Saturday, September 20, 2014

Travis Moen The Odd Man Out?

While former Montreal Canadiens Josh Gorges mentioned him as a potential candidate to become the team's captain because of his experience, character and grit, veteran left winger Travis Moen appears to be on the outside looking in, heading into the 2014-15 season.

Currently playing with youngsters Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher during intra-squad games, Moen looks disinterested and slow, trying to keep up with the speed of the Gallys.

Currently playing the third year of a four-year pact that pays him annually $1.850.000, Moen has been struggling on both ends of the ice since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, during which he played almost every game of the lockout-shortened season, but managed to record a mere 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points to go with only 32 penalty minutes and a -4 rating. That year, Moen often found himself playing on the team's second line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta,

Last season, Moen's season was forced to miss 17 games after sustaining facial fractures in late October and a concussion in late March after a fight with defenseman Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins. In 65 games, the gritty 6'2'', 218-lb, forward managed to pot only 2 goals and 10 assists for 12 points and 49 penalty minutes. As a result of the concussion and his poor overall play, Moen dressed for only five games during the Habs' playoff run that ended in the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers.



Previously known for his physical play, Moen only distributed 92 hits last year, compared to 82 in 20 less games during the lockout-shortened season. Add this drop to his lack of pugilistic talent and his diminished offensive skills and you get a 32-year-old player who is becoming less and less important for the Canadiens, especially with the arrival of dynamic winger Dale Weise who plays a similar style of play but with a much better offensive flair and smooth-skating abilities.

The arrival of penalty killing specialist, Manny Malhotra, will also affect Moen's ice time as the team will be able to play him on the second PK unit behind Tomas Plekanec. Also, if the scrimmage combinations are any indication, Malhotra is currently paired with Weise and gritty pest Brandon Prust on the team's fourth line.

Factor in the presence of Michael Bournival who is having a great training camp so far and the emergence of youngsters such as Jiri Sekac and Sven Andrighetto and you can easily imagine Moen spending a few nights in the press box.

Moreover, now that Moen's no-trade clause has expired, Marc Bergevin can now trade him to whichever team he wants looking for veteran leadership and a physical body. However, the likely scenario for this season is too see Moen act as the team's 13th forward and dress against bigger and nastier teams while Michael Bournival plays against faster and softer teams. This way, it would allow Michel Therrien to dress 12 regular forwards, including rookie Jiri Sekac, who is expected to make the team out of training camp.

Finally, we know that every team sustains multiple injuries during the season so a veteran like Moen is always nice to have around in case the Habs suffer injuries to key players and are forced to juggle lines and call-up rookies from their AHL affiliate.

What would you do with Moen?
1. Keep him and play him regularly.
2. Use him as an extra forward and play him sporadically.
3. Bury him in the minors.
4. Trade him for the best offer, whether it's a good draft pick or a bucket of pucks.

No Foolin' Fred Poulin

Five Burning Questions

Here we are Habs fans. Training camp has opened and the start of the 2014-15 NHL season is just around the corner. I have five burning questions on my mind. Habs fans feel free to weigh in.

1. Who will be the next Canadiens back-up goalie?
























The battle to be Carey Price's backup could be a three horse race. At the moment, Dustin Tokarski and Peter Budaj are the two battling for the job. However, Martin Brodeur, if signed to a tryout, would be an interesting darkhorse. No doubt if Brodeur gets a tryout he'll be given every opportunity to make the team. My prediction, it's Budaj's job to lose. He has more experience and while Tokarski held his own last year in the playoffs, he could benefit from another season as the starter for Hamilton

2. Who will be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens?














At least to start the season, the Montreal Canadiens will have four alternate captains (PK Subban, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty) and no team captain. At some point, the team will have to decide on who will serve as the next team captain. For the purposes of this question, I am replacing Markov with Brendan Gallagher. One can make the case for all four of Gallagher, Subban, Plekanec and Pacioretty being the next Canadiens captain. Gallagher wears his heart on his sleeve and battles every night for his team. Subban has been the best defenseman in the NHL (won Norris trophy in 2013). The argument for Plekanec is he has been with the Canadiens organization the longest, since 2003. Finally, Pacioretty would make a good captain because  he's a consistent player who other players can model their game after. I endorse PK Subban for the next captain of the Canadiens because he is just entering his prime and he knows how to win.

3. What was the best off-season move the Canadiens made?

Signing Manny Malhotra to a one year deal. This is a low risk move with the potential for high reward, provided Malhotra doesn't get hurt or experience more problems with the eye he injured in 2011 on a gruesome fluke accident. To refresh your memories Habs fans, Malhotra was hit square in the left eye by a deflected puck. He would miss the remainder of that season and most of the Stanley Cup run that year. The next season the Canucks released him after only 9 games played citing the risk to his health being too great. Last season, Malhotra tried out for the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina's farm team) and did well enough to earn a contract with the Hurricanes. Malhotra won't replace the scoring of Brian Gionta, who was traded to and later signed with Buffalo. However, he is great in the faceoff circle and will certainly be a key addition to the penalty kill unit. All in all a great signing by the Habs.

4. What are the biggest challenges the Canadiens face this season?

The Montreal Canadiens will have more of a challenge scoring this season. They will rely on scoring by committee. There is a lot of potential in their lineup starting with the speedy Brendan Gallagher and a big shot in PK Subban on the blueline. The big challenge will be scoring on a consistent basis. It's one thing to score two or three goals in a single game but the top players do it almost on a nightly basis. Another inevitable challenge will be dealing with the adversity of injuries/illness that will crop up. Currently, the biggest worry is with starting goalie Carey Price, who injured his knee during last year's playoffs. Price has been skating for about a month now but until he plays in a game, we won't know if he is completely over the injury. Thankfully, he was able to avoid surgery. During day one of training camp,  Tomas Plekanec tweaked an elbow during fitness testing. Hopefully the injury is minor and he misses minimal if any time.

