Tonight, from 6-7 on CJAD and webcasting on CJAD.COM, TSN Sports Legal Analyst Eric Macramalla (@EricOnSportsLaw) joins me to discuss his latest blog post regarding Marc Crawford http://offsidesportsblog.blogspot.ca/
Hockey analyst John Shannon from Sportsnet checks in as we look back at Bob Hartley’s decision to say “thanks but no thanks” to the Montreal Canadiens — opting to sign a three-year deal with the Calgary Flames. We also look ahead to Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final between the Devils and Kings.
And we’ll hear from a number of NHL prospects, including Alex Galchenyuk and Malcolm Subban, who have wrapped up a week at the NHL Draft Combine in Toronto.
We also read your tweets and take your calls, tonight from 6-7 p.m., in The Locker Room.
Four weeks into the job as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, everything was coming up roses for Marc Bergevin.
Until today’s announcement that Bob Hartley had taken a the job as head coach of the Calgary Flames.
If you believe everything you read on Twitter, Hartley was destined to take over as bench boss of the Habs. Mind you, we were hearing the very same thing about Patrick Roy up until just a few short weeks ago, when he seemed to fall off the Twitter radar.
But I digress.
Hartley was going to be “the one.”
Well, he’s not. Not in Montreal, at least.
The optics of today’s developments are not good for Marc Bergevin, through no fault of his own. Bergevin, first in Shawinigan during the Memorial Cup, and then, just yesterday, at the NHL GM’s meetings in New York, made it clear that he was in no rush to name a new head coach. He said the move could come quickly, or it could take awhile. Yesterday he stated the obvious when he said there would be no annnouncement coming from the Canadiens this week.
In fact, Bergevin might not have a head coach with him at the draft table when it comes time for the Canadiens to make their picks next month in Pittsburgh.
So, basically, Bergevin has said a whole lot of nothing about the team’s vacant coaching position over the last week or so — because there hasn’t been anything to say.
You can’t fault the guy for that.
But Habs fans who were hoping to see Bob Hartley behind the Montreal bench are going to equate Bergevin’s decision-making process as “waffling.” They are going to see this as Bergevin’s inability to land the big coaching fish in what is a very small coaching pond for the Canadiens. They are going to accuse Bergevin of being asleep at the switch.
Was he? I don’t know. I have no idea how close Bob Hartley might have been to becoming the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. In my view, only two people know the answer to that question: Bob Hartley, and Marc Bergevin. And, at the news conference held today in Calgary to introduce their new head coach, Hartley acknowledged that although the Canadiens had shown an interest in his sevices, he called Bergevin to tell him that he would be joining the Flames.
So while Marc Bergevin was wowing them with his initial front-office signings of Bobby Kinsella as a U.S. scout, Rick Dudley as assistant GM, and Scott Mellanby as Director of Player Personnel, he still hasn’t given Canadiens fans what they’ve been lusting for.
A new head coach.
Welcome to Montreal, Marc.
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Exit Michael Cammalleri in a stunning turn of events involving number 13 and the Montreal Canadiens over the last 24 hours: pulled mid-game in Boston and shipped back to Calgary for Rene Bourque in a deal that also involves prospects and draft picks.
When I think of Michael Cammalleri in a Habs jersey, I think of the expectations, and a promise of greatness: we saw flashes of that from Cammalleri during his brief stay in Montreal. A terrific first season in Montreal before the injury bug bit. Habs fans wondered if he might be on course for a 40-goal season that year. There was that terrific playoff two seasons ago, and a solid, if brief, playoff run last season.
It’s time to see what Jaro Spacek, Paul Mara and Hal Gill can bring to the table.
Not to mention Yannick Weber.
You remember Spacek, Mara and Gill, three of the seven players brought in during the off-season during Bob Gainey’s extreme makeover of his hockey team? Lots of size, lots of experience, lots of money. Three veterans who are supposed to help Habs fans forget about Patrice Brisebois, Mathieu Dandenault and Francis Bouillon.
And Andre Markov.
Not to mention Ryan O’Byrne. For now, at least.
Markov is out for four months after undergoing surgery on a lacerated tendon: a nasty souvenir from Montreal’s 4-3, season-opening win against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night. Just like that, the Canadiens will have to do without their best player until sometime around the Olympic break. The man being touted by some as the next Captain of this team, is now lost to this club until February.
Forty-eight hours later, O’Byrne goes down with a lower body injury in Buffalo, following a 2-1 victory over the Sabres, with the Habs now 2-and-0 thanks to a couple of overtime wins. He’s out for about six weeks.
