Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

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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Stephane Richer opens up about depression

Today in Canada was “let’s talk” day, a corporately sponsored attempt at spurring discussion on, and raising money towards, battling depression. To that end, there were various television specials, including one this evening that showcased an interview with former Canadiens/Devils star Stephane Richer and his battle with depression. Some of the topics and revelations were shocking, such as Richer’s severe depression just days after winning the Stanley Cup.

In the last photo, Richer is part of New Jersey’s Stanley Cup parade — he was the second leading scorer in the 1994-95 playoffs. He’s in a convertible with a cigar in his mouth and is giving Devils’ fans the thumbs up.

“I look pretty sharp, right?’ said Richer.

“You did,” said Landsberg. “You look like you got it all.”

“I got it all,” agrees Richer. “Just ’til about four days after, I tried to kill myself.”

As a Canadiens’ fan who used to live in Montreal, I remember the glare of the media on Richer, and the shameful rumours and stories that were bandied about by members of the press on radio and television. As fans, we often forget that, despite the fame and fortune, these athletes are human beings.

Anyhow, my thoughts on a Wednesday evening, but a good little article that sums up Richer’s battle, and the battles of a few other names you may recognize.

Depression struggles

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Habs top Pens in shootout

Are they still alive? Apparently. Technically, the Habs are only 10 points out of the playoffs - but it’s going to take the stars aligning, and then some, for them to make it.

Highlights from this evening? David Desharnais was a beast of a man, throwing his 5’5’’ frame all over the ice. PK Subban played his second strong game in a row. Carey Price stood on his head at times, and made some great shootout saves. Oh, and Mr. Louis Leblanc, who is quickly proving that he definitely belongs in the NHL.

From the Pens? Evgeni Malkin, with quite possibly the shootout goal of the year. The ol’ spinorama, off the toe of Carey Price. Malkin is one of a kind, and he was a physical presence most of the game. It always amazes me how much he shines with Crosby out of the lineup.

So the Habs head to Long Island Thursday, with the Isles coming off their own shootout win, a huge 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Playoff hopes hinge on the next two weeks, and those hopes are very, very slim. Can the Habs string 3 together? We’ll know soon enough.

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How to fix the Habs? Oh, and there’s a game today

The Habs play the Jets today in a game that means a lot more to the Jets. However, if the Habs lose, that’s four in a row and I have to believe a house cleaning may come tomorrow. We shall see.

As for the state of the Canadiens, I’ve had a few “what would you do” emails. So, quite simply: I wouldn’t “tank,” as a) the Canadiens can’t finish last, and b) a true rebuild won’t work in Montreal. People will stop going to the games. It’s been proven before, and it would happen a game. No, I’d edge much more towards the Philadelphia Flyers model, which is try to retool. The Canadiens problem isn’t drafting - I believe there are more Habs picks playing in the NHL in the past decade than any other team’s. The problem? Most of them are playing, and thriving, with other organizations. No, the problem is management. Gauthier, Gainey, etc. The Habs need a clean start.

Step One: New management
I have heard many call for Julien Brisebois as GM. Why? The guy is a lawyer. He’s also got ties to the current Habs regime. There are dozens of other candidates. There’s one that I’d target.

If I make the decision, I’m bringing in Pierre McGuire. This guy knows talent like nobody’s business. I’d assemble a management team somewhat like Toronto’s. McGuire as GM, Trevor Timmins as chief scout (he knows how to draft), super-scout Blair Mackasey as an assistant GM. Ken Dryden, if he’s willing, as a senior advisor. Serge Savard as an advisor.

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And with Carolina’s victory over the Kings…

As of 9:26 EST, the Montreal Canadiens are alone in the basement of the Eastern Conference.

It’s dark down here. And lonely.

But seriously, how could anything go worse this year? A lost season, indeed. Will it be enough to cost jobs/cause trades in the near future? I have to believe it does.

There’s bad, and then there is this. Woe, Montreal.

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Shocker: Habs blow a lead

This time, it was 3-1. And they lost 5-3.

Sure, there were some awful calls by the referee, and the winning goal was very questionable due to a trip on Erik Cole that led to the play, but the Habs blew this one. Plain and simple. Perhaps that is part of the reason that Randy Cunneyworth appeared close to coming onto the ice after the Cole non-call. He was furious. Shaking. And he had a stick. Luckily, Cunneyworth got the better of his emotions and stayed calm for the rest of the loss.

I must say, I feel for Cunneyworth. He’s been dealt a deck stacked completely against him. He can’t win. And it’s a shame. Is Pierre Gauthier’s strategy to make him the next scapegoat? Who knows. But one thing is for certain: this team has quickly turned the wrong way, and it doesn’t appear to be coming back.

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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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