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Friday, February 27, 2015

PK Subban: Norris Trophy Candidate

When Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $72 million in early August of 2014, most fans were relieved that General Manager Marc Bergevin had finally locked up his bona-fide blue liner for almost a decade.

The face of the storied franchise along with All-Star netminder Carey Price, Subban is now under contract through the 2021-22 NHL seasonThe winner of the prestigious Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman in 2013, Subban notched 10 goals and 43 assists for 53 points in 82 games last season, good for fifth in points among defenders after finishing tied for the NHL lead with 11 goals and 27 helpers for 38 points in 42 games a season earlier during the lockout-shortened season.

HOT FEBRUARY

After a rather slow start this season, scoring three goals and four assists for seven points in eleven October games, Subban has picked up his play as of late for the Eastern Conference leading Habs. With one game left in February, the 25-year-old Subban has already recorded one goal and 13 assists for 14 points in 13 games to go along with +7 differential.

The Toronto native played a season high 35:21 minutes on February 14th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is now ranked second in the NHL with 12 goals and 35 assists for 47 points with a +14 rating in 61 contests, trailing Flames defenseman Mark Giordano (who left last night's game with an injury) by a single point.

Among rearguards, Subban is second with four game-winning goals and third with six power play tallies and that despite shooting the puck far less often than last season (1.98 SPG as opposed to 2.49 SPG). As a result of injuries to veterans Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar, his playing time has increased recently and on the season he is now playing 26:05 minutes on average (6th in the NHL), which is slightly more than his defensive partner Andrei Markov (25:04).

With Subban and Markov on the ice, the Canadiens are dominant and dictate the play on most nights as shown by last night's performance in Columbus when the duo combined for two goals and three assists with a +10 differential in a 5-2 win.



PUCK-POSSESSION MASTER

With a CF% of 53.9%  and a FF% of 52.9%, Subban ranks second on a team, which is not known for its puck-possession ability with players like Manny Malhotra having a putrid CF% of 35.5... Starting a little over 50% of the plays in the offensive zone, Subban is used in every situation this season. Playing on average 3.33 minutes on the power play and exactly 2.00 on the penalty kill every game, Pernell Karl has turned into one of the most complete rearguards in the NHL. He is now a game-changer like Shea Weber and Drew Doughty

The electrifying puck-moving defenseman showed everyone he can also perform during the playoffs, potting 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points in 17 games last Spring. He now has 30 points (10 g, 20 a) in 43 contests during his young career, so he doesn't only produce during the regular season.

The colourful Subban also gives back to the local community by spending time with children and by being a role model off the ice for everyone.


Whether you like him or not, there is no denying that Subban is loaded with talent and pride, even though he was not even selected for the NHL All-Star game this season in Columbus, the league selecting "marquee" names such as Justin Faulk over him to have a representative of each team at the festivities.

The flashy smooth-skating rearguard enjoys the limelight and thrives under pressure, which makes him the perfect leader for a hockey-starving market such as Montreal. Not afraid to speak French in public even though he is still not fluent, Subban is as serious as it gets training-wise, which is why he is so strong with the puck and battles along the board.

His booming slap shot, his amazing stick-handling and his thunderous hits are only some of the skills that make him the complete player he is now... and he will only get better as he matures and stops taking the occasional stupid penalty.


Whether you like him or not, Subban is now a strong candidate for the Norris Trophy again this season.

Do you think the Subbanator will win the prized hardware in 2014-15?

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Follow me on Twitter at @FredPoulin98

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sekac vs Smith-Pelly Trade Analysis

Earlier today, Habs general manager Marc Bergevin acquired forward Devante Smith-Pelly from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange of forward Jiri Sekac. Smith-Pelly, 22 years old, has played 129 NHL games, keeping a scoring record of 14 goals and 26 assists for 40 points as well as 30 penalty minutes. He has also appeared in 12 playoff games, scoring 5 goals. As for Sekac, also 22 years old, he has started 50 NHL games, scoring 7 goals and adding 9 assists for 16 points, while spending 18 minutes in the penalty box. Was the move worth it? What does that imply for the Montreal Canadiens future? Would have it been better to keep Sekac? I personally think it is a great trade for both teams and here's why.

