PENTICTON, BC. — Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ and the NHL over the past few weeks. Habs players in Europe, Andrei Markov, Eric Cole, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, the Hamilton Bulldogs, the NHL lockout and more. Feel free to post your comments as they are always welcomed.
1- A total of nine members of the Canadiens found work overseas during the lockout. They are: Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz, Alexei Emelin, Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, Andrei Markov, Tomas Kaberle and Tomas Plekanec. While Pacioretty is back in North America, the number could go up if the lockout continues as others are exploring their options.
2- This whole story about Max Pacioretty and his health issues while in Switzerland seems quite odd. It appears like he and head coach Kevin Constantine didn’t see eye to eye, a situation that obviously didn’t sit well with the owner of Ambri-Piotta as the coach has since been fired. The way words travel in the hockey world, something tells me that Constantine won’t be following the footsteps of Bob Hartley and land a lucrative NHL contract any time soon, for choosing to sit one of the NHL’s brightest young stars.
3- Looking at the way he’s playing, Tomas Plekanec seems to like the home cooking. The Canadiens’ centre, who came off a disappointing season, has 25 points including 12 goals in only 16 games playing for his home town Kladno in the Czech Republic League. Habs’ management and fans must be hoping that he brings back some home-made recipes to Montreal when the lockout ends and that he can keep on a similar pace at the NHL level. Check out this first hand look at Plekanec from our Czech correspondent.
4- Plekanec’s fellow countryman Tomas Kaberle is also having a good start to his season. Kaberle, who also signed a lockout contract with Kladno, has already racked up six points (2 goals) in 10 games so far. The Habs’ fans scapegoat (with Scott Gomez) could use a boost of confidence to help him live up to the $4.25 million per season cap hit for remaining two years of his contract and take some pressure off his back from his team’s fan base.
5- Kaberle could be needed if Andrei Markov can’t shake off the injuries. Having signed a lockout contract with Chekhov Vityaz in the KHL this season, reports came out that he had left a game, winded. Other reports later on mentioned that the Canadiens’ defenseman had injured his ribs and was going to miss three games. You could hear a sigh of relief from Habs’ fans and management, as everyone was thinking about Markov’s knee. The jury is still out about Markov and his health as he will be entering the second of a three year deal.
6- Speaking of Markov, much was made of his comments about his potential return to the Canadiens if or when the lockout ends. A lot of it had to do with sensationalism headlines on a French sports news site saying that Markov didn’t know if he will or not come back to the Canadiens. I watched the interview (in English) and it appears like something was lost in translation or that someone read too much into his comments. Fans and Montreal reporters need to understand that Markov is playing in his home country, getting paid by his countrymen right now. Why would he throw oil on the fire by saying that he’ll be back in the NHL when the lockout ends? He tried, in his second language, to tip-toe his way around the question, nothing more. I personally have no doubt that if healthy, he’ll be back like everyone else.
7- Raphael Diaz is on fire since re-joining Zug in the Swiss A-league. Diaz, who signed a two year extension with the Canadiens this summer, has racked-up 16 points in 17 games this season and his coach can’t say enough about his defenseman’s contribution on the team. Will he be able to take the next step at the NHL level? Time will tell… if we have a season. Another Canadiens’ defenseman who is having a great season in the Swiss A-league is Yannick Weber, who already has three goals and 11 points in 16 games so far playing for Geneve Servette. Weber, who many feel is fighting with Diaz for the same spot on the Habs’ blue line, could at the very least draw interest from other NHL teams if the Canadiens decide to trade him when the league resumes its activities.
8- In the American Hockey League, the Hamilton Bulldogs are up to a decent start, especially considering the number of new players on the team this year. The Dogs have one of the youngest teams in the league with nine players born in 1990 or later in their line-up, four of which are defensemen. It will take time for them to get used to the speed of the game at the professional level as it is a huge step from College or the CHL.
9- Speaking of the Bulldogs, Aaron Palushaj and Blake Geoffrion are having a pretty good start to their season, but three rookies coming straight out of the junior ranks are opening many peoples’ eyes. Brendan Gallagher leads all rookies on the team with six points (3 goals), while Patrick Holland is close second with five, followed closely by Michael Bournival with four points. Gallagher leads the team in shots on goal at the time of writing this article. The future looks bright for the Baby-Habs and Trevor Timmins must be pretty proud of his work.
10- There we have it folks, Gary Bettman has cancelled the Winter Classic. The game was scheduled for January 1, 2013 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. By doing so, the commissioner has managed to infuriate even more people, fans and sponsors alike. This being the third lockout under Bettman, seeing that the NHL has lost more games due to work stoppage than any other professional league in North America, one would think that someone, somewhere, will see that it is killing the game a man in his position is hired to promote.
11- There are a few people in the Canadiens’ organization that must be extremely anxious to get this season going. Geoff Molson, after cleaning house and hiring a new GM, is likely not happy to lose the momentum on the excitement the news had created, and he would probably like to fill the Bell Centre instead of seeing it empty. Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien are likely two others who can’t wait to be able to get to work at their new position.
12- Erik Cole showed his frustration this past week, saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if the season was cancelled. He is frustrated with the owners and the fact that Gary Bettman only needs eight of them in his corner to ruin it for everybody else, saying that he strongly believe that Geoff Molson would rather negotiate while the games are being played instead of going through the lockout. Cole dropped a bomb when he stated that he would be thinking of retiring if the season was lost. Take those comments as made under a great deal of frustration folks, as it is very unlikely that Cole, at 32 or 33, would leave $9 million on the table.
BONUS- You will recall my promise to do my share to put pressure, as little as it might be, on the NHL to show my displeasure towards the NHL due to the lockout. I had to make an unexpected trip to Quebec from BC last week and as I was at the Montreal International Airport waiting for my flight, I was browsing the boutiques for souvenirs for my wife and kids. I saw some amazing Habs’ toques and other Habs’ souvenirs, things that my family would have truly appreciated. I walked away, went to another store and spent my money on other types of souvenirs, not NHL related. I will do this for five years folks, no less.
Like you, I am hoping that the NHL and the NHLPA can reach a deal soon and that we can start seeing the All Habs wave on Twitter sooner rather than later. While just as frustrated as anyone else, I still love this game and since it’s the first time I’m excited about the team since 1995 or so, I can’t wait to see Bergevin making decisions and seeing the direction the team takes under his leadership. Go Habs Go!
Category: All Habs news