Presto. Just two games into the regular season, and the Canadiens are already woefully thin along the blueline. The injury to Markov left the Habs with six defencemen, which was manageable for the game in Buffalo. However, the injury to O’Byrne left the Canadiens with just FIVE defencemen, which just doesn’t add up. Which is why the Canadiens have recalled Weber from the Hamilton Bulldogs.
While the ‘Dogs were busy losing 3-2 in their American Hockey League opener to the Toronto Marlies last night, Weber was busy packing his bags for a flight to Caglary, where he’s expected to join the Habs in time for today’s practice at the Saddledome ahead of tomorrow night’s game against the Flames.
I like Yannick Weber. I like his potential upside, potential he is now going to get a chance to realize, as a result of this sudden and dramatic turn of injury events. Weber was one of Montreal’s final training camp cuts; sent packing on September 29th after acquitting himself rather nicely during the pre season. His performance gave Habs fans further indication that this 21-year-0ld from Switzerland is ready for prime time, and ready to step out from under the long shadow cast by another player from Switzerland, Weber’s good friend and off-season training partner, ex-Hab Mark Streit.
The Canadiens, certainly, are hoping he is.
In fact, you’ll recall that Weber was impressive at Habs’ training camp one year ago. However, there was little doubt he was ticketed to Hamilton, where he scored 16 goals and added 28 assists in 68 games last season. It’s ironic that, one week ago, Weber was sent down to Hamilton, a victim of the numbers game. And today, he will skate again with the Montreal Canadiens, a beneficiary of the numbers game; and the dwindling number of defencemen available to head coach Jacques Martin as a result of the swelling injury ranks.
Even with the presence of Weber in their lineup, the Canadiens have absolutely no breathing room along the blueline. As impressive as Matt Carle was in pre-season play, this young man is not ready for prime time and needs time to further develop in Hamilton. PK Subban? Let’s see what he does as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs before we consider his future as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Alex Henry? He had a cup of coffee with the Canadiens last season and showed precious little, other than the ability to get beat up every time he dropped his gloves. He has a future with the Bulldogs, not the Canadiens.
One defenceman who is available, is Mathieu Dandenault, who was set adrift by the Canadiens at the end of last season. The Habs could do much worse than Dandenault, a reasonably effective puck-moving blueliner who still has some wheels and can be an abraisive body along the boards. Short of pulling off a trade, picking up a guy like Dandenault could be the handiest way for Bob Gainey to, short term, help plug some immediate and significant holes along the blueline.
In the meantime, it’s Yannick Weber to the rescue, beginning tomorrow night, against the Flames.
Less than 24 hours after dropping a mind-numbing 6-2 decision to the Flames in Calgary, Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau tried another approach today in Edmonton. Enough with the meetings, and the talking. With the Canadiens, losers of 8 of their last 10, preparing to meet the Oilers tomorrow night, Carbonneau today took his players…
Here’s how the day’s activity in Edmonton rolled out. The players grabbed the bus for the practice rink for what was supposed to be a mid-morning skate. Except Guy Carbonneau “hijacked” the bus, and the club made its way to Gateway Lanes for team bonding, and team bowling.
The players were put into teams, and each player bowled four games. A “playoff” then took place, with the team of Hamerlik, Gorges, the Kostitsyn brothers and Kovalev taking top honours. The individual high score was 227, posted by Mathieu Dandenault.
So, instead of Carbo working his players to the bone at practice following last night’s disastrous showing in Calgary, it was a “kinder, gentler” coach who took them bowling, instead.
And you what? Who am I to argue? The players, themselves, know that they are playing their more lethargic, listless, uninspired hockey of the season. They don’t need to be reminded of that. I’m sure they mulled that around plenty, during a 30-minute players-only team meeting following the debacle in Calgary.
Sure, The Coach could have had them report to the rink for a 9 a.m. bag skate after arriving in Edmonton from Calgary in the wee hours of the morning. Carbonneau could have shown no mercy, and taken no prisoners.
Instead, he took his players bowling.
This is a move that’s going to be second-guessed until the cows come home. Or at least until the final siren goes on tomorrow night’s game against the Oilers. If the Habs win in Edmonton, Carbonneau will look like a genius for showing a little T.L.C. at a time when their season is threatening to spiral out of control.
