He's all that, and modest too.

A funny line from Pierre Dagenais about his GWG last night:

"I don't think any goalie could have stopped that shot," Dagenais said. "I was just trying to get the puck to the net and it was a perfect shot."

Of course, it was not his intent to sound so arrogant. This is either a translation problem or an ESL issue.

About the game: Didn't see it, as we're still doing the holiday feasting circuit, but I like the result. It looks like Theo finally stole a game for the team.


In this neck of the woods, watching the World Junior Championships has become another holiday ritual in many households. If you want to monitor Habs prospects at this tourney, there's a preview article at Hockeysfuture.com.

Now, I'm not going to pretend to follow Major Junior and the NCAA - let alone the Euro leagues - sufficiently to provide a complete analysis of the competition at this event. However, the impression I get is the same as the media consensus - the USA is the team to beat. The Americans have not traditionally been very competitive at the WJCs, but there has been a real spike in their junior age talent in recent years. The usual suspects - Canada and Russia - appear to fill out the top three. In Evgeni Malkin, the Russians clearly have the single best player. For the first time in my memory, both the USA and Russia have better top-end talent. If Canada is to win this event, they have to play to their strength - their depth.


Habs full of Turkey

Tryptophan has surely been taking it's toll on the tricolore. After managing a shootout win over the Stanley Cup Favourites, the Canadiens collapsed in the third to lose 4-2 to the powerful Capitals, then laid an egg of a game in Atlanta to lose 4-0. I didn't see either game, so I'm going to accept the current excuse thrown about in the media: Montreal is the new Team Donut, with three centres out due to injury (Koivu, Bonk, and Plekanec).

This extended slump seems to be wearing thin on the team, evidenced by
recent reports of infighting. Some suggest that these incidents are a good thing, that they are a demonstration of fire and passion rather than apathetic acceptance. Others say they are a bad sign and are indicative of poor morale. Others still say they are normal, everyday occurrences on professional hockey teams. One thing is certain: it will be blown completely out of proportion by the Montreal media.

At least we have the
WJHCs to enjoy, where Bob McKenzie reports from Vancouver that coach Brent is trying to convert Guillaume Latendresse into a Sutter. Sigh.

You know what would be fun? Watching junior-eligible Sidney Crosby play in this tournament. Here's a mind-boggling tidbit: Sid will still be eligible to play for Canada's junior team next year in Sweden.


Habs Representation at the Olympics

Saku Koivu will be captaining Team Finland.

Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis made the Slovak and Czech teams, respectively.

Although the Russian squad has not yet been announced, one would think Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov are locks. In fact, I think Kovalev will be the captain.

Mark Streit will be on the Swiss roster - not sure if he will be the captain again. Hey! Rocky DiPietro made Team Switzerland too!


I just have to post this...

From Don Brennan's latest article:

A Montreal reporter was explaining to us how impressive it was to watch Kovalev get on his knees at one blue line and fire a puck off the crossbar of the furthest net. Kovalev interrupted, saying that's not exactly what he was attempting to do.

"I'm trying to land the puck on top of the net," he said. "I once did it three times in a row in Pittsburgh."

That was Improbable

Going into this game, I was only hoping the result wouldn't resemble the recent 'Battle of Ontario' results. (Ya know, for it to be a "battle," don't there have to be two sides? Wouldn't "Beating" of Ontario be more appropriate? That way you can keep the BoO acronym.) Zednik was planning on being in the bathroom all night with the flu. Koivu re-re-tweaked his groin. #1 goalie (in theory) Jose Theodore was out with a bruised knee. Perhaps most ominously, #2 centre Tomas Plekanec (Sorry Ribs) is expected to be out with a knee injury for awhile pending an MRI. I was more concerned that the Sens might go headhunting for Ryder than the possibility of getting a point or two in the standings.

The first half of the game seemed to justify my concerns (except the one about Sens running at Ryder). Ottawa was up 3-0 and appeared to be walking away with it. Then the Habs noticed that Ray Emery (3-0 vs. Montreal) was on the bench and Hasek was in net. Realizing they had a chance, they put away three to send the game to OT.

In overtime, I was half expecting Julien to pull the goalie and go for the win. After all, what chance did the Habs have in a Hasek vs. Huet shootout??

