Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

The Subbanator returns

Montreal hosts Buffalo today in the first of their traditional two Super Bowl weekend day games. And as for the blue line, that's not a bird, or a plane, but the Canadiens PK Subban, at practice for the first time in almost a year and ready to take the ice against the Sabres.

It's expected that Michel Therrien will leave the first power play unit untouched, as Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz have been dymanite on the back end; however, Subban should add some spark to the second power play, likely replacing Tomas Kaberle, who has been ineffective as he tries to prove he's worth his contract. 

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Subban signing not a good news story - it’s a great one

For Habs fans, the Subban signing is great, great news. Why? For starters, GM Marc Bergevin stood strong on his 2-year contract limit. He wanted a bridge contract. He got it. That looks good on Bergevin as a rookie GM.

For Subban, he takes less money than he could have gotten elsewhere, at $2.9MM a year, to show that he deserves more and, much more importantly, because he wants to stay in Montreal. Subban could easily have coaxed an offer sheet from elsewhere, but he wanted to be a Hab. When was the last time a player of his calibre felt that way? 

A 3-1 start, Subban signed, Galchenyuk and Gallagher staying for the season: things are looking up in Montreal - but as they always say, things aren't as good as they seem when you're doing well, and they aren't as bad as you think they are when you're not doing well. 

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Habs trouble: Pacioretty out a month

News tonight that Max Pacioretty has undergone appendectomy surgery, and will be gone 3-4 weeks. Lars Eller is expected to take his place in the lineup tomorrow.

Tough news for the Canadiens as they prepare to meet the Devils in Montreal tomorrow.

Still no sign of PK Subban, with news the Habs have offered $5.1 million over two years. Certainly not a good news day for Les Canadiens. 

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The PK Saga and thoughts thus far

Should he stay or should he go? If you believe the pundits, the Canadiens have offered Subban 2 years, $3 million per year - far too low. Subban, naturally, is offput by this offer, and wants 5 or 6 years, at $5.5-6 million per year - far too much. Who will blink first? The reality is that if the Habs deal Subban, the next decade will be spent looking for a physical, puck moving defenceman. Every draft year will be "can the Habs find the defenceman they need?" Every July 1st will be "what UFA defencemen can they Habs sign to anchor their defence?" Does this sound familiar? It should, because it echoes the past-decade search for a "big, strong, offensive centre," one that the Canadiens may have solved with Alex Galchenyuk, but it's far too soon to tell. 

No, the Canadiens should not trade PK Subban. It could mark a disastrous start to Marc Bergevin's time as GM. A better approach? A one year contract, around $4 million dollars, to end the stalemate and let PK prove himself. The situation as it stands though befenefits no one. Time for Bergevin to act and get this done.

Two games in: the good

  • Rene Bourque is a new man. He has been a physical force through the first two games, forming a strong line with Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec. If Bourque can keep this up, he will quickly put last year behind him and become a fan favourite.
  • Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher: these two young guns bring energy and excitement to a lineup sorely lacking in offensive flair. If I had my way, they'd both stick around all year, and the Habs will be better for it if they do.
  • Carey Price was fantastic on Tuesday against Florida, making some key saves in the third period to keep the Panthers out of it. A great start to the year for the Habs 'tender.

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Habs set for season opener

So, the season is - finally - upon us. Three main storylines for tonight's tilt with the Maple Leafs as the season gets underway:

 

1) The kids are alright: Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher crack the Habs roster. Galchenyuk will play on the 2nd line, and while not confirmed, I suspect Gallagher 3rd line an PP time. Why? Coach Michel Therrien said multiple times that Gallagher would only stay if he was going to play regular minutes. Now, he may have stuck around solely as insurance for the time being, as Tomas Plekanec is banged up. However, both he and Galchenyuk have bright futures. When combined with the performance of Jarred Tinordi in camp, who most media say would easily have made the team had there not been such a logjam at defence, well, the future in Montreal looks bright indeed.