5. Will the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup this season?

Sorry Habs fans but the Canadiens overachieved last season and the East is looking stronger. Definitely the Canadiens should make the playoffs. However, the team lost too much scoring with the departure of Gionta, Gorges, and Vanek. This year, Montreal will be relying on Carey Price and the defense to keep the other team off the scoreboard and hoping that the offense can bury just enough of their chances to win. Expect low-scoring games most nights. There is reason for optimism. The Habs have a lot of good young players in their lineup, such as Alex Galchenyuk, and flashy players like
Brendan Gallagher, who will keep fans on the edge of their seats. The future looks bright but I think the Canadiens might take a step back this season statistically and in the standings.

Let's go Canadiens. Drop the puck on the 2014-15 NHL season!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Alex Galchenyuk Shifting To Center

TSN Insider Bob McKenzie revealed earlier today on Twitter that Montreal Canadiens' general manager Marc Bergervin told him that the organization plans to move Alex Galchenyuk back at center to start the upcoming training camp, which is slated to officially begin at the end of the week.

The team wants to assess his defensive awareness in order to determine if he can finally move back to his natural position after playing the first two seasons of his career as a left winger. The 20-year-old forward has recorded 22 goals and 36 assists for 58 points in 113 games (0.51 PPG) in the NHL. The move is logical for Chucky's optimal development as he has been able to learn the ropes during his first two seasons in the league.

The Dallas Stars took the same decision when they acquired talented forward Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins. The Bruins, who were very deep at center, used to play Seguin as a right winger instead of his natural position. The outcome was phenomenal as Seguin finished last season with 84 points in 80 games playing alongside Jamie Benn on the team's first line.

While the Canadiens appear to be set down the middle with David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Manny Malhotra and Michael Bournival as the team's first five centers, The Habs could simply decide to trade of the above-mentioned pivots or simply move one of them to the wing.


A scenario that is often overlooked by traditional media and fans alike would be to shift David Desharnais to the wing, a position he had to play earlier during his career. The move would allow Galchenyuk to center Max Pacioretty and Desharnais without breaking the chemistry they have had together since their arrival in Montreal.

The smaller Desharnais wouldn't have to play against big centermen and this would allow him to focus his game on the offense, where he is the more creative, efficient and able to help the team. The move would also allow head coach Michel Therrien to split DD and Brendan Gallagher and put them on two different lines, thus splitting the team's two smaller forwards.

Potential line combos with Galchenyuk at center:
Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Desharnais
Sekac-Plekanec-Parenteau
Bourque-Eller-Gallagher
Prust-Malhotra-Weise
Extras: Moen, Bournival

Another possibility is that the team will trade of the centers during training camp or early in the season to make room for Chucky, especially with the logjam the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge currently has at forward. The odd man out could very well be Lars Eller, who is signed to an affordable contract, and still has plenty of value on the trade market. Trading Eller would also allow Therrien to play Galchenyuk on the team's third line and isolate him against weaker opposition to facilitate his transition at center.

Ask Ryan Nugent-Hopkins how hard it is for a young player to graduate as the team's first pivot at a very young age. While RNH is producing well offensively, he is struggling mightily on the face-off circle and needs to improve in defensive game to be considered a top center in the NHL. Galchenyuk took only 15 face-offs last season, going 5 for 15, or 33%, which is far from being good, so he will need to improve dramatically this aspect of his game to be able to play as a pivot on a regular basis with Montreal in 2014-15.

Do you agree with the decision to move Galchenyuk back to his natural position?
Should the Canadiens trade Desharnais or Eller, or simply move them to the wing?

Monday, September 15, 2014

No Captain, My Captain For The Habs

Greeting Habs Nation,

Over the last few weeks there has been quite a debate in regards to who should don the "C" for the Canadiens in the upcoming 2014-15 season. When asked on the www.montrealhockeytalk.com show "Habs Under the Sun" in August who I felt should be captain, I expressed my belief that the team didn't necessarily need one right away. I echoed that same sentiment just last week on CBC's Daybreak and so with the announcement that the Habs will go with four alternates and no Captain I am not surprised in the least.
From left to right Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban
and Max Pacioretty have all been named alternate captains of the
Montreal Canadiens.      THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
I am not sold on the thought that a team without a designated captain lacks leadership. Whether or not a player wears the "C", if he is a leader, he will lead. It doesn't take a letter sewn on your jersey to stand up in the locker room and tell your team what it needs to hear. A leader will hit the ice and give it everything he has on every shift without letting up to make it clear to his team that half efforts are not acceptable.

If the Detroit Red Wings went without a designated captain, would Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom not be viewed as leaders in the locker room and on the ice? To me it's just silly to put so much stock into who is viewed as the captain by the fans as opposed to by the players.

With that said, here's a look at the four players chosen by Montreal Canadiens management to serve as alternate captains.

1. Andrei Markov

Andrei Markov is  content to wear the "A"
on his jersey.
No surprise there. 35-year-old Markov will be entering his 14th NHL season as a Montreal Canadien, longer than anybody else currently on the roster. While he's not the most charismatic man, he addresses the media when called upon and has been known to let teammates know how he feels about their performances and work ethic in typical intimidating Russian fashion. After the departure of Saku Koivu in the summer of 2009, it was said that Markov wouldn't accept the title of captain. Markov has been a top-tier NHL rearguard for the Habs organization for years and with his freshly inked three-year deal with the club, will more than likely retire as a member of the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. Whether he wears the "C", an "A" or a Youppi! sticker on his jersey, his teammates will undoubtedly look to follow his example on and off the ice.





2. Tomas Plekanec


Tomas Plekanec celebrated a goal while wearing
a turtleneck.
The longest serving member of the Montreal Canadiens second to only Andrei Markov. TurtlePlek (A name I've given due to his insistence on constantly wearing silly turtlenecks and my insistence on constantly using bad puns. I'm hoping this is the year the name sticks) is entering his tenth NHL season with the Habs. Plekanec has held himself accountable when he feels he is under-performing and hasn't ever complained about the never ending rotation of wingers that have been thrown on his line over the years. Last I checked he has played with 528 wingers over the last three seasons (don't look that up). He plays his part without whining, gives it all he has and rocks turtlenecks on a nightly basis, which is why he would get my vote if I had one.

