Tag Archive | BOB GAINEY

DANNY BRIERE? THANKS, BUT NO THANKS #HABS


So, Danny Briere is now up for grabs, after being bought out this week by the Philadelphia Flyers. Would you like to see him in a Canadiens uniform?

Thanks…but no thanks.

It was six years ago, almost to the day, that Bob Gainey went hard after Danny Briere: the summer of 2007.  And I mean hard.
Briere was coming off a 95-point season with the Buffalo Sabres and was ready to write his own ticket. And he did.
A ticket that took him to Philadelphia after he rejected Gainey’s overtures.

I remember thinking at the time: Jeez. How much money are you supposed to throw at the guy before he said “Yes.”
Briere never said “yes”…not to the Montreal Canadiens, at least. And I thought to myself: see ya.

Gainey wasn’t shy when it came to going after big-name talent: either through free agency or the trade route. However,
like he always said: it takes two to tango: either way. Briere preferred to tango with the Flyers, where he put up some fairly prolific number before the injury bug got the better of him. However, with two years left in his contract, the Flyers elected to by out the 35-year old: a move that will shave $6.5 million off their salary cap.

Briere figures he still has a year or two left of hockey in him as he looks ahead to life as an unrestricted free agent.  Who am I to doubt the guy? I wish him nothing but the best.

He’d like to stay in the East for family reasons: and with two kids in school, who can blame him? But the Canadiens don’t need Danny Briere any more than they “needed” Jaromir Jagr. And please. Don’t tell me that even if Briere coasts through the regular season, you can count on him in the playoffs.

You think so?

I don’t.

See ya.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS FOR LARAQUE


Georges Laraque is eyeing a comeback in the NHL.

“You never know, it could even be Montreal,” said the former Hab. “Gainey’s gone, Gauthier’s gone.” “It’s a matter of going to the right team. I have no idea where it could be.”

In January 2010, then-GM Bob Gainey informed Laraque that his services were no longer needed.  Now, two years later, with his bad back healthy again, according to Laraque, he says he’s ready to find out if there is a market for his services.

“I have a chance to change the way things ended,” said Laraque.  “I have something to prove.”

Laraque says it was “awesome” playing for Michel Therrien as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“He will make sure that the little small Canadiens’ team that was taken advantage of by clubs like the Bruins and the Flyers…that’s not going to happen with him as the coach.”

Laraque says he’s instructing his agent to reach out to NHL clubs to find out who might be interested in his services.

GEORGES LARAQUE IN HIS WORDS:

http://www.cjad.com/Blog/HabsNews/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10392039

BOB GAINEY’S LEGACY AS GM OF THE HABS


The Leafs will retire Mats Sundin’s number 13 jersey prior to tonight’s game in Toronto against the Canadiens.

Remember when Bob Gainey tried to convince Sundin to sign in Montreal after his days in Toronto were over? That got me thinking about the deals that Gainey made as GM of the Habs.

What’s the best trade Gainey made with the Canadiens? How about his worst deal!?!? I’ve got my suggestions. How about yours? Share them on my Facebook page, via twitter @hefteronthehabs, or right here in the comments section, and I’ll share them tonight in The Locker Room, 6-7 p.m.

Only on CJAD and CJAD.COM.

http://www.cjad.com/Shows/TheLockerRoom.aspx

LECAVALIER’S SUMMER OF DISCONTENT


Seems no matter where Vincent Lecavalier goes, he can’t escape the rumours and reports that link him to the Montreal Canadiens.

And it’s clear the Montreal-area native is growing tired of it all.

Lecavalier was in Montreal today for a fund raising initiative at a local car dealership, where he expressed his frustration of not knowing where he will end up next season.

“The worst part of it, is being really uncertain about your future, I guess,” said Lecavalier.  “Just from reading the papers, and hearing all the reports.  It’s not the best situation you want to be in, but I guess that’s part of the game.”

Lecavalier has been twisting in the wind since before the 2009 All-Star game, when reports surfaced that Bolts GM Brian Lawton was prepared to deal his superstar, with the Canadiens being the likely destination. As it turned out, the All-Star game was played in Montreal.  And as an Eastern Conference All-Star, Lecavalier was on hand for the proceedings.  And when he arrived in town for All-Star weekend, he was bombarded with questions about the trade rumours linking his name to the Canadiens.  To his credit, Lecavalier answered every question, but could shed little light on the rumours.  In reality, he was nothing more than a victim of these rumours.