Anaheim is getting a talented forward who has never been able to find his niche here in Montreal. Sure he has only been with the Habs for 50 games: however, he has struggled to align two solid back-to-back performances. I admit he was used to a light schedule, having played in the KHL before; however, he should have been a little more steady. Therrien used him a couple times on a second line, as well as a third line. He gave him some chances. Maybe not enough will you say, and I'll have to agree with this to some extent. However, we must keep in mind Sekac is pretty frail (6', 174-lb) and Montreal has an over-abundance of small players. In Anaheim, he will be able to prove himself on one of the top two lines, replacing either Patrick Maroon, Emerson Etem or Kyle Palmieri, with Matt Beleskey on the shelf right now.



In Smith-Pelly (6', 222-lb), the Canadiens are getting a strong and physical forward who just loves to spend most of his game in front of the opposing goalie, just like Gallagher. In terms of bodychecks, DSP is currently leading Montreal's roster with a total of 147 bodychecks, ten short of Alexei Emelin (who is still injured, which is why I am not counting him). With the playoffs starting in about a month or so, this is a pretty good time to add some muscle, especially if the Habs were to play against Boston, Philadelphia or New York for example. Will the newly acquired player be able to play on the top two lines ? I doubt so. We never know, but I highly doubt he will. However, he will be a great addition to the 3rd or 4th line, especially with Bournival (5'11'', 196-lb) and Thomas (5'09'', 176-lb). It will also give Bergevin an option to trade the enigmatic Lars Eller, since De La Rose has pretty much acquired the 3rd line center spot. We must also not forget DSP already knows some of his new teammates, having played in the World Junior Championship with Bournival, Gallagher and Beaulieu.

It is also worth nothing Bergevin will save just a little north of $500,000 in salary. Is he planning to open up some money for a bigger trade? There is a pretty solid defenseman in Toronto named Roman Polak that would be a great addition to Montreal's defensive squad and word is there could be talks ongoing involving Bournival and Thomas. Even if it's just a rumor, things are definitely getting interesting.

All in all, I think this is a pretty fair trade for both teams. Only time will tell who will have the edge on that move, but we must keep in mind this is currently not a major trade. So what do you guys think? Would you have given Sekac more time to prove what he is worth? Do you think getting Smith-Pelly means Eller is on the move?

Follow me on twitter: @Azgarde54

Trade Deadline: Will The Habs Address Their Scoring Woes?

Newly acquired Devante Smith-Pelly
Greetings Habs Addicts!

Much has been said about the lack of scoring by the Canadiens this season. While we are sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference by a point - with two and three games at hand over the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively - is it safe to say that the play of Carey Price is the sole reason we are in this position?

Carey Price has been outstanding. He has been outstanding since Michel Therrien took over and implemented his often-maligned system. He began to finally turn the corner after Jaroslav Halak was dealt and the franchise committed themselves to the former 5th-overall NHL draft pick. Carey was handed the reigns, matured and has not looked back. He is now among the elite of NHL goaltending. As it stands now, it is a two-horse battle for the Vezina Trophy between Price and Nashville's Pekka Rinne. The only difference is, Nashville can score goals for Rinne. Aside from Max Pacioretty, Montreal cannot. The Predators have scored 181 goals heading into Tuesday, good enough for 7th best in the NHL. The Canadiens have scored 157 goals. Good enough for 11th. In their own conference. Overall, that is 23rd best in the NHL. Big difference in support on a nightly basis.
Photo Credit: ESPN NHL Standings

With a record of 38-16-5, the Canadiens are amongst the elite teams in the NHL. But heading into the playoffs, is it largely smoke and mirrors based on our elite goaltending? Aside from Max Pacioretty, where would our other top-six forwards play on contending teams?
Would Brendan Gallagher be a top-six forward for Nashville or Chicago?
Would David Desharnais get top-six minutes in St. Louis or Anaheim?
Would Dale Weise be playing on the top line for either New York team?

