Things I found out about my hometown hero Jean Béliveau

I was 6 years-old the only time I saw Jean Béliveau in person. He had just retired from the game in 1971 and he was sitting comfortably in that blue convertible car, waving and saluting the legion of fans on Notre-Dame Street in Victoriaville, Quebec. That’s the name of the town where the man himself developed as a hockey player at the family house backyard ice surface. It’s also the town where I lived from the time I was 3 years-old until I turned 17. My dad, a huge Bruins fan all his life, had mentioned Bobby Orr a few times but I can honesty say that Jean Béliveau is the first French-Canadian hockey player I had ever heard of by the time I started Grade 2. Actually I didn’t even know there was a NHL. The city of Victoriaville’s only arena back then was bearing the name Jean Béliveau. That was the place where I learned how to skate at 4 and play in organized leagues at 6. On the weekends many friends, my brother and I would head to the Aréna Jean Béliveau to play and watch hockey games. Any game. Gilbert Perreault was also a hometown boy so hockey was very popular there. With time, way after I left, the city acquired a QMJHL team, demolished the old arena and rebuilt the Colisée Jean Béliveau known today as the Colisée Desjardins. There is a section in the Colisée named after him which is red, white and blue. Of course he was present at the official opening of the section.

Fans attending a junior game in Victoriaville last Saturday showed their appreciation for the local legend.

I never saw Jean Béliveau play from my own eyes. Not even on TV. I was too young when he retired. I had the chance at some point to catch up with his hockey career and what he accomplished. Since he passed away on December 2 I found out or was reminded of his greatness as a hockey player and as a man.  I gathered a few facts, stats, anecdotes and stories about the legendary #4 I meant to share with you:

  • He did not always wear the jersey #4 with the Canadiens. He wore the #17 and #20 for the only 2 games he played during the 1950-51 season. He also wore the #12 for 3 games played in 1952-53. He wore the #17 again for the first game of the season in 1953-54. The second game against Chicago on October 8, 1953, he wore the number 4 for the first time.
  • He never scored 50 goals in one single season.
  • After he scored 3 goals in 44 seconds during a power play on November 5, 1955, the NHL rule was changed the next season to allow the penalized player to return to play if a goal was scored against his team during the penalty.
  • Béliveau’s name appears on the Stanley Cup a record 17 times, 10 as a player and the other 7 as an executive. Only Henri Richard has won more Stanley Cup as a player with 11.
  • He still holds the record for the fastest Cup-winning goal from the start of the game in League history scoring 14 seconds into game 7 vs Chicago. A game that would end 4-0.
  • In 1961, he was elected captain by his peers. He wore the “C” for the next 10 years, which remains the longest tenure of any captain in club history.
  • He was the first player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for his performance in the 1965 Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • He is the first and only captain to win the Conn Smythe and score the game-winning goal in the same night.
  • After winning the Stanley Cup for a last NHL game in 1971, the Hockey Hall of Fame waived the usual 3-year waiting period and immediately inducted Béliveau in 1972.
  • He was known to sign autographs for as long as it took especially after games. His signature is classic and a recognizable one for any collector of hockey cards or memorabilias. When teammates would ask him why he cared so much his answer was that it was his duty.
  • When the Canadiens celebrated his 500th goal he refused a car or a cheque from the club. Instead the ”Jean Béliveau Foundation” was established and he was able to donate $155,855.00 to the start-up fund that night. The foundation is meant to help children in need. Its administration was assumed by him until a decade ago. He left clear instructions on how the funds should be used.


During the days that followed his death many stories were heard including some special and personal anecdotes from callers on radio shows:

  • One man from Kapuskasing, Ont. said that as kids him and his friend were in Montreal and decided to climb the fence to see if Jean Béliveau was at his house. They located him next to his pool wearing a swim trunk. Béliveau spotted them, offered them to come over and eventually signed a picture his wife took of the boys next to her husband.
  • A caller said he was shoveling snow as a boy in 1961 to bring extra money home for his family when he knocked at Jean Béliveau’s door and offered to shovel at his place for 2$. The hockey player agreed and ended up giving a 5$ bill. That same night, the man said his parents told him who was that tall man living in that house. He had not recognized the #4.
  • Another caller said that he fell off his bike about 20 years ago and as he tried to get back up he saw a hand. As he looked up to see who it was he saw Jean Béliveau standing. Béliveau offered to bring him at the hospital but the man said he would be fine. He brought him home and told the injured man he would send him a puck with his autograph as requested. Weeks later, the man received a thicker package than usual with the Montreal Canadiens logo on it.
  • Many people told stories about him visiting sick children unannounced during and after his career as player. He would show up at arenas to watch kids play and enter dressing rooms with the permission of coaches.
  • He was extremely popular with women of all ages who started to follow hockey because of him.
  • When the fans at Bell Centre started to show disrespect toward the American anthem years ago, the Canadiens had a tape played before the anthems one night. It was Jean Béliveau’s voice reminding all those attending to stand up, remove hats and caps and remain respectful throughout the singing of both anthems. That was the end of it.
  • He said prior to retirement that he would never play for another team.
  • Habs co-owner and CEO Geoff Molson – his two brothers Andrew and Justin are co-owners – said he was 4 when his father Eric introduced him to Jean Béliveau. Some thirty-five years later, Geoff asked Béliveau to be his special advisor when he took over the destiny of the Molson family who owns the team.
  • I could go on and on…

