Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Habs and Briere

I received a note today asking about Daniel Briere. Should they/shouldn't they? My quick retort, as it is far too nice out to spend paragraphs waxing on this: Briere is still a very, very useful player, when healthy. He'd immediately improve the PP, and be a solid leader in the dressing room. So sure, he may be a Vinny consolation prize, but I say what the heck. If Briere is available at, say, $3.5-4 million/year on a short term deal, do it.

Other targets (and I should preface by saying there seem to be lots of ex-Habs out there, I'm not focusing on them for any reason other than size, largely). Daniel Cleary would be a great depth add, as he is a solid, veteran checker with a scoring streak. Mike Komisarek would provide depth on defence, but I'd only consider him  at a $500k-$1 million salary. Another decent veteran to add as a 6 or 7 would be Hal Gill, who was bought out today by Nashville. Boyd Gordon would be a gritty fourth line addition, as would Max Lapierre. And lastly, Ryan Clowe would be a target of mine, as he'd add scoring depth to the second line, while providing a very physical presence. If he's not avaialble, how about a year of Guillaume Latendresse, at say $1.25 million? He's out to prove he can still play, and clearly has the size.  

So there ya go, my two cents heading into the frenzy. Briere would be dandy, but he's another small forward. And who knows? The Habs stealing away the Blackhawks goalie coach could be their big offseason signing. I wouldn't be surprised if Marc Bergevin is trying to wheel and deal for size as well. Dustin Byfuglien is a big, solid player that I would certainly target, were he available. 

Back to the sun. Happy July 4th to our neighbours to the South! 

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Always a bridesmaid…

So the Habs came up short on Vinny. The sweepstakes are over. Now, news that they are after Daniel Briere, who many see as a consolation prize. My prediction? He doesn't sign in Montreal either. Jagr? Nope. Why? Because for Montreal, the old adage is true: always a bridesmaid, never a bride...

...except if you count the acquisition of Christian Thomas from the Rangers earlier today for Danny Kristo, who's had many an off ice issue. Thomas is a former second round pick, with lots of offensive potential, and the hockey genes (son of Steve "Stumpy" Thomas), but perhaps a little on the small side.

Oh well Montreal, you can dream. But no Vinny for you. 

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Getting ready for draft day

With the draft and free agency in the same week, it almost feels like Christmas and Easter in a 6 day period. This is going to be a good week for hockey fans. With regards to what the Canadiens will/should do, you know my feelings on Lecavalier. They should try to net a goaltender in the draft, as it is a weak point in the organization at this point - Carey Price can't play forever - and I'd like to see the Habs pick Jordan Subban with their late 3rd rounder if he's still available. He may only be 5'8'', but he's clearly talented and has room to grow.

Beyond that, I'm no prospect expert, but this year appears to be a strong one for the Q. It would be great to see the Habs trade up and get a marquee player from their backyard, but I doubt we see that. I also doubt we see any huge moves by GM Marc Bergevin, but I do get the sense other teams may make a lot of noise. Regardless, it's a good day to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fun that is the NHL off-season. 

Oh, and I really hope the Habs sign Lecavalier. But you knew that already, didn't you? 

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Vinny watch

Two years ago, Canadiens fans had Jagr Watch. Look back a bit further, to the summer of 2009, and it was Vinny watch. That year, the Canadiens were celebrating their 100th anniversary as an organization, and Bob Gainey was actively trying to build a contender. We all know how that turned out - not well - but through it all the Habs courted a 6'4'' centre from Quebec named Vincent Lecavalier. Time and again they were stymied in their pursuit. Fast forward 4 years, and the same player is now available, will take no assets to acquire, and is exactly what the team has been after for two decades: a big, physical, first line centre who can lead the charge. This isn't Denis Savard 2.0. There's no Chris Chelios going the other way. This is an opportunity too good to pass up. 

Vincent Lecavalier is exactly what the Montreal Canadiens need. Put aside age - 33 isn't retired - and recent performance - he played very hurt last season and was hurt the year before as well - and you've got the first line centre they have for so long desired. Add in the fact that's he's homegrown, and returns to Montreal to live every offseason, and this could be a perfect match. Clearly Lecavalier has considered Montreal as a destination before. Yes, the pressure will be higher than Tampa Bay, but imagine the glory that would accompany bringing a Stanley Cup back to Montreal? Imagine growing up just outside Montreal, and being able to captain your favourite team, your childhood dream? That's what Lecavalier has to weigh now. 

Are the Canadiens interested? How could they not be? Lecavalier can not only contribute now, but help in grooming youngsters like Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. This is simply a situation where the Habs have to act. Marc Bergevin needs to be aggressive, and he needs to try and snag Lecavalier now.

Continue Reading »

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Goodbye, Kaberle

Alright folks, here it is: shocker of all shockers, the Montreal Canadiens are using their second compliance buyout on Tomas Kaberle (as per Sportsnet, and various other sources).

