Friday, August 31, 2012

Montreal Canadiens Grades, CBA Talks, Gallagher, Eberle and More

Brandon Prust - Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers
Good AM Hab fans!

Recently, Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated has been doling out grades to the 30 NHL teams for their off-season performance.

Naturally, teams like the Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes ranked near the top of the class.

As for the Montreal Canadiens, they were given a B-minus by Mr. Muir.

The Habs did not make a huge splash in any one area, but they did add some sandpaper, retained some key players and held a widely praised draft.

I would certainly give that a B myself. What about you? How would you grade Habs' management this summer?

Habs and Hockey News

- As it turns out, no CBA talks were held yesterday. Apparently, they are slated to resume today - Friday. The aforementioned Allan Muir has some notes about the discussions and other league happenings.

- Habs Eyes on the Prize continue their countdown of the organization's top players under 25. Today, they focus on diminutive winger Brendan Gallagher.

- The Edmonton Oilers have locked-up winger Jordan Eberle to a six-year, $36 million exension.

- Over at The Hockey News, Ryan Kennedy profiles the ever-underdog Columbus Blue Jackets.

- Here is a story I did not know about. Three forwards for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds's were recently charged and are not attending their team's training camp. Rather, as per USA Today, the trio is attending counselling.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images North America)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rene Bourque Injured, NHLPA to Respond, Women in NHL 13 and More

Hayley Wickenheiser - Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at the UBC Thunderbird Arena
Good morning hockey fans!

This is easily one of my favorite stories in a long while.

Video game publisher has Electronic Arts has decided to include Hayley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero as playable legends in the upcoming NHL 13.

Legends?

Damn straight they are.

Habs and Hockey News

- Rene Bourque will miss eight to 12 weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery. Even if the season begins on schedule, I get the feeling this is not crippling news for Habs management. After all, someone like Louis Leblanc could easily fill his spot on a short term basis.

- The NHLPA is set to respond to the NHL's latest CBA offer. While both sides seem style far apart, some visible progress is being made. And, if you are looking for more optimism, Patrick Roy says he doesn't even believe there will be a lockout.

- Kyle Turris signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract extension with the Ottawa Senators. Also, a few days ago the Sens signed first round pick Cody Ceci to an ELC.

- Over at Sports Illustrated, Allan Muir grades the off-season moves of the Western Conference teams. Guess who got an A?

- The sale of the Phoenix Coyotes continues to stall. Big surprise, I know.


(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sam Pollock, NHL's New Offer, Tomas Kaberle, Trading Cards and More

Good AM Hockey Fans!

More and more, we are hearing talk of players' potential "Plan Bs" should there be a lockout this season.

In 2004-05, players largely fled to Europe, not only populating the continent's top circuits — Sweden, Finland and Switzerland — but also going to more unusual hockey markets such as France, Italy and Norway.

I suppose that, if you had a year to play in any league on the planet, you might use that opportunity to work and live a beat of the beaten hockey track.

Where would chose to go?

Habs and Hockey News

- Our Derek Lachine takes a cool look back at Sam Pollock's manoeuvring to bring Guy Lafleur to the Habs. Clearly, this kind of stuff would not happen nowadays.

- HabsWorld continues their Fantasy Focus series, today resting their attention on the less-than-popular Tomas Kaberle. Personally, I liked his acquisition and, with 22 points in 43 games, he did his part offensively even though the powerplay never clicked.

- Hockey Inside/Out look at the still unsigned P.K Subban.

- The Hockey News has a video interview with Nathan Beaulieu.

- The NHL's top prospects — including Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk — were in Toronto to shoot photos for 2012-13 trading cards.

- Gary Bettman and the NHL owners have submitted a new, less demanding proposal to the NHLPA. Still something the PA is likely to reject, the cap demands are far less onerous.

- The IIHF interview Marc Crawford, who recently signed a two-year deal to coach the Zurich Lions.

- THN's Rory Bolen shares his thoughts on a variety of subjects, including Taylor Hall's new deal and the CBA.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Developing for the Future - A Look Back at the 'Trade'

With Max Pacioretty’s six-year contract extension in the books, Marc Bergevin has continued to lock-up his young core that promises to make the Montréal Canadiens a formidable opponent in the coming years. Add to that a much-deserved extension for Trevor Timmins— Director of player procurement and development for the past 11 seasons — and the future looks bright for Bergevin’s club.

Such a holdover from the previous regime hints at a specific focus on player development, and after a draft that saw prime, young talent added to Montréal’s already improved prospect pool, Timmins’s new title as ‘Director of amateur scouting’ suggests a move towards a Pollockian era that would see old, veteran bodies shipped out for high draft picks.

It would be nice to see aging and offensively inept veterans swapped for prospects and high draft picks. Just imagine waking up tomorrow to learn of deals involving Rene Bourque, Tomas Kaberle and Scott Gomez. In Montréal, the reaction would be of utter, euphoric joy. Across the hockey world, such deals would ignite laughter and confusion, similar to the sentiments shared during the initial transactions.

Yet unfortunately for Habs fans, the modern NHL — the salary cap world — deters financially stable teams from shipping off prized draft picks for temporary band-aids. Though these types of deals spontaneously occur — Bob Gainey, Scott Gomez, Ryan McDonagh — to really appreciate a good ol’ fashioned fleecing, look no further than the legendary Sam Pollock.

It’s no secret to any knowledgeable Canadiens fan, that when forced to choose the best GM in Montréal’s storied history, Pollock’s name immediately comes to mind.

And with a second NHL lockout in the past ten years looming, sometimes it’s best to look back to a dynasty instead of forwards to an inevitable lockout.

The year, 1970, the primary focus, the 1971 NHL Entry Draft. In a 12-team league, it was relatively easy to separate the bottom feeders from the cream, and during the 1970-71 regular season, Pollock looked towards Oakland and planned for the future.

Why? In the late 60s and early 70s, a teenager from Thurso, Québec was making noise for the Québec Remparts. Amassing 170 points in his final season in Québec, Guy Lafleur was a young prospect that seemed destined to dominate the NHL for a decade, and with it all but inevitable for the woeful Los Angeles Kings to finish in the cellar, Pollock schemed and manoeuvred his way into the first-overall selection in the 1971 NHL Entry Draft.

The draft, and more so the events that led up to it, helped paint Pollock as one of the greatest and most creative General Managers in NHL history. Here’s the short-form of how the Canadiens wound up with Hall-of-Famer and NHL legend, Guy Lafleur.

Prior to Lafleur’s draft year, Pollock managed to convince the California Golden Seals to swap their first-round pick and Francois Lacombe for Montréal’s and Ernie Hicke. With the Seals finishing fourth in their division and ahead of the Kings a season earlier, the trade bettered Pollock’s chances in drafting Lafleur. But Pollock didn’t stop there.

With the 1970-71 season in full swing, much to the chagrin of Pollock, the Kings were beating out the Seals for the basement title, a battle that would force Montréal’s GM to craft another trade that would help Los Angeles ascend the standings and leave the Canadiens with the No. 1 overall selection, and more importantly, the chance to draft Lafleur.

As a result, on January 26, 1971, Pollock sent scoring centre Ralph Backstrom to the Kings for Gord Labossiere and Ray Fortin for the sole purpose of improving the Kings roster and thus helping them overtake the Seals in the standings and ensure the number one overall pick for Pollock’s Canadiens.

Pollock ended up with the first selection and despite an initial sense of hesitancy — Marcel Dionne was also eligible to be taken in the 1971 NHL Entry Draft — he chose Lafleur with the Seals’ pick.

In the modern-day NHL, such a trade, especially for a high-end draft pick with franchise potential, is nearly impossible to come by. In comparison to Pollock’s Lafleur deal, imagine hearing of a lowly team like Columbus, with — hypothetically speaking — the first overall selection in the 2013 NHL Draft and the opportunity to select either Nathan Mackinnon or Seth Jones, trades it away for a fringe NHL forward and a middle-of-the-pack first round draft pick.

Such a transaction would cripple a franchise’s fan base.