So that's why Dagenais is still here: Said the Dominator, "I don't know who scored on the first penalty shot." I don't know either, but he was wearing Pierre Dagenais' sweater.

So that's what has been wrong with the Habs: Kovalev was in on all three goals (1g, 2a) and scored the clincher in the shootout.

To be fair, Ottawa was not without injury trouble of their own. Havlat and Bochenski are both out for awhile, Phillips did not play last night, and Spezza only played one period. Nevertheless, it is a confidence boost to be only the 7th team to come out of a match with the Sens with two points.


The Columbus Bluejackets have
recalled Andy Delmore. He should be subject to re-entry waivers. Grab him, Bob. I'm no Delmore fan and I don't see him helping the team, but I am spiteful.


Roenick Blackballed

J. R.'s nose is out of joint - and not because of a recent blow to the head. It's because he was not named to the U.S. Olympic Team.

"To not have the opportunity to go back one more time and try and win the gold is obviously, in my opinion, very disrespectful."

There were 13 forwards named:
Mike Modano, Doug Weight, Brian Gionta, Jason Blake, Mark Parrish, Erik Cole, Craig Conroy, Scott Gomez, Mike Knuble, Chris Drury, Bill Guerin, Brian Rolston, and Keith Tkachuk.

I would sure like to know which one of the above Jeremy thinks he should replace.

In fact, that goes for any player whinging about their icetime. Any windbag with a swelled head who has the nerve to moan in the media about how many minutes he plays should also have the guts to name precisely who he thinks should play less to accommodate him.


From A-Line to Zednik's Spot?

Trade rumour: Montreal has been named as a possible destination for Petr Sykora, Anaheim edition.

I can't see it happening. This is probably just the requisite media rumour that accompanies an extended team slump. Any deal bringing the former member of the creatively named A-Line would likely involve Richard Zednik going the other way. Although Syko is the better overall player, the Habs need finishers and at this point in their respective careers Zed is the better finisher.

Now, if Gainey can find a way to nab Sykora without having to give up any key forwards, top prospects or defensive depth, I'm all for it.

A Tale of Two Seasons

My apologies to both of the readers out there for my lack of updates. Along with the usual holiday commitments, I have been busy with another project that will be discussed in a later post. Now back to les Habs...

You can split the Habs' season in two. In their first 16 games, they went an astonishing 12-4. During this streak Jose Theodore was playing poorly. Many observers said, "If they're tearing up the league now, just wait until Theo is at the top of his game!"

Then, in game #17 against the Penguins Sidney Crosby scored his most famous goal in his young NHL career to give the Pens a shootout win. Since then, the Habs have gone 4-11. Tomorrow night's game versus the Ottawa Senators should push that record to 4-12, to perfectly mirror the first half.

What the Hell happened? How does a .750 team turn into a .250 team this fast? Needless to say, Theo has not found his game. There have been injuries - Kovalev has missed 13 games. Bonk, Koivu, Bulis and Souray have all missed time. Markov was suspended for three games for venting his frustrations on a linesman. Then the ensuing defense debacle. And on top of all that, the flu has struck the team.

Excuses aside, the team just has not been playing well. There have been flashes of the early season effort (the pair of OT losses to the Leafs, the recent win over Phoenix), but overall their skating and confidence have not been the same. Even without their top two forwards, this team should be able to scratch and claw it's way to .500 hockey against inferior opponents. That said, winning three out of every four games is not a reasonable expectation of this club even when healthy. A .600 win% is reasonable. If they pull that off for the rest of the year a playoff spot should be a sure thing, but the recent slump will probably cost the Habs home ice in the first round.

[Update: Kovalev, Theodore, Plekanec and Zednik will probably not be in the lineup against Ottawa tomorrow. Just keep it close, boys...]


Party On, Garth

Rookies have been a big story this year. Without any really big name youngsters, it's been rookie by committee in Montreal. The Habs dressed twelve forwards last night versus the Coyotes, and five were first-year players. Two of the lesser-used kids connected for the first goal when Garth Murray drew the second assist on Andrei Kostitsyn first NHL goal on his first NHL shot.

Indeed, the Habs received plenty of unexpected production with goals from Jan Bulis and even Niklaus Sundstrom. The last time Sunny scored a goal, I think Gretzky was his linemate in New York.