As for Lawton, he vigorously denied the reports, and, sure enough, when the March trade deadline came and went, Lecavalier remained, and still remains, in Tampa.

Then, at the conclusion of the season, in Bob Gainey’s state-of-the-union address, the Canadiens’ GM dropped a bombshell.  He admitted to having conversations with Lawton three months earlier about a deal that would have brought Lecavalier to Montreal for Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges.  Gainey said Lawton ended up going public with the three players names in an effort to leverage the situation with other teams.  At the time, Gainey said it was “disgraceful” that Gorges, Plekanec and Higgins “had to read that stuff.”

Lecavalier was none too pleased to see his name come out in public that way, either.

“Maybe there were talks.  I don’t know how far they went with them. Obviously it’s disappointing to hear that.  I’m sure all the names of the other players … they were disappointed, too.  But what can you do?”

If you’re Vincent Lecavalier, not much. Just sit, and wait.  However, the situation is not totally out of his control.  Lecavalier said if the Lightning do approach him with a trade, he will provide them with a list of teams that he would consider going to.  And the Canadiens would be on that list.

“Of course.  There is no way I could ignore them,” admitted Lecavalier.  “Myself being from here, family and friends, it would be pretty hard not to put them on the list.  But we’re not that far yet.  They haven’t called me to do that, so we’ll see, I guess.”

By publicly calling out Brian Lawton, the feeling is that Bob Gainey and his counterpart from Tampa Bay will now never be able to sit down at the table and work out a deal for Lecavalier, if there’s a deal to be had.  But don’t be too sure about that.  I don’t believe for a moment that egos would get in the way of a trade involving the Habs and the Bolts for Lecavalier, if both GMs felt the deal was the right one for both organizations.

Let’s assume the two GM’s do come together on a trade.  The intense scrutiny that Lecavalier would be under in Montreal would be suffocating; the pressure, enormous.  Canadiens’ fans have been salivating over the prospect of Lecavalier coming to Montreal for years.  The expectation that  he, alone, could somehow lead this club to the promised land would be completely unrealistic. But that’s never stopped Habs’ fans.  

“When you look at Montreal, it’s pretty special.  The history of the team, and the people going crazy for the sport.  It would be a challenge, but something that every player has to go through when they come here.  If other people can do it, why not?

Sounds good.  On paper, at least.  Now all Lawton and Gainey have to do is make it happen.

GAINEY GETS HIS MAN


“What was Gainey’s rush?!?!”

“Boring, defensive hockey comes to the Montreal Canadiens!!!”

“The guy has as much personality as a wet noodle.”

…and so it goes.  Just some of the reaction to this week’s hiring of Jacques Martin by the Montreal Canadiens as their new head coach.  Personally, I think Jacques Martin is just what the doctor ordered for this ailing franchise.  But apparently, I may be in the minority here.

For starters, let’s look at the three above-mentioned criticisms.

What was Gainey’s rush?

I’ll tell you what was Gainey’s rush.  Gainey was in a rush to put a head coach into place with some time to spare leading up to the NHL Entry Draft, that will be held June 26-27, at the Bell Centre.  Gainey was in a rush to finally add a sense of stability to a franchise that had been drifting without a full-time head coach since Guy Carbonneau was fired on March 9, and a franchise further set adrift with word that team’s ownership is about to change  hands. Finally, a sense of direction from the Habs as they now move into high gear to assess the 10 potential unrestricted free agents they have on this team, and they players they will need to find to replace the UFA’s who don’t come back.  I’d say Gainey had several good reasons to be in a rush, wouldn’t you??

Boring, defensive  hockey comes to Montreal.  

And this would be a bad thing?!?!?  The fact that Jacques Martin had a large measure of success as a defensive-minded coach, largely with the Ottawa Senators, is something I’m thrilled to see on his C.V.  The Montreal Canadiens were a terrible team last season when they weren’t playing with the puck.  The fact that they weren’t much better when they DID have possession of the puck, is another story.  Defense wins championships.  Okay, Jacques Martin hasn’t won any championships in his lengthy tenure as an NHL head coach, but that’s because he didn’t have a goaltender in Ottawa who could win a playoff game.  Martin’s system turned a mediocre Ottawa team into a very good Ottawa team.  That works for me.  Hopefully, it’ll work with the Montreal Canadiens.

Jacques Martin’s personality, or lack of same.