In terms of economics, and in the salary cap era, small-market and even big-market teams depend on cheap, high-end production. There isn’t any better opportunity to acquire that type of player than through the draft. And when it comes to drafting players, as Canadiens fans have become well aware of recently, the ability to properly develop them becomes a monumental task for any management team.

Fortunately, when Bergevin put his finishing touches on the Habs’ front office, adding names like Martin Lapointe — director of player development — and a familiar face in Patrice Briseboi s—player development coach — he placed a special focus on progress and growth in Montréal’s budding prospect pool that will hopefully speed up the development process and help them better understand the physical and mental demands of the NHL.


---
Derek is a Queen’s University student, contributing writer for OTwinner, HabsAddict.com, and freelance journalist for print magazine SportsXpress. His passion for the Canadiens was solidified on April 9, 2002, when Saku Koivu returned from Burkitt’s lymphoma and became an emblem of perseverance and strength.

Follow Derek on Twitter

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

NHL to Make Offer, Plan Bs, Time For Phoenix Coyotes and More

Gary Bettman - Stanley Cup Final Media Availability
Good AM hockey fans!

Talks between the NHL and NHLPA are set to resume today, with the NHL reportedly getting ready to present a new offer.

Part of me fully expects some form of lockout at this point. But I also harbour this foolishly optimistic notion that the League could present a decent proposal, a starting point from which to work from.

Wishful thinking, no doubt.

Habs and Hockey News 

- Speaking of potential lockouts, a few more players have spoken out on their potential plans should their be a lockout. ESPN's Morning Links also features a few stories on the subject.

- Seems potential Phoenix Coyotes owner Greg Jamison still needs more time to finalize his attempt to purchase the beleaguered franchise. This is truly turning into the Neverending Story....

- The Hockey News wraps up its annual predictions, revealing their pick for top spot in each conference. Speaking of predictions, USA Today compares the ever-connected Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings. Their conclusion? Nashville should come out on top.

- Habs Eyes On The Prize continues its look at the best Canadiens under 25, today looking at number ten, Sebastien Collberg.

- Here is quirky story out of Sweden, courtesy of USA Today. Apparently, a star in Sweden's Third Division intentionally punched his coach, therefore being released from his contract with the team which in turn allowed him to sign in the Second Division. In any case, the story is worth reading — especially for the pun at the end of it.

- Finally, don't forget to look at Amos Legault's interesting retrospective on the NHL's old goaltending rules.


(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Montreal Canadiens Uniform, Old Rules, Brandon Prust and More

Happy Monday Hab fans!

A few days ago, ESPN's Uni Watch released its ranking of uniforms for the four major North American sports. 

Who had the best jersey? 

The Montreal Canadiens, of course. 

Conversely, the NBA's Sacramento Kings were deemed as having the worst. As for the NHL, the Colorado Avalanche's set is considered the least appealing.

As for Canadian teams, the Edmonton Oilers were ranked 104th out of 121. Not exactly stellar. Personally, I wish they would bring back this logo

What do you think? Which NHL teams have the prettiest and ugliest uni's? 

Hockey and Habs news

- Our Amos Legault takes an insightful and humorous look at some of the NHL's old rules for goaltenders. Honestly, some of the rules seem pretty silly under today's standards.

- Hockey Inside/Out looks at how Brandon Prust will be missed by his former New York Rangers teammates. 

- HabsWorld's Fantasy Focus continues with looks at both Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges

- CBA talks will resume this Tuesday and the NHL will reportedly be tabling a new offer. Meanwhile, Adrian Dater of Sports Illustrated dissects the similarities between the 2004-05 negotiations and the current ones

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Revisiting The NHL Rules Of Old: Goaltending

Beginning this Tuesday, the NHL will be digging through some video of hooking, holding and interference penalties that were administered last season.

The goal for Colin Campbell — Director of Hockey Operations — as well as some select general managers and coaches is to try and determine a standard on the implementation of interference penalties.

As the "think tank"— as Campbell calls it —gets set to tighten up ship, I thought I'd take a brief trip back to some interesting rules of old.

In considering our penalties and the tweaking of them, would we do well to take a page from the history books?

Goaltending

In regards to netminding, the very first change to the original rules was in the 1917-18 season. Originally, a penalty would be called on the goalie for dropping to the ice to make a save at any time. It wasn't until that season that they were permitted to do so.

Could you imagine? Carey Price would be giving Steve Ott a serious run for his money in the PIMs department.

Concern of a decrease in action and goal scoring goes as far back as the early twenties. One of the first examples of this was in 1921, where goalies were finally allowed to pass the puck up to a player, but only as far as his own blueline.

This may or may not have coincided with defense becoming the lazy man's first choice of position in beer leagues.

A more direct approach came with the first limit set for a goalie's pad width. Starting in the 1925-26 season, twelve inches was as thick as you could have them, and it was further reduced to ten inches in 1927.

The nineteen-thirties saw some familiar first incarnations of rules we see today, including penalties for doing the Sean Avery and obstructing a goalie's vision or movement.

What's more interesting though are the strange ones, which included things like the goaltender cannot advance more than one foot from his goal-line when a shot is taken (1934-35) or each team must have only one goaltender playing at one time (1931-32).

And rightly so! Imagine two Dominik Haseks flopping all over the place? It'd be absolute mayhem.

That's using the old noodle, fellas. The NHL: always a step ahead of everyone's tricks.

As for the 'one foot from the goal-line' rule, I'd like to imagine that goalkeepers were doing all kinds of outrageous things to stop attackers from even getting shots off in the first place.

Though I suspect it was mostly frequent rushing and challenging of the shooter that lead to the rule.

More chances, more breakaways, more shots, more goals, more fans, more money.

Perhaps the most interesting item I came across in regards to goalies was that they used to serve their own penalties. So, if Price delays the game, Peter Budaj gets thrown in nets for a penalty kill— this of course being when teams were eventually required to dress two goalies, which wasn't always the case.

How interesting would that make games, especially in the playoffs ?

As goalies were penalized a lot more often then, the back-up would see more action, and on a game-by-game basis.

Oh, but there's one tiny catch...

As a rule implemented in 1939 states, if you were the back-up, you were only allowed to use a goaltender's gloves and a stick. That's it.

Food for thought!

Next up, the Attackers and Rearguards portion of our trip back in time.
---
Amos is freelance writer and columnist who covers prospects for HabsAddict.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or email him at alegault@gmail.com

(Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images North America)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Negotiation News, Young Habs, Free Agents, CHL and More

Yannick Weber - Montreal Canadiens v Buffalo Sabres
Good AM!

Wow. I know this is not hockey related, but it is quite the bombshell that Lance Armstrong has given up his fight against the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) and now runs the risk of being striped of his Tour de France titles.

I'm not at all sure what to make of this news. But, although I don't care about cycling at all, I somehow find this to be both an intriguing and disheartening tale.

Anyway, enough of my coffee-less ramblings. Off to to the news.

Habs and Hockey News

- Hockey Inside/Out looks back at the 2004-04 Lockout. As for 2012, the league and players met again briefly yesterday and more meetings are scheduled for next week. Stu Hackel at Sports Illustrated wonders if a stalemate is at hand?

- Eyes on the Prize continues its countdown of the best Montreal Canadiens under 25 years old.

- The boys at ESPN discuss the best free-agent acquisitions of the summer.

-  Adam Proteau of The Hockey News discusses the creation of a CHL Players Association. Also over at THN, their daily predictions continue, this time looking at number three and four in each conference.

- Finally, as if the Columbus Blue Jackets were not already enough of a farce, Kristian Huselius is blaming the organization for his slow recovery from a chest muscle injury.


(Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images North America)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Arm Chair GM, Taylor Hall Extension, Talks Cancelled and More

Taylor Hall - Edmonton Oilers v Phoenix Coyotes
Hola Hockey fans!

It's kind of funny that some of the owners claim to be losing money, especially when small market teams like the Edmonton Oilers start tossing significant amounts of cash around.

As you probably know, they just signed Taylor Hall to a seven-year, $42 million extension. That represents a $6 million cap hit.

