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The Upper Canadien

Habs sign Diaz

The signings continue in Montreal, as the Canadiens announced the signing of defenceman Raphael Diaz this afternoon to a two year deal, avoiding potential arbitration.

Diaz had 3 goals and 16 points in 59 games for the Habs last season, and slots in as the likely #5 or #6 defenceman in Montreal come October…or November, or whenever we have a CBA.

More details here: Canadiens re-sign Raphael Diaz

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Habs signings continue with Eller

Frederic St. Denis re-upped for another year on a two-way deal, and now GM Marc Bergevin has locked up Lars Eller on a two year extension.

Another important (?) player locked up; is PK Subban next?


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Quick Habs notes

Montreal media have been assembled all afternoon waiting for a twice-postponed press conference with GM Marc Bergevin to begin. In the meantime, a few quick notes:

Jaromir Jagr is NOT coming to Montreal - apparently. Rick Moffatt of CJAD, a well known Montreal media member, tweeted that he spoke directly with Jagr’s agent, who said Bergevin had informed Jagr that the Canadiens were not interested in his services.

Brandon Prust was a great signing. $2.5 million a year is slightly more than ideal, but Montreal must compensate for higher tax rates. The four years are just fine for a player who is only 28. A character player, Prust makes the Habs tougher and vastly improves the PK, freeing up Tomas Plekanec, who has been the Canadiens’ key PK piece the past few years.

Colby Armstrong is a risk worth taking. At $1 million, his contract is peanuts in today’s NHL, and the term is only a year so there is no long-term risk. Armstrong is motivated after being bought out by Toronto, and a physical presence who will make Montreal tougher to play against.

Francis Bouillon is a great character signing that adds depth to the Montreal defence. He left the Habs on bad terms two years ago, and returns to where he loves to play. Bouillon is small in stature but all heart. A good signing.

So, to sum up: lots of character, but still a couple of holes. The Canadiens need a top six forward (arguably they wouldn’t if Mike Cammalleri hadn’t been dealt - thanks again Mr. Gautheir) and perhaps another veteran presence on defence. More moves to come? I suspect yes, but possibly through trades if players aren’t willing to sign in the hockey media mecca that is Montreal. The one player I wish the Habs had taken a risk on? Guillaume Latendresse. But he’s a good fit in Ottawa. If he stays healthy, he’ll score 25 goals.

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Moen for four, teeing up Sunday

Travis Moen’s four year deal with the Habs (4 year, $7.2 million) goes a long way shoring up leadership for the Canadiens, as well as their fourth line and penalty kill. While Moen may not be a sexy player, he’s an effective one, and a winner at that. Having him signed will allow the Habs to focus on finding more scoring and depth down the middle.

As for the Impending frenzy on Sunday, I expect the Habs to target at least one Francophone player (perhaps PA Paranteau, but likely Gui Latendresse), a skilled forward like Jagr, and some sandpaper/scoring such as a Shane Doan. I’d be pleased if they bring Latendresse back, as I feel his size and strength could help the second/third lines - as long as he’s healthy. I’d also like to see Alex Kovalev back as a 3rd/4th line/PP specialist, but I don’t be the sense the current Habs regime wants him back in Montreal. The Erik Cole signing last year was perfect - can the new management team top it?

Beyond that, anyone’s guess. I could also see GM Marc Bergevin trying to bring in a different backup, perhaps Martin Biron or someone of that ilk, but I doubt that is their first priority,

Should be lots of fun, speculate away - and enjoy!

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Habs draft a huge success

The Canadiens came away from Pittsburgh with a trove of prospects, something they haven’t done in many years, lead by the third overall selection of Alex Galchenyuk. I won’t rehash the whole draft, but I will say that scout Trevor Timmins did some great work, nabbing Sebastian Collberg 33rd overall (many had him rated 3rd overall in Europe) and the prospect I may be most excited about, defenceman Dalton Thrower from the WHL.

GM Marc Bergevin and his staff deserve kudos for their breadth of selections, as the Habs now have a platform to build on, something they have lacked since the younger days of Plekanec, Kostitsyn et al. However, these guys won’t be firing on all cylinders until 2014 or 2015. On tap now? First off, Restricted Free Agents PK Subban and Carey Price must be signed.

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The great Ken Dryden weighs in on Red Fisher’s retirement

An enjoyable piece from Ken Dryden in this morning’s Globe and Mail. As you may or may not know, Red Fisher recently retired after almost six decades of following the Canadiens. Mr. Fisher was one of my favourite hockey writers, and his career is matched by no one. His first day was the Richard Riots of 1955, and his last came two weeks ago. Happy retirement, Mr. Fisher!

