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Thursday, July 28, 2011

10 Summer Thoughts

by Louis Moustakas

Although I am preparing to jaunt off for a short vacation to British Columbia, a part of the country I have yet to visit, my mind still finds way to veer towards the Canadiens and the NHL as a whole.

1) People in Montreal are ridiculously harsh on Andrei Kostitsyn. He is a scorer and he is streaky. Get used to it. He also produces 20 goals a year, is big and led his team in hits last season. Forwards like that do not grow on trees. He certainly has untapped potential, but it is nonetheless a mistake for us to take him for granted.

2) Speaking of Andrei, I must admit his performance in this spring's World Championships was a tad worrisome. His 7 points in 5 games may have led his squad, but he was pointless in key games against Switzerland and France, two teams the Belarussian needed to beat in order to avoid the relegation round.

3) Montreal added the Swiss-born Raphael Diaz and Alain Berger in the off-season. Yannick Weber is already on the squad while both David Aebischer and Mark Streit have spent time with the Habs as well. Clearly, the organization is trying to build its presence in the rising hockey nation of Switzerland. And why not? The Swiss men's team is now ranked 7th in the world, ahead of both Germany and Slovakia. Perhaps Montreal can become to Swiss players what Detroit is to Swedes.

4) I have read some rumours that Montreal is considering adding Alexei Yashin. While I feel he does quite not merit the level of disdain he has, he does not truly address any pressing need on the squad either.

5) Speaking of Russians, Alexei Kovalev is still a free-agent. I am midly surprised we have not heard that many Kovalev to Montreal rumours thus far.

6) Florida signed a ridiculous number of players to ridiculous contracts this summer. Mind you, many were good additions and they will probably be a better team. At the same time, it seems like Tallon is throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping it sticks.

7) Chicago made low-key, savvy moves this summer. Andrew Brunette and Rostislav Olesz give them legitimate top-6 threats and fit that role much better than the departed Tomas Kopecky.

8) Lou Lamoriello is past his prime. Coming out of the work stoppage, he gave a first-round pick to the Sharks in order to rid himself of Vladimir Malakhov's onerous contract. He was stiffly penalized by the league for the Kovalchuk deal. In truth, it seems like he has spent each summer since the lockout trying to dump salary and get under the cap.

9) The Caps need to win this year. With character players like Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Jeff Halpern and Roman Hamrlik now on the squad, there are no excuses for the team not to pull the pieces together. Anything short of a finals appearance means that both Boudreau and McPhee should be worried about their job security.

10) Chris Osgood, who is tenth all-time in wins with 401, is a hall-of-famer in my books. Stu Hackel, of Sports Illustrated, pointed out that he never had a regular season save percentage above .917. So what? When it counted, he was able to shut the door more often than not. In his last two playoff runs with the Red Wings, he posted phenomenal save percentages of .930 and .926. Oh, and he has three Stanley Cup rings.


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Louis is an editor at HabsWorld.net and has been writing about Canadiens and NHL hockey since 2009. Louis was born in Chicago but grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. He currently lives in Ottawa and works for the Coaching Association of Canada. He can be reached at l.moustakas@habsworld.net.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On Coaching and the Gorges Contract

by Louis Moustakas

On Coaching

For all the focus typically reserved for player development, the Montreal Canadiens have received an insufficient amount of credit for their ability to nurture talented young coaches. Michel Therrien took the Penguins to a Cup Final a few years ago. The highly touted Guy Boucher led the Lightning to the Conference Final in his rookie season. And, this spring, two former Habs bench bosses, Claude Julien and Alain Vigneault squared off in the Stanley Cup Final.

The departure of Kirk Muller, who will take over the reins of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, certainly leaves a hole behind the bench. But if the organization’s past ability to develop coaches is any indication, the duo of Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur should prove to be able replacements.


On Gorges

Josh Gorges recently signed a one-year, 2.5 million dollar deal with the Canadiens. The brevity of this contract took many by surprise. It was generally expected that the well-respected blueliner would be signed to a multi-year deal, especially considering his leadership role on the team and relationship with Carey Price.

Reservations about his injury, questions about the next collective bargaining agreement and cap savings have been cited as the main reasons behind this relatively conservative deal. As my colleague Brian La Rose of HabsWorld also points out, the presence of youngsters like Yannick Weber, Rafael Diaz, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu may have also adversely impacted Gorges negotiating position.