Obviously, some teams need help, but at this point it feels like the NHL is crying wolf.

Habs and Hockey News

Bryan Willey plays arm chair GM with the Montreal Canadiens and makes some pretty interesting trades.

- Rene Bourque is the topic of HabsWorld's Fantasy Focus series today. Also, be sure to Sean Lloyd's profile on the winger.

- Eric Engels has some notes on the Montreal Canadiens.

- Josh Gorges was apparently vocal at a recent NHLPA meeting. As for actual CBA negotiations, some talks were held yesterday, but the main session was cancelled. They should resume as planned today. Meanwhile, at Sports Illustrated, Stu Hackel breaks down why some owners are so staunchly opposed to revenue sharing.

- Antero Nittymaki is returning home and has signed to play with TPS Turku is the Finnish league. If that team sounds familiar to some of you, that's because Saku and Mikko Koivu played there as well.


(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Time for Marc Bergevin to Put His Imprint on the Montreal Canadiens

Marc Bergevin - 2012 NHL Entry Draft - Round One
Although I am usually a pessimistic voice when it come to the Montreal Canadiens, I must admit that when it comes to the work carried out by Marc Bergevin, I find it oddly difficult to complain.

I have been the consummate advocate against the Habs management, or should I say the lack thereof.  For the better part of a decade, the General Manager, whether Bob Gainey or Pierre Gauthier, seemed to live in a world of his own, with a supposed plan which resulted in an apparent lack of direction. Ultimately, this created confusion for the coaching staff and the players.

Draft picks, prospects and rookies alike were mishandled. Players were sometimes rushed to the NHL, others left rotting in the minors while the majority were scratching their heads trying to figure out things on their own.

As hockey fans, we heard stories of players like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin or Jeff Skinner being nurtured by the organization that drafted them. They were invited to live with key players, taught how to eat, train and live away from the ice. They were given every luxury needed for them to succeed.

In Montreal, however, there was a perception of almost being abandoned. How many stories have we collectively heard of the involvement of the Kostitsyn brothers with the Russian Mob, or Carey Price out late partying up a storm?

Way too many to count.

Insert Marc Bergevin. How can I complain about a man who, despite being hired just a little over two months ago, has completely revamped his coaching, management and player personnel departments.

Bergevin has inserted a team of hard working, character guys throughout all levels of this organization. He has expanded the group of amateur scouts and player development personnel. Now, the team has a complete staff of individuals who, as a collective, will help mold young assets.

And, eventually, these individuals will help turn prospects and picks into character, NHL calibre players. To me, this was a crucial step if the Montreal Canadiens ever wanted to regain their form as an elite NHL franchise.

Despite this, Twitter and Facebook alike are screaming with fans who want more.

To them I say, sure, more could have been done in terms of player movement. The Habs could have traded this player or could have offered $7.5 million per season for Shane Doan. But, in my books, in order to excel on the ice, we need a team that excels off of it.

Having said that, with off ice improvements largely taken care of, it’s now time for Marc Bergevin to make this team his own.

I would have to think that the only thing holding Bergevin back is the uncertainty of not having a season in 2012-13.

Can you imagine the embarrassment of parting ways with a highly touted prospect like Jarred Tinordi in exchange for a player like Ryan Getzlaf only to watch him depart as a UFA at the end of the year because of a lockout?

Maybe I am off my rocker on this one, but you'd have to think that it is the only thing holding Bergevin back right now, because there is simply no chance that the current roster will be the one iced at the start of the season. There are just too many holes.

For me there are five glaring issues: a lack of top end left wingers, a lack of right handed d-man capable of top-four minutes, a lack of physicality on defense, a 24 man roster and, of course, Scott Gomez.

The belief is that the final two issues go together. Scott Gomez will find himself in Hamilton for the start of this season, thereby reducing the roster to the appropriate 23 men, and saving the Habs $7.4 million in cap space.

Personally, I do not see that happening. I firmly believe that Gomez will be part of the opening day roster, thereby making Michael Blunden the odd man out, but that’s a whole other debate, isn’t it?

Instead I want to look at how to address the top three issues: left wingers, right handed D and additional physicality.

Are you an Arm Chair GM?

We all like to play arm chair GM.

It’s the aspect of hockey that I enjoy most. Where most kids dream of one day being an NHL player, for me it was always being an NHL GM.

Personally, I play NHL '12 almost every single day and, at any given time, have about five seasons going on at once.  One season has the actual roster for the year and then four seasons include a complete roster shake up.

I just destroy the team, keeping a handful of players, primarily Subban, Price and Pacioretty. Then, I just completely revamp the team to my liking and include some of my favourite players.

So, as the consummate Arm Chair GM here is my solution to the Canadiens roster for 2012-13:

Trade 1: Montreal trades Brian Gionta to the New jersey Devils in exchange for Anton Volchenkov.

Analysis:  The Devils are looking for a veteran presence with goal scoring ability to fill the void left by Zack Parise's departure. Gionta’s familiarity with the Devils' locker room, on-ice production and leadership qualities would be highly welcome by New Jersey.

Montreal would secure another big physical defensemen with above average shot blocking abilities who, although left handed, has played the majority of his career on the right side. Trading Gionta would also free up a right winger roster spot allowing Rene Bouque to return to his natural position.

Trade 2: Montreal trades Tomas Kaberle and a fourth round draft pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Daniel Cleary.

Analysis:. The Detroit Red Wings are in need of a defensemen given the loss of Brad Stuart and Niklas Lidstrom. Although Kaberle is not an elite player, he remains a great puck moving defensemen who will profit from the high octane offense of the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings have a history of rejuvenating the careers of players like Larry Murphy, Chris Chelios, Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and others. Tomas Kaberle should be no different.

Montreal would gain the character, grit and leadership that Daniel Cleary brings. He is also an elite penalty killer capable of playing all three forward positions. More importantly, the loss of Kaberle would free up cap space and a roster spot on the blueline.

Trade 3: Montreal trades Rafael Diaz, Danny Kristo and a second round pick obtained from Nashville to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Brendan Morrow.

Analysis:  The cash strapped Dallas Stars would free valuable cap space and add some youth to both the defense and forward units.

Montreal would secure the services of a player they have long coveted and reinforces a position where they desperately need reinforcements.

Overall, Montreal would lose Gionta, Kaberle, Diaz — who make a combined $10.5 million —Kirsto and a couple of draft picks. They would be replaced by Morrow, Volchenkov and Cleary who make a combined $11.35 million.

My team for the start of the 2012-13 season would be:

Pacioretty-Desharnais-Cole
Morrow-Plekanec-Bourque
Moen-Eller-Cleary
Prust-White-Armstrong
Nokelainen

Markov-Volchenkov
Gorges-Subban
Bouillon-Emelin
Weber

Price
Budaj

Although the Canadiens would get slightly older, they would add some additional leadership, some grit, and wiggle room by acquiring two contracts expiring at season's end.

Like I said, it's fun to play Arm Chair GM!

---
Bryan is a Marketer by day, writer for HabsAddict.com by night and full time fan of the game. Follow me on twitter @BryanWilley78 but don't bother looking for me on Facebook, I'm just too old for that now!

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Andrei Markov in Court, Talks Resume, CHL Union and More

Andrei Markov - Montreal Canadiens v Carolina Hurricanes
Good AM!

Funny. The other day I was commenting on the seemingly inordinate amount of legal proceedings involving NHL figures.

Lo and behold, we can now add one more to that list, this time featuring the Montreal Canadiens own Andrei Markov.

Turns out he is suing an insurance broker whom he alleges profited from Markov's limited English for his own personal gain.

Habs and Hockey News

- Talks between the NHL and NHLPA resume today.

- CHL players have launched their own union, the CHLPA, and have named Georges Laraque its Executive Director. Not entirely sure why a bunch of 16 to 20 year old players need their own union. They seem well treated enough, get money for college and are starts withing their own communities. And they get to play hockey. No offense, but that sure beats working at Metro like I did.