He was the greatest ambassador of the Montreal Canadiens throughout 7 decades. Especially the ones that followed his playing career. He is the one who came up with the idea to have a room where former players could go and meet before, during and after games. Former Habs Vincent Damphousse said that whenever Béliveau would enter the room it would become silent. as if royalty was walking in. He has his chair of course. Damphousse added that those who were present when Béliveau was there had to behave as gentlemen in the room. On Monday, Guy Lafleur addressed the media and was particularly touched by the death of his idol he met when he was 10. Lafleur said that he wore number 4 from the time he started to play in organized leagues until he was drafted by the Canadiens. The ”Flower” added that he tried to be as good an ambassador and model as Béliveau was but it was a tough act to follow. Lafleur, along with Serge Savard, will probably be the next French-Canadians and former Habs to receive a somewhat similar honor one day. Ken Dryden is another one that brings a lot of great memories here in Quebec. But Jean Béliveau is from another era. One that is definitely closing in with another legend Gordie Howe who will soon pass away. About Béliveau, a newspaper headline was titled ”Pope of Hockey Died” last week. Or the ”Gentle Giant”. The man who would make you feel like you are special according to many who met them. A modest man living in a simple house on the south shore of Montreal with a great view of the city he spent his whole career and most of his life. From the day of his death to the day of his funeral, the national tribute lasted 9 days. Fans of all ages were able to walk by his casket for two days at Bell Centre. It was the first time I ever listened to a funeral on radio. Repeats of his funeral are still on TV as I write this. I admit I shed a few tears when Ken Dryden spoke at the cathedral on Wednesday. I felt proud the legendary #4 was French-Canadian like me and that he lived during my time and sad that he will no longer be around.

Au revoir et merci Monsieur Béliveau!




Geoff Molson, P.K. Subban…Plus the latest on the captaincy in Montreal

Funny how earlier this week I was listening to a Montreal French radio show called ”Post mortem of the PK Subban episode” (kind of). It made me realize how big of a story it has been here in Quebec during the last month. It is a lot of money for a player who has not made unanimity last season with his play but he did elevate his game in the playoffs with the Canadiens almost reaching the Stanley Cup FInals for the first time since 1993. The fans are happy of course. The local press has been trying to stir controversy over the amount of $$$ given to him and the fact that the arbitration never really took place. This is the type of story that was unknown in Montreal until this year. No doubt the biggest contract negotiations the franchise ever dealt with and the highest amount of money too. This article is my post mortem as well although there is nothing deadly about this episode.

During the negotiations prior to August 1st, the day he was set to go in arbitration, Subban was seen hanging out at the Canadian Open golf tournament to watch PGA players in action. When he met reporters he was saying things like ”Montreal is a great place to play” and, since he was born and raised in Toronto, ”I always wondered how it would feel to play for the Leafs”. As much as he was staying away from his agent Don Meehan and Habs GM Marc Bergevin during the talks, Subban was behaving like a pro with the media, something he had not done two years ago when he accepted to have less money for a two-year agreement. Never in the last months has he mentioned that he wanted to stay and play in Montreal. Maybe that’s how he felt then and feels now but he never said it. Meehan probably reinforced that. On the morning of August 1st when both parties still could not come to an agreement, Meehan apparently told a reporter that ”they” would meet again next December which indicated that they were far apart from an agreement. With Subban going in arbitration that same day, the scenario was clear for the fans and for the Montreal Canadiens as well: The Norris trophy winner/star defenseman would not stay in Montreal very much longer. I heard that Bergevin wanted goaltender Carey Price to remain the highest-paid player in the team. Also, Bergevin might have compared Subban to Drew Doughty and the numbers did not match. Bergevin was apparently looking for a 6.5M-7M$ on a shorter term. In the end team owner Geoff Molson interfered before the arbitration to make the 72M$/8-year deal happen. He understood there was no way he could lose a franchise player like Subban and best of all he demonstrated that the organization wanted Subban to be part of its future. The local press was wondering if Marc Bergevin was upset. Who cares? As if Molson is the first owner to interfere in order to keep or reject a player. It would have been a public relations disaster with the fans had Subban gone in arbitration with all the feelings that go along with it. It is not sure yet if the failed negotiations will leave scars or not between the management and Subban but one way or the other he is here to stay. He and Carey Price – the Olympians – are the face of this franchise and its future too should the Montreal Canadiens get the chance to play again for a 25th Stanley Cup. It’s a good move by Molson as he gambled on the fact that Subban will most likely develop into a great all-around defenseman and leader of his team in a near future. Gambling is the right term here because let’s not forget that PK barely played at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Let’s not forget also that Michel Therrien kept the star defenseman on the bench on a few occasions due to selfish and dangerous plays or for being too emotional. Once Subban will gain his full maturity this will be history. This leads us to the question of the captaincy in Montreal with Brian Gionta gone.