Apparently this is an issue with some fans. Hmmm. Let me see now.  The last coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Guy Carbonneau, had a pretty fiery temperment.  Carbonneau was an emotional coach who wore his heart on his sleeve.  He spoke his mind and took no prisoners.  And where did it land him?  On the unemployment line.  Jacques Martin isn’t a politician.  He isn’t a stand-up comic (although a few laughs were sorely needed in what was a disastrous Centennial Season.)  He’s a head coach.  A professional head coach.  A head coach with experience.  Lots of it.  A head coach who finally brings to this organization a body of NHL knowledge that the Canadiens have been lacking since the days of Jacques Demers.  

Jacques Martin was even criticized by some over the suit he wore to the Bell Centre when the Canadiens introduced him as the 29th head coach in franchise history.  THE COLOUR OF HIS SUIT, FOR GOODNESS SAKES!!!!  LIKE THAT’S GONNA MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN IT COMES TO HIS QUALITIES AS A HEAD COACH!!!!!!

For the record.  It was a brown with faint pinstripes.

Listen to me.  Jacques Martin doesn’t have to impress us with his wit or his charm.  Or his wardrobe.  He has to take the players he has in that dressing room and get the most out of them.  End of story.

Actually, the story is just beginning for Jacques Martin, who may have come out of left field in all of this.  But he is the right man for the job.

HABS THROUGH CARBO’S EYES


Guy Carbonneau says he never saw it coming.

Just about everyone else, however, did.

Carbonneau spoke to the media yesterday for the first time since being fired Mar. 9, in the hours after a Canadiens’ 3-1 over the Dallas Stars in Dallas.  Despite Montreal’s struggles this season, Carbonneau told a packed house at the Bell Centre yesterday that he felt the Canadiens were headed in the right direction.

He may have been the only one.

How surprised was Carbonneau when he was given the pink slip by GM Bob Gainey in a curt, 10-minute conversation that took place upon the team’s arrival from Dallas that fateful day?  On a scale of 1-10?

“A 12,” deadpanned the former coach.

Let me say right now that I like Guy Carbonneau as a person and I respect his abilities as a coach.  He was a finalist for the Jack Adams trophy as coach of the year last season, for a reason.  He was given a contract extension by Bob Gainey going into the 2008-2009 campaign, for a reason.  Gainey called the hiring of Carbonneau the best move he’s made as Habs’ GM, for a reason.

But those reasons began to wear very thin as the team rolled through the all-star break.  And for Carbonneau to suggest that this team was headed in the right direction at the time of his dismissal, just doesn’t ring true to me.

Yes, the timing of Carbonneau’s firing could be considered a bit odd, coming, as it did, following a victory.  However, how can anyone truly believe that this team was “on it’s way”, after one crummy win over the Dallas Stars?  You can’t blame Carbonneau for clutching at straws yesterday and insisting that he had the horses to turn this season around. Human nature, I suppose.

But it just doesn’t ring true.

All you need to do is look at this club’s record right around the time of the all-star break.  Since Jan. 20, the Canadiens have suffered through a pair of four-game losing streaks.  Yes, they did manage to win four straight during that post all-star stretch, at the end of February.  But upon closer inspection, those four victories were made possible by the unbelievable play of goaltender Jaroslav Halak.  Period.  The performance of the players in front of Halak during that winning streak? 

Mediocre, with gusts of brutal.

In short, there was absolutely nothing to suggest that the Canadiens were going in the right direction after they beat the Dallas Stars on the night of Mar. 8.

That’s why Bob Gainey fired Guy Carbonneau.  In an effort to save the season.

And what will it take to save this season?  Alek Kovalev figures he has a pretty good idea.  In the minutes following Montreal’s 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday night, Kovalev, who returned to action with a goal in regulation and another in the shootout after a couple of days with the flu, said the Canadiens would need to win eight or nine of their remaining 12 games to remain in the playoff hunt.

That would mean the Canadiens will need to play in the neighbourhood of .700 hockey between now and the end of the regular season.  What are the odds of that happening, given the way this team is playing?

Let’s face it.  Even though the Canadiens are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, barely, tied for seventh place in the East with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Habs have been nothing better than a .500 hockey team all year long.  Yes, they have a record of 36-25-9 heading into tonight’s game in Ottawa against the Senators.  But let’s just look at wins vs. losses.  Thirty-six wins, vs. 34 losses.  That’s barely better than .500 hockey.

And, as Bob Gainey said just the other day, .500 hockey isn’t going to cut it.