- The Hockey News continues its predictions, looking at numbers five and six in each conference.

- HabsWorld offers another Fantasy Focus piece, projecting Travis Moen's potential 2012-13 performance. Speaking of Moen, don't forget to check out Sean Lloyd's profile on the player.


(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Max Pacioretty's New Deal, Hartnell Signs, Danton Denied and More

Max Pacioretty - Montreal Canadiens v Calgary Flames
Hello Hab fans!

It was reported yesterday that the Philadelphia Flyers signed Scott Hartnell to a six-year, $28.5 million contract extension. Said extension will have an average cap hit of $4.75 million and will take the hard-nosed winger to his 37th birthday.

As Mike Obrand, aka Habs Laughs, pointed out on Twitter, it sure makes Max Pacioretty's extension look like gold.

After all, it is doubtful Hartnell will be as effective in the final couple of years of his deal, especially considering his rather rough style of play. And, while he had 37 goals last year, that seems more like an anomaly than the norm.

Pacioretty, who has a similar deal in his back pocket, is much younger and possesses a much higher ceiling.

Habs and Hockey News

- Did you know it was Toe Blake's 100th birthday today? Hockey Inside/Out has a story on the legendary Canadien.

- Mike Boone of the Gazette looks at Habs' fans ever hopeful nature.

- Even if you only follow RDS occasionally, I suspect you know that Patrick Roy is joining their nightly debate show l'Antichambre. After all, they have been promoting the heck out of it.

- Mike Danton was denied an entry visa into England. He was heading over there to play with the Coventry Blaze of the EIHL, Great Britain's top ice hockey circuit.

- Former Ottawa Senator Mike Fisher signed a two-year extension with the Nashville Predators.

- Amidst all of the CBA talk, the NHL is also holding a rules summit this week. Namely, the standard for interference, holding and hooking penalties will be looked at.

(Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images North America)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Predicting the Montreal Canadiens, Top Prospects, New Jersey Devils and More

Kyle Chipchura MONTREAL- JANUARY 8:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his thrid period goal with team mates during the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 08, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.   The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Max Pacioretty;Mike Komisarek;Josh Gorges;Kyle Chipchura;Robert Lang
Good morning Hab fans!

As of this writing, I must say, it is a quiet morning on the news front.

So, let me ask a question to start off our week.

We have been following The Hockey News' daily standing predictions and last week they slotted our beloved Montreal Canadiens in 13th place.

Do you think the Habs will do better than that? Where do you think Marc Bergevin's team will finish in 2012-13?

Habs and Hockey News

- Eyes on the Prize takes its annual look at the top Canadiens players under 25, today looking at recent draft pick Dalton Thrower.

- In case you missed it, Hockey's Future release its top 20 Montreal Canadiens prospects about ten days ago.

- Stu Hackel discusses the recent financial predicament of the New Jersey Devils. Faceoff.com also covered the story a few days ago.

- Jack Todd comments on Gary Bettman's apparent love of lockouts. Between that and Donald Fehr's penchant for strikes, it will be a minor miracle if the season starts on time — if at all.


(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dany Heatley Goes to Court, Max Pacioretty Fantasy Projection, Team Canada and More

Dany Heatley - Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche
Happy Sunday!

Is it just me, or is the Summer of 2012 chock full of legal proceedings involving NHL figures?

The Nashville Predators are being sued for a failed "Flying Puck" stunt. Now, if you thought being a flying puck was devoid of any injury risk, you are kind of stupid in my opinion, but I digress.

Elsewhere, Bob Murray and colleagues are currently defending themselves against assault charges.

And, finally, it was reported yesterday that Dany Heatley is brining his former agent to court on charges of fraud. Travis Yost at HockeyBuzz takes a detailed look at the case.

I suppose in an offseason focused on CBA talks, all of these legal happenings are befitting.

Habs and Hockey News

- HabsWorld's Fantasy Focus series continues, this time making projections for the newly extended Max Pacioretty.

- New York Islanders (for now) defensemen Lubomir Vishnovsky was in a car accident but is reportedly uninjured.

-  Team Canada won its fifth straight U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Super prospect Nathan Mackinnon had a hat trick in the game.


(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Canadiens Extend Timmins, New Scouts, Hanaan and More

Trevor Timmins - 2009 NHL Entry Draft, First Round
Happy Saturday Hab fans!

Yesterday, Marc Bergevin continued his significant retooling of the the front office, extending Trevor Timmins contract and adding Donald Audette and Mark Mowers as scouts.

Clearly, scouting is a priority for Bergevin. Not only have five scouts been added this summer, but Martin Lapointe was hired to help relieve Timmins of some of his player development duties.

For all of the on-ice moves made this summer, it is perhaps these behind-the-scene changes that will have the longest lasting impact.

Habs and Hockey News

- HabsWorld's story on the Timmins extension.

- The Nashville Predators signed Scott Hanaan to a one-year, $1 million deal. Good depth move.

- Amidst the recent focus on CBA talks, Stu Hackel reminds us that the on-ice aspects of the game are also being worked on.

- Bob Murray testified in court, defending himself against assault charges.



(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Press Release - Contract Extension for Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins

MONTRÉAL (August 17, 2012) – Montreal Canadiens Executive vice president and general manager, Marc Bergevin, announced today the contract extension of Trevor Timmins as director of amateur scouting. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The Club also announced the appointment of Donald Audette as amateur scout in Quebec, as well as Mark Mowers as professional scout (Eastern Conference).

“The Montreal Canadiens organization is very proud of the work that Trevor Timmins has done in terms of player scouting and development over his time with the team, and we are very happy to count on his services for years to come. We agree with Trevor and his group on the necessity of adding an amateur scout in Quebec, and we are pleased to welcome Donald Audette, who will now occupy this position for the team. Donald has vast experience to lend to the position, both from his NHL/Canadiens playing days and from his time in a management role in the Midget AAA circuit, where he added to his knowledge and skills through his involvement with Hockey Québec and Hockey Canada ” said Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.

Trevor Timmins, who completed in 2011-12 his 11th season with the Canadiens, is responsible for overseeing and directing the Canadiens’ amateur scouting system, including the annual NHL Entry Draft and amateur free-agent recruitment. Under his guidance the Canadiens have drafted, among others, Alexei Emelin, Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Yannick Weber and Ryan White. A native of Almonte, Ontario, Timmins started his career as a manager in the NHL in 1992 with the Ottawa Senators.

Donald Audette enjoyed a 15-year career in the NHL, suiting up for six teams, including three with the Canadiens from 2001 to 2004. Audette played 735 career games totaling 509 points (260 goals, 249 assists) and 584 penalty minutes. He also participated in 73 playoff contests, recording 48 points (21 goals, 27 assists) and 46 penalty minutes. Donald Audette played his junior hockey with the Laval Titan in the QMJHL between 1986 and 1989, recording 309 points (141 goals and 168 assists) in 199 games. Drafter in the ninth round, 183rd overall by the Buffalo Sabres at the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, he began his professional hockey career at age 20 with Buffalo’s AHL farm team, the Rochester Americans. He played one full season with Rochester before making it to the NHL in 1990-91.

Now 42, Donald Audette will begin in 2012-13 his third season with the Phénix du Collège Esther-Blondin in the Ligue de hockey midget AAA du Québec, as governor and general manager. Very involved within Hockey Québec and Hockey Canada, he will serve as head coach of Team Québec at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, to be held in Victoriaville and Drummondville (Québec) from December 29, 2012 and January 4, 2013. Audette was invited as a coach at Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp, from last August 3 to 6 at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto.

In seven seasons in the NHL, Mark Mowers produced 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) in 278 regular season games. Born in Decatur, Georgia, the centre suited up for Nashville, Detroit, Boston and Anaheim. Now 38, Mowers retired from hockey after the 2010-11 season, as a member of Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss National League.

Andrei Markov Profile, Backup Plans, Labor Uncertainty and More

Andrei Markov - Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens
Good AM!

Our Sean Lloyd returns with his profile series this week, looking at the oft injured Andrei Markov.

