Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 02/01/11 at 12:45 AM ET
This is it folks. The all-star game is over, and the back nine starts tomorrow, as the Canadiens face the Washington Capitals in D.C. Many questions await Montreal in their march towards the playoffs, but many have also been answered through the first 50 games of the season. A quick recap on what we know so far.
Can Carey Price pick up where Jaroslav Halak left off? He has done that and more, earning an all-star spot and Vezina chatter in the process. A .920 SVP ain’t bad, especially when you’re on pace to start 74 games (or 73.8, for those who do the math).
Will the Canadiens forwards, small in stature and light on physical play, be able to muster enough offence to compete in the rough and tumble East? They’ve done alright thus far, with 5 players on pace for 50 point seasons. Quite impressive considering the injuries they’ve battled.
Will Andrei Markov be able to return to his previous level of play? We don’t really know, because he lasted 7 games. However, his replacement, James Wizniewski, has an impressive 12 points in 13 games since being acquired.
This Habs team certainly does not possess a superstar. They are short on scoring but long on grit and determination. A group of veterans intent on picking up where they left off last May against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The clock ticks towards February 28th
I noted in this blog some weeks ago that I thought a perfect fit for the Habs defensive system would be a shutdown defenceman to replace Josh Gorges. A shot-blocking veteran who can help reign in the opposition’s scorers come playoff time. My suggestion was Chris Phillips, perhaps a natural fit given his experience under Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier when they ran the Senators.
This morning, Bob McKenzie agreed, bringing Phillips name up as a player the Canadiens may be interested in during his daily Team 990 segment (and I stress may, because people often hear McKenzie, Pierre McGuire, or other pundits mention a name, and immediately say a trade is imminent. It isn’t). McKenzie noted Phillips would fit in well with Montreal’s system, and also suggested it was a destination that Phillips would like to go to should he be dealt. Who knows if Phillips to Montreal is a possibility – I certainly don’t – but Chris Phillips is definitely a player I’d be trying to acquire if I was running the Habs.
The other name mentioned in connection with Montreal in recent weeks is Jarome Iginla. I can’t see how the Habs would land Iginla – they simply don’t have the blue chip forward I think Calgary would want in return – but Andy Strickland, who is a reputable hockey personality and has called some moves in the past, noted that his sources told him unequivocally that the Canadiens would be making an offer for Iginla (again - making an offer does not mean a trade is coming. It just means people are talking). Given that it received mention on Montreal radio the other day, and was discussed in other media forums, I felt it was worth mentioning. And hey, I’m allowed to dream, right? Iginla is exactly the type of big body the Habs need up front. I would love, I repeat, love to see him as a Montreal Canadiens. But sorry folks, I just can’t see it happening.
Others that the Habs could target who play the same gritty style, albeit with less scoring success? Dustin Penner would be an interesting trade target, but I am starting to believe the Oilers want to keep him around as they rebuild. Ottawa is apparently shopping Jarko Ruutu, but he just doesn’t have the finish the Habs need. Erik Cole would be a solid addition, but he is apparently in the sights of the Philadelphia Flyers – plus, I have a hard time believing Carolina would make a trade that improves the team they are currently chasing for a playoff spot.
But I am buoyed by one thing: after last year’s early acquisiton of Dominc Moore, I really am excited to see what Pierre Gautheir does. For years, Bob Gainey sat patiently still waiting for opportunities that never arose. If we believe what we read, he was in on trade targets like Marian Hossa, but always one moment too late. Gauthier seems eager to make moves, and more importantly intent on improving his team.
The Canadiens have battled through 50 games full of injuries to their top players. They’ve won 27 of them. It’s time for management and ownership to prove they are behind their roster, and bring in some support. 4 weeks left to find that diamond in the rough.
Mr. Gauthier, it’s your move.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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