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The Upper Canadien

Habs GM search: quick thoughts on Jim Nill

As you have no doubt heard by now, Detroit Red Wings Assistant General Manager Jim Nill declined the Canadiens GM job after multiple meetings and conversations with Geoff Molson. Apparently, these conversations began almost immediately after Pierre Gauthier’s dismissal.

Nill would have been a great GM, and I suspect he will be, one day, somewhere else. However, his wife is quite ill, and clearly it would not be the appropriate time for him him make the jump. That said, he had kind words for the Canadiens and the organizations approach to finding a replacement for Gauthier.

My thoughts: this is a good sign. Nill was an unpopular suggestion from the start, largely because he is not from Quebec. However, he’s a smart, focused, experienced hockey executive, and anyone in his mould would be a great choice.

So, the search continues, with the regular names surfacing (Brisebois, McGuire, Mackasey, Roy). In the interim, best to Mr. Nill and his wife and she continues her fight.

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Two Habs tidbits

Obviously a quiet time for Montreal news, given that, ya know, we missed the playoffs. However, two bits of news:

1) Nashville’s Francis Bouillon acknowledged that he would listen if Montreal called this summer. A fan favourite, Bouillon was jettisoned by Gainey & Co. in 2009. However, he was a fan favourite, and if he’s on the market, my money is on the Canadiens giving him a call. They could do much worse than having a physical, committed sixth defenceman - especially after the Chris Campoli experiment.

2) Rumours that the Canadiens have narrowed the list of candidates for GM. Two names that apparently made the cut - Brisebois, Julien and McGuire, Pierre. No surprises there. One also figures that Patrick Roy is on that list. We also know Blair Mackasey was interviewed. So, still no news, but progress is being made.

And finally, a thought: if you’re GM this summer, do you phone up Brian Burke and offer an exchange of Tomas Kaberle for Mike Komisarek? Exchange one problem for another? Sure, Komisarek is past his prime, but they make essentially the same money and would be going back to where they each had their finest days. Plus, Komi did pair very well with Andrei Markov.

Just a crazy thought, on a drizzly, cold April Saturday.

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Habs lose a great

As has been reported here earlier today, the Canadiens family lost Emile “Butch” Bouchard this morning, after a long battle with illness. 92 years old, Mr. Bouchard was last seen publicly during Montreal’s centennial celebration, when his sweater was, rightfully, retired amongst the rafters of the Bell Centre. #3 preceded Rocket Richard as Captain of the Habs, and won four Stanley Cups as a member of the Habs. Jean Beliveau has commented that Bouchard was his role model as a captain.

Best wishes to the Bouchard family. He will be sorely missed.

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Habs bid adieu

Today was locker cleaning time in Montreal. No Expos anymore, so it’s going to be a long summer of discontent for Canadiens fans. However, it should be peppered with excitement - new General Manager, new coaching staff, and who knows what free agency will bring.

In the meantime, the playoffs, and perhaps more central to Habs fans, a little thing called the draft lottery. Tomorrow night the balls drop, and we’ll see where Montreal ends up. Grigorenko? Forsberg? Yakupov? Dare I dream?

Once the order is determined, I’ll be writing on who I think the Habs should grab. Luckily for them, the first five picks this year appear to be quality players. Who knows - perhaps they’ll be able to draft someone that can play next season?

A guy can dream, right? Wait, I guess that’s IF there’s a season. That’s a whole other topic entirely.

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Habs news as the team twists in the wind

One issue today: the Carey Price injury. My question: why is there so much controversy about this? Just shut him down. Not worth the risk. If he has a concussion, give him an early summer. Throw Robert Mayer in there and see what we got and, hey, we probably get a better draft pick.

Don’t mess with Price’s head - literally - sit him, let him rest, and get ready for next year. Because barring something catastrophic, it can’t get any worse, and with a little luck, games in April will mean something.

This year, they don’t mean a bloody thing.

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Au Revoir, Mr. Gauthier - but does his replacement NEED to be French?

It’s a decent news day in Montreal. As you know, Pierre Gauthier is out as Habs GM after, arguably, their most disappointing season ever. Also out is former GM and Senior Advisor Bob Gainey. Before we go anywhere, a quick note:

Thank you Bob Gainey.

Bob Gainey built a 1st place team in 2008 that had a lot of talent but couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. He drafted some key pieces. His work got the Habs within 2 wins of their first Stanley Cup appearance in 16 years. Moreover, Bob Gainey did much of this while fighting through the grief of losing his child, in a life that has been marred by tragedy, yet continued to serve the team he loved. Yes, Bob Gainey failed to bring a championship, and yes, Bob Gainey made mistakes. But it’s never nice to see someone lose their job, especially not someone who cared so much.

Now, onto the next chapter. What next for Les Canadiens? The airwaves are burning up with callers. Left and right I hear that the new General Manager “must” be French. Must be French? Why? Was Pierre Gauthier not French? Can we not choose the best man available? French could result in more of, well, this. Surely you don’t want that, do you?

