Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Habs watch: the drive for…70 points?

What a terrible season it has been. Honestly. The Canadiens skate into Calgary tomorrow with a scant 60 points. How is former Flame Rene Bourque doing as a Hab? 6 points. 6. In 22 games. 4 goals. Oh, and 22 hits. That’s one hit a game. Sure, Mike Cammalleri hasn’t lit it up for the Flames, but he’s got 11 points in 21 games, and has scored some key goals. Bottom line: Bourque has been a bust. Hard to forget as the Habs head into the Saddledome.

And that sums it up. Genuinely. The Habs are awful. They are on the verge of, potentially, their worst season since expansion, although one has to figure they get at least 10 points over the final month of the season. However, if they don’t, they’ll fail to match the magic of the 2000-2001 season, which featured a leading scorer with 21 goals. Craig Darby was the 7th highest scorer on that team. If that doesn’t say enough, Trevor Linden was 6th.

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Deja vu for Randy Carlyle

His last game as coach of the Ducks was against the Habs, so fittingly, the Toronto Maple Leafs will make their debut under Randy Carlyle against, you guessed it, the Montreal Canadiens.

What’s different this time around? The Leafs are 1-9-1, worse even than the Ducks were in their spell back in the fall, and the Habs are far, far below in the standings, staring upwards at the playoffs.

Both teams aim to change their fortunes with about a quarter of the season to go, and both teams are slowly slipping further into the muck that is an early summer. The Canadiens are quite banged up, with Travis Moen, Scott Gomez, Aaron Palushaj, and the ever-injured Andrei Markov on the sidelines, amongst others. If Carey Price goes, he’s hurt as well, but playing through it. Captain Brian Gionta continues to rehab from muscle surgery.

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Habs deadline, surprisingly, a bust

So trade deadline 2012 came and went with a whimper, and not a bang, for the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs got the day started for all with the trade of Andrei Kostitsyn to Nashville for a 2nd and a 5th (the same conditional pick they had dealt in the Hal Gill deal) but…that was it. Mathieu Darche, Chris Campoli, Travis Moen, they are all here to stay, Habs fans.

Incredible, isn’t it? This team couldn’t even cut bait and tank successfully. Instead, they got a 2nd for Kostitsyn when lesser players garnered offers of 1sts, and picked up Brad Staubitz off waivers - the type of tough, bruising forward they could have used, oh, 5 months ago.

And so, the pain that is 2012 for Habs fans continues. What a year. When will it stop? At least we know it won’t drag into the spring.

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Habs blow another lead, who is gone tomorrow?

What else is new - the Canadiens blew a lead Sunday night, losing to the Florida Panthers. What might be new? Some players, tomorrow, if the deals are there.

I won’t bother going over the game - let’s face it, the Habs season is over - what’s more interesting is what might happen between tonight and tomorrow at 3.

So, what signs were there Sunday? Well, Mathieu Darche has been one of the Habs most consistent performers the past month (perhaps therein lies the problem) and he was a healthy scratch. My bet? Someone deals a 3rd or 4th round pick for Darche, and he likely re-signs in Montreal come June.

Andrei Kostitsyn? He wasn’t very good Sunday, and he’s been downright terrible of late. He’s sulking, but I think someone takes a chance. Maybe Nashville, where his brother’s career has flourished. I bet Andrei gets a 2nd and a prospect, which seems reasonable given Wojtek Wolski nabbed a 3rd.

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GMGM?

The latest news in the dysfunctional offices of the Montreal Canadiens is that, according to TSN’s Tony Marinaro, as reported by CTV’s Brian Wilde, Geoff Molson has taken over as GM of the Montreal Canadiens. Pierre Gauthier is nothing more than a mouthpiece, and all decisions and negotiating are being made and done by Geoff Molson.

GMGM? Apparently.

So what does this mean? Well, nothing except that perhaps a man who has never been a hockey manager is now calling the shots for the most storied franchise in hockey history.

That bodes well.