With neither of the aforementioned candidates chosen to be the Captain, it leads me to believe that management wants a fresher face who can hold the title of captain for a longer period of time. At 35 and on legs that are roughly 45, there is little to no doubt that Markov will retire at the end of his current contract.

While Plekanec is only 31 the annual "Pleks is getting traded" rumours are due to begin swirling in about a month or so. With Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk on the roster the rumours may hold some merit. It's never a popular move to trade your captain and with the possibility there, Pleky just wasn't the ideal choice.

In my opinion, there's more to it than the whole trade possibility scenario. Plekanec still has some years left in him and if's named captain and remains on the team, it will be years before we go through this debacle again just to give it to P.K. Subban which is pretty much the plan. Three to four years from now is too long to wait yet this year is too early for the young star defenseman. The Habs are playing it quite smart by having the top leaders share the responsibility while at the same time giving Subban the opportunity to learn how to handle it on his own next year.

3. Max Pacioretty


Max Pacioretty with his 2012 Bill Masterton
trophy.
Out of the four players given the "A", Pacioretty is the one who I would least expect to see as the team's leader. I get that he can fall four stories from a burning building and land in a pool full of glass shards only to return to the ice the following day. He scored 39 goals last season and that's nothing to scoff at (do people still scoff?). He never hides from the media. So in short, he's determined, talented and comfortable with the media. All great qualities... I just don't see him getting the "C". I don't see him as a passionate enough player, which I'll probably get ripped on for saying and that's somewhat fair.

Yes, he's come back from broken ribs, broken vertebrae, concussions etc. He's not only come back but he's returned each time without losing any of his game. There is passion there. However, I don't see him as the type of player to stand up and be heard when his team has taken the night off, I don't see him as the type of player who can rally his troops after his team has given up the tying goal late in the game in the playoffs. I don't see him ever not being so monotone in his interviews. That last one may not matter but everything he says just sounds so rehearsed and robotic.

As I mentioned, Pacioretty is basically indestructible, knows how to find the back of the net and doesn't shy away from the cameras. Those are all great qualities and why I have no qualms with him being an alternate captain after Markov and Plekanec have moved on (Jeez, that sounded a little morbid, no? I'm referring to retiring and/or being traded just to be clear).

4. P.K. Subban


P.K Subban is a safe bet to wear the "C" for the Canadiens
next season.
Make no mistake, Subban will be the Montreal Canadiens 29th captain. He is the most exciting player to don the "CH" since Alex Kovalev, yet he shows up more than 35 games a season. With Subban it's not a matter of getting him to face the media, it's a matter of him stepping away from the camera once in a while. He is a fan favourite, the media can't get enough of him and there is no doubt he will speak his mind to his team and lead by example on the ice. He has all the qualities needed, he just needs time to take them on without putting too much pressure on himself.

Subban is coming off of yet another contract issue which was turned into a media circus. He still lets him emotions get the best of him at times and is rumoured to have a rocky relationship with coach Michel Therrien. Giving him the captaincy this year would be too much, too soon. Having him share it with a teammate his age in Pacioretty, and two veterans such as Plekanec and Markov, will take the load off his back and give him time to gradually learn what it takes to be the leader of the most storied franchise in the history of the NHL.

I couldn't agree more with the decision to hold off on naming a captain. Hopefully, this whole situation won't be made into a distraction throughout the course of the year and to all you Subban supporters out there, relax... Subban will be named captain for the 2015-16 season.

One last note, a friend pointed it out how it is quite fitting to not have a captain the same year that Saku Koivu calls it quits. If I were GM I would offer Koivu a one game contract so he could retire as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens. The send off would blow the roof off of the Bell Centre and would show Koivu just how much he mean,t to not only the organization, but to the entire city of Montreal who he did so much for.

Thanks for reading and of course don't forget to share your thoughts.

1. Will not having a captain affect the team's play?
2. Did management choose the right players to share the responsibility?
3. Is there any doubt the Subban will wear the "C" next year?
4. Koivu on a one game contract, too cheesy or well deserved?


Habs Training Camp Battle: 13th Forward

Written by Rohan Sukhdeo

Greetings and salutations everyone, this is my first article and I hope I can offer a pleasant but insightful read on the upcoming season. For this article, my focus will be on training camp and the battle for the last forward roster spot. Barring a trade in the next few weeks, the Habs have a good mix of youngsters and veterans on each line. They will look to complement their line-up with one of their up-and-coming prospects.

First, let us go through who we can more than likely expect to be in the line-up on opening night October 8th, against the Leafs. The Habs will look slightly different this upcoming season as Habs GM Marc Bergevin traded Daniel Brière to Colorado for PA Parenteau and a 5th round pick, just before free agency opened. More changes happened on the first day of free agency when now Ex-Habs captain Brian Gionta signed on with Buffalo, along with Josh Georges, who was traded for a 2nd round pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. Thomas Vanek, who often was rumored to be signing with Minnesota in the offseason, did in fact sign on with the Wild for three years at $19.5 million. To complete his day, Marc Bergevin signed D Tom Gilbert to a two-year pact worth $5.6 million, F Manny Malhotra to one-year $850,000 and F Jiri Sekac to a two-year entry level contract at $925,000/year. Dale Weise and Mike Weaver both re-signed prior to July 1st.

At first glance, based on the changes made in the offseason, and last season playoffs, the first line would be Pacioretty, Desharnais and Parenteau. Galchenyuk, Plekanec, Gallagher would be the second line. Bourque, Eller, Weiss will be a very gritty third line and Prust, Malhotra, Bournival will be the fourth line. On defense, we should be seeing Subban and Markov as the first pairing, Gilbert and Emelin as the second pairing, as well as Weaver and Tinordi/Beaulieu as the last pairing. With the departures, there is going to be a fierce battle for that 13th and final forward spot at training camp. The leading candidates to fill that role are Jiri Sekac, Jacob de la Rose, and Sven Andrighetto.