However, in the end, by attempting to minimize the uncertainty associated with the above factors, the Canadiens added a new risk to the equation: losing Gorges. Once his new contract expires, he will become an Unrestricted Free Agent, eligible to sign wherever he pleases.

Gorges seems like he truly wants to remain in Montreal and has the reputation of being very loyal. One has to wonder, though, why test this loyalty at all?



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Louis is an editor at HabsWorld.net and has been writing about Canadiens and NHL hockey since 2009. Louis was born in Chicago but grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. He currently lives in Ottawa and works for the Coaching Association of Canada. He can be reached at l.moustakas@habsworld.net.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pierre Gauthier Slowly, But Surely Addressing Size Issue

With the Panesar household increasing by one with the arrival of baby Devin, Kamal has quite understandably taken a summer hiatus from writing. In an effort to fill the void this creates on HA, I will occasionally be contributing news and observations to the site during these warm, hockeyless months.

"The Canadiens are too small"

The above statement, and its many variations, has been uttered innumerable times over at least the past decade. With a team featuring the likes of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri and David Desharnais, many are still inclined to believe that the team’s size, or lack thereof, is a major issue. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that Pierre Gauthier has taken significant steps in addressing this fundamental organizational weakness. Patiently, as is usually the case with Mr. Gauthier, he has added size, grit and depth to the organization. Be it through transactions, the farm or the draft, the General Manager is slowly crafting a roster that will be able to handle the physical challenge presented by other top Eastern Conference squads.

In arguably the defining moment of his tenure, Gauthier was forced to choose between beloved playoff hero Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price. Not only did he opt for the much more imposing Price, but by obtaining the sizeable Lars Eller and Ian Schultz in return, he set the tone for many of his future moves.

Since his promotion, Pierre Gauthier has slowly stocked the farm with size at every position. Aaron Palushaj, Michael Blunden and Mark Mitera were all brought in by trading away much smaller players while Alexander Avtsin, Andreas Engqvist, Alain Berger, Joonas Naattinen and Brian Wilsie have also joined the organization over the past 18 months. At recent entry drafts, the team made noise by selecting the towering Jarred Tinordi and Memorial Cup winner Nathan Beaulieu. Even beyond those two noteworthy first round selections, size continued to be an important consideration. In fact, over the last two drafts, only two of the team`s 12 picks are listed as shorter than six feet tall.

And, for those of you less inclined to wait for the above players to develop, the Habs were equally proactive this summer. The team’s most notable signing, Erik Cole, provides the team with the rare combination of scoring ability, size and physicality that has been a rarity on recent editions of the Habs. In addition, management was swift in retaining beloved giant Hal Gill and fan-favourite Mathieu Darche as well as acting to bring in the much hyped Alexei Emelin.

Naturally, not all of these draft picks or transactions will pan out as hoped. That is simply the nature of the business. But there is no denying that Pierre Gauthier and his staff are making a concerted effort to make the Canadiens a bigger, more difficult team to play against.




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Louis is an editor at HabsWorld.net and has been writing about Canadiens and NHL hockey since 2009. Louis was born in Chicago but grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. He currently lives in Ottawa and works for the Coaching Association of Canada. He can be reached at l.moustakas@habsworld.net.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Montreal Canadiens Make Some Move And I Take a Break

by Kamal Panesar

As I sit here listening to the recording of Rush's YYZ I just did on my Roland TD-9 drum set, I am reminded of how long it has been since I've played drums.

At the same time, I think about how long it has been since I've written anything about hockey.

For those who don't know, my first child, Devin, was born last Wednesday June 29th and my world has been a whirlwind ever since.

I'm loving the experience of being a parent, as challenging as it can be at times. It is at once the most rewarding and most difficult thing I've ever done in my life.

So while the Habs were busy signing backup goaltender Pete Budaj and power-forward Erik Cole to free agent deals, I was up to my eyeballs with diapers, crying and an enormous lack of sleep.

That being said, as much as I thought I'd be able to take a short break from the blogosphere before returning, I am now realizing that it is going to be more than a few days. I'm probably going to need a few weeks and maybe even until the end of August before I can start regularly writing again and updating my daily NHL news links on HabsAddict.com.

I'll might have the odd piece here and there but am basically going to check out for a little bit.

So with that in mind, I just wanted to pop my head back into the world to let you all know what is going on with me and tell you that I will be back, and stonger and more focused than ever.

But, for now, I'm going to take most of the summer to focus on my newly expanded family.

Thank you to everyone who has sent their well wishes to me. Enjoy the summer folks!

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Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/

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