Thursday, February 22, 2007

The State of the Montreal Canadiens Address

Hey everyone!

So, here we are, Thursday, February 22, just about 2 hours before the Canadiens take the ice against the very dangerous Nashville Predators and their new acquisition: Peter Forsberg. As I am writing this, the Canadiens are sitting in 7th in the Eastern Conference, with 68 points and 20 games left, 1 point in front of the Carolina Hurricanes. But both these teams are in serious danger, because Toronto and the NY Islanders both have 66 points (only 2 back of Montreal) and 2 games in hand. So, with 20 games, what can we say about the Habs?

Well, the biggest word, as always, is 'Playoffs'. Will they make it to the postseason or won't they? We all know that if they make it, anything can happen. The Oilers proved that last year, taking the Carolina Hurricanes down to the wire.

The first thing I'm looking at here is the loss of Cristobal Huet. I've said it many times, I do not think Huet is among the best goaltenders in the league. I think he is prone to too many bad streaks, and he gives up too many soft goals to be mentioned alongside Brodeur, Kipprusoff, Luongo and Co. But losing him until the playoffs will no doubt hurt Montreal. I have not seen enough of Jaroslav Halak to pass judgement on him, but I doubt he can save this team. As for Aebischer, well, he's proven time and time again that when the pressure comes up, he usually cools down. I do not think that losing Huet is the proverbial 'final nail in the coffin' for Montreal, but there is no denying that it hurts their chances.

The second impactful factor, in my opinion, is the schedule. The Canadiens still have to face Boston 4times, Toronto and the NY Rangers 3 times, and the Islanders twice. This means that in 12 of their last 20 games, Montreal will be playing teams chasing them for a playoff spot. In other words, if they can get their act together, they control their own destiny. Literally. If they can come up with more wins than losses in these 12 games, then their chances of making the postseason are excellent. Go under .500 against these teams, and they'll likely be watching the playoffs on TV.

The big wild-card, of course, is the trade deadline. When I look at the Canadiens, I do not see the stellar goaltending I saw from Mikko Kipprusoff in 2004 for the Flames or the desperate abandon which the Oiler players played with game in and game out last year. What I see is a seven-or-eight-seeded team that will likely bow out after 1 or 2 rounds of postseason play. I think it would be ludicrous of Bob Gainey to mortgage the bright future of this team to salvage a season that is not destined to amount to anything substantial anyway. Luckily, the rumors we are hearing right now do not include any of the really good prospects. One rumor has Adrien Aucoin coming to Montreal, which i think would be a mistake. Think about it, he still has 2 years left on his over-inflated 4 million/year contract. Bad choice if it happens, but I don't think it will anyway.

Another rumor that popped out of Montreal today had Saku Koivu and Andrei Markov (who will be an unrestricted free agent and will test the market) for Pierre-marc Bouchard and Benoit Pouliot. Another had Marian Gaborik heading the Canadiens'way. I'll tell you, the guys in Montreal really do invent the craziest rumors in the world. That's just nonsense. Clear-cut idiotic. Whoever started that rumor obviously had no way to validate it (probably because he doesn't speak english).

One rumor that did get some traction is Sheldon Souray heading to San Jose. This does make sense, as the Sharks would probably be on Souray's radar as a free agent anyway, as he wants to move to California to be closer to his daughter. The rumor says that should the Sharks be able to come to an agreement with Souray on a new contract, then they would send D Matt Carle to Montreal. Some of you may not know who Matt Carle is, but he is an excellent defenseman. He is also very young. This year, as a second year player, he has amassed 26 points, while being a very respectable +4. He is a big kid who's got a good shot from the point and, at 205 lbs., he's much more physical than Souray. Plus, he's only 22, so he's got all the upside in the world. Last year, he really opened some eyes with his savvy performance in the playoffs. Personally, I don't understand why the Sharks would ever part ways with him, but then again, they are shooting for the Cup, and it'sscary to think what Souray could do on a power play where Joe Thornton is feeding him the puck.

Montreal is also rumored to be in the running for Bill Guerin and Bryan Smolinski, and of the two, I think Smolinski is a possiblity, but Guerin will be going to either Detroit of to the Rangers.