Oh, and the firing of Pierre Gauthier is, apparently, imminent.

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Habs almost out of nine lives

With last night’s shellacking by Dallas - and that’s what it was, the Canadiens didn’t show up until halfway through the game - the Habs are basically on their last legs. They’re going to need the winning streak of all winning streaks to stay in the race.

Chances of that happening? Not good.

So, who stays, and who goes?

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Quick Habs hits on a Monday evening

Back from six days away and without internet access almost the entire time. A few quick things to catch up on:

- Pierre Gauthier made a great deal with Nashville. Getting two young players along with a 2nd, let alone a Geoffrion who could be motivated by the legacy of being the fourth generation to play in Montreal, was more than I felt the Canadiens would get for Hal Gill. Geoffrion has already played more games than most 2nd round picks do, and I suspect he’ll settle in for the next few years as a 3rd or 4th line winger. The 2nd is a great chip to have, and Slaney fits well in Hamilton. Haven’t said this in a while: well done, Mr. Gauthier.

- Who goes next? Clearly, Andrei Kostitsyn doesn’t fit Randy Cunneyworth’s “style” - but is Cunneyworth the coach next year? No. Kostitsyn is a perennial 20 goal scorer who, if coached and motivated by someone preaching to his talents, can score 30. He’s an enigma, but a very talented one, he hits (most people don’t realize that) and he cares. I say keep him, unless the offer knocks your socks off. Kostitsyn is far more valuable than a 2nd round pick, and he wants to play in Montreal. After this season, who knows how many players will feel that way. Lock him up long term.

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Valentine’s Hangover

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Good thing the Habs blew another 3rd period lead last night, otherwise I’d be making the predictable St. Valentine’s Day Massacre jokes. Nope, this was just a plain ol’ blown lead. The Habs have been good at this over the course of the season - and last night was no different. After being down 2-0, Montreal stormed back to make it 3-2, only to give up SH and PP goals in the third period. Seems fitting given the frustrations of the past year.

And thus, the Habs are still 7 points out of 8th - but closer to last than they are a playoff spot. Do they buy? Sell? I have to think selling is the right decision, but I could understand if Mr. Gauthier hasn’t made his mind up yet. Lots of money - and jobs - on the line.

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Habs going for 5, Ryan White back to the big club

The Montreal Canadiens go for 5 in a row against Carolina Monday night, and in anticipation of perhaps being without the services of Travis Moen again, the Habs called up Ryan White and Ian Schultz on Sunday. White returns from a rehab stint and looks to play his first game of the year. He’ll bring energy and pugnacity to the 4th line. Schultz, the other guy in the Jaro Halak trade, looks to potentially make his NHL debut with the Canadiens (side note: yes, the Canadiens have an extra forward now - let the trade speculation begin).

Fresh off a big 5-0 win over the Leafs, the Canadiens took Sunday off. However, they better get back to it Monday - too many times this year, the Habs have followed up big games with stinkers. A win could bring them within 5 points of 8th. That’s pretty doable with 26 games to go.

Carey Price gets the start, playing his best hockey of the year. Full text of the Habs call-up press release below.

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Happy Hockey Day in Canada

Let’s hope it’s a good one. As for the Habs, can they make it four in a row? That would tie their season high, and if it comes to pass it will likely be due to the play of two Habs: Max Pacioretty and Carey Price. Pacioretty is now 5th in even strength scoring in the NHL - pretty impressive for a guy coming off a broken neck. Price, meanwhile, has been lights out the last week, making many a highlight reel save as the Canadiens have their backs against the playoff wall.

The Leafs, meanwhile, have looked good lately as well, led by the red hot play of former Hab Mikhail Grabovski, and the terrible two: Phil Kesel and Joffrey Lupul. Kessel and Lupul have been lights out all year, and if the Canadiens have any chance of winning, they’ll need to keep both lines in check.

7 pm. James Reimer is in - or so we’re told by Ron Wilson. PK Subban returns home. Lots of plot lines. Points at stake. Should be great.

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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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