So far three names have come up as candidates to become captain of the Montreal Canadiens: Andrei Markov, Max Pacioretty and PK Subban. The fans liked Josh Gorges. He would have been a good candidate but he is no longer with the team. I would like to think that Tomas Plekanec would be considered too. Defenseman Francis Bouillon surprisingly and clearly said to reporters this week that Subban and Pacioretty were not mature enough yet to be appointed captain and that ”you don’t want to have to have a captain for a short time” referring to Markov no doubt. Bouillon might not be back with the Canadiens so we will excuse him for that declaration although he is probably right in my opinion. Head coach Michel Therrien held his golf tournament this week (P.K. and the team was there) and he told the reporters it is a possibility that the Canadiens have no captain entering the season in October. Maybe four players will wear the ”A” as it was seen before with a few teams. Marc Bergevin did not comment on the subject so far.

I definitely believe that PK Subban will be able to handle the pressure following that contract and that he will make the Montreal Canadiens a better team. If not then he will find out that Montreal is not such a nice place to play after all.

2014 Memorial Cup Tournament set to start on May 16

This year the event is taking place in London, Ontario. The hosting team the Knights will battle for the national title for the 3rd straight tournament in a row. They were in Shawinigan in 2012 and Saskatoon last year. Both times they did not win. Last month they had the misfortune of meeting the Guelph Storm in the OHL playoffs and played their last game on Friday April 11. They will have been off 35 days when they will meet the QMJHL champions on opening night. The Knights are 6th in the final Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Top Ten ranking.

That’s one team in. The three other teams are currently playing in their respective league Finals series so we have 6 teams left who are battling to take the road to London. Four of these teams are in the final CHL Top Ten ranking as well. The teams who will win the championship in the OHL, WHL and QMJHL get the ticket to dispute the national title. The hosting team is always in.


In the OHL the FInals series have started and it’s a 1-1- tie between the Guelph Storm (ranked #2 nationwide) and the surprising  North Bay Batalion. For knowing North Bay myself the fans there must be happy to have top level junior hockey back.

In the WHL the battle between the Portland Winterhawks (ranked #3 – CHL) and the Edmonton Oil Kings (again yes – ranked #8 – CHL) started last night and Portland won 5-2 on home ice. It might Portland’s turn this year to win the Memorial Cup according to experts so we will keep an eye on this series.

In the QMJHL I have watched both games that took place so far in Baie-Comeau (ranked #5) and the Val D’or Foreurs tied up the series 1-1 yesterday with a win in OT. Val D’Or has defeated the Halifax Mooseheads, the 2013 Memorial Cup Champions, in the semifinals series in 7 games.

Some Games 7 of current the three finals series are scheduled as late as May 13 and the tournament opens Friday evening on the 16th. I intend to write more about the event, teams and players to watch once we will know the Champions in each league. This was just a short briefing for now.







Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens meet for a 34th time in playoffs

We’re less than an hour away from the beginning of the Eastern Conference semifinals series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins but it sure has been a long awaited one for the fans here in Quebec. After all this is one of the biggest rivalry in professional hockey if only for the fact that these two teams have met in the playoffs many times and there were often a lot at stake. The Bruins and the Habs have been in the same division for as long as I remember and the confrontations have turned ugly in many occasions. To sum it up, these two teams don’t like each other. The Bruins fans hate the Habs fans and I can confirm that the same feeling is mutual.