Jiri Sekac is a native of Czech Republic who played for HC Lev Praha in the KHL in 2013-2014. The left winger scored 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points in 47 games, along with a +12 rating and 18 penalty minutes. He also played eight games for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in 2009-2010. Before signing with Montreal, he was coveted by 15 NHL teams, including the Habs. At 6’2” and 190-lb, he sure has the size that Montreal needs at the forward position. In the offseason, he was spotted training with fellow Hab Thomas Plekanec and longtime Czech and NHL superstar Jaromir Jagr, in their hometown of Kladno of the Czech Republic. “He is a very good skater and very good with the puck, a little like Max Pacioretty”, explains Plekanec of his future teammate, in an interview published in the Journal de Montréal. Rookie camp has already begun and Sekac has not missed a beat, as reported by Allan Walsh his agent, Jiri Sekac set a new Montreal Canadiens fitness record on Friday. Due to his age and experience, Sekac is the number one prospect in the organization. He is listed as a LW but can play the RW, which is where the Habs need the most help. And though he is not known for his defensive game, he is responsible in his own end, which should please head coach Michel Therien. The lanky winger is gifted with a great wrist shot and is projected to be a borderline second-line winger, but should start the year on the third line if he makes the team.

Jacob de la Rose, a native of Arvika in Sweden, Jacob stands at 6’3”, 205-lb. He was a 2nd round, 34th overall pick in 2013, and is a solid two-way player who is projected to be on the third line, but could see second-line duties. A true team player and leader, DLR always gives a 100% in intensity and work ethic. He doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff and has good timing on his hits, but is not a natural scorer. His strong two-way game and forechecking ability will only make the Habs that much better in the long run. Last season, de la Rrose played for Leksand in Allsvenskan in the SHL and competed for Sweden in the 2014 U20 and U18 World Junior Championships. He scored 13 points (seven goals and six assists) in 49 games for Leksand, adding two goals and one assist in three playoff games. In the WJC, he scored three goals and three assists for six points in only seven games for a Silver Medal winning Swedish squad. With his physical attributes, he will also be given a long look at training camp. If he can find some chemistry with either one of Eller or Plekanec, we may be seeing his name on opening night.

Sven Andrighetto, native of Sumiswald in Switzerland. He is a 3rd round, 86th overall pick in 2013, and stands at 5’9” and 188-lb. His physical attributes does not give him any advantage with how Montreal is shifting their philosophy to bigger and stronger players. But this player has a year of AHL experience under his belt playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2013-2014, and will be looking to improve his 44 points (17 goals and 27 assists) rookie campaign. He was 15th in AHL rookie scoring and was voted PMA Top Rookie by local Hamilton media. Hamilton did not have a good season as they finished out of the playoffs yet again, but Andrighetto was one of the “bright spots”, as said by Dogs' head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. Andrighetto has a lethal combination of both speed and skill that he will bring to training camp in hopes of forcing Habs brass to give him a shot to play with the big club. Sven does have one advantage over Sekac and DLR where he knows the North American game better. Both Sekac and DLR will be competing in smaller rinks for the first time, although Sekac played eight games with Peterborough earlier in his career. For Andrighetto to be effective, he will need to be on the first two lines, in an offensive role. For that to happen, he will need to outplay the likes of Gallagher, Parenteau and even Galchenyuk. The more than likely scenario is he starts the year in Hamilton, but will be the next call up when injuries occur during the season.

After Day 1 of the intra-squad scrimmages, we can that Sekac is currently in the pole position among the above prospects as he was the only one who has shown some flashes of brilliance on the ice.


Honorable mentions to Martin Reway, Christian Thomas, and the 2014 1st round draft pick Nikita Scherbak. Quality prospects, but only one can make this team, so this will be a fierce battle.

Who do you think will be the surprise of the Habs' training camp?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

As The New Season Dawns ... Who Came? Who Left?

Greetings Habs Addicts!

One of my favorite days of the calendar year was yesterday: HABS TICKET DAY!

Select veterans, including Max Pacioretty
take an option skate as training camp approaches.

Photo Credit: NHL.com
So far I only managed to get one pair of tickets - vs Buffalo for the return of Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta at the end of November - but I intend to get down to Montreal for another game or two later on in the season. But ticket day also means the season is fast approaching!

There has not been much to report this summer after the draft and free agency hit. Obviously the acquisition of P.A. Parenteau for Danny Briere, the trading of Josh Gorges to the Buffalo Sabres for a draft pick, the drafting of Nikita Scherbak and the extension signed by P.K. Subban were the biggest news making events of the summer. There have been a few changes made to the coaching staff this summer, most notably the departure of Gerard Gallant to take of the role of head coach for the Florida Panthers and the addition of Dan Lacroix from the New York Rangers. Rob Ramage was also added to the front officer in a player personnel role. Marc Bergevin had a busy start to the off-season and came out of it very well.

There were some other notable moves this summer:

Who left?
  • Thomas Vanek - as expected, he left to sign with the Minnesota Wild.
  • Brian Gionta could not come to terms and signed with the Buffalo Sabres.
  • Ryan White was non-tendered and signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • Louis Leblanc was discarded to the Anaheim Ducks for a draft pick.
  • Danny Briere was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche for P.A. Parenteau.
  • Josh Gorges was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres for a second-round draft pick.
  • Francis Bouillon was not re-signed.
  • Douglas Murray was not re-signed.
  • George Parros was not re-signed.
The first one and the latter three were expected, although the rumour mill is always churning lately that Bouillon might return (in fact, he will attend camp on a PTO, more on that later). We all knew Thomas Vanek would not return. Everyone around the league knew he was going home to Minnesota. His terrible playoff performance just made it easier for the Wild to afford him and his coasting ways easily cost himself millions of dollars. Minnesota might be a very dangerous team in the Western Conference next season. Vanek makes his return to Montreal in mid-November, expect the boo-birds to be out in full force. Murray and Parros will not be playing in the NHL at all next season. Ryan White was essentially forced out after Dale Weise was acquired and took over his role. Between newcomer Manny Malhotra, Travis Moen, Michael Bournival, Brandon Prust and Weise, there was already a log-jam on the fourth line. White was expendable. His style will fit the Flyers. He also makes his return trip to Montreal early on this season. Lastly, Louis Leblanc was finally labelled a bust and was dumped to the Anaheim Ducks. Sound familiar? It should. The Habs did the same trade a few years ago with another first round failure, Kyle Chipchura. While still bouncing around the league, dumping Chipchura never came back to haunt the Canadiens. Highly doubtful Leblanc does, either. 