So what do the Canadiens do after picking up three of a possible six points in the first three games with Gainey back behind the bench?  They leave a very important point on the table, and allow the Rangers to walk out of the Bell Centre with a very valuable two points, in a 4-3 shootout loss. 

Make it four of a possible eight points with Gainey behind the bench. 

More .500 hockey.

Which isn’t going to cut it, regardless of who is behind the bench.

HABS DON’T HAVE TO GO FAR FOR LATEST ACQUISITION


Some 24 hours after dispatching the popular Steve Begin to Dallas, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey found that depth centreman he was looking for.

And he didn’t have to go far, to get him.

After the Habs arrived in Philadephia for last night’s gme against the Flyers,  they announced the acquisition of Glen Metropolit off waivers from the Flyers. Which meant that all Metropolit had to do, was walk across the floor of the Wachovia Center to join his new teammates in the visitors locker room. 

Now, Glen Metropolit will never be confused for, say, Vincent Lecavalier.  Not when it comes to stature OR talent.  At 5-10, 185 pounds, the Toronto native isn’t exactly a “big body” up front.  And 12 goals is the best she’s been able to do in a single season at the NHL level.  But Gainey clearly saw something in the 34-year old when the veteran became available, making Montreal his 7th NHL stop.  Last year, at this time, you may remember Metropolit in a Boston Bruins uniform, and his splendid performance against the Canadiens in the playoffs. 

Then he moved on to Philadelphia.  And just 55 games in his career as a Flyer, Metropolit became expendable as the Flyers worked toward freeing up some cap space for the return of Daniel Briere to the Philadelphia lineup. 

And that is how Metropolit, who’s resume includes stints with the Long Island Jawz, Anaheim Bullfrogs, and the New Jersey Rockin’ Rollers of Roller Hockey fame,  became a member of the Montreal Canadiens.  Just hours before the Habs were set to take on his former team.

Fast forward to the start of last night’s game, and head coach Guy Carbonneau wasted little time in going to his latest acquisition. Metropolit opened the game on a (short-lived) line with Alex Kovaelv and Gregory Stewart. And the Flyers responded with Joffrey Lupul beating Jaroslav Halak  just 28 seconds in, to make it 1-0 Philly.

Mike Richards then made it 2-0 some eight minutes later, and the Flyers were off and running, right?

Wrong.

After starting the game like gangbusters, Philly goalie Antero Nittymaki  lost his game, while the Canadiens found theirs.  It was Tomas Plekanec with his 17th of the season on the power play at 16:25 to make it 2-1 Philly; Plekanec extending his goal-scoring streak to five games since his recent suspension.  Tom Kostopoulus tied the game just 13 seconds later with a goal from an impossible angle, before the rejuvenated Alex Kovalev (one goal and two assists on the night) put the Habs ahead with his 15th, late in the frame.

Simon Gagne tied it up midway through the second, a period which saw the Flyers outshoot the Habs 18-5; and a period which also saw the Canadiens weather a couple of 5 on 3 Philadelphia power plays.  The two teams eventually went to overtime.  And with Scottie Upshall in the box for running the crease,  Mathieu Schneider cranked one up from the point, past Nittymaki, to propel the Canadiens to their third straight win:  for the first time since early in the New Year.

As for the newest Hab, he finished with 11:47 of ice time, winning 60 per cent of his faceoffs in the process. 

Now, Metropolit, who looks and sounds like Brian Smolinki (it’s eerie, I tell ya), might not be the answer to Habs fans’ prayers as Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline looms ever larger.  But, true to his word, Gainey has gone out and filled what he felt was a need at centre by plucking the veteran off waiver wires.  That’s not to say that  Gainey has put the phone down, for good, when it comes to conversations with other GM’s around the league over the next three days.

But I’m here to tell you that I believe Bob Gainey has put his phone down, for good, when it comes to conversations with other GM’s around the league, over the next three days.

STEVE BEGIN TO DALLAS VIA PHILADELPHIA


When Steve Begin took to the ice this morning at the Habs’  practice facility in Suburban Brossard, he was still a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

When Steve Begin boarded the team charter for Philadelphia and tomorrow night’s game against the Flyers, he was still a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

But a funny thing happened to Steve Begin on his way to Philly.  He became a member of the Dallas Stars.

Upon arrival in Philadelphia, Begin was whisked away from his (former) team mates, and was informed that he had been dealt to the Stars for defenceman Doug Janik (more on HIM a little later.)  So, while Begin’s (former) team mates made their way to the team hotel, Begin caught a flight to Dallas, to join his new team mates, the Dallas Stars.