This season the Bruins played one of their most complete games of the season while defeating the Canadiens 4-1 on March 12 at Bell Centre. However, the rest of the season series belonged to Montreal who won two games in regulation and another in a shootout. Last season Montreal did very well against Boston as well so the team and the fans are pumped up. Perhaps too overconfident for my own taste. Carey Price was a disaster in the net against Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs last year. This year it was another story. He was Canada’s goalie number one at the Olympics and Stephane Waite – former Hawks goaltending coach – worked with him a lot to improve on his concentration. He delivered and the word in Montreal is that he will have to steal 1 or 2 games in this current series for Montreal to move on to the Conference Finals. So Price will have a lot of pressure again but it looks like he will be able to handle it this time. The rest of the team is healthy. Vanek, Pacioretty, Desharnais and Subban – Brière to a certain extent – are expected to provide some scoring. Plekanec is a good all-around player but he has the tendency to turn into a ghost during the playoffs. The Habs are known to be smaller as far as size is concerned and this will particularly hurt them as the series will progress. The Bruins are much bigger and they can hit. They have a reputation for being tenacious and they can score to come back late in any game. Take a look at all the stats a team must have and you will see the Bruins up there among all the 30 teams during the regular season. Against Detroit they were caught by surprise in Game 1 at home and after they were perfect for the rest of the series. And while all this was happening Tuukka Rask was nominated as candidate for the Vezina Trophy. No need to add anything in his case. It’s his turn this time as Tim Thomas is no longer there.

Prediction: Bruins in 6 games.

Flyers rather quiet prior to trade deadline

When the name Paul Holmgrem comes to mind you think trades and acquisitions – weird and questionable ones especially – but the only move the Philadelphia Flyers made on Wednesday was trading Andrej Meszaros, 28, 6’2”, 223lbs to the Boston Bruins. In return Philly is getting Boston’s 2014 3rd-round pick. The word among the orange & black fans is that the Flyers did not get much for the talented defenseman except cap space available for eventual acquisitions of free agents this summer. That’s what Holmgrem is going for in my opinion. He usually does. The team needs to rebuild their defense as Timonen is on his way out and it is their main weakness at the moment.

The departure of Meszaros did not leave an empty spot at the defense. On Tuesday the Islanders traded Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers for center Matt Mangene, their 2014 3rd-round pick and 2015 2nd-round pick. Honestly I have no idea who Matt Mangene is. All I know is that there is a lot of depth at the position of center in the Flyers’ organization with Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins around the corner. As for MacDonald, 27, 6’1”, 190lbs, he is a reliable player who is devoted 100% every game. With a good size and reach he can hit and punish. He never scored more than 5 goals in one season and he never played a full season except for this year so far. He played against Washington last night, collected an assist and was a plus-2 in a bit more than 18 minutes on ice. He is a good acquisition in terms of rejuvenating the defense core and in trying to eliminate errors in the defensive zone. Something Meszaros was guilty of at times. Let’s say that many fans are not sad to see him gone. I always liked him.

Of course what would be the trade deadline be without illogical scenarios from the legion of ”general mangers” on Twitter? The best one I read was Kesler for Giroux. The ”rumor” that scared me the most was the one sending Brayden Schenn and Samuel Morin to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler. As a huge fan of Schenn I don’t want him gone. Not for Kesler anyway.

To sum it up there were only two transactions involving the Flyers out of all the 40 trades since the beginning of February until 3pm on Wednesday. They are generally more busy during free agency time. Plus the team is doing relatively well considering their poor beginning of season. I expect a huge signing this summer. ”We” are still thinking about that offer sheet to Shea Weber and how things could be different with him in Philadelphia. Hopefully someone else will come along. In the meantime the Flyers will remain with their current roster for the remaining of the season and hopefully the playoffs.

Team Finland – Sochi 2014: A Brief Overview & Summary Analysis

The year started on a positive note for Finland with a surprising gold medal win by their national junior team at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship last Sunday. The last time Finland had won the gold at the WJHC was in 1998. The Finnish Hockey Federation must have done something right in the last 5 years to elevate their young players to this feat. A few minutes before Finland won the World Junior Championship, Jussi Jokinen told Sporting News he was expecting an infusion of younger players into the country’s international program and tournaments. Was he ever right. On Tuesday the Finns released their Olympic roster, which features a few of those younger guys such as NHLers Aleksander Barkov, Olli Maatta, Mikael Granlund and Sami Vatanen who were all born in the 1990s. Finland won bronze in 2010 but many of its best players are close to the end of their careers. This is a period of transition for Finland. To sum it up, the old guard is still there and the young studs are in.