Who is joining us?
  • Manny Malhotra signed on to be a big-bodied fourth line face-off specialist and penalty killer.
  • Tom Gilbert replaces Josh Gorges and brings a right-handed shot and power-play presence.
  • Jiri Sekac is a highly touted Czech prospect who could make the club out of training camp.
  • P.A. Parenteau was acquired for Danny Briere.
  • Andrei Markov re-signed to a three year contract.
  • Lars Eller re-signed to a four year contract.
  • Mike Weaver returns on a one-year deal to provide depth.
Bringing back Andrei Markov was expected and at the same salary was also expected. A three-year deal is risky for the veteran rearguard at his age; however, his 'chronic knee problems' are well in the past. He can continue to be a top pairing this season and if they manage his minutes he can be extremely productive. If by year three of the deal he is simply a power-play specialist, no harm there. He's very intelligent and is a calming presence on the blue line. An apt comparison for Markov is Kimmo Timonen. If he ages as well as Timonen has, the contract will be a bargain. Lars Eller is back for four years and is due to break out at any time. His style of game reminds me a lot of Pheonix Coyote forward Martin Hanzal: Decent size, solid defensively and plays a physical game. If he can start to break out the way Hanzal did last year, he could very well become the second-line centerman we expect him to be. Tom Gilbert is a journeyman, but he plays a solid possession game, is a right-handed shot and has a power-play presence for the second pairing. To lose Gorges and replace him with Gilbert for less money is a solid deal. What is lost in shot blocking and rah-rah leadership is replaced with offensive numbers and better Corsi numbers. Retaining Mike Weaver is perfect when Nathan Beaulieu cracks the line-up as a regular this season. That's right, I said when. They were a solid pairing in the playoffs and the veteran leader should be a steadying presence on the back end of the rotation. P.A. Parenteau is a bigger physical presence with more upside than Briere at the same salary. Suitable as a second-line winger and more of a set-up man, he reminds me of another former Avalanche forward who had a solid, albeit injury riddled season as a Canadien a few years back: Alex Tanguay. Jiri Sekac has tremendous upside and an opportunity to break camp as a third-line winger. He will be battling with Sven Andrighetti in camp, barring a late addition to the roster.

The Canadiens rookie camp started this weekend and training camp is around the corner. Francis Bouillon is confirmed to be attending the camp as a non-roster invitee. In my opinion, it should be as an on-ice player/coach because I do not believe the ageing veteran should be able to supplant any players currently on the roster. Other veterans should be inked to try-outs as the camp approaches. Stay tuned to HabsAddict over the new few weeks for more camp news as it happens.

The new season has dawned, are you excited yet!?!


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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Can Max Pacioretty Score 50 Goals In A Season?

Following a very solid 2013-14 campaign during which he recorded 39 goals and 21 assists for 60 points in 73 games, Max Pacioretty will be counted on to provide the bulk of the offense for the Montreal Canadiens this season.

The 25-year-old left winger, who is one the most serious candidates to become the team's next captain, is entering his prime and is ready to breakout offensively. Two years ago, during the season shortened by the lockout, he potted 15 goals and added 24 assists for a total of 39 points in 44 contests, which would have resulted in a 69-point season over a full 82-game calendar.

Last season, he finished only behind Alexander Ovechkin (51 goals in 78 games) in goals per game with a 0.534 goals per game played. If he had not miss three weeks with a left hamstring strain in late October/early November, Max Pax would have scored a prorated 44 goals in 2013-14.

Add the struggles of his friend and centerman David Desharnais to the mix and the 50-goal barrier could have been very well within reach of the power forward. After his first 12 games, Pacioretty had only potted 2 goals and 2 assists for a mere 4 points. This means that from November 19th to the end of the season, the native of New Canaan, Connecticut, recorded 37 goals and 19 assists for 56 points in only 61 games.

If we prorate this goal-scoring production over a full season we get exactly 50 goals for Pacioretty, which indicates us that it is fairly reasonable to predict the first 50-goal campaign for a Habs player since Stéphane Richard potted 51 goals back in 1989-90, which is 25 years ago!

With the arrival of Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and the maturation of Brendan Gallagher, the David Desharnais-Max Pacioretty duo will finally be able to rely on either one of these two players to play alongside them on the team's first line.

The arrival of Manny Mahlotra will, who will take most of the defensive zone face-offs will also allow head coach Michel Therrien to start his two best lines even more in the offensive zone. Last season, Max Pacioretty started 53.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone, a number that could easily increase to 55% this season, which would allow him and his line-mates to get even more scoring chances.

Over his career, Pacioretty is scoring at a 11.1% pace, which is slightly lower than last year's 14.4%. Still, reaching the 50-goal mark is quite a feat when you consider than most sniper score about 15% of the time. Alex Ovechkin scores on 12.3% of his shot attempts over his illustrious career, but he shots from everywhere! As for Steven Stamkos, he is a true goal scorer and he is scoring on 17.5% of his shots attempts.

If you assume Max Pax scores on 15% of his shots, he will need to stay healthy and shoot more than 333 times on net to reach the 50-goal plateau. While it is quite possible to reach, it's no small feat to accomplish!

Finally, do you think Pacioretty will finally hit the 50-goal mark?

If so, will he reach the 80-point mark in the process?

Finally, who should play with DD and Max? Parenteau or Gallagher?

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No Foolin' Fred Poulin
Follow me on Twitter for more Habs news and discussions.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Habs Summer Recap + 2014-15 Prediction

Source: USA Today
Greetings Habs Nation,

After an absence of almost two years I've decided to get back into the Hab-it (see what I did there?) of writing on the going-ons of the hockey world, and more specifically, the Montreal Canadiens. And what
better time to get back into the world of hockey than the first week of September when there is not much going on and every subject has been covered by everyone with both the internet and an interest for hockey?