In a gritty best-of-seven series would the Canadiens be able to match the fire-power needed to make a run to the Stanley Cup? Would they even make the Eastern Finals again this year? Are we setting ourselves up for heartbreak by believing they can?

The line-up this year is largely the same as last season minus Thomas Vanek. Danny Briere was swapped for P.A. Parenteau and the contribution is largely the same as last year - next to nil. The kids have been called up to provide some energy, but will Jacob De La Rose and Christian Thomas be able to provide the secondary scoring required for a long playoff run? Can Lars Eller flip the switch again this year? Possible? Will Devante Smith-Pelly (acquired in a trade announced earlier today for Jiri Sekac) be a difference maker here in Montreal during hockey's second season?

Possible? Sure.
Likely? Not very.

There is a big difference between the trade deadline this year and the trade deadline last year. There is no Thomas Vanek available.

Among the pending unrestricted free agents, the top forwards include Mike Ribeiro from Nashville, Mats Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis from the New York Rangers, Justin Williams from the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings and Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes. Of those names, only Vermette is likely to move anywhere at the trade deadline.
Justin Williams

Los Angeles is currently on the playoff bubble and Justin Williams is the kind of player you want to have in your top-six heading in the playoffs. However, if the Kings fall out of contention, could 'Mr. Game Seven' be a viable target for Marc Bergevin? The 33-year-old Williams is not an elite scorer, but has an offensive game and he steps up his effort in the playoffs every year. With an expiring cap hit of $3.65 million, the right-handed shot could be the equivalent of a Thomas Vanek acquisition for the Canadiens down the stretch. Williams is not likely to be dealt and he might very well have a movement clause of some sort in his contract; however, his name is one worth remembering as Bergevin has surprised us in the past and could work some magic if the Kings decide to mail it in.

Amongst the non-free agents, the sad sack Toronto Maple Leafs are officially rebuilding. Superstar forward Phil Kessel is likely out of most-teams price range at the trade deadline, more likely to be moved during the summer. Joffrey Lupul is talented but never healthy, either. The Edmonton Oilers have names like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov forever rumoured to be available. All three of these young players would also be pricey acquisitions.

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr has openly stated that he would like to be traded to a contending team; however, the New Jersey Devils still feel they are a playoff-contending team. Frankly, trading for Jagr now would be disappointing. Jagr has slowed down this year considerably, physically and statistically. This is a player who wished to join the Canadiens as a free agent to play with countryman and friend Tomas Plekanec four seasons ago. And each summer thereafter as a free agent was spurned by the Habs. Subsequently, he put up some solid numbers for the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, including 24 goals and 67 points last year for the Devils at age 42. During that stretch and the Habs have had Danny Briere and P.A. Parenteau acquired to provide next to nothing positive at similar cap hits. Bringing in Jagr now, as age has started to take an increased toll on his overall numbers (11 goals, 29 points, -9 in 56 games this season) would be almost too-little, too-late. What better mentor for young players than a future first-ballot Hall of Fame player who has a work ethic second to none and a willingness to mentor younger players. Not signing Jagr originally - tremendous resume, skill set as well as size - was a serious miss by management in this author's opinion.

So what does Marc Bergevin have up his sleeve for the trade deadline? With the injuries to Alexei Emelin and Sergei Gonchar, added depth on the blue line is likely coming and has been mentioned at length already. But where are the goals coming from this time? Thomas Vanek provided a huge spark last year as the team made a huge push into the playoffs. He fell off big time during the playoffs and essentially had the entire city sour on him by the end of the season. Vanek ended up signing in his adopted hometown of Minnesota as the entire league expected he would, but at a fraction of the price expected. His playoff effort was duly noted by the Wild brass for sure. There is no Thomas Vanek available at the trade deadline this season, either.

In the playoffs, you need to score goals and you need balanced scoring. Games get tighter-checking, and goals start coming at a premium. The defensive effort has been strong again and the Canadiens received the balanced scoring last year against Tampa and Boston as they advanced past those two teams. For the most part, goals have been provided by a committee this season too. But to expect us to go deep into the playoffs as a favorite this year with nary a point-per-game player in the lineup is asking for a lot. Something has to be done. If some added scoring punch is not found by the trade deadline, Carey Price better continue to stand on his head because if he slips even a little bit, this season could end a lot earlier than we all hope. Or expect.

