Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Habs romp Sens…and everything’s alright?

Listening to the radio in Montreal today, I could have sworn the Canadiens were riding high in the standings, there was no coaching controversy, and the playoffs were around the corner.

As we all know, that’s not the case.

However, the Canadiens did win a game, for the first time in weeks, and Canadiens fans can take some solace in the fact that the team hasn’t quit.

In fact, quite the contrary.

The Canadiens are fighting hard, led by Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty. These two power forwards have changed the way the Canadiens forecheck, and are leading the charge as the Habs try to climb their way into the playoffs. Playing between them last night was Lars Eller, who is very quickly becoming a fan favourite, as he displays skill and hands that, until the recent coaching change, didn’t seem to exist. Pacioretty did his part with a fight early on in the game that changed the momentum after an early Ottawa goal. The defence, led by Josh Gorges, continues to play admirably in front of Carey Price. PK Subban had a strong game after being scratched with Lars Eller before Christmas. And Raphael Diaz continues to mature into an NHL regular, as he posted 3 assists and looked solid in front of Price.

So who are the real Habs? Are they the team that lost 5 straight, or the one that dominated an upstart Sens team last night?

My take is they are a mix of both. They’re learning a new system under coach Randy Cunneyworth, one which allows them to forecheck when they have the lead - evident in the third period of yesterdays game. They’re also coming to the realization that Andrei Markov may not be back at all this season - something that is becoming more likely by the day. But there’s another aspect to all of this as well.

They’re also a team that sees changes coming. The Habs can’t finish this poorly. They just can’t. If they do, GM Pierre Gauthier is gone, as is Cunneyworth, and everyone else associated with the on-ice product. The Canadiens will do everything they can to scratch their way into the playoffs - and remember, this is virtually the same team that made it to the conference finals a season and a half ago. The players know full-well that trades are likely coming, especially the veterans, and they’re likely playing to try and keep their spot on the team.

So who’s on their way out? With the acquisition of Tomas Kaberle, logic would suggest that Josh Gorges is a goner. That doesn’t please me at all, but the writing is on the wall. Gorges will command $4 million plus in the off-season, and the Canadiens can’t fit him with the defencemen they currently have. So, barring a massive trade, Gorges, as a pending UFA, heads out, as Craig Rivet and many others did before him. Furthermore, the Habs just have too many d-men on the roster right now. A Weber, Diaz, or Emelin is likely to be moved as well. My money is on Weber, as he seems to have lost his place on the third pairing.

Who could come back? The Habs will be looking for scoring depth. A logical fit would be Derrick Brassard, but if the Habs made a move for him they’d only be doing it to placate their French fans. If Brassard were to end up in Montreal, it would be for all the wrong reasons. A player like Gorges would fit well in Nashville or, say, Philadelphia, to help fill in for injured veterans. Time will tell whether Pierre Gauthier even has the authority to make a big deal, but I suspect more moves are coming for the Habs, and as I’ve said, the players knows it.

Meanwhile, Scott Gomez and Andrei Markov continue to have played almost no games between them all year. Both are being outscored by Cam Ward.

It’s just been that kind of season in Montreal.

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Comments

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Gorges is too important to this team. He will be resigned at all costs. The cap situation is tough, but it is manage-able. I predict Weber will likely be traded, but if they’re worried about injuries he could be kept as insurance.

Posted by HabAve35 from Montreal on 12/29/11 at 12:20 AM ET

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Put Gomez in the minors and the cap situation becomes simple. It’s good to see this team actually play a decent game recently, it was starting to look like this season could turn into a nightmare. This team has the talent to be competitive. The players have to start playing at a higher level on a consistent basis.

Posted by BlackXinu on 12/29/11 at 09:28 AM ET

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About The Upper Canadien

The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.

I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com