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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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Habs post-lockout

So with about a week/a week and a half until the season starts, the Canadiens have only days in which to sign defenceman PK Subban. Prior to the lockout, according to various media reports Subban was looking for a long term deal averaging more than $5 million a year - something similar to the contract given to Carey Price. I suspect he won't get that now. 

As for the lockout being over, I'm happy. But I'm happy, primarily, for the parking attendants, restaurant servers, arena staff, and everyone else adversely affected by what was a silly, unecessary, selfish period in the world's greatest game. I won't forget this period, but I will do my best not to dwell on it. 

With the season back, one interesting questions is, what will the NHL do for you, the fan? NHL Centre Ice for the year at no cost? Exhibition game tickets for free? Reduced ticket prices to opening games? 

This will be a very interest week for the NHL, and an exciting week for its fans. After the past four months, they, we, deserve nothing less. 

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Time waits for no one…

But NHL fans do. As I read on this Sunday morning of negotiations, possible start dates, and salary cap limits, James Mirtle's piece in the Globe and Mail on Friday sticks in my mind. It noted that amonst the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Senators, altogether only a handful of season ticket holders had cancelled. Based on comments from other Canadiens teams as well, we're talking ten or less on average city to city. That's a stickiness factor most businesses would die for.  

So, 110 odd days into this lockout, perturbed with both the NHLPA and the NHL, I'm genuinely curious to see whether the fans come back. Numbers like that certainly suggest they will - and I've never doubted they would eventually. But I had always thought there might be a lag. Perhaps there will be in the less dedicated hockey markets? 

And so we continue to wait. Hopefully, in a week or two, we'll no longer be having this protracted conversation, players will be back on the ice, and games will be in sight. With Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr involved though, I won't be hopeful until the documents are signed and the players have voted. It ain't done until it's done. 

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A little bit of Friday night trivia

Given the continuing lack of news, other than the trickle of lockout-related developments, I thought some trivia would be a fun way to get the weekend stared.

Here's a doozy that I had thrown at me tonight. Post answers if you know them. No Googling.

Which NHL players, active or retired, have suited up for all three of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens? I'll give you a hint: it's not a long list. 

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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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