Here is the complete Finnish roster as it was announced:


Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars (NHL)
Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks (NHL)
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (NHL)


Lasse Kukkonen, Kärpät Oulu (FIN)
Juuso Hietanen, Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod (RUS)
Sami Lepistö, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg (RUS)
Olli Määttä, Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
Sami Salo, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
Ossi Väänänen, Jokerit Helsinki (FIN)
Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks (NHL)


Juhamatti Aaltonen, Kärpät Oulu (FIN)
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers (NHL)
Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Jussi Jokinen, Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
Olli Jokinen, Winnipeg Jets (NHL)
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Leo Komarov, Dynamo Moscow (RUS)
Petri Kontiola, Traktor Chelyabinsk (RUS)
Lauri Korpikoski, Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)
Jori Lehterä, Sibir Novosibirsk (RUS)
Antti Pihlström, Salavat Yulayev Ufa (RUS)
Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)
Teemu Selänne, Anaheim Ducks (NHL)

Problem: Mikko Koivu sustained a broken ankle during a game on January 4 although he did finish the game. He had surgery on Monday and is expected to be out for one month. This injury puts his ability to play for Finland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics in jeopardy. He was a favorite to be named captain for his country. In the meantime his brother, Anaheim Ducks center Saku Koivu, reportedly has declined an invitation to participate in his fifth Olympics.

Also not on the roster: Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who’s dealing with the aftereffects of an infection in his surgically repaired hip. Finland will have to make due with Tuukka Rask as its presumed starter. Not too bad. It could be worse.

What to expect from the team in Sochi?

The good: Well for one the Finns usually play a well structured game and they are used to the larger ice surface. A huge factor considering that both Canada ans USA did not have success outside of North America at the Winter Games and neither during the last WJC in Sweden. The Finns have good goaltending in Rask who is familiar with the best players in the World. As far as scoring is concerned I believe they have what it takes to score important goals and compete but to a certain extent. Selanne, perhaps ignited by a last representation of his country, could make things happen despite his age. NHL rookie Barkov should be doing great at these games. You almost forget he is only 18. Finally, the Finns are known to be a disciplined team so they are not vulnerable to power plays situation too often. This is not an emotional team like Canada, USA or Russia at some point. When you watch Finland you know pretty much what type of hockey to expect. However they are tenacious and never easy to play against.

The not too good: The group of defencemen may be the weakest one of all top teams at the Olympics. Some of them are on their way out. Some others are just coming in and others well we don’t know much about them. This is not usually a good combination. Timonen excels on the PK and PP. I expect him to patrol the blue line. It is more at even strength that the weaknesses of their defensive corps will show and against scoring teams the Finns will struggle unless they get a brick wall in Tuuska Rask.

Special units: With Saku Koivu missing and possibly his brother as well, these are two players who could have helped on both special units. Especially Mikko. On the penalty killing there will be veterans on the ice for most of the time so the Finns are fairly okay since they avoid the box. The less opportunities for the opponent team the better. But on the power play unit the chemistry fails. It is a result of the transition this team is going through.

What’s in the picture?

A difficult tournament especially at even strength with a weak defense and younger players involved at the back and front. If Rask makes miracles they can win but by low scores. If Mikko Koivu is due back around the first week of February he may be cleared to play and get better as the games will add that is if the Minnesota Wild does not object to that. One can not underestimate them however and my take is that they will end up playing for the bronze. Not so much because they are a such a powerhouse but because some other teams are not that strong. They’re practically guaranteed to be in the medal round given that they and Canada are in a lopsided pool with Austria and Norway. So a second consecutive bronze medal isn’t out of the question here.


  • Selanne will be just the second player in history to participate in six Olympic Games, having previously represented Finland at Albertville 1992, Nagano 1998, Salt Lake City 2002, Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010.
  • Kimmo TImonen will play at the Games for a 5th time.
  • Finland is the only country to medal in three of the four tournaments since the NHL began taking a break from its schedule to allow players to participate in 1998.
  • Finland won bronze in 2010.
  • Finland will join Austria, Canada and Norway in Group B in Sochi.

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My thoughts on the Flyers

It has been difficult and frustrating to be a Flyers fan lately. Not just this season but since June 23, 2011 as far as I am concerned. The day the organization traded Mike Richards. The Flyers decided they needed a ‘star goalie’ following that debacle against Boston earlier in the spring. I remember seeing Snider’s face after the sweep and it was obvious changes were in the picture. What’s done is done and Bryzgalov is gone. It was and will remain the worst acquisition ever made by the Flyers. It also goes to show a contract does not mean much in Philly. Not with Paul Holmgrem around anyway. Carter, Richards, Brière and Bryzgalov were all given long term contracts and yet the team roster keeps changing year after year. This is not the way to win a championship. Except for the New York Yankees and some soccer teams in Europe I don’t recall any professional team that bought a championship.

No matter what the outcome of the 2013-14 NHL will be for the Philadelphia Flyers the turn of events that occurred in the last month or so could be significant for the future of this franchise. It could result in a much needed change of philosophy since things just did not work out:

1) The fans and the management (hopefully) are finally starting to realize that seeking out to sign every single player available on the market may not be the way to go.

2) Giving more time and opportunities to drafted players and other young players acquired via trades to develop within the organization.