In his excellent piece, he asks about who should be paired with Markov.

But I have another query: do you actually believe he will remain relatively healthy for a change?

Habs and Hockey News

- The HabsWorld crew weighs in on Max Pacioretty's recent extension.

- Given the increasing unease around CBA negotiations, many players are slowly starting to make contingency plans should the NHL season not start on time. As mentioned yesterday, there are conflicting reports about Joe Thornton and Rick Nash returning to HC Davos. Meanwhile, RDS reports on the intentions of a few of the Quebecois currently in the league. Personally, I would go play in France. Why? Because I think French girls are cute. And don't think I'm just being silly. Thornton met his wife in Davos.

- The current labor uncertainty is already having tangible impacts. The Traverse City prospect tournament has been cancelled and progress regarding the Phoenix Coyotes has slowed.

- The Hockey News continues its predictions, revealing numbers seven and eight in each conference.


(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Montreal Canadiens Offseason Player Profile: Andrei Markov

Andrei Markov - D
6'0" 207 lbs
2011-12 Stats 13GP- 0G- 3A- 13Pts- -4

The Cost

Andrei Markov is heading into year two of a three year contract worth $5.75 million.

When signed, many felt it was a crazy deal seeing as how his knee had caused him to miss all but seven games in 2010-11 . In 2009-10, he played a scant 37 games only to be re-injured in the playoffs, limiting him to eight games during their unexpected playoff run which saw them reach the conference finals, where they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.

However, in the 45 games Markov appeared in that season, he earned 34 points with a +11 rating. Markov even had four points in his limited playoff presence.

It's no secret that if Markov can stay healhy he will be worth every penny.

Performance

With Markov limited to just 13 games, it's tough to gauge his performance. The team was 4-3-6 with him in the lineup but was also without goaltender Carey Price for nine of those contests.

Even if you put aside the fact that the team was playing without it's starting goaltender — and that the team was capping off a season from hell — it's hard to fully rate his performance.

After missing such a significant amount of time on the ice it takes time, even for someone with Markov's talent, to get back into the swing of things. Markov did average 18:00 minutes of ice time upon his return but is more used to around 24:00 minutes per game.

The Fit

If healthy, Markov will have an impact at both ends of the ice. As the top powerplay unit's quarterback, his unique vision, accurate passing and trademark backdoor slot rush will no doubt improve the team's effectiveness with the extra man.

Markov will have quite a few possibilities of partners along the blueline when the season opens in October against the Senators.

The veteran blueliner has had plenty of success in the past with Josh Gorges and will more than likely be teamed with him again. However it's fun to picture him patrolling the back end with fellow Russian, Alexei Emelin.

With Markov's experience and hockey I.Q., Emelin would be free to step out of posistion on occassion to crush an opposing player knowing that he's got one of the league's best watching his back.

Subban would be another possibility, although their offensive similarities will more than likely keep them from being partnered up. The two should see some time together on the PP though with Markov setting P.K. up for some ridiculously wound up one-timers.

What are your thoughts on Markov? Who would you like to see him paired with, and will he live up to his price tag?

---
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.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images North America)

Luca Ciampini invited to Habs Camp, Wayne Simmonds Extension, Wide Gap and More

Donald Fehr - Tampa Bay Rays v Philadelphia Phillies
Good AM Hockey fans!

I was reading about the NHLPA's latest CBA proposal and one element really struck me: capping front office and coaching spending.

Not the worst idea in the world. After all, if the owners are to cry foul, then everyone should share in the burden, not just the players.

What about you? Do you like the idea?

Habs and Hockey News

- The Montreal Canadiens have invited Halifax Moosehead forward Luca Ciampini to training camp next month.

- The Philadelphia Flyers have reportedly signed Wayne Simmonds to a six-year extension.

- Rick Nash and Joe Thornton will reportedly play for HC Davos if the NHL season does not begin on time. Both played there ins 2004-2005, helping the Swiss squad to both a league and Spengler Cup championship.

- Gary Bettman feels a wide gap remains between the NHL's and the NHLPA's position. Stu Hackel at Sports Illustrated offers an excellent dissection of the situation. Meanwhile, at The Hockey News, Adam Proteau looks at Donald Fehr's attempt to frame these negotiations as an owner versus owner battle.

- THN continues its projections, working their way to the number nine spot in each conference.


(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images North America)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Marc Bergevin Speaks, Western Predictions, Begin, NHLPA and More

Marc Bergevin - Montreal Canadiens Introduce Michel Therrien As New Head Coach
Hello Hab fans!

After signing Max Pacioretty to a six-year, $27 million extension, Marc Bergevin took the time to address the Montreal media.

Namely, Bergevin was quite evasive when it came to P.K Subban.

RDS reported last month that a two-year, $5.5 million was offered and quickly rejected by Subban's camp. "I don't read," Bergevin answered, "I just go about my business."

Also, Bergevin confirmed that the team had interest in UFA Shane Doan but that the forward never came to visit the organization.

Habs and Hockey News 

- Our Fred Poulin delivers the second half of his predictions, this time looking at the NHL's Western Conference.

- There is much reaction to Pacioretty's deal on the web. Our Kamal Panesar chimed in yesterday while Eric Engels comments over at Hockeybuzz. Hockey Inside/Out looks at how Pac wants to model himself after Erik Cole.

- Steve Begin has landed a new gig, getting a tryout with the Calgary Flames, the organization who drafted him way back in 1996.

- HabsWorld's Fantasy Focus series continues with Brian Gionta.

- The NHLPA presented its counter-proposal to the NHL's earlier CBA offer. Stu Hackel comments on the situation at SI.


(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

2012-13 NHL Regular Season Predictions: Western Conference

August is always a time of slow NHL news, especially since the free agency “frenzy” has cooled down and NHL training camps are still about a month away.

However, with a lockout looming over the league and the players—following Gary Bettman’s announcement yesterday that there will be no hockey in October if the NHLPA and the NHL don’t find a way to come to an agreement and renew the current CBA (which is set to expire on September 15, 2012)—the following rankings will most likely change or won't happen at all if the entire season is wiped out!

2012-13 NHL regular season predictions: Western Conference

15. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS = 69 points

After a very difficult season during which the Jackets collected only 65 points, GM Scott Howson was faced with the biggest challenge of his career: trade his captain Rick Nash.

That’s what he finally did on July 23rd, sending him to the Rangers in exchange for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a 1st round pick—not the kind of return Blue Jackets fans were expecting for their franchise player.

With Nash gone, only Vaclav Prospal scored more than 50 points last season among the current Columbus players. It will be hard to win games for the Blue Jackets this season, and despite improving their defensive corps with the acquisition of Jack Johnson and the drafting of Ryan Murray, the season will be very long for head coach Todd Richards.

The tandem of Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky is not the solution in goal.

14. PHOENIX COYOTES = 76 points

The uncertainty regarding the team ownership has caused a lot of headaches to GM Don Maloney this off-season. Veterans Ray Whitney and Adrian Aucoin left via free agency, and support players such as Tom Pyatt and Gilbert Brule signed elsewhere.

Maloney replaced Aucoin’s veteran presence with Zbynek Michalek on the blue line, but up front, the only notable players willing to sign in Phoenix were power-play specialist Steve Sullivan, band-aid boy David Moss and journeyman Nick Johnson...not a lot of firepower.

Yet, the biggest question remains: will captain Shane Doan re-sign with the only franchise he ever played for during his career? With or without Doan, Mike Smith will not repeat last year’s performance and the Coyotes will fall in the standings as a result.

13. CALGARY FLAMES = 80 points

The Flames leaders, Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff, are not getting any younger and Calgary still lacks a true No.1 after the departure of Olli Jokinen via free agency.

GM Jay Feaster solidified his blue line by signing rearguard Dennis Wideman, but failed to address the team’s lack of scoring of last year. He replaced Jokinen’s 61-point production with Jiri Hudler’s 56 points, which is not exactly an improvement, especially since Hudler mostly played wing last season.

Former KHLer Roman Cervenka and prospect Sven Baertschi will certainly provide more offensive support, but it will not be enough to make the playoffs in the very tight Western Conference.