But if they lose…
If they lose, Carbonneau will be vilified by fans and the media alike, for failing to put the hammer down on his players. But you know what? What would that prove at this point? Do you really think this group needs another practice right now? Do you think these players really needed to head to the rink this morning so that the coaching staff could work them to the point of puking?
This is a team that needs to start feeling good about itself. And from all accounts, the players emerged from today’s bowl-a-thon feeling good about themselves. Feeling loose. These players need to start having fun again. If if it can’t happen at the rink, initially, it might as well happen at the bowling alley.
Because as terrible as the Canadiens have played of late, it’s what’s happening between their ears that has to be the biggest concern to the coaching staff: Carey Price being the number one example. But I’d don’t have to tell you, he’s not alone.
The all-star Carey Price has been no-allstar during this stretch. The all-star Mike Komisarek has been no all-star since the Canadiens went into the dumpster some three weeks ago. The all-star Andrei Markov has been no-all star since the wheels started to fall off with a Jan. 20 loss the Atlanta.
And all-star Alex Kovalev…well…you know where I’m going with that.
The Canadiens are fragile between the ears. They’re playing scared. And they are playing with absolutely no confidence.
Maybe this will help. Maybe it won’t. It sure can’t hurt.
The final stats on Chris Higgins and Mathieu Dandenault were lost in the shuffle of last night’s impressive 4-1 win by the Canadiens over the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre.
Higgins: 3:33 of ice time.
Dandenault: 9:16 of ice time.
Both players left early after taking significant hits along the boards which left them both with “upper body injuries.” We know the extent of Dandeanault’s injury: a broken arm. Dandeanult had surgery today and is out indefinitely. Higgins came away with a shoulder injury. His condition will be assessed following an MRI today.
Needless to say, this is a bad break (no pun intended) for both players. Dandenault had been playing solid hockey along the blue line ever since Ryan O’Byrne took a seat in the press box fives games ago. Dandenault had been patiently biding his time as a sometime-member of the fourth line, and Coach Guy Carbonneau finally gave the veteran a chance to return the blue line after he’d seen enough of O’Byrne.
And now this. A fractured arm.
Hello Ryan O’Byrne.
As for Higgins, this young man seems to have played much of his career here in Montreal under a dark cloud. From high ankle sprains to a nagging groin injury, Higgins has battled his fair share of adversity: not to mention the countless trade rumors that have been linked to his name. This season did not start well for Higgins, who spent the first six games on the shelf with a groin injury. And except for a three-goal performance against the Ottawa Senators almost one month ago to the day, the New York native hasn’t had much to write home about in terms of his performance this season: five goals and four assists for nine points in 20 games.
And now this. A shoulder injury, which is likely to keep him out of action for an extended period of time.
Hello Guillaume Latendresse.
Well, not so fast, actually.
The coach clearly isn’t committed to inserting Latendresse back into the lineup for tomorrow night’s game at the Bell Centre against the Tampa Bay Lightening. Georges Laraque is always an option for the coach, which doesn’t do Latendresse much good. After starting the season a house-afire on a line with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay, Latendresse has been a healthy scratch the last three games. His numbers so far: two goals, six assists for eight points in 20 games. Of concern is the fact that he has shown very little of the feistiness and determination he exhibited earlier this season while playing with Koivu and Tanguay. Clearly, he is not yet out of The Coach’s doghouse.
Sergie Kostitsyn, however, is. He earned another shot at some ice time last night against the Flames, and contributed a workman-like effort over his 13:26 of ice time. He saw some action on the power play, some action on the penalty kill, and simply came to play. Which is more than you can say for some of his recent efforts that resulted in a seat in the press box for the three games leading up to the contest against the Flames.
In the meantime, Alex Kovalev and Robert Lang finally showed of the same magic they weaved as members of the Pittsburgh Penguins oh those many years ago. Lang scored his ninth and tenth goals of the season, with Kovalev assisting on both markers. Lang also picked up an assist on the goal by Andrei Markov. The third on the Lang-Kovalev three-some was Alex Tanguay, who put in a fine showing against his former Flames’ teammates. Honorable mention to Jaroslav Halak, who drew a rare start and performed splendidly.
And then there’s Matt D’Agostini, who scored his fourth goal in four games: in his fifth game as a member of the Canadiens since being called up from Hamilton. This one was his prettiest yet: a goal-scorers goal, as he blocked a shot along the Montreal blue line; outraced two Calgary defenders for a bouncing puck, and controlled the disc long enough to backhand it past Mikka Kiprusoff. It was one for the highlight reel.
Welcome to Montreal, Matt.