This may not really be news - anyone following the Habs knew Kaberle was as good as gone - but I want to take a moment to recognize Kaberle for his professionalism. He was never given a shot by the new management team, yet Kaberle never complained, never ruffled feathers, and was the consumate professional all year long, based on every report I read that mentioned him. Over and over teammates praised his work in practice. He often showed up for optional practices when many regulars would not.

Oh, and you know what? When he played, he actually wasn't that bad. Kaberle can still bring value to the powerplay, and put in solid #6 minutes. He just can't do it for $4.5 million.

Thank you and good luck, Tomas, we hardly knew ya. 

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Lecavalier buyout a possibility?

Here's an interesting thought for Habs fans, perhaps moreso if it was still 2009, but interesting nonetheless: the Lightning may be considering a buyout of Vincent Lecavalier. When you look at the contract terms, it makes some sense, as his salary will be an anchor on that club for years to come. Attention has centred on Daniel Briere as an option for the Habs, but could a Lecavalier homecoming be an option for the Canadiens? Would Lecavalier want to play under the pressure of Montreal? He'd certainly shore up centre, which has been a weak point for, oh, a couple of decades.

More here:

http://www.tampabay.com/sports/hockey/lightning/would-lightning-consider-buying-out-lecavalier/2127165

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Subban, Norris, Last Laugh (or something like that)

If you believe the news, PK Subban, aka The Subbanator, is the 2012-13 Norris Trophy Winner. Well done Mr. Subban. Well deserved. For anyone who does not see PK regularly, this guy plays his guts out night in, night out. Along with many fans, I am quite interested to see how Hockey Night in Canada reacts, as they have been one of the few outlets to continue harping on PK as being 'disrespectful' and 'childish,' amongst other things. At certain points this year, Elliotte Friedman, Kevin Weeks and Ron MacLean did stand up for Subban, however, PJ Stock, Glenn Healy and many others regularly put down Subban for, more than anything else, being different. 

So, congratulations to Mr. Subban, a player who inspires many an opinion, but plays his guts out every night. Many will say Marc Bergevin made a mistake not signing him long term. Perhaps, but here's a thought: maybe the short term contract spurred Subban on, and without the inspiration of a management team that said 'show us we're wrong,' Subban never would have achieved such a level of play. Regardless, a nice way to end the year for Subban, and another platform to build on for these young Canadiens. 

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Ryder’s Montreal days done…again

As per the Journal de Montreal, Michael Ryder is done in Montreal. Various sources since, on Twitter and radio, have cited his agent for the news, but it's no surprise to anyone who watched the Habs falter in the playofs - it was as if Ryder had left Montreal as soon as the regular season ended. 

Ryder's departure means the Habs will be in the market for a top line winger, and they'll have a decent chunk of change to spend, as re-signing Ryder would surely have cost $4-$5 million. 

No other major news of late from the Canadiens beat, as most fans still lick their wounds, muttering siltently of Ottawa. Perhaps the most practical question in accordance with Ryder leaving: does Brendan Gallagher get his #73 back? 

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Ottawa smiles while Montreal seeths

Perhaps one day, I'll go into detail on my frustrations with the refereeing of game four of the Canadiens-Senators series last night. Perhaps one day I'll delve into detail on the botched icings, faceoffs, and goal rulings. But not today. I just can't handle it today.

But I will say this. I'm proud of the Canadiens, who bounced back from a mess of a game 3 and battled hard for all of game four. Now, they head into game five minus their captain, gone for the season with a serious muscle/tendon tear, likely minus their starting goalie, who was injured on the tying goal last night, minus Lars Eller, minus Alexei Emelin, and Lord knows who else.

And you know what? They can still win. Because the team across from them battled these situations all year, and they persevered. As the dressing room wall says, No Excuses. Will the Habs win three in a row? It's been done before, and it will be done again. They've dominated all but one or two periods of this series. PK Subban said today that Montreal is the better team, and they know they can win. It's time for them to go out and get it done.

On another note, a fantastic read from Grandland today by the esteemed Ken Dryden, on concussions, Lars Eller, and respect in sports. Enjoy. 

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9253871/eric-gryba-suspension-lars-eller-hit

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Habs-Sens: keys to a Montreal victory

This is a big one. The key(s) to victory are very simple. Two words:

Carey Price.

This is simply the game where the Canadiens need Price to show up. He was there in game 2. They need him there again, and more. It's Carey's time to shine. 

However, there are other factors at play that will have an effect for the Canadiens. Jeff Halpern is in for Brian Gionta, probably a good move as Gionta was ineffective with his apparent bicep injury, and Halpern was very, very good in game 2. As well, Gabriel Dumont slides back in for Ryan White.

Gameplan? The Habs need to stick to scoring, and shy away from the fisticuffs. Eric Gryba is back in for Ottawa - Montreal must simply treat him as any other player. Leave retribution for next year. This is not the time. Treat this game the same way they did the past couple of regular season games against Boston. Ignore the aggression, focus on beating the Senators where it counts: on the scoreboard. 

90 minutes to puck drop, folks. Enjoy. 

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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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