12. NASHVILLE PREDATORS = 82 points

Ryan Suter’s departure via free agency will hurt the Predators more than you realize and with no notable acquisition this off-season, GM David Poile will have to find other ways to give more scoring punch to his head coach Barry Trotz.

Also not returning are troublesome forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, as well as veteran blue-liner Francis Bouillon. Luckily for Trotz, Poile matched the Flyers’ offer sheet for Shea Weber, otherwise they would finish even lower in the rankings. Look for Pekka Rinne to keep the Predators in most games, but he will be on the losing end of them on most nights.

11. EDMONTON OILERS = 85 points

As much as we all want to see the entertaining Oilers make the playoffs and have success, their lack of defensive depth and the instability in net will hurt them this season.

While youngters such as Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov will be interesting to watch and will rack up points for the young Oilers, overpaid veterans like Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky keep disappointing year after year.

On defense, the signature of über-prospect Justin Schultz will certainly help on the power play, but their lack of mobility after Ryan Whitney—who missed 78 games in the past two seasons—is a detriment to the team’s run-and-gun offense. In goal, Devan Dubnyk will get the bulk of the word load while washed-out veteran Nikolai Khabulin plays the last year of his horrible contract.

10. ANAHEIM DUCKS = 88 points

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf will rebound from subpar seasons in 2012-13, but it won’t be enough for the Ducks to make it back to the playoffs. Veterans Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne are not getting any younger, and the Ducks are not very deep at forward.

On defense, Lubomir Visnovsky’s departure will be filled by offensive-minded defender Sheldon Souray, and Bryan Allen will also add some sandpaper on the blue line. In goal, Viktor Fasth will challenge starter Jonas Hiller for playing time.

Ultimately, the Ducks will improve under head coach Bruce Boudreau, but their evident lack of depth will be their demise.

9. COLORADO AVALANCHE = 90 points

The young Avs are certainly in the right direction with a young core of talented players such as Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly.

If Paul Stastny can rediscover his scoring touch and complimentary players such as David Jones, Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn score on a regular basis, the Avalanche will be in the thick of the playoff race until the end.

The team also signed UFA P-A Parenteau to provide more offense.

On the blue line, the team lacks mobility and offensive instincts after Erik Johnson. Veterans like Jan Hedja and Greg Zanon, while good defensively, have a heard time contributing offensively. The goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and J-S Giguere, while good, won’t be enough consistent for the Avalanche to make it back into the spring dance.

8. MINNESOTA WILD = 93 points

With the notable signings of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Wild made the biggest splash of the summer on the free agency market. The two talented players will provide a much-need offensive boost to the goal-starving Wild.

The arrival of talented prospect Mikael Granlund to the existing group of Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi will give the Wild two good scoring lines. Suter’s presence will solidify a young and unproven defensive corps including Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella.

In net, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding are one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Look for a slow start for the Wild as their new players adjust to their surroundings, which is why they will not finish higher.

7. DETROIT RED WINGS = 96 points

The Red Wings are bound to go down the standings after losing Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (free agency). Their departures mean that youngters like Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith will finally get their chance on the thinnest defensive corps the Wings will use in a long time.

At forward, the Wings are still very deep with offensive dynamos like Pavel Datysuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula. Jimmy Howard will be the go-to guy in goal, with former Maple Leaf Jonas Gustavsson backing-up.

6. SAN JOSE SHARKS = 98 points

Gone are the days of total regular season dominance for the Sharks, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton’s performances have dwindled in the past few years.

Dynamic forwards Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are ready to take over the challenge to lead this unpredictable team deep into the playoffs. If Martin Havlat can stay healthy and Brad Stuart gives the Sharks more stability on the blue line, there is no doubt the Sharks will finish with a similar point total than last year.

Anti Niemi and Thomas Greiss make up for a solid goaltending duo.

5. DALLAS STARS = 99 points

The revamped Stars will be interesting to watch this season with newly acquisitions Derek Roy (BUF), Jaromir Jagr (UFA) and Ray Whitney (UFA) providing much needed offensive punch to the team.

Gone are Radek Dvorak, Sheldon Souray and Mike Ribeiro.

With Ribs gone, Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson are Dallas’ new offensive leaders and will be heavily relied upon this season. Head coach Glen Gulutzan also hopes that his veteran Brenden Morrow will be fully healed after an injury-riddled campaign in 2011-12.

The Stars can also count on a trio of steady blue liners in Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski. Kari Lehtonen will get the bulk of the workload in goal.

4. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS = 103 points

The Blackhawks didn’t make any major changes in the off-season already counting on a solid team despite an early playoff exit last spring. Talented players such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp lead the way offensively.

The top defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook remains one of the most efficient duo in the NHL. Gone are veterans Sean O’Donnell, Brendan Morrison and Andrew Brunette. Youngters Brandon Bollig, Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw are ready to step up and give the Blackhawks the depth the team has been lacking in recent years. Joel Quenneville hopes Corey Crawford will rebound from a dreadful playoff series against the Coyotes.

3. ST. LOUIS BLUES = 105 points

The Blues opted for stability this off-season, keeping fairly the same line-up other than letting go veterans Jason Arnott, Kent Huskins and Carlo Colaiacovo.

A healthy David Perron and prospect Vladimir Tarasenko will give an offensive boost to an already potent forward group composed of T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund, Andy McDonald and David Backes.

On defense, Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk will lead the way offensively, while veteran Barret Jackman and undervalued Roman Polak will neutralize the opposing forwards.

Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott will continue to be brilliant as Ken Hitchcock will lead his promising team to another playoff berth.

2. VANCOUVER CANUCKS = 108 points

After a first round exit, the biggest question mark surrounding the Canucks is the status of elite goaltender Roberto Luongo.

Will the team trade him or keep him in the fold with stellar young goalie Corey Schneider?

The Sedin twins will continue to be the spark plugs of the Canucks’ offense, while Ryan Kesler, David Booth and Alex Burrows will provide Vancouver with complementary scoring.

On defense, gone are Sami Salo and Aaron Rome, replaced by power-play specialist Jason Garrison who will form a dynamic offensive trio with Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa. Overall, the Canucks are expected to repeat last season’s performance, save for the first round exit.

1. LOS ANGELES KINGS = 112 points

The Stanley Cup champions are bound to continue rolling with their momentum and have a great season.

Almost every player from last year Cup run will be back which means that Jonathan Quick will have a very deep team in front of him.

With impact players like Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter at forward and quarterback Dew Doughty on defense, the Kings are filled with star players.

Los Angeles also relies on steady veterans like Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Simon Gagne to score goals, as well as unheralded rearguards such as Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell to protect their net and prevent scoring chances. Quick should be the #1 consensus pick among goalies next season.

Do you agree to the above predictions? If not, why?

The regular season predictions for the Eastern Conference can be seen here.

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Follow me on Twitter for more updates on the NHL and hockey in general.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Max Pacioretty Signs Extension, CBA Update, Giguere and More

Max Pacioretty - Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
Good AM!

While we wait for P.K Subban to finally sign a new contract (or be moved), Marc Bergevin has been proactive with another one of his key players, signing Max Pacioretty to a six-year, $27 million deal.

The average cap hit will be $4.5 per season.

A more than acceptable number if Pacioretty continues to be a 30 goal, 60 point player.

If he exceeds those numbers, than his cap hit could easily be viewed as a discount. At least, in NHL terms.

What are your thoughts on the new deal?

Habs and Hockey News

- Our Kamal Panesar gives us the scoop on the Pacioretty deal and offers an update on CBA negotiations. Speaking of CBA talks, TSN is reporting that Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin attended recent talks. Things are getting serious!

- The Philadelphia Flyers got more bad news on their back end. Andreas Lilja will miss the start of the season after left hip surgery. With the losses of Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros and Chris Pronger, the Flyers now have a serious issue to address.

- Jean-Sebastien Giguere was given a one-year contract by the Colorado Avalanche.

- THN's prediction series continue, looking at spot number ten in each conference.