3) Let things go and be patient. Stick with the same roster and adjust with minor trades when and if need be. Be active but be wise. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.

Now the question: Is this change of mentality possible with Paul Holmgrem around as GM?  I don’t think so. For the owner Ed Snider well I would hope he learned yet another lesson at his age. Those buyouts are costly and he doesn’t like being the target of a bad press. I like the man and I don’t want him gone. Even by natural cause. One thing is for sure he tends to be docile with former players turned coaches or managers. However he will have to replace Holmgrem soon. I’m not sure if there is a special advisor with the team. If there is none there should be one to make sense when the team is in a mess. Every team should have one. Serge Savard was around for the Molson family two summers ago when a desperate Montreal Canadiens team was looking for a GM. Scotty Bowman gave the Blackhawks some kind of direction as team advisor before the two Cups ended up in the Windy City. Detroit has one. L.A. too probably. Decisions need to be taken at another level. Holmgrem does not have to be fired. He can be given another position within the organization. Ron Hextall is back in Philadelphia as assistant GM with a Stanley Cup ring from L.A. and I believe he is next in line to be the general manager of the team. It would only be logical. For a GM, signing, trading and being constantly on the phone with other teams do not serve any purpose unless you have a vision of where the team is going and this is where Holmgrem deeply failed. Laviolette should have been fired after the loss against the Devils in the 2012 playoffs. The short season last year was a disaster for the coach, the team and we witnessed the end of the short Bryz era. Thank you for that. Laviolette most likely asked for a last chance he already had and it did not work in September nor October. That training camp was a waste of time all considered. I think the real 2013-2014 Philadelphia Flyers will show up by December. Lecavalier, Streit and Mason are good additions. Giroux should get in gear as well. Lines have been changed often and there is a new coach. Honestly I don’t expect Craig Berube to be head coach for a long time either. That was too easy of a choice that supports the lack of vision theory. It is tough to become head coach after you have been assistant. It comes to who makes the decisions at the end. And now those who make decisions for the Flyers are not the right people.

The Flyers are not just another team. No one is indifferent to them around the league. This is a winning franchise and their fans expect them to make the playoffs every single year. I have been a fan of the Orange & Black jersey for more than 3 decades. They were down more than once but never out. They will be back.

Some names to keep in mind for the 2014 NHL Draft

We can certainly agree that the 2013 NHL Draft was the most anticipated one in a while although only time will tell if it will surpass the one in 2003 in which most drafted players selected in the first round turned out to have successful NHL careers.  I happened to like the 2009 entry draft myself with John Tavares, Brayden Schenn, Hedman and Duchene as top ranked prospects. Usually when I follow a player since he turns 14-15 I always look forward to the year he is drafted. That was the case with Tavares and Schenn. However there is no such player for 2014 as the list of eminent prospects is lean. We must keep in mind however that a player can always develop quickly during a short period of time. For example, Jonathan Drouin was playing Midget AAA in Montreal in December 2011 and by September 2012 he was among the top 5 NHL prospects for the draft last June in New Jersey.  He was finally drafted 2nd overal by Tampa Bay.

There is no flashy star this coming season but there are skilled and great all-around players nonetheless. If the OHL did not draw too much attention in 2013 the league has lot of promising prospects for 2014. It will be the opposite for the QMJHL which had its best year ever in terms of players being drafted among the top 60 in 2013. Consequently this coming year might very well be its lowest ever. As usual the young European players are not too be neglected. Most of the top 17-18 year-old players under the radar of NHL scouts have all played in international tournaments so we will have the opportunity to see most of them at the next World Junior Championship in Molmö. Sweden.

Which names can we expect to hear early on the next 27th of June at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia as the GMs will approach the microphone? Here is my Top 5 list of junior prospects worldwide with additional names to garnish the whole. This short list was made according to what I have read in scouting reports and players I watched at the WJC, IIHF World U18 and the Ivan Hlinka Tournament.

1) Sam REINHART, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL), (6’0″, 185 lbs)

First there was Max the older brother who got drafted, then Griffin was drafted 4th overall in 2012 by the New York Islanders – a future NHLer for sure – and now here comes Sam who could be the highest drafted among former NHLer Paul Reinhart’s three sons. In a few words the kid simply knows how the game works. He is a very intelligent player with and without the puck. He can score (65G, 84A in 139 WHL games) and if you happen to be coaching him he is the type of player you want on the ice for all purposes in any crucial situation. To cap it off, he was Canada’s top line center and team captain in leading the team to the IIHF Under 18 Gold Medal. The only aspect of his game is to work on the strength of his accurate shot. He is young and gaining muscles will correct that. Reinhart is a can’t miss.

2) Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert Raiders, (WHL), (6’2″ 198 lbs)

Draisaitl is my favorite player of the pack and I’m hoping he will be drafted 1st overall. Although he still have to improve on his quickness to jump on the play the rest of his game is very much there. That includes a strong ability to protect the puck and find a teammate for the perfect pass. Add to that a quick release. For those skills he reminds me a lot of the great Jaromir Jagr and Marian Gaborik for his size and speed. Representing Germany at the last WJC, he scored 4 points in one game managing to finish 1st in scoring for his national team as a 17 year-old. He will be there in December as he could become the highest ever drafted German hockey player. He was also wise enough to have a taste of North American hockey by joining the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders who are very happy to have him aboard. He tallied 58 points in 64 games in his rookie season in 2012-2013. Draisaitl will be among the league’s top scorer this season if he stays healthy.

3) Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie Colts (OHL), (6’4″, 215 lbs)

This physically imposing defenseman has the distinction of following John Tavares as the second 15-year old to be given exceptional status to enter the OHL a year early since its creation in 2005. He can beat older players in a battle for the puck 99% of the time. He clears the puck in front of the net and most of all he has a very hard shot. A blasting one. I had the chance to watch him for the first time on TV last May as the Barrie Colts lost the OHL FInals to London in 7 games (OT). He was no stranger to their success. He is not a top scoring D but he has shown improvement all along to be consistent. The season is promising for him. I would pick him in my team over Seth Jones any day of the week. Definitely the top D in the next draft.

4) Roland McKeown, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL), (6’1″, 186 lbs)

One scout went as far as to mention that the Kingston Frontenacs will be the Halifax Mooseheads of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft with three solid prospects in left wing Samuel Bennett, right wing Spencer Watson  and defenseman Roland McKeown. There is no doubt that his skating ability is at an elite level with a great speed and acceleration both forwards and backwards.  He is smooth on his skates.  It looks easy. Think Scott Niedermayer here.  He is as good defensively as he is offensively. His knack to jump on the play and move up the puck is NHL caliber. His plus/minus stat must improve though as he finished his rookie season with a minus-24. Mind you the Frontenacs were a minus-57 as a team last season. If he improves during the season we will hear more from him.

5) William Nylander, C, Sodertalje J20, (5’10″ 170 lbs)

The son of former NHLer Michael Nylander is looking to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He has outstanding hands and amazing stickhandling ability.  He can pass the puck where you would think it is not possible, making him an excellent playmaker.  Nylander is a solid skater who has speed and excellent acceleration and can change pace easily in the neutral and offensive zones . Great shot and it is accurate. Defensively he will have to get better and he must add up some muscles. Reports show him as a #2 overall prospect but because of those two last elements I rated him 5th.  At 17, he plays in the Sweden 1st Division with older players.  The only stats available are 6 points in 8 games.  Anyhow he always finds a way to be on the scoring sheet. I can hardly wait to watch more of him at the WJC in December.

Who could sneak in that top 5?

Portland Winterhawks center Chase DeLeo,

Peterborough Petes  left wing Nick Ritchie (Yes…Brett Ritchie’s brother).

Oshawa Generals left wing Michael Dal Colle.

Red Deer Rebels defenseman Hayden Fleury,

Calgary Hitmen left wing Jake Virtanen.

The potential sleeper: Portland Winterhawks center Dominic Turgeon, son of former NHLer Pierre Turgeon. (Long shot but I like him).

Big question mark: Daniel Audette who plays for my hometowen Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL. Although he was drafted 1st overall in 2012 in the Q league Audette has barely drawn any attention in 2012-13 and the fans here are not impressed by his will to develop into the player he can be. At 5’8”, 168lbs his skills are his best assets but we have yet to see them every single game. His injury was no excuse.

Top Goalie: Thatcher Demko. A native of San Diego, Demko went 30-9-4 with six shutouts, a 2.08 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 46 games with the U18 team in 2012-13. Impressive stats.

Every year I set my eyes on 2-3 top prospects on a daily/weekly basis. Leon Draisaitl and Sam Reinhart will be among them. The other one will be Connor McDavid, 16, already considered the top prospect for the 2015 NHL draft.


