The Upper Canadien
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Good thing David Desharnais played Monday night, because if it wasn’t for him, the Habs wouldn’t have been in this game. The usual storyline: Habs take lead, Habs blow lead, except in this one, they tied it with 3 seconds left, and then lost in overtime.
I won’t even get into the game: what’s with the celebrating? One thing I always appreciated about Saku Koivu was his class, and his low-key celebrations when things weren’t going well. Remember him toning other players down in an 8-2 playoff ending loss to the Hurricanes? That was the game Doug Gilmour shattered the penalty box glass in. Some of the younger players were ecstatic when the second goal was scored - Koivu set them straight. Congratulations, Saku, on your 1000th game tonight, by the way.
But back to the horror story that is Montreal. Clearly, the Habs need someone to do what Saku once did, because when they tied the game, you’d think they had won the Stanley Cup. Honestly. It was embarrassing.
Or maybe that’s it. Maybe tonight, tying that game, that was the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup moment for 2012. That was our playoff run.
Perhaps that, more than anything, is the embarrassing part.
The Habs play a struggling Canucks team tonight - but they are struggling in a completely different sphere than the 3rd-last place Canadiens. David Desharnais is likely out, and Louis Leblanc goes in. Max Pacioretty looks to pad his US-born record 30 goals as a Hab, and PK Subban looks to continue on pace to match his point total from last year, and post an improved +/- with a much worse team…despite the fact that everyone else would have you believe he’s been terrible. The Habs look to build on their 62 points - for, as they have the entire year, they seem to fail at everything. They can’t even lose right. A loss Thursday would have put them behind Edmonton, and at this point, what’s more important than a draft pick?
Meanwhile, while many Montreal fans tune out, Viggo Mortensen is likely to be watching tonight. The Hollywood star, who won a Genie award in Canada Thursday night (Canada’s national version of the Academy Awards), is a well known massive Habs fan, and brought a Canadiens flag onstage to dedicate his award to the Habs. He also noted that the Canadiens will be back next year “with vengeance.” Let’s hope so, because this year has been a disappointment, at best.
Puck drop at 10 pm EST.
UPDATE: 4:30 PM - Andrei Markov has been activated and may dress tonight. He is a game time decision.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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