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Nick Malofy is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at HabsAddict.com and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Who is Right? Me or my Son? You Decide?

Hello my fellow HabAddicts.

Please help me with this argument I had the other night over the Sens game.
Watching the Sens/Habs game with me the other night was my son who has been a Habs fan since the late nineties. I was really frustrated watching the game because the Habs were playing poorly. So as I usually do during a Habs game, I voiced my opinion towards the TV.  I stated rather loudly that these damn Habs are just an average team and will not go far in the playoffs. That is when my son retorted and said to me that I had to be kidding. This Canadiens team is in the top three in the league!! With the best goalie in the league!!! And the best defense in the league!! I chuckled.

Well that is when I had to enlighten my son who did not have the pleasure to watch the Canadien teams that were assembled in the 60's and 70's. I began by telling him about the Big Three who made sure no one came near Roggie Vachon and Ken Dryden back in the 60's and 70's. No one would dare run our goalie when Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe were on the ice. Something which is sorely lacking on our defensive line-up today. Our toughest defenseman is Alexei Emelin and compared to the big three he is a marshmallow. Man would Carey Price love to have those three in their prime in front of him today.

Today's team is small and soft with one big offensive weapon, Max Pac, and pray he does not get hurt. And looking at the farm team, there really is no big, tough, talented players who can come up and make an impact on the team. I went on to tell my son about when the Canadiens called up Doug Risebrough and Mario Tremblay just before the playoffs and they went on to make huge contributions to the team with their toughness, hustle and goal scoring. And this was the Canadiens 4th line at that time. Look at our fourth line today. When was the last time they scored a goal or challenged an opposing goon. Speaking of goons, Ottawa exposed a big weakness the Canadiens have that will prevent them from winning a Cup until they address it. The Senators were just hitting and smacking around every Canadien player that came near them. It was ridiculous to watch, it was like watching a Pee-Wee team trying to take on a AAA team. The Sens did what ever they wanted and Montreal could not respond because they are just too small and lack toughness. Besides Brandon Prust and Dale Weise which Hab could step up and turn that abuse around? None. This would have never happened back in the 70s.

That is when I introduced my son to the Canadiens/Flyers Stanley Cup final of 1976. The Big Bad Broad Street Bullies who had just won two straight Stanley Cups by intimidating the opposition were now facing the Habs. The Flyers were big, mean, tough, SOBs who could score. They thought they were going to just run over the Habs (like the Senators did other night). Well, guys like Risebrough, Tremblay, Chartraw, Bouchard,Wilson, Lambert, were not going to be pushed around. The Habs went on to spank the Bullies in four straight games to take the first of four cups. No one on today's roster comes anywhere close to those warriors Montreal had in their line-up back in the 70's. I respect Prust, and Weise but they are not heavy weights and they are the only "tough guy" Montreal has. In the 70's Montreal's tough guys were tough but could also score. Risebrough, Tremblay and Lambert combined for 64 goals; and they were a fourth line. Guys like Lafleur, Shutt, Lemaire , Gainey, Mahovlich were taking all the top spots on those 70's teams.

Look what happened the last couple of times the Canadiens got close to the cup. In 2010 they beat out skilled teams like Pittsburgh and Washington; but then against a physical team like the Flyers they got their butts kicked. Then last year against the Rangers, Kreider runs over Price and our season is over. Now back when the Big Three were watching the blue line Kreider would have never came near our goalie. If he did get lucky and did touch our netminder, he would face the wrath of the whole team. He would be lucky to get off the ice in one piece. Last year, Kreider just walked away smiling knowing that he just killed the Habs playoff chances with no   payback, shameful!!

Bergevin has a lot of work to do. He needs to make our team bigger and tougher to play against, and get some scoring punch out of that line-up. So, hopefully through a combination of trades and good drafts we will get there. 