- Former Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray is going to court. I had no idea.


(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Max Pacioretty's New Contract and an NHL CBA Update

Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin sure seems to have a plan.

Late last night, he continued fortifying the foundation of his team by inking star winger, Max Pacioretty, to a six-year deal.

By signing Pacioretty to an extension one full calendar year before his current contract expires, Bergevin continues to show that he is night to his predecessors' day.

One of the many things that boiled fans' blood during the Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier years, was their unwillingness to negotiate with players during the season. That and they would almost always wait till the player's contract had expired before discussing an extension.

That is such an old school, antiquated way of running business and the result was that Montreal, more often than not, lost free agent players for nothing.

I cannot overstate how important it is to maximize all of your assets in the salary cap era, and the previous regime's strategy almost always failed at this crucial task.

This move by Bergevin shows that the new regime truly understands the modern game.

Good for you, good for me...

The deal itself is for $27 million over six seasons or an average cap hit of $4.5 million per year.

As @nickcanhaztweet said to me on Twitter:

"I love it! If Pac continues to develop, its a steal. If he plateaus as a 30/60 player, its market value! Awesome signing!"

Not only is Bergevin locking in what he's identified as a key building block for this team—as he did with Carey Price only a few weeks ago—but he is getting fair to excellent value on the contract.

Pacioretty showed last season that he was a 30-plus goal and 60-plus point player. Granted, he only did so for one season but all indications are that he is just scratching the surface of what he is capable of.

The possibility of Pacioretty being a 40-goal, 80-point man is very real and if he can hit those kind of numbers, Bergevin is going to look like a genius. The bottom line, however, is that the contract is still good value even if Patches produces at the same rate he did last season.

So while I agree with my friend, @nickcanhaztweet, I won't go so far as to say it's a steal. But it's definitely a fair deal for both sides and could end up being a great one for the Habs.

On the CBA front

32 days.

That is how long the league and the players have left to iron out a new collective bargaining agreement, before Gary Bettman and his cronies lock the players out.

Is there enough time? Sure. In theory.

But with both sides stating that there is a "meaningful" gap on the core-economic issues, it's looking more and more like a lockout is inevitable.

That said, today is a very, very important day in determining whether a lockout is ultimately in the cards or not. Why?

Because today the NHLPA finally gives their first counter-proposal to the league.

This proposal has been in the works for weeks and is sure to swing the pendulum far from where the owners want it. But more important than the PA's proposal itself will be how the league reacts to it.

If there is anything that we have learned about Gary Bettman it's that he doesn't like having terms dictated to him. Moreover, his adversarial, condescending, petulant style does not lend to smooth negotiations. Bettman's tact seems to inflame things and creates an adversarial rather than cooperative approach.

So if Bettman and co. don't like what they read—which they undoubtedly will not—we could see a sort of entrenchment by the league.

And that will not lead to anything good.

That being said, and while I am sure that Bettman's proclamation that there will be a lockout if a new deal is not in place by September 15th, you have to think this is a lot of sabre rattling.

I mean, is the league really, truly prepared to scuttle the significant in-roads they have made in the U.S. market over the last five or six years? The game is bigger and more popular in the States than it has ever been at any point in history.

Thanks for Cup winners like Pittsburgh, Boston, Los Angeles and a successful Winter Olympics on North American soil, the U.S. audience (television and otherwise) have embraced the game in droves.

So is the league really willing to thumb their nose at that success, pushing hockey back to it's spot as the bottom feeder in U.S. sports?

Time will tell. For now, however, everyone is waiting with baited breath for the PA's proposal later today.

For what it's worth, I see a lockout as unavoidable at this point because of the league's current stance. That could change, but I think losing part of the season to a lockout is a mere hop, skip and a jump away.

What about you?

---
Kamal is Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, C.O.O. of WebSports Media Network, and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com. Kamal is also an on-air contributor on TSN 990, CJAD, and LiveSport New Zealand.

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter


(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Press Release - Habs Sign Max Pacioretty to Six-Year Deal

Six-year contract extension for Max Pacioretty

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced Monday the signing of forward Max Pacioretty to a six-year contract extension (2013-14 to 2018-19). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Pacioretty, 23, completed his fourth season in the NHL in 2011-12, leading the team in scoring with a personal career-high of 65 points. He ranked second on the team in goals (33) and third in assists (32). He finished fourth in the NHL in even strength goals (29). In 79 games last season Pacioretty scored five winning goals and totaled 286 shots on goal (tied for 10th in the NHL). The forward served 56 penalty minutes, maintained a +2 plus/minus differential and recorded 104 hits, while playing an average of 18:15 per game.

Pacioretty was the 2011-12 recipient of the Bill Masterton Trophy in the NHL, a true example of perseverance, determination and dedication to the game. He returned to action in 2011-12 after missing the team’s last 15 regular season games and the playoffs in 2010-11, with a fractured neck and a concussion suffered on March 8, 2011 against Boston. Pacioretty launched the Max Pacioretty Foundation, to help the Montreal General Hospital Foundation raise the funds needed towards acquiring a Functional MRI machine (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) for the Traumatic Brain Injury Centre at the MGH/MUHC.

Since 2008-09, Pacioretty has registered 114 points (53 goals, 61 assists) in 202 NHL regular-season games. The 6’2’’, 210 lbs left winger has recorded 142 penalty minutes. Pacioretty has scored 12 of his goals on the powerplay and added seven game winning goals.

A native of New Canaan, Connecticut, Pacioretty was drafted in the first-round, 22nd overall by the Canadiens at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. On March 8, 2012, he became the first American-born player in team history to reach the 30-goal plateau in one season, scoring in an empty net against the Oilers in Edmonton.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fantasy Focus, Hockey in New Orleans, Negotiations and More

Good AM Hockey Fans!

I will keep my ramblings short this morning.

I am in Chicago visiting my two sisters and young nephews.

A treat to see my family, for sure. And Chicago is an awesome town. You should try the pizza.

But, with my very young nephews vying for attention, I feel brevity is best!

Habs and Hockey News

- HabsWorld continues its fantasy focus series, looking at Carey Price and P.K Subban.

- The Hockey News takes an interesting look back at ice hockey in New Orleans.

- Stu Hackel reflects on the possibility of a lockout and losing the Winter Classic - and perhaps a whole season. Meanwhile, USA Today looks at how supplemental discipline is an issue in current negotiations.

-  The IIHF lists the 51 champions from the various ice hockey leagues in the world. Always love reading this, just shows how international the game truly has become.

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Galchenyuk Sees Action, Eastern Conference Predictions, Huet to Swiss Club And More

Good Morning Hockey World!

With the Canada vs. Russia challenge going on and Canadiens Prospect Charles Hudon, taking part in it, not much attention has been focused on the Team USA National  Junior Evaluation Camp.

Habs fans have plenty to be interested in the Americans camp, as their number one prospect, Alex Galchenyuk, is seeing some game action.

Galchenyuk missed the entire 2011-12 OHL season before returning for just six playoff games before his Sarnia Sting were eliminated by the Saginaw Spirit.

Galchenyuk registered two goals and one assist in his five games at the camp, his first actual game play since last seasons playoff loss.

Do you think Galchenyuk will continue to build off of his performance at the evaluation camp?

Habs And Hockey News

- Our own Fred Poulin makes his Eastern Conference predictions for the upcoming season

- Former Habs netminder Cristobal Huet's return to the NHL has been put on the back burners as he heads back to Switzerland

- Carolina feels good heading in the 2012-13 season after some positive offseason moves

- With all the focus on the lack of a new CBA, the agreement between the NHL and CHL has expired without notice


(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

2012-13 NHL regular season predictions: Eastern Conference

August is always a time of slow NHL news, especially since the free agency “frenzy” has cooled down and NHL training camps are still about a month away.

However, with a lockout looming over the league and the players—following Gary Bettman’s announcement yesterday that there will be no hockey in October if the NHLPA and the NHL don’t find a way to come to an agreement and renew the current CBA (which is set to expire on September 15, 2012)—the following rankings will most likely change or won't happen at all if the entire season is wiped out!

