NHL 2017-18 Season Second Quarter Report

It is now approximately halfway through the current season and the second quarter of this year was much different from the second quarter of last year which was characterized by long double digit winning streaks by a few teams. Nobody has had a double digit winning streak this year though the amazing Las Vegas Golden Knights have come the closest so far. Here is a summary of those who won and lost during the second part of the season.

Biggest Winner

New York Islanders

Actually it should be the Knights but the Islanders ended over 30 years of frustration when New York State agreed that a proper, new arena which will seat over 18,000 will finally be built for them. The Islanders are currently in a slump and out of the playoffs but thanks to this news, they could lose every remaining game and still be the biggest winner of the year except for Las Vegas and whoever wins the Stanley Cup. Getting a new arena means that the Islanders ownership and management can at last concentrate on building a true, contending team, starting with the resigning of John Tavares. It also means that the would-be returned Hartford Whalers will have to find either a new potential expansion franchise owner or get another NHL team to consider relocating.

Runners Up

Las Vegas Golden Knights

That the expansion Knights can actually win a playoff spot is a true miracle. That they can actually win the whole Western Conference and be a true Stanley Cup contender might be described as a miracle of miracles. This team had one of the longest winning streaks in the whole NHL during the second part of the season and have yet to have a slump. Do the new Las Vegas fans think this is normal? Their current season and fast development will be the model for every new future NHL expansion team.

Winnipeg Jets

Nobody expected the Jets to be this good. Unless they go into a horrendous slump, it’s likely they will make the playoffs and be regarded as a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. They have been winning, lost one of their best players, Mark Scheifele and are still winning. But if they make the playoffs, all the improvements that most of the other top contenders have made will make it tough to take the next step.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins had not done anything noteworthy during the first part of the season largely because the hadn’t played many games. But during the second part of the season they have blossomed and now have a comfortable playoff position. Like the Jets, unless a horrendous slump occurs, expect to see Boston, now regarded as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender back in the playoffs.

New Jersey Devils

Unlike last year, the Devils have not gone into decline after a good first quarter. They are still holding on to a playoff position and top pick Nico Hischier has been everything they had wanted. Their playoff position is precarious but at least they are showing some staying power which they did not have last season.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues are still responding to Mike Yeo’s coaching and have a real shot at winning not only their division but the entire Western Conference. If they make the playoffs, have they improved enough to not only win a playoff round but get over two humps and make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, something they have not done since being coached by Scotty Bowman in the 1960s?

Tampa Bay Lightning

They have been the best team in the NHL for the entire year. One big question mark, their goaltending looks solid. But the other big question is can this team stay healthy for once? As was shown last year, this true playoff contender can be undone if certain players get injured.

Nashville Predators

The Stanley Cup runners up of last year actually got better when they got Kyle Turris from Ottawa through Colorado and he has been making a significant contribution since he arrived. Is Turris enough to finally take them all the way? They will have tougher competition in the playoffs this year so their new asset is certainly needed.

Los Angeles Kings

Are they finally back? Have they finally found the chemistry again that won two Stanley Cups during the past decade? They are in position to win not only their division but their conference. If they are indeed back to what they once were, they could be the team to beat in the Western Conference this year.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman

Boy did he ever get a good second quarter. In fact it is possible to say that he got a better second quarter than the Islanders and the Knights. He was in trouble when he set a $500 million expansion fee and only fanatical Las Vegas and Quebec agreed to pay it. To make matters worse, Quebec’s bidder was unacceptable and only Las Vegas was considered good enough to join the NHL, leaving the league with 31 teams, one short of being able to realign into a more comfortable NFL structure (still unannounced). It seemed that if the NHL were to expand again in the immediate future, Bettman would have to refund some of the expansion money back to Las Vegas owner, Bill Foley and set a lower, more realist expansion fee that the investment world would accept.

Then Jerry Bruckheimer and David Bonderman of Seattle appeared and actually set a new $650 million expansion fee record. The Seattle “approval process” is now a mere formality. And then there was Tilman Fertitta of Houston who said he would like see an NHL team in his arena which will mean another NHL expansion fee of at least $650 million if not higher. That’s probably an unannounced “done deal”. And finally the New York Islander 30 year arena problem got solved. That’s not like getting icing on the cake, that’s like getting three large iced cakes for your birthday. The two main problems left are Quebec and Phoenix.

Biggest Loser

Matt Duchene

Question: When did the Ottawa Senators go into the tank?

Answer: When they got Matt Duchene from Colorado.

