstar for opening night against the Leaves but I promise you Nino learned a lesson last night, one every budding star before him was also taught one way or another.

Lineup set, sorta

And lastly, to those who read this blog but couldn’t give a rats fat arse about which dozen millionaires will don Bleu, Blanc et Rouge and make up the Montreal Canadiéns’ starting forwards on Oct. 7, I vaguely understand your feelings, am somewhat remorseful and can halfheartedly vow this will be my last post regarding it.

But the final lineup has more or less materialized and it looks like we know who’s starting Thursday. Since Cammy is out, assume Lars Eller will take his spot and it’s going to look something like this:

Pouliot     Gomez     Gionta

Eller     Plekanec     Kostitsyn

Moen     Halpern     White/Darche

Pyatt     Boyd     Lapierre

I’d personally switch the third and fourth lines around and I’d no-doubt play White over Darche. So, how did you do with your picks? I was a lot closer than I thought I might be. Can this group win a road game in Toronto to open the season? Guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, there’s only one way to end a post this all over the map.

Challenge more than met.

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on September 30, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

The following is the results from what we hope to be the first of many blog ‘challenges’ where we all focus on one specific Habs topic to show our varying thoughts, as well as our undeniable genius as budding GM/coaches… 😉

A massive thanks goes out to everyone who participated, the response was more than I could have hoped! A special thanks to Kamal Panesar (@KamalPanesar), who blogs Habs for Habs Addict and Hockey Buzz for his added promotion of this challenge and to Steve Farnham (@stevofarnham) for indirectly inspiring me to pose the challenge in the first place.

We had tons of participation and tons of great ideas! We even had some go outside the box and bring in outside talent – my fault for not specifying otherwise – which only added to the great selection of ideas from fellow bloggers. So without wasting anymore of your time, here they are (mine is the first post after this one titled Zero need to rush). Enjoy all!

Who’s your starting 12?

Hey my name is Will (@heymynameiswill)

Bleu, Blanc, Rouge (@emann_222)

Habs Addict (@KamalPanesar)

Willey (guest on Habs Addict)

RobertPTome (@robertptome)

Habs Rants (@Cathie_AK27)

Hab it Her Way (@HabItHerWay

Czechtacular (@czechtacular)

Tyg (Guest on Habs Addict) (@Tygerlylly) Follow her personal blog here: Tyger by the Tail

Oh Habby Days (@guccipucciprada)

Cowhide and Rubber (@kyleroussel)

Habs Laughs (@HabsLaughs)

Lyse (From All Habs) (@touteparpillee)

George Prax (From The Checking Line) (@GeorgePrax)

ED of the Atrux Collective (@TheAbraxasCo)

*Newly Added – Don’t Miss*

All Habs Picks from their writing staff, including Steve Farnham, Lyse, Erica, Rick Stephens

Cokeaddict (@cokeaddict)

Habs and Hockey (@SeriousFan09)

Check back later as well for late straggler entries, of which I know at least two. Great work all!

If you’re not up here already, feel free to leave a comment below with your own starting 12! Go Habs Go!

Zero need to rush.

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on September 29, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Ok so I’m not going to waste time with a big introduction here, as this ‘challenge’ has attracted a fair amount of interest and we all have a lot of reading to do.

I asked the blogging world ­of the Montreal Canadiéns to all write a piece on the exact same topic, post them as well as submit them to me, and I would put them up on this site for quick access. Of course, I urge all who participated to link either my post with the links or the individual blogs by themselves to their own sites, because the entire idea here is to hear each other’s opinions and have a chance to discuss them.

The topic: Name YOUR starting 12 Habs forwards for game one on Oct. 7 in Toronto. Include two players wearing suits and anyone considered a ‘bubble’ player who you choose to send to Hamilton or elsewhere. Include line combinations and an explanation for why your choices were your choices.

So without further small talk, here is what Shmitzy Says the Habs would look like opening night if my opinion actually mattered one iota:

First off a Tweet to me yesterday stuck in my head when making this decision, which was, “Look at how many players have had great camps and wound up doing nothing.” That is so true, I thought. So what I have decided to do for opening night is not make any real decisions at all.

My lineup:

Line 1 — Andrei Kostitsyn, Thomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri

Line 2 — Benoit Pouliot, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta

Line 3 — Tom Pyatt, Lars Eller, Maxime Lapierre

Line 4 — Travis Moen, Dustin Boyd, Ryan White

Press Box — Jeff Halpern, Max Pacioretty

To Hamilton — Ben Maxwell

To Waivers — Mathieu Darche

OK so there it is, and now since I can feel the disagreement in your voices all the way over here, I offer my explanation.

My decision involving the first two lines wasn’t so much who played together as it was which of them would get top billing. I went with the Plekanec line for a couple of reasons.

