Thursday, November 22, 2012

Five Habs Questions Left Unanswered by the NHL Lockout

The Lockout Leaves Question Marks After A Disappointing Season

Just over two months have passed since the 2012-13 lockout officially started. The annual Winter Classic has been nixed and the All-Star game is sure to be next. The cancellation of the All-Star game shouldn't come as a shock to anybody. After all, how can there be stars without a season?

I've come to care less and less about the lockout as time goes by simply because, while I love the game, I refuse to let it take over my life.

Though I enjoy Saturday night games as much as the next fan, I've had little trouble moving on. Sure my "Mardi's" aren't nearly as "m├ęchant" as I would like them to be, but I've had no trouble replacing these traditions with enjoyable new ones such as "Whiskey Wednesday's".

The thing that bothers me most about this lockout is that the absence of a season leaves too many questions unanswered. The Montreal Canadiens went through many changes during the summer and I — along with pretty much every other Hab fan — was looking forward to seeing what those changes would bring.

And with that, here are five questions regarding the Montreal Canadiens that have been left unanswered due to the ongoing lockout.

1. Are the Canadiens tough enough?

With the free agent signings of forwards Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong along with the re-acquisition of defenseman Francis Bouillon, a large portion of the Habs fanbase immediately felt that the team would no longer be pushed around as easily as it has been for... well, as long as I can remember.

While Armstrong is not especially big, he doesn't shy away from throwing his body around, something that isn't done nearly enough by many Canadiens.

Bouillon's 5'8" 198 pound frame hardly screams heavyweight either but anybody who has seen him play knows his hits are hard and willingness to drop the gloves is borderline suicidal.

Prust, however, was the prize signing. After letting beloved tough guy Brad Staubitz leave via free agency after just 19 games, the Habs were in desperate need of a designated tough guy. With Prust in the lineup the Canadiens now have a player who can protect his teammates, cause problems for opposing players and occasionally pitch in offensively.

The question remains, are these three enough?

2. Is Andrei Markov back for good?

Unfortunately, as I write this Markov is injured in Russia. Markov has been playing for Vityaz Chekov in the KHL but left a game on October 26th with what was described as an "upper body" injury.

Markov would have been returning to the Montreal Canadiens at the beginning of the season after missing what seems like a kajillion games due to repeated knee injuries. With Markov healthy heading into September the Canadiens powerplay as well as their defensive zone breakout was guaranteed to improve drastically.

However, given his current predicament, it's hard to imagine that he would've lasted through the entire 2012-13 season.

In the end though, who really knows how thing's would've played out if he was back in a Habs uniform when the puck was supposed to drop.

3. Is David Desharnais for real?

One of the few positives to come out of the disastrous 2011-12 season was the emergence of David Desharnais as an efficient point producer. The argument can be — and has been — made that his success was due in large part to having Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty on his wings. Whether that's the case or not, the fact is Desharnais finished third on the team in scoring with 60 points.

With that 60 point season came constant debates on who is better between himself and Tomas Plekanec — cough, Plekanec, cough. Regardless, what seems clear is that Desharnais can play with the big boys.

This season would've shed light on Desharnais's true role and value. There is no doubt that he would've started the season with the same line mates but there were many out there wondering if the 5'7" 177 pound center could put up similar numbers in a season where opposing players would be more aware of him.

4. Is Michel Therrien the man for the job?

I'm quite tempted to just type "no" and move on. The reason I won't is Marc Bergevin.

Since Bergevin burst into the Habs hockey scene he has done nothing but better the organization. The one thing that may go against that statement is the hiring of Therrien. Seeing as how Bergevin has a Stanley Cup ring, though, and I don't I feel compelled to blast his choice just yet.

Therrien is mostly known in Montreal for his meltdown behind the Canadiens bench against the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2002 playoffs. Therrien took an unsportsmanlike penalty in a game the Canadiens were leading, eventually contributing to a devastating loss. The Hurricanes win tied the series at two and the 'Canes would go on to win the following two games earning a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.

People can change and there is a possibility that his reputation of demanding tough play and placing accountability on players could be just what this squad needs after a season where only a handful of players seemed motivated.

5. How will Alex Galchenyuk be handled?

The Montreal Canadiens' number one pick in the 2012 draft is quite possibly the silver lining to this lockout mess. After missing last season in Sarnia due to a knee injury, it seemed that another season in the OHL would be the best idea to further the prospects development.