How would you like to be the answer to that question? Not even P. K. Subban of Nashville, who at this time of year, last year was playing with a bag over his head because his old team, the Montreal Canadiens, were leading the Eastern Conference while the Predators were struggling to get the last playoff position, was in this kind of trouble. Ottawa traded for him because he was supposed to have the talent of number ones like Crosby, McDavid, Toews, Laine, Matthews, etc. He was supposed to be a step up from Kyle Turris who was let go to Nashville. Now after being in the shadow of Nathan McKinnon of Colorado, he was being given his own NHL team to lead. Instead of moving upward, the Senators are now out of playoff contention with almost no chance of turning things around and Duchene has contributed almost nothing. The vital team chemistry is gone and somehow Duchene is a big part of it. No one can explain why. This subject probably merits a full article.

Dishonorable Runners Up

Buffalo Sabres

At the start of the second quarter, they still had a chance of making the playoffs, but instead of going upwards in the second quarter, they plunged down toward the depths of the Arizona Coyotes. Last year, owner Terry Pegula got impatient with the Sabres when he saw the progress that teams like Toronto, Winnipeg, and Edmonton were making and fired his coach and general manager. But “cleaning house” only made things worse and the Sabres are left vying with the Coyotes for the number one draft pick.

Arizona Coyotes

They played better than they did in the first quarter but remain the most horrible team in the NHL. Actually the only interesting thing about the Arizona Coyotes is if there is going to be an Arizona Coyotes at the end of next season. The horrendous play of this season will ensure that there will be no public money coming to build a new downtown Phoenix arena for a franchise that has iced only one contending team in its entire history. Even the NBA Phoenix Suns publicly insulted the Coyotes by refusing to be partners to build a new arena. I’ve advanced the idea that the best solution will be to add two more Western Conference expansion teams besides Seattle and then shift the Coyotes with its current ownership to Quebec to get rid of the unsuitable Pierre Karl Peladeau. A new Houston expansion team would be part of the process. Whether the Coyotes get the number one pick is irrelevant. The existence of the team is now the main factor.

Ottawa Senators

This is just a continuation of the Duchene problem that seems to be at the heart of the issue as to why the Senators are so bad. Is it coach Guy Boucher’s fault? But he had the Senators in playoff contention before Duchene came and Ottawa was Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh’s toughest playoff opponent last year. Is it General Manager Pierre Dorion’s fault? But he was not the only general manager to believe that Duchene was a number one talent. It also hurts him to know that the Nashville Predators are getting significant contributions from the traded Kyle Turris while he gets almost nothing from Duchene. He is probably in shock just like everybody else. Everything points to Duchene. It is not a happy place to be in.

Florida Panthers

They actually played respectable hockey during the second quarter but nothing, short of making the playoffs can cover up the bonehead decision of getting rid of coach Gerard Gallant even though he had a winning record with the Panthers last season when he became the first NHL coach to be fired. Every time the Las Vegas Knights win, it is a blow to the Deathwish Panthers who like the Coyotes have a horrible history, seldom making the playoffs. And if Las Vegas is the model of how a desert team should be run for the Arizona Coyotes, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the model of how a Florida team should be run for the Florida Panthers. The success of both Tampa Bay and Las Vegas only emphasizes how badly these two losing franchises have operated.

Montreal Canadiens

Both the Canadiens and the New York Rangers started out with horrible records, but while the Rangers recovered and have a chance to make the playoffs, the Canadiens are virtually out of the picture. They needed to start moving upward during the second quarter but have at best been just wheel spinning. They lost two veteran defencemen during the off season, goaltender Carey Price is a good international goaltender when he plays for team Canada, but is a suspect NHL playoff goaltender, and General Manager Marc Bergevin guessed wrong about P. K. Subban.

The Bubble Burst

Detroit Red Wings And Vancouver Canucks

At the start of the second quarter, both these teams which had been playing well had a chance to make the playoffs. But during the second quarter, reality caught up with them. Neither of these teams which had been Stanley Champions or contenders for so long have the talent any more to contend and now need top draft choices to rebuild. Most of Detroit’s old stars have retired and the Sedins of Vancouver are in their declining years. At least they have a legitimate excuse for why they out of contention, not like the teams listed above.

When Are You Going To Wake Up?

Pittsburgh Penguins

Mysteriously, the two time defending champion Penguins have been playing stumblebum hockey. The playoffs are certainly attainable but Pittsburgh needs to start putting together some of the long winning streaks that have characterized the past two seasons. It is too early to panic but some of the teams above them are starting to pull away and some teams from below are starting to challenge them. Maybe it is time to get a little uneasy.

Edmonton Oilers

If it is not time to panic for Pittsburgh, it almost is for Edmonton. They played well during the second quarter but not well enough to make up for their bad first quarter. And what I warned about in my first quarter report is starting to happen. At least seven Western Conference teams pulled away and cannot be caught up to and two others are poised to become that way. Only the last playoff spot is now available to them and that is now fast flickering away. They need long winning streaks during the next quarter to have any chance to make playoffs.