The first being, no matter who led the team in goals last season and who gets paid the highest salary on the team, Cammalleri is my best sniper and Plekanec is my best all-around forward. The second is that Kostitsyn played himself out of my doghouse in the preseason, while my question mark on line 2 didn’t come close.

Which brings me to the second line. Clearly everyone who writes for this ‘challenge’ is going to pair Gomez and Gionta together but who they put on left wing will most definitely cause some debate. Benoit Pouliot most certainly did NOT earn a spot on the second line with his play in preseason, however – right or wrong – he didn’t get a raise in the offseason just so we could cut him loose based on exhibition play.

Besides, if I start cutting players who were ‘penciled in’ to certain positions during the summer, some fans might begin nagging me to exercise that power in goal…

Anyway, Pouliot gets a handful of games – five-10 depending on our record – to get his game going. If my mini experiment doesn’t work, he goes to waivers then. But at this point I still maintain the former fourth-overall pick has the skill set. He just needs the mindset.

My third line was also a no-brainer for me. Since I already decided to continue Pouliot’s evaluation into some games of meaning, I had to find a spot for my new budding star, Lars Eller. I believe Eller is going to be great and will in all likelihood be in the top-six by game 11 due to the Pouliot Plan, but until that happens he gets to play with a couple of sparkplugs, staying somewhat out of the limelight. The biggest NHL hurdle rookies tend to struggle with is the speed of the game. Playing with Pyatt and Lapierre would be like trying to run beside two fighter jets; I think he’d acclimatize fairly quickly.

As for my fourth line and press box dwellers, much like the case with Pouliot, training camp isn’t over for most of these guys. In an 82-game season, I am going to need more than 12 forwards anyway and so on one hand, I’d like to look at as many as I can for as long as I can. On the other hand, like the aforementioned quote from Twitter, a good camp does not a superstar make, so I want to see more of what guys like Ryan White and Max Pacioretty can do against top talent – when it counts – before I commit to them.

I platoon my bottom six for a good 10 games and take a real good look at all of them. So guys in the press box today — like Halpern and Pacioretty — are going to play in the next game, while two others sit, and so on. And I do it knowing the argument about how not playing every game makes it hard to be good consistently and blah, blah, blah… We’re talking about 10 games, not half a season. They’ll be fine.

If the young guys don’t pan out, they go back to the minors to develop and I get some role-playing veterans to sit in the press box. For any older player who doesn’t earn his spot on the ice, it’s either the press box or the waiver wire for them.

As for my cuts, Maxwell was the odd man out in my opinion because he plays centre and as shocked as I am to say it about the Habs, the boys are all set at centre for a while. I’m not giving up on him yet though – unless he asks for a trade – because I want the depth in my back pocket in case something happens to one of the roster players.

Darche hits waivers but I want to quickly say how great he played last year and how hard he worked. And I know I’m likely going to need a veteran to sit in the press box without complaint – which he’d no doubt do – but I have absolutely no place to put him for at least a month and it’s just not fair to him to drag him along and ignore him.

So there you have it. Like I said, I decided to take the decision part out of it and keep my options open. This way, if my lineup doesn’t work, I can make all the same decisions then that I could be making now. No real harm, no real foul.

But if it works, I have a very deep roster, with a ton of youth. And if guys like Jeff Halpern – who I’m not at all saying isn’t good – end up feeling left out, then I’m simply alienating a guy who has no chance of playing here next year anyway.

I think I’ll be able to pick up the pieces and move on. 😉

Thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to reading what you all chose as well!

A challenge to Habs bloggers…

Posted in Montreal Canadiens, NHL on September 28, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

OK here’s what I want you to do. This afternoon, into the evening, I was involved in quite a discussion about the situation with forwards on the Montreal Canadiéns heading into the upcoming season and figure it’s something we should all have our say on.

There is no denying with how the preseason has played out that at least a couple of players who are either signed to one-way deals or played well enough to deserve a spot, are going to Hamilton or worse.

What I’d like to do is all write our own pieces on who WE would take as our starting 12 forwards for opening night. This is what YOU would do, not what you think will happen.

Your piece should include line combinations for those 12, as well as two names who will be in the press box. You will no doubt be cutting a few players from your roster, which will need explanation so make sure you also say why your bubble players are either in or out.

Deadline will be 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Post to your own websites obviously but if you send me your link on Twitter, I will post it on this blog as well. That goes for those in my blogroll too, as I’ll post them in the content section as well.

Anyway, it’s been a great debate today already and I know you all have an opinion, so we want to hear it.

Tweet me if you have any other questions @shmitzysays. We’ll be discussing them Thursday night and beyond.

Do it. 😉