So then my son tells me we have Max Pac, Plekanec, Gallagher, etc. We have Subban and Markov on defense. And of course we have Price in net. We are a great team. We will compete for the cup, We have beaten the Bruins, Rangers, Islanders, Penguins. We are a top team!! I am just too spoiled by the great teams of the 70's. Unfortunately I have to disagree with my son.

So what do you think? Who wins this argument me or my son? Am I spoiled as a Habs fan of the 70's? Let me know?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Curtis Glencross In The Montreal Canadiens' Crosshairs?

The Montreal Canadiens are desperately looking to score more goals as the team has only scored more than three goals twice in the past 19 games. With the exception of Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, goals are hard to come by in Montreal in 2015.

While Carey Price has been holding the fort well in recent games, the Habs desperately need help at forward in prevision for the playoffs. A solid option would be impending UFA, Curtis Glencross, who was officially made available earlier this week, after expressing his displeasure regarding his usage this season.
Making only $2.5 million this season, The 32-year-old Glencross has recorded 8 goals and 18 assists for 26 points with a +7 rating in 49 contests with the Calgary Flames. A two-time 20-goal scorer, the Saskatchewan native can play left wing and center, and is a solid two-way forward.

Playing on average 16:51 per game this year, Glencross is a solid second-line player who brings speed and determination to a team. The 6'1'', 200-lb, forward is adept at throwing the body around as shown by his 97 hits which would rank his second on the Habs behind Dale Weise (107).


Because his contract includes a no-trade clause, Glencross has been asked to provide a list of teams where he would be willing to go. You can bet he would most likely waive his NTC to go to a contending team such as the Canadiens. Glencross declared that he wants out because he doesn't get much playing time this season under head coach Bob Hartley, especially on the power play and the penalty kill.

Glencross missed nine games earlier this season with a lower-body injury that hampered him throughout the season. The left-handed forward has not recorded a single point in his last ten games and he has seen his ice-time dwindle to less than 15 minutes on most nights. He also owns a low Corsi For % of 44.4, which is not very good possession-wise.

The Flames need help at centre, so they will most likely ask for a centerman or a prospect/3rd round pick in exchange for Glencross. Will Bergevin pull the trigger and get Curtis in his crosshairs before the March 2nd NHL trade deadline?


Who would you want to acquire if you were Marc Bergevin?


Do you want him to acquire a forward or a defenseman first?


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Follow me on Twitter at @FredPoulin98

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Montreal Canadiens Trade Target: Andrej Sekera

With the latest injuries to Alexei Emelin (broken collarbone or separated shoulder) and Sergei Gonchar (concussion), the Habs' blue line is in turmoil. As result, the team called up prospect defenseman Jarred Tinordi after last night's defeat to the Ottawa Senators. Tinordi will join Bulldog teammate Greg Pateryn, who was called up earlier this week, to man Montreal's blue line.

If Gonchar and Emelin are out long term, it becomes critical for General Manager Marc Bergevin to bolster his blue line in prevision of the playoffs. With about 10 days before the March 2nd, 2015, trade deadline, it becomes important for Bergevin to assess all his options before making a bold move. Also, with Jeff Petry leaving last night's game with an apparent upper-body injury, and Tyler Myers and Zach Bogosian traded for each other, the options on the back end are getting somewhat limited. Oh and let's not forget that Cody Franson was also shipped to Nashville while Marc Methot was extended by Ottawa.

Another coveted option on the blue line, is offensive defenseman Andrej Sekera of the Carolina Hurricanes. Making only $2.75 million this season, the 28-year-old rearguard is having a tough offensive season with the lowly Hurricanes, scoring 2 goals and 17 assists for 19 points and a -7 differential in 54 games. However, Sekera enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013-14 with Carolina, potting 11 goals and 33 helpers for 44 points and +4 rating in 74 contests.

The puck-moving Sekera, who is slated to become a UFA on July 1st, will not come cheap as the asking price is reportedly a first-round pick and a solid prospect. Will Marc Bergevin be willing to pay that hefty price for a rental player? I highly doubt it.