That being said, there are a few options when it comes to choosing a subject. First off I could cover some rumours, secondly I could do a recap of the most talked about topics regarding the Canadiens and lastly, I could give my take on the upcoming season and how I feel the Habs will fare.

Alas.... I will do all three. I'm kind of an all-or-nothing kind of guy. Now with the intro complete I will dive right into the first of my three topics... rumours.

Martin Brodeur to the Habs

Let me start this off with a quick and simple, no thank you. Unless Marc Bergevin has the Delorean parked in his garage and is preparing to reach 88 mph on his way to bringing in the veteran goaltender, this rumour should be put to rest immediately.

I do not doubt that Brodeur could chalk up a few W's for the Habs in the upcoming season; however, I don't feel it's worth the circus that will come with it. There should be no goalie controversy in Montreal. Carey Price is the go-to-guy, and no matter what anybody says, the second he loses two or three (or God forbid four!!) games in a row, how could the media and a large collection of the fan base, not start to rally for the hometown, two time Stanley Cup winning goalie to step up and lead the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge to the promise land?

This organization does not need that sort of attention and distraction. Price and Peter Budaj are a more than capable duo where their roles will not be questioned and they can both focus 100% on the job at hand. Although, to be fair, Budaj may not be as comfortable after Dustin Tokarski's performance in the conference finals last year.

There is also the matter of price (monetary, not Carey).

How much will it cost to have the twenty-year veteran come home for his final season? The Habs currently have $2,651,667 in cap space according to www.capgeek.com. It's no question that Budaj would be moved to make room for Marty McFly (nickname given due to his first name being Martin as well as my Delorean reference from earlier on). Let's say Budaj is traded for a draft pick or prospect in order to not take any salary in return, that adds another $1.4 million. The Habs are now looking at $4,051,667 to play around with. That seems like a comfortable amount of money, but keep in mind the Habs may need some cash in the bank come trade deadline to either add to the roster or replace an injured player. If Brodeur is willing to sign for $1 million the way Brad Richards did in Chicago or Dany Heatley over in Anaheim than it would be a little bit harder to ignore, but still it doesn't seem worth the sideshow that would accompany the future hall of famer back to his hometown.

Phase one complete, phase two: My take on the most talked about topics over the summer

1. The $9 Million Man


P.K. Subban became the highest paid Canadien with an average
of $9 million over eight years.
P.K. Subban is extremely talented offensively, underrated defensively and hasn't yet reached his full potential. The man doesn't get tired, he has been learning the game from Andrei Markov whose vision and decision-making on the ice is better than roughly 90% of the league's rearguards and has one hell of a shot. Why is this contract an issue to anybody?

Yes, it's a ton of money. How many defensemen are there in the league like Subban? Drew Doughty in Los Angeles (the only one I would personally rate higher then #76)... I'm out. Shea Weber is phenomenal, but doesn't have the speed that Subban uses for those end to end rushes. There is Erik Karlsson, but he's on the Senators so who really cares, right?

Bottom line is, Subban's contract is a good one and will only look better in a few years when the cap is even higher and players with less than half the talent that P.K. possesses are making a bazillion dollars.

2. The Captaincy

Once again, an issue I feel has been overblown. Should it be Subban? Plekanec? Markov? Pacioretty?

Here's an even more important question... does it matter? Whether or not there is a "C" on somebody's jersey, the true leaders will make their selves heard in the dressing room and seen on the ice. Regardless, I'll give a quick rundown on my opinion of each of the candidates most often named both by the media and fans.

Subban: Not yet. I could see it happening if Bergevin decides to go a year before handing out the "C", but it seems a little bit early for a player who has yet to sign a contract without making the whole process into a gong show.

Markov: Doesn't want it.

Pacioretty: Really?

Gallagher: See "Pacioretty".

Plekanec: He would be my pick if I was relevant in any way to the organization. He's been with the team longer than anyone who isn't named Markov. He plays hard and deals with the media well, and anybody who can rock a turtleneck in a world where turtlenecks have never been anything less than silly, can lead me into battle any day.

And now for my final act.... My prediction

How Will The Canadiens Fare?

I will keep this short as I am not usually good at predictions. There are too many factors at play when stating how a team will do over an 82-game schedule. However, I already said I would do it and I don't feel like editing my article so here it goes.

Habs will take the Atlantic Divi... Conference?. There. I said it, and it's not because I'm a fan... well it probably is at least a little bit. I'll explain quickly how I came to this conclusion.

Ottawa and Toronto are bad.
Buffalo is worse.
Florida is..... Florida.
Tampa Bay could do it, but will be relying way too heavily on Ben Bishop to have another stellar year like he did in the 2013-14 season.
Detroit has a ton of talent up front, but not the most impressive blue line and I'm still not completely sold on Jimmy Howard.
Boston is stupid. More importantly though, Chara is not the Wookie he once was. He is still strong and possesses a hell of a shot, but he's becoming easier and easier to just skate around. Marchand is becoming more of a distraction than a help to his team due to his insistence on being the league's top jackass. Iginla walked and was replaced by... nobody. Ville Leino has been invited to the Bruins' training camp but admit it, before I mentioned his name you forgot he existed.

With all that in depth research and analysis isn't it clear that the Habs will win the divi... conference?

Bonus non-Hab related prediction: Jaroslav Halak will be traded six times in the upcoming season.

And with that my first piece back is complete, and for the record... part of me does think it would be pretty badass to see Brodeur wearing the "CH" despite everything I just said.

I'll leave you with a few questions:

1. Brodeur - yes or no?
2. Would not having a captain matter and if so, who would you give it to?
3. Where do you see the Habs finishing?
4. Is two Delorean references too many? I say it's not enough, but that's just me.

Goalie Controversy in Montreal?