2012-13 NHL regular season predictions: Eastern Conference

15.NEW YORK ISLANDERS = 75 points

The lowly Islanders didn’t do much in terms of improvement in the offseason. Up front, they lost an important offensive weapon when P-A Parenteau took his talent to Colorado, and the team didn’t replace his production via free agency or trade.

On the blue line, the team is really thin after Mark Streit and Travis Hamonic, and the uncertainty surrounding Lubomir Visnovsky, who wants his trade to Long Island voided, certainly doesn’t help.

In goal, the team is counting on the veteran Evgeni Nabokov and the oft-injured Rick Dipietro to hold the fort. Worth noting is that John Tavares will continue to improve and be an offensive force for years to come despite all of the above.

14.BUFFALO SABRES = 78 points

The Sabres barely missed the playoffs last season, but GM Darcy Regier didn’t do anything to improve a team that struggled to score goals. Heck, Regier even traded inconsistent, yet productive, pivot Derek Roy in exchange for agitator Steve Ott and depth defenseman Adam Pardy.

Roy’s departure, combined with a lack of a true No.1 centre in Buffalo will hamper the Sabres’ chance at making the playoffs. Unless Cody Hodgson explodes offensively or draft picks Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko make the team and provide a much-need spark, the season will be long in Buffalo.

13. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS = 81 points

The Leafs added to an already potent offensive core of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski, with the acquisition of James Van Riemsdyk on their top-six. Jay McClement was also brought in to help their penalty kill. However, GM Brian Burke has yet to address the team’s goaltending woes. Unless he acquires someone like Roberto Luongo before the season starts, the team will rely on James Reimer and Ben Scrivens to win some games, which is not a good idea.

12.WINNIPEG JETS= 82 points

The Jets did not make any major improvement, other than veteran Olli Jokinen, to a line-up that failed to make the playoffs last year. While the Jets had great success at home last season, they failed to compete in most of their road games in 2011-12.

Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane will carry the load offensively, while Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom will provide offensive punch from the blue line. Al Montoya, who’s an improvement over Chris Mason, will back-up Ondrej Pavelec for the upcoming season.

11.MONTREAL CANADIENS = 84 points

While the Canadiens finished last in 2011-12, they have a better team than their record on paper. With the stellar play of netminder Carey Price, the Canadiens always managed to play tight games and have a chance to win. However, a lack of offensive punch cost them way too many games last year.

A healthy Andrei Markov and an improving P.K. Subban will certainly help the team improve their dismal power play, but after their first line of David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty, only Tomas Plekanec represents an offensive threat.

Veteran Brian Gionta should add some scoring punch after an injury-filled season and Rene Bourque might bounce back after a lacklustre campaign, but still that won’t be enough for the Habs.

10.NEW JERSEY DEVILS = 87 points

After the departure of all-star Zach Parise for his hometown, the Devils will be hard-pressed to find goals this season when Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Elias and Adam Henrique are off the ice.

On defense, the team can count on steady defensemen like Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador, but they are lacking a true offensive defenseman as Marek Zidlicky is a defensive liability.

In goal, Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are one year older and their performance will falter as a result.

9.FLORIDA PANTHERS = 89 points

Despite making the playoffs last season, the Panthers had a losing record, if we account for the OTL, and they had a goal differential of minus-24.

After Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg, the Panthers are thin up front. Talented youngster Jonathan Huderdeau will certainly make the team out of training and contend for the Rookie of the Year award. On defense, the team added steady veteran Filip Kuba to an already potent group of Dmitry Kulikov and Ed Jovanovksi.

In goal, the less than flashy duo of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen gets the job done, but it will not be enough to make the playoffs this year.

8.OTTAWA SENATORS = 93 points

The Senators barely made the playoffs last season, and it will happen again this year. With the return of Daniel Alfredsson for one more season, and the emergence of Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza will not be the only offensive threat in the national capital.

Still, GM Bryan Murray traded dynamic forward Nick Foligno in exchange of Ottawa-native Marc Methot, and replaced Foligno’s production by signing Guillaume Latendresse who missed most of last season due to injuries. Craig Anderson will be backed-up by lanky goalie Ben Bishop, which should ease his workload and allow him to perform well all-season long.

7.PHILADELPHIA FLYERS = 95 points

Look for the Flyers to have problems defensively with the departure of Matt Carle and the season-ending injury suffered by Andrej Meszaros. Couple that with Chris Pronger's unlikely return this season after suffering from concussion symptoms, and things are ugly for Philly on the back-end.

Offensively, the Flyers will still score plenty of goals despite Jaromir Jagr’s departure, with talented forwards like Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere. In goal, look for the most colourful goaltender (Ilya Bryzgalov) to have his ups and downs this season as he gets more comfortable to his new defensemen, most notably Luke Schenn, Bruno Gervais and Nicklas Grossman.

6.TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING = 96 points

GM Steve Yzerman addressed his team’s shortcomings during the off-season by acquired young talented netminder Anders Lindback to replace over-the-hill veteran Dwayne Roloson.

Stevie Y also added much-needed depth on the blue line with the signing of Matt Carle and Sami Salo, who will complement a solid top-four with Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman. At forward, the Bolt can count on sniper Steven Stamkos, as well as captain Vincent Lecavalier and playmakers Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell to carry the offensive load.

5.CAROLINA HURRICANES = 98 points

One of the most improved teams in the conference, the Hurricanes added two very talented players in Alex Semin (UFA) and Jordan Staal (PIT) to their offensive corps. They will allow Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner to finally play great offensive players and not the likes of Chad Larose and Jiri Tlusty.

The steady play of underrated goaltender Cam Ward will go a long way to the Canes’ success in 2012-13. Youngsters Jamie McBain and Justin Faulk are slowly emerging as the team’s top two offensive guys on the blue line. Their continuing development will help improve the team's defense-offense transition for their talented forwards.

4.PITTSBURGH PENGUINS = 104 points

With the return of a healthy Sidney Crosby, the Penguins will have a 100-point season for a fourth consecutive year. Despite the departure of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek, the Penguins boast a group of very talented players in Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Kristopher Letang.

The additions of Tanner Glass and Brandon Sutter up front will give the team size, grit and depth, while Tomas Vokoun’s signature will allow M-A Fleury to get more rest during the season and perform better in the playoffs.

3.BOSTON BRUINS = 100 points

The Bruins opted for stability next season as their roster will be almost identical to last year.

The most noticeable changes will be the addition of rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton in replacement of Joe Corvo who went back to Carolina. The other major change is Tuukka Rask being annointed the No.1 goalie, with all-star Tim Thomas taking a sabbatical year.

Because of their depth and their talent, the Bruins will win the Northeast Division for a third consecutive season.

2.WASHINGTON CAPITALS = 101 points

After a sub-par season from Alexander Ovechkin and an injury-riddled campaign for Mike Green, the Capitals are ready to bounce back under new head coach Adam Oates.

A healthy Green, the acquisition of dangler Mike Ribeiro and the emergence of stud goaltender Braden Holty will allow Oates to employ a more offensive style of play that fits his team better.

Despite the departure of Alex Semin via free agency, the Capitals are loaded with offensive weapons who will help them rank among the best teams on the power play this season. A full season of Nicklas Backstrom, now free of concussion symptoms, along with the emergence of youngster Marcus Johansson will give the Caps a very deep threesome at center with Ribeiro—a strength the team has lacked in recent years.

1.NEW YORK RANGERS = 115 points

The Blue Shirts, who finished first in the Eastern Conference last year, will still be the team to beat this season with the addition of superstar Rick Nash. The team didn’t lose any major players via free agency and Glen Sather managed to acquire Nash for depth players (Anisimov, Dubinsky and Erixon).

Sather also managed to add depth and grit up front by signing Taylor Pyatt and Arron Asham. With superstars like Richards, Gaborik, McDonagh, Staal, Girardi and King Henrik in goal, the Rangers boasts the deepest group of talented players in the conference.

Do you agree with the above predictions for the Habs? If not, why?

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