 

2) Injuries: get ready for a common theme this season. Injuries will abound with a tighter schedule and shorter camp. It's possible both Carey Price and Tomas Plekanec will not play tonight, but that seems highly unlikely. Combine that with PK Subban, and theoretically, the Habs could be minus three of their best players to start the season. 

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Canadiens final cuts tomorrow

The Montreal Canadiens played a 3 period scrimmage tonight in front of an almost full house (about 70%) full of fans that lined up for hours to see the Habs back in action. Coach Michel Therrien said after the game that final cuts will be announced tomorrow morning, at which point we'll find out whether Alex Galchenyuk cracks the roster for Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs.

My two cents on Galchenyuk: many people are saying send him back to the OHL, or give him 5 games and send him back, he's too young, he's not ready. However, why not keep him up in Montreal, get him relevant experience on the 2nd line, and let him grow? That way, come October, he'll be ready to go. This gives him time to work through the growing pains. Otherwise, next season will be the hiccup.

Many will disagree, but I think Galchenyuk can help now, without hurting his development. We'll know soon enough. 

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A new normal in Montreal: the Bergevin era really begins

Marc Bergevin made quite a splash this morning, at the start of Montreal Canadiens training camp. As you've no doubt heard by now, Bergevin announced that he had sent Scott Gomez home, cheque in hand, to wait out the season, bubble wrapped to ensure his perfect health. This ensures that Gomez can be bought out come July 1st, when the first opportunity arises. I was surprised - after all, the word out of Montreal had been that Gomez was a welcome part of the Canadiens team, and a recent article in the Gazette had him fit, focused and ready for the shortened playoff sprint. 

What does no Gomez, or GoHomez as the announcement was termed, mean for the Canadiens? It means a lot of things. It means a new regime is in charge. No more Pierre Gauthier-led mystique. No more lack of quotes and silence. Marc Bergevin was candid and humourous at his briefing this morning, laying the facts out straight as he made the announcement. No holds barred. This is a refreshing change for fans of Les Canadiens.

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Gomez ordered home

According to various  sources, Scott Gomez has been sent home by GM Marc Bergevin. He will not play for the Canadiens this season, and will be bought out in the summer. 

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Habs getting ready to roll

Most of the Canadiens are back in Montreal, with Andrei Markov now having arrived from Russia. One absent face at training camp Sunday may be PK Subban, if his agent Don Meehan and GM Marc Bergevin are unable to come to an agreement on a new contract. Various rumours have Subban asking for "Doughty" money, as in $6-7 million per year on a longterm deal. I don't buy it, and I suspect Subban will settle for a one or two year deal, in the $4.5-$5.5 million range.

Things are still quiet otherwise, although one piece of news to keep an eye on is the health of Tomas Plekanec. There had been reports, that were denied, of an injury while playing in Europe. Plekanec was being checked out by doctors today, and it appears he has a rib injury. We'll learn more once camp gets underway.

Until then, once the CBA is passed by the players transactions can begin. What should we expect from the Habs? I'd look for a defenceman to get moved, as they have quite the collection of depth defencemen available, and far too many to carry on the roster.

The Canadiens will be working hard over the shortened camp, as they look to learn *new coach Michel Therrien's system, which will no doubt differ greatly from that of Randy Cunneyworth and Jacques Martin before him. It should be an exciting few days as we get set for January 19th. I'll have more over the week as the team takes shape, with an eye on whether Alex Galchenyuk makes the cut. 

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Habs getting ready for camp

Not much news yet, as the CBA hasn't been signed, but a few quick notes:

 

- Negotiations are ready to go between Don Meehan and Marc Bergevin to get PK Subban's new contract worked out.

- Mike Commodore has been invited to Canadiens training camp, giving the Habs a plethora of NHL defencemen

- Alex Galchenyuk is expected to be at Habs camp, and coach Michel Therrien is reported to be a huge fan

 

My quick two cents: the Commodore bit is interesting, as the Habs already have, arguably, too many defencemen. Perhaps M. Bergevin will swing a trade or two to put his stamp on the club. With Viskovsky walking out on the Isles, perhaps there's a match? Just an idea, but I would be surprised if we don't see a move or two in Montreal before the season begins next weekend. 

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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

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