Gretzky and his coaching staff must be the most animated bunch in the league. The Great One shows more emotion behind the bench than he ever did as a player. Must be his workload, because he's got another case of the rants. To be fair, I think Cujo had a point about Sundstrom's goal. It looked like a high stick to me, although it was judged to be a goal after a five minute long review. The review was probably inconclusive.

Interesting: The Habs icetime leaders at forward and defense were Steve Begin and Sheldon Souray, respectively.

Red Fisher spells it 'Kostitsyn.' Bill Beacon of the CP is still using 'Kastsitsyn.' Just to make life difficult for the press, the Habs should use Cyrillic lettering for their Russian (and Belarusian) players.


Once in a while, the ol' grump Don Cherry shows his soft side. Grapes is in Moncton today hosting a fundraising luncheon for Sebastien Savage.


All is not well in Habsworld land

A recent article by one of the regular contributors at Habsworld.com criticizes Bob Gainey's player moves this season. There is a great deal of excellent regular content at Habsworld, but I must take issue at some points made in this article:

"Last year Ron Hainsey was the best defenseman in Hamilton. He needed to be playing at the NHL level to improve. Instead, the Habs dropped him for nothing... Perhaps les Glorieux couldn’t trade Hainsey. Or perhaps they just plain screwed up. Columbus is the most desperate team in the league right now."

The Habs were a desparate team when Gainey had to call up Hainsey. With Markov suspended, Souray nursing a groin injury, Komisarek visiting his sick and dying mother, and the cupboard in Hamilton bereft of depth defensemen, Gainey had no choice but to try to call up Hainsey prior to a game in Ottawa. If you want to blame someone blame Markov for pushing a linesman, or blame the CBA for not adequately allowing for player recalls in injury situations.

"Yes, Hainsey was his own worst enemy here in Montreal. Yes, Mark Streit beat him out at training camp. Despite this, Hainsey was still the best puck moving defenseman in their system... He has talent. Talent can always come back to haunt you."

I agree completely with this sentiment. Many have said "who cares" and "good riddance." While Hainsey was not exactly a blue-chipper, he was an asset and it sucks to lose an asset for nothing - in fact, lose an asset and be on the hook for half his salary.

"This is the second young player that the Habs have lost this season. Marcel Hossa went much earlier than Hainsey did. They are both playing at the NHL level right now. Hossa has played nearly every game for the "Danger Rangers" this year... Meanwhile Garth Murray got a cup of coffee last week."

As I have already stated, the Hossa-Murray trade was about filling a need and how getting something is better than getting nothing in return. I would rather have the asset of Garth Murray in Hamilton than nothing.

Bob Gainey played a large part in bringing a Stanley Cup to Dallas. He is doing a fine job in Montreal - a better job than any of his critics would, I wager. And that's all I have to say about that.


More from the Gazette


A moment of silence, please, to recognize the tenth anniversary of the trade of Patrick Roy.

This is
still a touchy subject for Roy and the Canadiens.

"That Cup in 1996 was all about pride," Roy said. "I had only one name in my mind when I won."

Mario Tremblay?



What the hell is the sportsnet logo supposed to be, anyway?


A great line from the always classy Darcy Tucker:

"Since my son's been born, I've scored four or five goals now," he said. "Maybe it's a little bit to do with him. I'll keep spitting them out, if that's the case."

There are so many things wrong with this, I don't know where to begin.

Maybe you should let your wife "spit them out," Darcy. I don't think you're anatomically capable. Unless you were talking about spitting something else out... ew.


Hey! Wait a minute...


Montreal Gazette Update

In his editorial, Jack Todd inexplicably sides with "Richard" Pound.

Personally, I can't see one third of NHL players using illegal performance enhancing drugs. It's not that I think NHL players are all that clean-cut, or are above using 'roids. Look at the Sudafed epidemic, or the brief nose-strip breathing aid fad (by the way, is Peter Bondra still wearing one of those?). Maybe performance-enhancing drugs just don't benefit hockey players much. Look at the sports where doping is a problem: sprinting, football, weightlifting, swimming, cycling, cross-country skiing... sports that seem to emphasize explosive power, or strength/endurance of a single motion. Hockey, basketball, tennis have not had doping problems. Perhaps the combination of physical abilities - dexterity, strength, and endurance - does not lend itself to doping.