And that was it.  Begin’s career with the Canadiens, which spanned the better part of six seasons, was over.  Traded to Dallas for a journeyman defenceman who might never see the light of day with the Montreal organization.  That’s because Janik, who has bounced around between the NHL and the AHL since the Buffalo Sabres made him a 2nd-round pick in the 1999 Entry Draft, is ticketed for the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs.  However, he first has to clear waivers.  And if he doesn’t, well, he’ll end up with another team.

And the Canadiens wil be left with absolutely nothing, in return.

But GM Bob Gainey was obviously willing to take that chance, in order to give Begin an opportunity to do something he hadn’t done over the last five games with the Canadiens:

Play hockey.

It’s not as if Begin wanted “out” of Montreal, according to Gainey.  He wanted a chance to play a regular shift.  That’s something that he wasn’t getting for a good part this season.  Through the opening four weeks of the season, and over the last four weeks, Begin saw more action from the press box than he did on the ice.  As one of five men battling for three positions on the fourth line, Begin was in a dogfight for playing time.

Today at practice, for example, as Coach Guy Carbonneau formed his lines for tomorrow night’s game in Philly, it became clear that Begin, once again, would be the odd-man out.  Along with Mathieu Dandenault.

Why?  I can’t really tell you.  Only Guy Carbonneau can tell you why Begin, a guy who gave his heart and soul for this club,  played only 42 of the team’s 61 games, with no end in site to his role as a designated sitter.

Next to Saku Koivu, no one displayed more grit and more guts on this team over the last six seasons, than Steve Begin.  Half the time he played hurt; his body held together by duct tape and chicken wire.  Sure, maybe he was never more than a third-line player on this team, but, in all the time he wore the CH on his chest, he consistently sacrificed his body for the good of the team.

But you know what?  If the trade with Dallas is going to mean a new lease on Steve Begin’s playing life, I’m happy for the guy.  He deserves it.  He was a brilliant pick-up on the part of Gainey, one of his first moves as GM of this club, when he plucked him from the Buffalo Sabres’ organization as a waiver draft selection, on Oct. 3, 2003.  And if he asked Bob Gainey to give him an opportunity to play a regular shift, albeit with another team, that works for me. 

For those of you who are rubbing your hands in glee in anticipation of this deal being the tip of the iceberg in terms of possible player movement on this club leading up to the Mar. 4 trade deadline, you can stop right now.  Except for perhaps a move to acquire some depth at centre, it’s not going to happen.  That was all but spelled out today by Gainey.

This is the team, by and large, that will carry Montreal’s playoffs hopes through the final six weeks of the regular season.  Minus one of this team’s best performers in the playoffs last season.

Steve Begin.

KOVALEV SHINES IN SPOTLIGHT


Did you expect anything less from Alex Kovalev?

With the spotlight on number 27,  for all the wrong reasons, Kovalev returned to action yesterday, scored a goal and added two assists, to help power the Canadiens to a 5-3 win over a stubborn Ottawa Senators hockey club.

The chant “Kovy, Kovy, Kovy” rang through the Bell Centre rafters, the moment that Kovalev was introduced to the crowd by way of pre-game player introductions on the jumbo screen.  And it didn’t take Kovalev long to pay the fans back for their ongoing support, as he set up Tomas Plekanec for the game’s first goal just 2:23 into the opening period; the first of three power play goals for the Habs.

One hundred and ninety-five seconds  later, Kovalev made it 2-0 when he picked up a Chris Phillips turnover and beat Brian Elliott stick-side.

Kovalev also assisted on a goal by Patrice Brisebois; a goal that gave the Canadiens a commanding 4-0 lead.

They needed it.

The Sens stormed back in the second period with a pair of goals before Mathieu Dandenaultscored a huge goal with 18.1 seconds remaining in the second to put Montreal ahead 5-2.  Despite giving up the late second-period goal (by that time, Alex Auld was on in relief of Elliott), the Sens continued to press, as the Canadiens ran into some serious penalty trouble.   However, Jaroslav Halakwas able to keep the Sens at bay, kicking out 44 shots; with the Canadiens outshot 22-4 in the third period.

Finally, a win by this Canadienshockey team.  One they could be proud of.  They’ll have an opportunity to make it two straight wins, for the first time in well over a month, when they play host to Mats Sundin and the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night.

And won’t THAT be fun.