Rene Bourque's surgery at the end of August was especially concerning. With a top-six nine forward expected to be sidelined for 8-12 weeks and Galchenyuk's skill — not to mention the hype surrounding him — I couldn't help but worry he would be rushed.

Sure, I have faith that the Canadiens development will improve drastically under the watch of Marc Bergevin. Yet, after years of watching talented young prospects be rushed and ruined by this organization, I couldn't help but worry about what would happen if Galchenyuk played well and was given a spot in the NHL right away.

Even if he were to be productive in a handful of games with the CH, I would still want him to play one more year with the Sting in order to better prepare for the main stage. So far, the lockout has proven beneficial for Galchenyuk who is currently tied for eighth in OHL scoring with 13 goals and 22 assists for 35 points in 22 games.

With no NHL schedule, Galchenyuk can continue to succeed without any distracting debate over where he should be playing.

Without the 2012-13 season to answer these questions, what do you think:

1. Are the Canadiens tough enough?
2. What are your thoughts on Markov?
3. Is Desharnais for real?
4. Is Therrien the man for the job?
5. Will Galchenyuk really benefit from the lockout?

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Sean is a freelance writer currently contributing to HabsAddict.com. He is also a regular blogger and frequent panelist on the Habs post game show at MontrealHockeyTalk.com You can follow Sean on Twitter.

5 comments:

For the 2002 series, yes Therrien blew some of it, but to blame the lost all on his behalf, (not that you do, you don't) is forgetting the the Habs best player at the time got injured in the same game, not to return in that series. And, if I recall, the habs at the time, were so goes Koivu so goes the Habs, They just didn't have the depth to compete, so, yes Therrien contributed to loose one game, but the rest of the series was more of a lack of hockey personnel.

UP front Habs are tough enough Sean, but on back end, NO!
Subban, Diaz, Gorges, Kaberle, Markov are all fairly gentle and smallish. And even Yemelin is not a crease clearer, so really have little to say deter mugging of #31, nor stand up for teammates, a la Mara.

Markov can stay or go, no biggie after this year.

DD is for real and a very smart player, "high IQ"

Terrian may be mediocre pick, from a shallow pool, not my choice for sure.

AG will neither benefit nor be worse off, stikc him on wing next fall and let him go!

Good article.
1. Are the Canadiens tough enough?
-Before the 3 aquisitons, the habs did get bigger by adding Cole and Pacioretty as a regular. We also get Travis Moen back this year plus a Healthy Ryan White. Once Tinordi comes in the line up we will be a big skilled team. we are close thought.

2. What are your thoughts on Markov?
- Not too much faith left but little optimism. Might be time to spend the 5.5 million on something younger!

3. Is Desharnais for real?
- Watching him play last year he didnt look like a fluke. Good hands and good vision with good patience. He needs wingers who can finish.

4. Is Therrien the man for the job?
- No clue?!!?!?

5. Will Galchenyuk really benefit from the lockout?
-Yes, he will benefit a lot and I think we are already seeing the benefits of it. My question now is with Gali, Leblanc, Eller, Plek, Desh.... who is the odd mad out or maybe trade plek and desh for star winger or a caliber 1st line center for a 1 - 2 punch with Galy

1. I agree with an earlier comment, offensive grit will do but the defensive grit is definitely lacking.

2. I have been waiting far too long for him and have grown apathetic towards having him back. Glad he only has one year left after the current year.

3. He has proven throughout his career that he gets better the more time he has. His 60 point season was a very bright spot last year and I expect more from whenever the nhl resumes. I think next year will really tell what type of player he will be in the future.

4. I am a hardcore Toronto Blue Jays fan and the re-signing of John Gibbons has me excited and so does this signing of therrien. I believe both with prove to be positive acquisitions to their respective teams.

5. I like that he's back in the OHL but I believe that going to an NHL camp to start the season is a huge learning experience and would benefit any player in that situation. Still glad to see him in the OHL rather than the NHL.

Is he eligible to play in the AHL next season or would he have to return to the OHL, if he wasnt on the NHL roster?

From what I've heard he won't be eligible for the AHL. Although the way things are going it shouldn't matter. I don't see Gally playing anywhere other than with the Habs in 2013-14

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