Playing on average 22:50 per game this season, the left-handed blue liner is great on the power play and makes a very solid first pass, helping with the transition. Also, despite playing for a cellar-dwelling team, Sekera's possession numbers are pretty good with a 52.3 CF% and a 52.2 FF%. The problem with Sekera is that he is not physical at all with a mere 43 hits in 54 games.

In sum, if Bergevin wants to acquire an offensive-minded defenseman for the playoffs, Sekera is his man, but if he is looking for a physical and defensive-oriented rearguard, Andrej is really not his man. The team could also call up veterans Bryan Allen and Davis Drewiske if they don't want to mortgage the future by trading away prospects and draft picks.

Who would you want to acquire if you were Marc Bergevin?


Other options on defense include Mike Green, Jeff Petry, Zbynek Michalek and Marek Zidlicky.


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Follow me on Twitter at @FredPoulin98

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hockey Day in Canada

Yesterday was special day for two reasons, it was Valentine's day and it was Hockey Day in Canada. This is the day where Canadians come together to watch hockey and to participate in the many activities involving our national sport across our great nation. Yesterday, all seven Canadian NHL teams were in action with six of those teams facing each other. The exception this year is the Winnipeg Jets, who are in Detroit to face the Red Wings. In other games, Ottawa hosted Edmonton, Toronto visited Montreal and in the night game Vancouver was in Calgary to face the Flames. For Canadians, watching hockey on Saturday night is synonymous with Americans watching NFL football on Sundays. It's tradition.

My favorite part of hockey day in Canada, besides watching my three favorite Canadian NHL teams, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver, is hearing some of the wonderful stories CBC produces to broadcast. These stories profile the exceptional people in hockey who have sacrificed so much to play the game of hockey or to help make it happen for others. Here is an example

As a side note, I was born and raised in the Lower Mainland in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. We don't get enough snow or sustained freezing temperatures so I never experienced skating on an outdoor rink. However, I did attend the 2014 Heritage classic at BC Place stadium where the Canucks hosted the Senators. It was  OK, but BC Place is a football and soccer stadium. It is not built to host hockey games. As such, I was forced to watch the action on the jumbo-tron

The State of the Canadian NHL teams

Despite the Canadian dollar being weak at the moment, Canadian franchises are thriving. Even in Edmonton and Vancouver, where tickets can be bought dirt cheap, fans continue to fill the stadiums. The situation is not nearly as dire as it was in the mid 90's when Quebec City and Winnipeg were relocated to Colorado and Phoenix (Arizona now) respectfully.

In terms of being competitive, the Canadian franchises are doing well as a whole. Four of the seven Canadian teams have a very good chance of making the playoffs in April (Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary). Edmonton and Ottawa will definitely be on the outside looking in and Toronto requires a strong finish to nab one of the two wildcard spots in the East, but they just started clearing house.

A Canadian-based team has not won a Stanley cup since 1993 when your Montreal Canadiens hoisted the trophy. At the moment, Montreal likely represents Canada's best hope of winning the Stanley cup, but by no means will it be an easy task

Canada internationally

Every year Canada participates in international hockey tournaments, including the World Junior hockey tournament, which brings together the best 19 and under hockey players in the world and the Spengler Cup, which is comprised of players playing in the European leagues. Canada always has and always will be able to put together teams that are medal favorites. This is a testament to the fantastic coaches we have and the wonderful hockey programs kids can enroll in. A medal is less of a guarantee on the larger international ice surfaces as, other than the Spengler Cup, players that play in these tournaments played in the smaller rinks of North America the entire hockey season. Still, one can never count a Canadian hockey team out.

The women's game has a little less parity. The two North American teams, Canada and USA dominate the tournaments and the European franchises get routed when they play Canada or USA. It is to the point where the IOC is considering removing women's hockey as an Olympic sport because only Canada and USA have ever competed for a gold medal. No other country has ever come close.

I would like to give a shout-out to all hockey parents reading this blog. Thank you for putting in the countless hours to allow your son or daughter to play hockey.

So enjoy the games this weekend Habs fans and Go Habs Go

A Habs fan blogging from BC