Goalie Martin Brodeur contemplates joining the Montreal Canadiens

There are rumors in the air that future Hall of Fame Goalie Martin Brodeur is very interesting in signing with the Montreal Canadiens. My opinion? This is the last thing the Canadiens should be considering. First of all, they have three goalies already under contract fighting for the back-up job: Dustin Tokarski, Joey Macdonald and Peter Budaj. The crease is already full. Adding Brodeur to the mix will just create a goalie controversy. The fact that the Habs are even considering signing Brodeur says a lot about their trust in Budaj and how ready they feel Tokarski is to get regular duty in the NHL. Habs fans will recall Tokarski keeping the Canadiens in the series vs. the Rangers late May  Tokarski has a bright future ahead of him but I think he will end up in Hamilton to start the year.

I have all the respect in the world for Brodeur. He has won just about everything there is to win in hockey from Olympic Gold, to multiple Stanley Cups. Individually, he is a four time Vezina winner as top goalie in the NHL. He has also won the William Jennings award five times for allowing the fewest goals in the regular season. His NHL resume speaks for itself. However, Brodeur is 42 years old, his regular season numbers were average last season (.901save%, 2.51GAA). Carey Price is clearly the starter so Brodeur would be relegated to backup goalie. Montreal should pass on Brodeur and look at the goalies they have under contract

Please feel free to weigh in Habs fans

Thursday, September 4, 2014

An A to Z Guide to the Montreal Canadiens


An A to Z Guide to the Montreal Canadiens


In honor of back to school week, except of course in beautiful BC, I have decided to create an A to Z guide for your Montreal Canadiens. Feel free to join in and come up with your own ideas for what each letter of the alphabet can stand for. Here we go.


A is for Assists. Generally to score a goal, someone has to pass the puck. Last season, Subban led the team with 43 assists. This is not surprising since he has a cannon for a shot and has a good breakout pass. As a team, the Habs need to better their offensive numbers if they want to succeed.


B is for Blocked Shots. Sometimes the best save is not made by the goalie but by a defending player fearlessly diving in front of a shot. In today’s NHL blocking a shot is such an essential skill. Montreal led the league in blocked shots last season with a whopping 1491 blocked shots.


C is for Carey Price. Price is coming off his best season as a starter. He led Team Canada gold at the 2014 Olympics He led the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference final where he was injured. You know he’s going to be hungry to repeat the stellar team and to prove that last season was no fluke. Despite all he accomplished last season, Price will always have his detractors who question whether he can win the big game or will always be prone to meltdowns. Until he wins the Stanley Cup, he’ll always have someone to prove wrong.


D is for Draft picks. The draft can shape the direction of a team, as well as adding pieces to a potential trade for a coveted player. This year, the Canadiens drafted Daniel Audette, son of former NHLer Donald Audette. Former draft picks currently in the lineup for the Habs include, Price, Subban, and Brendan Gallagher


E is for Even Strength. The vast majority of the time, hockey games are played at even strength (5 on 5 or 4 on 4). When both teams had an equal number of players of the ice last season, the Canadiens scored 155 times and allowed 150 goals giving them an even strength ratio of 1.03, good for 14th in the NHL. Ideally the Habs would like to improve on that by scoring a few more goals and allowing their opponents a few less.


F is for Face-offs. Arguably, the faceoff is the most important play in hockey because it determines which team gets control of the puck first. In 2013-14, the Canadiens won 49.6% of their face-offs as a team, putting them in the middle of the league standings. The Habs will need to improve upon this stat. Unfortunately their best faceoff man Thomas Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild. Fortunately they signed Manny Malhotra who is strong in the faceoff dot


G is for Goals To win a hockey game you have to score at least one more goal than your opponent. As a team, the Canadiens scored 209 goals or an average of 2.55/game, good for 21st in the league. Max Pacioretty scored the most goals individually with 39 in the 2013-14 season. By not scoring a lot of goals, the Habs put a lot of pressure on the defense and Carey Price. Thankfully for them, Price had a great season last year but as a rule, you need at least three goals in a game to win most nights. Teams are excellent at coming back and the referees tend to give teams every opportunity to come back by calling more penalties against the leading team, warranted or not.


H is for Hits. A big hit can change the outcome of a game by waking up a tired team. Also, a big hit can potentially injure a key opponent or at the very least make them know that you’re there. Last season the Habs were 20th in the NHL with 1722 hits. Interestingly the team that led the league in hits with 2609 won the Stanley Cup. This proves the value of a good hit. However, hits must be done intelligently. A player shouldn’t be running out of position to hit a player, otherwise that can lead to a grade A scoring chance. Individually, defenseman Alexei Emelin led the way with 189 hits.


I is for Injury. With a long season comes the inevitably of injuries. What makes a team great is it’s ability to overcome key players or role players being lost due to injury. What happens if Carey Price goes down with an injury as he did in last year’s playoffs? As demonstrated in the third round of the playoffs vs. the Rangers, the Habs have two goalies who can be relied on in Dustin Tokarski and Peter Budaj.


J is for Jussi Jokinen. While he is not a member of the Canadiens currently, I put him here because he is a master at an important aspect in today’s NHL: the shootout. The shootouts add an extra point to a win (at the end of regulation each team gets a point and the winner or OT or the shootout gets the extra point). This can mean the difference between making or not making the playoffs Love it or hate it, the tiebreaker is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Last season, the Canadiens were involved 9 shootouts winning 6 of them. In an odd twist, all 6 of the Habs shootout wins came on the road. This is rare because the home team gets the choice of whether to shoot first. Individually last season, David Desharnais was the Habs best shooter successful on 6 of his 13 attempts.


K is for Killing Penalties. It is imperative to be able to kill off penalties at a consistent level to have success in the NHL. Kill a penalty and momentum can shift your way. Allow a goal while shorthanded and you have to fight through the letdown and try to tie the game. Last season, the Canadiens killed off 85.1% of the penalties handed to them, good for 4th in the league, 3rd in the Eastern Conference. To be successful, the Canadiens will be relying on Price to stop any shots that reach him and the PK team to clear the puck out early and often.