Patrick Roy, Claude Loiselle, Francois Giguere, Julien Brisebois, Jim Nill, I’ve heard many names, all of them competent, all of them qualified in some way, shape or form. But the man who should fill the General Manager’s role, in my mind, is a native Montrealer, fluently bilingual, and a very controversial suggestion. I wrote about it two months ago, but I’m going to state it again:

Pierre McGuire is my choice as the next GM of the Montreal Canadiens.

Continue Reading »

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Draft lottery fever?

As a Habs fan, is it too early to be getting excited about the draft lottery? The closest we’ve come to this event was post-lockout, when teams were pulled out of a hat for the right to draft one Sidney Crosby. The Canadiens ended up 5th, much higher than they should have been, and nabbed Carey “Thoroughbred” Price. The rest is history - and sadly, that history hasn’t been as good as many thought it could be.

So here we go again. Draft Lottery, 2012. Yakupov. Grigorenko. We all know the names. The Canadiens sit 3rd last. They’ve got a decent shot at a top pick. Where will they end up? Who will they get? I’m starting to look forward to it - sad in one sense, but fun in another. Much more fun than anything else involving the Habs since, well, probably their big win over the Detroit Red Wings. It’s been all downhill since then.

The Montreal Gazette has a good article today on said lottery, posing the question: who will represent the Habs? Surely it won’t be Mr. Gauthier. Could it be Geoff Molson himself? An ambassador, such as Guy Lafleur? Or will it be the next General Manager of the Canadiens, kept hidden behind the curtains until the last second, only to stroll onto TSN’s stage as the pick is about to be made?  Patrick Roy, perhaps, or everyone’s favourite television personality Mr. Pierre McGuire?

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Cole with 3 in 5:41 as Habs top Sens

The Senators had everything to lose Friday night, and lose they did, as the Montreal Canadiens stormed to a 5-1 win. Led by Erik Cole’s opening-game natural hat trick (the first Hab to score 3 in a period since Brian Bellows in 1993), Montreal played a gritty, team game, much of what we’ve seen the past few weeks - a very different game from the first few months of the season.

Carey Price was sharp in net, keeping the Sens out of the game, while the Habs could have had many more past Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop, as they had a 4-0 lead 9 minutes in, and came close twice more before the 12 minute mark.

What does this sort of a game show? It shows that the Habs haven’t given up, despite what many fans would like, and that the players, apparently, like playing for Randy Cunneyworth, because of late they have increasingly upped their game as their season trickles away.

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Habs news on a quiet Monday

Not much to report of late. Tomas Kaberle is unlikely to play Wednesday, still with his wife following the birth of their daughter. Andrei Markov will play. Maybe these two can’t play together - perhaps it’s fate? Mathieu Darche continues to work his way back from what appears to have been a very bad concussion, and the Canadiens continue to work their way downward, sitting in 15th in the East.

The most exciting question for most Habs fans these days is: where will they end up in the draft lottery, and who will they take? Could Mr. Grigorenko stay in Quebec? Will the pick be dealt? Won’t be long now until we know the answers.

Oh, and the coach/GM conundrum. Patrick Roy? Pierre McGuire? Julien Brisebois? Marc Crawford? Marc Bergevin? Claude Loiselle? Lots of names, not many concrete leads. But fear not Habs fans, consider this a reminder that, despite a long, painful, sleep and anger inducing season, an action packed summer awaits.

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Carey Price still playing for keeps

The Habs eked out a point last night. That was solely due to the play of Carey Price, who kept the Senators at bay for 50-odd minutes before they tied the game and went on to win 2-1. The Habs were without Andrei Markov (it’s not the knee, it’s upper body, we swear…yeah, sure), Tomas Kaberle, and the regulars who have been out all season. I give Randy Cunneyworth credit, he still has much of this team working, and he’s still emotional as ever on the bench. It would be very easy for someone in his position to simply throw in the towel - after all, the chances of him being back as head coach are slim to done. However, he’s still tearing strips of players, telling referees (such as favourite Chris Lee) where to go, and urging his players on to victory. It’s inspiring in one sense, and depressing in another.

So the Habs fight on, ready to go again tonight. No word yet on whether Mr. Markov will be back patrolling the blue line. Alexei Emelin went down last night with an injury, blocking a shot with his back, but was back late in the game, so he’ll probably go. Kudos to Josh Gorges, who last night blocked 10 shots, threw 6 hits, and was selected first star - in a game that meant little to nothing for Montreal.

Perhaps now, the race for Habs fans is versus Toronto. Who finishing ahead? Who gets the better draft pick? Will it come down to the final game of the season?

Hopefully, that will keep things interesting. But for now, the team is still working. In an age where countless professional athletes shirk responsibility, that’s at least refreshing to see.

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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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