NHL Draft 2013: Flyers pick big D in 1st round

It was no secret among fans and experts following the team that the Philadelphia Flyers would opt for a defenseman in the first round of this year’s NHL draft. The only question was who would be the chosen one. On social media names such as Nurse, Ristolainen, Pulock, Zadorov were mentioned by fans as potential picks when it would be time for GM Paul Holmgrem to announce the choice of the team for the 11th overall pick. That choice was Rimouski Oceanic defenseman Samuel Morin who according to Holmgrem later was the one he and the recruiting staff wanted. The soon-to-be 18 year-old is listed at 6’6” and 203lbs according to the QMJHL website but some scouting reports show his height at 6’7”. He is a native of Lac-Beauport (Quebec City) and was raised in Saint-Henri (Montreal). He played Midget AAA in Lévis and was drafted 7th overall by Rimouski at the 2011 QMJHL draft. During his first season in Rimouski he was named to the QJMJHL All-Rookie Team. Morin played for Canada/Quebec in the 2012 U17 World Hockey Challenge and he also represented Canada/Quebec in the 2013 U18 World Hockey Challenge. Chances are he will represent Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championship should he play in Rimouski another year which will be probably the case.

Morin was initially ranked 51st at the beginning of his 2012-13 season and ended up 17th prior to the draft according to TSN yesterday. Craig Button had predicted the Flyers would pick him 11th during a TSN pre-draft show on Wednesday. Even I who live in Quebec was surprised to hear his name on Wednesday and I was also surprised yesterday. However I started to do my homework on Morin’s profile and now believe he was the best choice for the Flyers just like Holmgrem mentioned it during a quick meeting with the reporters after the selection.

With 4 goals and 12 assists in 46 games this season so far Morin has not been an offensive threat but he will get there. It is especially that aspect of his game that improved from last September up until now. He is known as a fierce and tough competitor, quick to pass the puck up to moving forwards to exit the defensive zone, has a great range and a great slap shot. His penalty minutes per game avg. went up this season because of his physical play. With his size he can fight as well. He will need to add muscle to that frame if he wants to play the same physical type of game in the NHL than he does in junior hockey. Offensively things will come along as he will keep improving with coaching and confidence. A couple of scouting reports compared him to Zdeno Chara (obviously because of his size) but the new member of the Philadelphia Flyers would like to think that he plays more like his idol Chris Pronger. I can see him among the top 4 Ds in 2-3 years. The opponents won’t like him. 

Morin will be a great fit with Philadelphia and he said three times to reporters that he was happy to have been selected by Philadelphia. The kid even mentioned Bobby Clarke and Luke Schenn so he knows the organization. He is friendly with the media and the fans will love him. I can only be proud as French-Canadian to see another player from Quebec joining my favorite team.

Stanley Cup Finals – Boston vs Chicago

Despite the lockout, the short season and a busy schedule that went way too fast the hockey fans are getting quite a  treat with the 2013 NHL playoffs which in my book have been the most exciting ones since 2010. The sole fact that all Original Six teams were part of the playoffs made it special. Besides Anaheim and Montreal exiting early not many surprises save a few 7-game exciting battles.

Two series made a big difference for both Boston and Chicago to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals. In the Eastern Conference the Bruins were as good as dead for a few minutes against the Maple Leafs until Milan Lucic told his teammates the game was not over. We know what happened and Boston has won 8 of their last 9 games since that late 3rd period comeback.  In the Western Conference I thought the Hawks were dead too when they were trailing 3-1 in the series vs Detroit. They came back to win the series with the help of a variety of players while Kane and Toews were struggling.

Of course now everyone is talking about the Bruins and Rask. They were not supposed to be where they are – Pittsburgh was favorite – so it seems they can do no wrong now.  Their system is working. Claude Julien is doing a great job. It can be very frustrating to play against the Bruins and they hit hard too. They can play all types of games and they have a hot goaltender. My only doubt is I thought Boston was inconsistent during the season. I have a feeling they might crumble offensively against the Hawks. Their fate will depend a lot on scoring opportunities and exceptional goaltending. I will spare you the stats as far as Chicago is concerned for GAA and shots allowed on goal per game. During the playoffs the stats don’t matter as much as how the team is playing now. Now the Hawks: They are confident and they play like a confident team. They too have lost only one game since they came back to win the series against the Wings. What is amazing about the Hawks is that they were able to get where they are without the scoring of Patrick Kane – except for game 5 vs LA – and Jonathan Toews. They have more depth than the Bruins. If Crawford, Kane and Toews play at the level they are expected to provide I don’t see how the Bruins can win a 2nd Cup in 3 years. Rask is human like Quick turned out to be. Home ice advantage is more or less of a factor for both these teams but starting the series and possibly ending it at the Madhouse on Madison will be a major plus for Chicago. My only concern for the Hawks is whether they can they match Boston with physical play or not.

Depth, confidence and coaching staff will basically make the difference.  The rest will depend on the performance of some individual players.

Prediction: CHICAGO in 6 games.

Conn Smythe Trophy winner: Duncan Keith or Tuukka Rask with a finalist team.

Note: Both teams last met in the playoffs in 1978 and this is the first Stanley Cup Finals between two American Original Six teams since 1972.