L is for Losses. It is unrealistic for a team to go 82-0 in the regular season oor 16-0 in the playoffs because of the parity in the NHL. Instead, teams must minimize the number of losses and the length of losing streaks. Last season, the Canadiens lost 28 games and their longest losing streak was 4 games (November 1st-7th). Repeat that consistency and their chances of making the playoffs is great.


M is for Must-see games. With every team visiting the Bell Center at least once this season, fans will get to see every star, barring injury, at least once. Here are five must see games fans should mark on their calendars.

October 13 at Tampa Bay While the Canadiens made it look easy sweeping the Lightning in the 1st round last April, there will be a key difference this time around. Steven Stamkos should be fully recovered from his fractured leg and we all know how dangerous he is on a given night.

October 16th vs. Boston Bruins. Back in May, these two teams went head to head in a grueling, thrilling, seven game 2nd round playoff series which Montreal won by a hair in the Bruins home arena. You know the Bruins will be looking to exact some revenge.

October 25 vs. NY Rangers. It’s the Canadiens turn to exact some revenge on the team that eliminated them from playoff contention. The Habs fought hard but the Rangers speed and tenacity proved to be too much to handle.

November 4th vs. Chicago Blackhawks. Another powerful team in the ultra competitive Western Conference. The Blackhawks lost in the Western Conference finals to LA last season and won the Stanley Cup the season previous to that. Chicago has a stacked lineup that can score, defend and their goalie can stop the puck.

December 12 vs. LA Kings This is your typical measuring stick game. The defending champs, who have won the Stanley Cup twice in three season, are in town. The Canadiens will have to be playing their best hockey if they want to beat this juggernaut team.


N is for Newcomers to the team. As training camp approaches, the Canadiens will be welcoming several new faces to the fold. Center Manny Malhotra signed on July 1st. He will be centering the 3rd or 4th line as well as taking key faceoffs throughout the game. Minor league goalie Joey MacDonald was added to compete for the backup job with Budaj and Tokarski. Defenseman Tom Gilbert signed a two-year deal. He’ll be competing for a top-four defense pairing spot. Welcome to the team and good luck in the new season!


O is for Outgoing players. Sadly, Habs fans will see several players wearing a different team’s uniform having left via free agency and/or trade. On July 1st, the Habs traded the rights to Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges to Buffalo. The two will return to the Bell Center when the Sabres visit the Bell Center on November 29. LW Tomas Vanek inked a three year deal with the Minnesota Wild (returns November 8). RW Mike Blunden signed a two-way deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning (returns March 10, assuming he is in the NHL). Goalie Devon Dubnyk signed with the Arizona Coyotes (returns February 1st). LW Nick Tarnasky signed a two-year deal with the NY Rangers (returns October 25). Finally, C Ryan White signed with the Philadelphia Flyers (returns November 15). Happy trails and good luck to all the players mentioned above.


P is for Power Play. Equally as important to killing off penalties is taking advantage of the times when you are up a man. Not only can a PP goal extend or give your team the lead if the game is tied, it can also spark much needed momentum. Last season the Canadiens scored on 17.7% of its PP chances, putting them 19th in the NHL. They’ll need to improve that number if they want to be successful as a team this season.


Q is for Qualify for the playoffs. In order to have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup, Montreal must first either be one of the top three teams in the Altantic division, or battle it out with 9 other teams for the two wildcard spots. The Canadiens are best to try and be in the top three in the Atlantic division rather than risking


R is for Rookies. Generally every team has at least one rookie, defined as a player either playing his first full season or having < 1 full year of NHL experience. Last year 22-year-old Alex Galchenyuk was the team’s rookie. He finished with 13 goals and 18 assists. This year, you are likely to see the likes of Gabriel Dumont, Stefan Fournier, and Greg Pateryn as injuries occur or prospects make good impressions during training camp to the coaching staff.


S is for Subban, PK. 2013 Norris Trophy winner for the NHL’s top defenseman, just 25 years old and best of all signed for the next 8 seasons. A reminder, Subban is only entering his 5th season in the NHL. He possesses a booming slap shot, has great leadership qualities and has the tenacity to carry this team to great things. He will be considered very highly to be the next captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Habs fans salivate because Subban is already a stellar defenseman and he will only get better with time.


T is for The Fans. Montreal boasts one of the loudest, most intimidating arenas to play in. Every home game, the atmosphere is incredible. When the team is winning, the fans are singing. And when the team is losing, the fans are still cheering loudly. The home record of 23-13-9 (10th in the NHL) last year reflects that atmosphere


U is for Unity. Hockey is a team sport. You win together you lose together. Teams that are successful move the puck efficiently and opponents have a hard time getting it back. This process starts in training camp and continues on the road when players get a chance to bond.


V is for Victory as in the ultimate prize (Stanley Cup). Of course this is the goal of every team but only one team can ultimately win the big prize. The Canadiens came close last season, making it to the Eastern Conference final. This season they will be in tough having lost key players via trade (Gionta) and free agency (Vanek). They will rely heavily on keeping the puck out of their net and hopefully get just enough scoring to win most nights. Once again, the West is looking very tough and deep.


W is for Weise, Dale. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Vancouver Canucks in 2013, Weise was a big contributor in the playoffs scoring clutch goals left, right and center. The question is can he do it on a consistent basis or will he revert back to the player that takes bad penalties and is hesitant physically. To be successful, Weise has to use his size to his advantage and score the odd goal.


X is for X-Factor. For the Habs, the X factor is their speed. They need to use it to their advantage if they want to win consistently. I call it the X factor because the Habs speed has caught many a team by surprise and it can be such a spark to the offense. The Habs speed gets opponents chasing the puck causing them to haul down a Habs player just to prevent a scoring chance.


Y is for Youppi. Youppi is the Montreal Canadiens team mascot. His role is to keep the fans energy levels up and to represent the team as an organization at various events throughout the year. An interesting fact is Youppi was also the mascot of the Montreal Expos when Montreal had a pro baseball team.


Z is for Zdeno Chara. The 6’9” defenseman of the Boston Bruins became public enemy number 1 for this hit on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty on March 8, 2011. Montreal fans have never forgotten this incident and loudly boo Chara whenever he touches the puck when the Bruins play in Montreal.