Hockey’s good critic retires after 58 years

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Draft day thoughts

We’re three days away from the 3rd (?) most exciting day of the year for hockey fans. I’m calling third to the Free Agent Frenzy and the Trade Deadline - and speaking purely of transactions, of course. Because the draft always brings trades, and what hockey fan doesn’t like trades?

The Habs could trade this pick. I’d put the odds at 60/40. Why? I’m not convinced they are completely sold on one guy more than another. Forsberg. Murray. Dumba. Reinhart. I think the Canadiens brass see many of them as somewhat equal. Therefore, if they can trade down, and acquire another asset, I could see Bergevin making the move to make his mark.

That said, the guy I want, have wanted all along, and continue to want, is Alex Galchenyuk. A big, two way centre, he is what the Canadiens have lacked for, owe, 20 years or so. He would look great in a Habs uniform, and I genuinely hope it happens.

As for the rest of the draft, expect the Canadiens to target American defencemen. Why? It’s just something they like to do. Trevor Timmins clearly believes in the development, and they’ve had some success with these picks - although the best one is playing for another team and was their pillar on the blue line in the playoffs (hint: his initials are R.M.).

And don’t count out trades. Marc Bergevin is new, wants to make his mark, and wants to be aggressive. I expect him to be very active this offseason, and that may well start Friday.

So, buckle up and enjoy the ride. It’s not often Les Canadiens have a 3rd overall pick, so if you’re a fan, enjoy it. Oh, and hope that it doesn’t happen again for a long, long time.

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Habs hiring binge continues

Patrice Brisebois, Martin Lapointe, Gerrard Gallant. It never ends in Montreal. If compiling a slew of former NHLers to work for a club is how to win the Stanley Cup, the Habs are close to surpassing the Leafs for major contention. You know a front office has grown exponentially when two guys have been replaced by, say, eight.

So the hirings: not bad. Good names. I’m a bit saddened that Merc Bergevin welcomed Martin Lapointe into the fold. After all, he declined offers to play in Montreal multiple times. If he wouldn’t play for the Habs, why should he have the privilege of working there? Some of this smacks of Bergevin surrounding himself with friends. Friends are often yes men. That leads to bad things, like trades for Scott Gomez. Something to pay attention to as the summer progresses.

Gallant, however: Good hire. Memorial Cup winning coach. Former head coach experience in the NHL. Tough, gritty, smart player. I like it. The other assistant? My bet is that it’s Clement Jodoin, who has been replaced in Hamilton by Sylvain Lefebvre, but I’d still like to see Carbonneau behind the Habs bench again. A Carbo-Gallant tandem supporting Michel Therrien would look really good.

Otherwise, all quiet in Habs land. The draft is coming up, as well all know. Will they deal the #3? Who will they pick? My bet is they keep the pick, and draft Alex Galchenyuk. I’d be very happy with the big centre, however, I could also see the Habs dealing down to get another asset, and nabbing a defenceman like Matthew Dumba. Also not a bad move to consider.

One week until things get much more exciting.

Oh, and in other Habs news, Alex Kovalev wants to come back, ideally with Montreal. Could Kovalev make a good third line addition as a power play specialist? Or would he be a better assistant coach of floating?

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Habs fire the Randys

As you know by now. Randy Cunneyworth and Ladoceur have moved on from the Habs. You also know that I’m not incredibly pleased with the hiring of Therrien. One thing would make me happy however:

Guy Carbonneau as assistant coach.

Carbonneau was unjustly fired there years ago. He’s a players coach and had a great rapport. Should the Canadiens hire Carbo, I think they’re making a great move. Would he take the job? That I don’t know. But in an ideal world, Carbonneau and Larry Robinson would make a heck of a tandem supporting Michel Therrien.

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Habs go back to the future, hire Mike Therrien

And with a sweeping reach back to 2001-02, when Jose Theodore was great, Saku Koivu was a hero (still is), and Donald Audette was a playoff luminary, Marc Bergevin shocked no one and named Michel Therrien head coach of the Montreal Canadiens (again).

Let’s just get this out of the way: yes, he shouldn’t have had Bill Lindsay on the ice, and yes, Yanic Perreault should have taken the face-off. He hasn’t coached since he was in Pittsburgh, and he hasn’t won anything at the NHL level. They’re talking points, but we’ve heard them a lot today. Let’s move on.

Now, what sort of coach will Therrien be? A defensive, gritty, hard-nosed leader who demands accountability. What will that mean for Montreal? Perhaps a lot more of the Jacques Martin hockey that was loathed, but with a touch of physical play and a lot more emotion. Therrien is known as a short-tempered bench boss, someone who let’s the referees know when they’ve made a mistake, and let’s his players know when they’ve crossed him.

Is that what Montreal needs? I don’t think it necessarily is - but I also think that just about anything is an improvement on the previous regime, so I’m willing to give Bergevin a pass here.

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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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