Whatever happens from now until Tuesday, I like the Habs' chances of playing hockey past April 7th. Common sense would say that a team that has gone 9-14-1 in 2007 and 3-7-1 in their last 11 doesn't have much chance of making it. But I believe that somehow, someway, they will get out of their funk and muster enough points to just get in. And I believe they can achieve this with the team they have now. I do. And so, I write it now, the Canadiens will get into the 2007 Postseason Tournament.

Still, if I was Bob Gainey, and I too was looking at losing Sheldon Souray, Andrei Markov and Craig Rivet as unrestricted free agents, I would trade both Rivet and Souray for young players that could help me next year, and I would try to re-sign Markov. I would also make Kovalev and Koivu available on the market. I would basically put my destiny in the hands of the team's youth and start building for next year. This has been too many years in a row of barely making the playoffs (or not making them) and not having a real shot at taking it all the way. Sometimes, the only way to truly go foward is to first take a step back. I believe this is the time to do it. But that's just me.

Check back this weekend for further analysis on the trade rumors around the league as we get near the deadline.

Dwarf out.


At 10:56 PM, Blogger Nick the Dick said...

Victoire en fusillade contre les Predators! Moi j'ai encore la foi!

On voit que Dwarf a déjà lancé la serviette. Des joueurs comme ça, ca mérite pas de jouer dans mon équipe. Ca laisse des traces de brake dans ses culottes quand ca va chercher la puck dans les coins!

Nounou! NOUNOU ! Décroche-moi le chandail de Dwarf, y mérite pas de continuer à supporter nos Habs!

At 10:58 PM, Blogger Nick the Dick said...

3 victoires en 3 matches, ça sent la Coupe!

At 7:23 AM, Blogger Veillotron said...

Dick, pour une fois je suis avec toi - les Canadiens vont enfin gagner la Coupe!
Vivo Bob et Carbo, et je predis un retour en force de Pat Jablonski, qui va gagner le Conn Smythe...

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Veillotron said...

En passant, pour tous les fans de foot et de Chelsea, c'est la Carling Cup Final ce dimanche: Chelsea vs. Arsenal.
Arsenal va jouer son B Team (qui s'est rendu jusqu'a la finale), mais la moitie de l'equipe de Chelsea est a l'hopital. Ca devrait donc etre interessant...

At 8:51 AM, Anonymous huy said...

j'ai entendu une rumeur tres credible sur 110% que les habs vont echanger garth murray pi aaron downey contre sydney aussi je pense que ca sens la coupe!!!

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Veillotron said...

110% - ces gars la sont vraiment les meilleurs!

At 9:55 AM, Blogger The Dwarf said...

Petite correction les amis... je n'ai pas lance la serviette. J'ai dit que le Canadien allait faire les series. Mais moi, je ne prendrais pas le risque de perdre mes 3 meilleurs defenseurs en obtenant rien en retour. Surtout a Montreal, place ou les agents libres ne viennent jamais.

En passant, check this out, excellent commercial:

And this one too:

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Nick the Dick said...

c'est pas faire les séries qu'on veut, c'est une émeute sur la rue Ste-Cartherine !!!!

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Nick the Dick said...

Pour en rajouter côté foot, il faut croire que la ligne Maginot des Français à Lille s'est encore fait prendre contre ManU... et les Francais mauvais perdants qui ont quitté le match avant la fin !!!!

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Veillotron said...

Oui, les Francais sont chiant, mais cette fois-ci ils avaient raison: ManU c'est l'equoe de Satan, et ce n'est rien qu'une gang de tricheurs.
J'espere que Chelsea va leur casser la gueule a ces connards!

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharks Fan here. Matt Carle's not particularly big for a defenseman (only 6 ft), nor is he a physical player. His defense needs work, but he's very good offensively, and plays on our top PP unit. He has a bright future ahead of him and I hope the Sharks don't trade him.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger The Dwarf said...

I guess that shows just how much I know... agrees with anonymous, saying: "(Carle) needs to prove he can handle his own in physical contests. Must get stronger in order to avoid injuries through wear and tear."

Still, I liked the way he handled himself in his own zone last year in the playoffs, especially for a rookie defenseman.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Veillotron said...

who's anonymous? Is it Dwarfounn no2? It better not be, otherwise this is really sad


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