The Upper Canadien
I'm on the road today, so can't write much, but I will say this: David Desharnais for four years at $3.5 million per is a good deal. The lack of a no trade clause makes it a great one. This rewards a key piece of the Habs offence, while giving them the flexibility to deal the contract, if need be, down the road.
Good move, M. Bergevin. The interesting question now is who stays and who goes. DD, Plekanec, Eller, Galchenyuk...it isn't a problem now, but not too far down the road, there won't be any room at the inn.
I've been traveling the past week, and will be again this week, but as we're at the halfway point I felt I had to opine on this year's Montreal Canadiens team. I can summarize the first two months in one word.
From coach, to first line, to the third line, to the defence, right on down the line, this team has surprised. They are leaner, meaner, faster, stronger, and hungrier than last year. By leaps and bounds. My standouts to date? Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, Max Pacioretty, and PK Subban lead the pack. Gallagher is a Calder candidate, and Subban has to be in the Norris conversation, what with 18 points in 20 games to go with superb defence. Brian Gionta and Andrei Marov have bounced back admirably from major injuries, Lars Eller is becoming consistent, Alex Galchenyuk oozes talent, Josh Gorges blocks shots like they are going out of business, and Alex Emelin is turning into a certifiable top three defenceman.
Who could have predicted this?
Budweiser Canada was kind enough to send me one of their now infamous red lights two weeks ago, and after two weeks of solid use, I can report that it is a very, very cool piece of hockey fandom. It is also a brilliant marketing scheme, and it definitely impresses a group of guys over to watch the game. Other members of the household? That's debatable. But if you want to impress a group of friends easily, one of these does the trick handily. More info is available here, but I'll give you a quick rundown if you're new to the product.
The light comes in a tube-shaped package, packed in styrofoam, with easy to understand instructions and you can have it set up in a matter of minutes. The light connects easily to wifi, and comes with a handy app that runs smoothly on my iPhone (and, I gather, most mobile devices). It allows you to select all your favourite teams, and each time they score - voila, the light goes off.
A few questions I had going in, that you may have reading this review:
I had the privelege of once again being a guest on the XM NHL's War Room Review today, as Mick Kern, Peter Berce, Eric Gage and I discussed all things NHL-related over the past week of hockey. Ryan O'Reilly, Alex Ovechkin, coach of the year candidates, realignment and, of course, a little Habs.
Over my last few posts, you've seen me opine on the idea that Marc Bergevin has yet to "put his stamp" on the team, and to expect a trade sometime soon.
Well, apparently, tonight was sometime soon. And it's a good one.
Newfoundland, rejoice: Michael Ryder is back where he belongs. Is this a good trade for Montreal? It had been said that Erik Cole's contract was great in year one, ok in year two, not great in year three, and Habs fans would beg for mercy in year four. Well, year four seemed to come quickly - and to be fair, that may be lockout related. Cole had clearly become disinterested, and it showed in both his interviews and his game. Apart from a couple of games, Cole was somnambulting his way through the season, whereas Ryder has 14 points in 19 games, and as a pending free agent is gunning for the net.
Let's also consider that, having shipped out the Cole contract, Montreal saves significant cap space for another two years. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a good deal. Well played, M. Bergevin. What's next up your sleeve?
So thank you, Erik Cole. Your contribution was greatly appreciated. You helped David Desharnais out of his shell, and you helped Max Pacioretty turn into a premiere power forward. Good luck in Dallas.
Now, Mr. Ryder, get that number 73 back and get to it. Toronto tomorrow. Montreal's gonna need ya.
It's February 23rd, and the Canadiens are looking down on most in the Eastern Conference. Now, there's an asterisk there, as this is obviously not an 82 game schedule, but most - myself included - did not expect a Habs team in first place this close to March. In fact, most didn't expect Montreal in first place, well, at all. 2013 was to be a rebuilding year, after an embarrasing campaign the year before. What happened?
Here's the jist: a funny thing happened on the way to the Bell Centre. The next generation took over. Names like Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Emelin, Diaz, and Eller are having much more of an impact than expected.
So the Canadiens got a win Tuesday night, 4-3 over the Tampa Bay Lightning, however it came in an unfortunately predictable fashion. For the third game in a row, the Habs blew a third period lead: against Boston, 1-0 turned into a 2-1 regulation loss. In Buffalo, a 4-2 lead turned into a 5-4 shootout loss, and in Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead tured into a 4-3 overtime win. The spectacular part of Tuesday's game? With 6 minutes to play, the Canadiens had a 3-0 lead.
What the heck is going on in Montreal?
Memories of 2012? The Habs blew a third period lead and lost for the second night in a row, a habit that was far too prevalent last season. Ryan White is the goat, having taken a terrible penalty late that allowed the Sabres back into it, and Michel Therrien is none too pleased. Look for White to be a scratch tomorrow night versus Toronto.
A couple of quick thoughts:
So the 6-3 Habs roll into Buffalo tonight, a day after blowing a 3rd period lead and losing 2-1 to the Boston Bruins. Peter Budaj gets the start, which seems surprising after Carey Price was relatively sharp and didn't look tired.
Heading into this season, many thought Price would play upwards of 48 games.
Montreal hosts Buffalo today in the first of their traditional two Super Bowl weekend day games. And as for the blue line, that's not a bird, or a plane, but the Canadiens PK Subban, at practice for the first time in almost a year and ready to take the ice against the Sabres.
It's expected that Michel Therrien will leave the first power play unit untouched, as Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz have been dymanite on the back end; however, Subban should add some spark to the second power play, likely replacing Tomas Kaberle, who has been ineffective as he tries to prove he's worth his contract.
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? firstname.lastname@example.org