Oh yes. Alex Kovalev.  The man loves the spotlight, doesn’t he?  Remember the all-star game?  He didn’t disappoint that night.  And he didn’t disappoint last night, coming away as the game’s first star.  As impressive as his offensive contributions were, what really raised my eyebrows was the way he lunged for a puck in the first period, timed the move perfectly, to clear the zone at a time when the Canadiens were killing a penalty.

While, on most nights, it’s all about artistic merit when it comes to Kovalev, that particular move was all about effort.  And for the better part of his 19:44 of ice time, it was all about effort for the rejuvenated Kovalev, who joked with his team mates that his return to action after an unscheduled two-day vacation felt like he had just been traded to this team.

A rather interesting choice of words, what with the Mar. 4 N.H.L. trade deadline just 10 days away.

Will Kovalev still be a Hab when he wakes up on Thurs., Mar. 5th?  More of what we saw of Alex Kovalev last night,  in the days and weeks to come, will certainly make it more difficult for G.M. Bob Gainey to consider trading his enigmatic all-star.  I’ve always maintained, and I still maintain, that Kovalev isn’t going anywhere. Not now, at least.  But the last time I checked, my business card did not include the title: General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

The REAL question that begs to be asked is:  WHICH Alex Kovalev will show up to the rink Tuesday night against the Canucks. And Thursday when the Habs are in Philadelphia.  And the following night, when the Sharks are in town.

Etc. Etc.

The Alex Kovalev who played like an all star last night?  Or the Alex Kovalev who played himself off this team just a few short days ago.

The only person who can answer that question is number 27 himself.

HABS’ CENTENNIAL SEASON HANGS IN BALANCE


Some celebration.

The Montreal Canadiens’ Centennial Season is turning into a non-stop nightmare, both on and off the ice.

The action on the ice took a back seat, earlier this week, as a result of the unusual move by General Manager Bob Gainey to leave Alex Kovalev behind before the Canadiens moved on to Washington and Pittsburgh, to close out this disastrous six-game road trip.

Then, today, news broke  in the Montreal newspaper La Presse that Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn had social ties with a man who has just been arrested on criminal charges.  Roman Hamerlik was another member of the Habs identified by La Presse as someone who hung around this character.

It must be noted that there are no charges against the three Habs’, according to the crown prosecutor, and there is no information linking them to the operation cracking down on alleged drug traffickers.

Still, Gainey felt the need to address this swirling controversy at the club’s practice facility at Brossard, while the Canadiens’ took to the ice in preparation for their next game, tomorrow afternoon at the Bell Centre, against the Ottawa Senators.

Gainey told reporters he’s concerned by the published report in La Presse that three of his players have been hanging out with an alleged underworld figure.

And then there’s the concern on the ice.

The Habs, so anxious to hit the road for this six-game road trip, returned home with their tails between their legs, after accumulating a grand total of three of a possible 12 points.  One point came in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals Wednesday night, which was followed by a 5-4 loss to the Penguins on Thursday night, to close out this road trip.

Despite the suggestions by some that Alex Kovalev had played his last game with the ‘Bleu, Blanc, Rouge,” number 27 was back on the ice at practice today. And head coach Guy Carbonneau confirmed that Kovalev will be back on the ice tomorrow against the Ottawa Senators, along with his familiar line mates: Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec.

Mind you, Plekanec and Kostitsyn did very well, thank you very much, with Max Pacioretty as a member of that three-some, while Kovalev cooled his jets back in Montreal.  In fact, the three were, by far and away,  the Habs’ most effective forward unit in the loss to the Penguins.

But Guy Carbonneau  has decided to give Kovalev his greatest chance at success by returning him to the scene of his biggest triumphs as a member of this team: playing with Plekanec and Kostitsyn.  In effect, he’s told Kovalev: “You think you are ready to help this club when it needs you the most?  I’m going to give you the resources to help you get it done. Now,  show me what you’ve got.”

And just exactly what does Alex Kovalev have left?  With the Mar. 4 N.H.L. trade deadline looming, are these Kovalev’s final days as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.  Is he destined to exit this city as a mere footnote? 

Or will Alex Kovalev seize the opportunity that has been afforded him by Canadiens’ management and grab this team by the scruff of its neck, and pull it out of this quagmire of controversy and shame, and lead it to the promised playoff land?

Is it even fair to ask this question of one man at a time when the Canadiens continue to lose hockey games as a team? 

Right now, at this point in time in Canadiens’ history, in this, the 100th anniversary of perhaps the most storied franchise in all of sports, I believe the answer to that question is a resounding:

Yes.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.