Like everyone else, Todd also weighs in on the "Team Quebec" topic by criticizing their potential defense. I'll just say this: Yes, a Quebec team would be weaker than a "Rest Of Canada" team, but a Quebec victory over Canada would surprise me much less than the Belarus victory over Sweden.


In a more interesting article,
Pat Hickey wrote a very interesting piece on the visor debate. It includes the thoughts of many Montreal Canadiens on the subject. Craig Rivet comes clean:

"If you want the truth, it's the macho thing," Rivet admitted. "Guys are trying to show how tough they are. It's part of the image."

There you have it. A visor-wearing player couldn't exactly come out and say this. I presume Rivet goes shield-less because of his occasional need to drop the gloves. Check out the hockeyfights.com description of
his tilt with Bryan Marchment - the '03-04 Fight Of The Year.

Now this is a surprise:

"There are still some NHL teams which discourage the use of visors. The Canadiens aren't one of them and, surprisingly, neither are the Philadelphia Flyers. While the Flyers have a reputation for toughness, general manager Bob Clarke requires rookies to wear visors."

For all his flaws, Bobby Clarke is not the idiot many make him out to be.


Vacation Time

Habs beat the Kings 3-2 last night. Still missing their top three skaters and their checking centre, it was Pierre Dagenais of all people who stepped up and produced. That was a relief - going into a week-long break is much easier after a win than a loss.

It was a much more tame affair than the Ottawa-LA tilt on Friday night. Although they're not afraid to hit, the Canadiens can't afford to play games like that against a very physical team like the Kings. The Habs just don't have the muscle if things get out of hand. Predictably, Sean Avery was the centre of attention. The crowd booed his every move, and several Habs took every opportunity to run him. Otherwise, the game was less exciting than most I have seen this year. Yes, both teams looked tired, but it also looked like there was more obstruction than usual.

It's a shame. The Kings are a skilled, hard working, energetic bunch and a fun team to watch. But with a bigot like Avery in the lineup, I took pleasure in seeing them get beat on the ice and in the alleys by the Sens.

Craig Conroy, on the Avery boos:

"We expected that every time he was on the ice," Conroy said. "You know, I think he said something in haste and didn't think about it, and all of a sudden it spins out of control and by the time it gets here, it's huge. I don't think he meant to say it, it just came out, and if he could have taken it back, he would have."

Baloney. He could have taken it back and decided not to. In an interview saw, Avery apologized "if he offended anybody," but did not retract his statement. In fact, he made it clear that he stood by his comments. If the Kings management stands by this putz and doesn't even distance itself from his slurs, then I have no sympathy for them when their opposition goons it up. If
Gleason had been injured by Chara, the Kings could have thanked Avery. Yes, that's blaming the victim, but sometimes the shoe fits.

The Kings will continue their parade through the Northeast division with a game in Toronto on Tuesday.


I have read a few comments by Hab fans complaining about Garth Murray and Andrei Kostitsyn being called up just to warm the bench. I don't have a problem with it.

The Habs have been playing without three regular forwards: Koivu, Kovalev and Bonk. Julien wanted to simply shorten the bench to get through the last couple of games before an extended break. Even if he was only going to roll three lines, why not call up some bodies to flesh out the roster in case of injuries? There was never any intention of giving a couple of early cuts from training camp any icetime. They were only there so Julien could fill dress twelve forwards instead of ten.

There are already three rookie forwards getting regular shifts. If things started getting too rough, Murray (1g, 1a, 46pim in 25 games in Hamilton) would have played. Kostitsyn (5g in 24 games in Hamilton) just isn't ready yet.


We need a week off

Tomorrow night's game against the Kings will be the final game of Markov's suspension and the Habs' last game for a week. To say things have not been going well would be an understatement. The timing is good for this vacation. The fewer games played sans Kovalev the better, and it will allow nagging injuries to Koivu, Markov and Souray to heal. It will also give Komisarek time to return.


Last night, the Habs were playing without their top three skaters. Koivu, Kovalev and Markov typically combine to eat up over one fifth of the available icetime in a game. They were lucky to get a single loser-point.


Poetic justice in a pop-up ad:

This happened while browsing the TSN.ca player profile for Jaromir Jagr, and I couldn't resist taking this screen shot for a pot shot.