We’ve Seen It Before

Washington Capitals

Yes, the Capitals had their usual long regular season winning streak and now have a chance to win their usual President’s Trophy. And yes, Alexander Ovechkin has his usual pretty individual statistics. But nobody should pay attention to what the Capitals do during the regular season. In the Marcel Dionne (whoops!) Ovechkin era, the Capitals have never even made the Eastern Conference Final. So now (yawn) that they have had another great second quarter, it means almost nothing. In fact the best thing that they may have going for them is that Pittsburgh is currently out of a playoff spot leaving the door open for the Capitals to finally get to at least the Eastern Conference Final.

Minnesota Wild

The western playoff wheel spinner Minnesota Wild played well too during this quarter and now precariously have the last playoff spot. But as long as ex-coach Mike Yeo is coaching the Blues who humiliated the Wild and General Manager Chuck Fletcher with an easy playoff victory last year, it is not enough to just make the playoffs, but to go deep into the playoff picture, especially surpassing Yeo’s Blues. Every year the Washington Wild and the Minnesota Capitals play for the wheel spinning Stanley Cup. Will that ever change?

 

Get French Canadian Racism Out Of The NHL

It has gone on long enough. The issue should be faced honestly for once. Racism, whether French, English, or some other ethnic version should be eradicated from the NHL once and for all. It is hurting the game. It is hurting the fans. The thought occurred to me when I read about the hiring of Claude Julien for the second time by the Montreal Canadiens.

Julien is a good coach and I predicted that he would be back in the NHL quickly though not as fast as this and in such a surreal manner. But Julien is also of French Canadien descent and there lies the problem. He is good but is he the best coach available? As with too many choices made in Montreal Canadien and the would-be returned Quebec Nordique history, the decisions are based on race. Julien actually comes from Ontario but is acceptable to a Quebec based team because he is French Canadian.

When Scotty Bowman was coaching the Canadiens during some of their glory years, he used to complain that the Montreal press would zealously scrutinize every game roster he chose, usually on racial grounds. It is ridiculous to have to coach with that unnecessary racial pressure. The last time Montreal attempted to hire an anglophone coach, Randy Cunnyworth, he was virtually driven out of Montreal. Cunnyworth may or may not have been a good coach, but the language/racial issue may have doomed him before he coached a single game.

In contrast, I remember when that most French Canadian of Montreal goalies Jacques Plante, was acquired by that most English team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. He soon became the toast of the town in some ways BECAUSE he was French Canadian. His successor was the great French Canadian goaltender, Bernie Parent. Maurice Richard, the greatest French Canadian hockey hero ever said he had no qualms about being traded to another team. He hated being a symbol of “French Canadian nationalism”.

Ironically the two teams that suffer the most by French Canadian racism are Montreal and the hope-to-be-returned Quebec.

Montreal

General Manager Marc Bergevin may have wanted to fire coach Michel Therrien much sooner but there were no good French Canadian coaches around until the Bruins obligingly fired Julien. There may have been good English speaking coaches available who are even better coaches than Julien, but Bergevin has to consider public relations as well as coaching ability and so his choice has to be made on racial grounds.

This unnecessary scrutiny based on race means that other key positions like president, general manager, scouting, public relations, etc. have to made on racial grounds. Montreal may not be able to hire the best employees available. It has not won the Stanley Cup in 23 years. How much has racism hurt the team?

Quebec

But the city that is currently suffering the most because of racism is Quebec. For the sake of repeating it for the umpteenth time, the NHL turned down Pierre Karl Peladeau’s Quebecor bid to restore the Nordiques because he made unacceptable racial remarks about NHL Board member Geoff Molson and tried to obstruct the business activities of one of Molson friends (Forget the “official” NHL reason about imbalanced conferences and low Canadian dollar).

Now Gary Bettman has to find a suitable owner for a returned Nordiques behind the scenes. But there may not be any suitable, non-racist, rich French Canadians around who want to own an NHL team, especially with an expansion fee of $500 million.

The obvious solution is to get financial help from outside the province like Ottawa and Winnipeg have but nobody from either “English Canada” or the United States wants to step forward and invest in a Quebec City team because they fear the vengeance of French Canadian racists through an elected provincial government. I have mentioned many times that Quebec City with a proper NHL arena is a marvelous investment opportunity, a sure winner, an unquestionable money-maker, one of the NHL’s better franchises. But if a provincial government supported by racists passes legislation making it impossible to operate an NHL team owned by investors from outside Quebec, nobody will come forward to start the Nordiques again.

But the problem is deeper than the current crisis. Take away the racial issue and what could have happened? Go back to 1995 when Quebec City lost the Nordiques. Even back then, Quebec City with a proper NHL arena and a good owner would be a winner. But no rich French Canadian stepped forward to save the team and the Nordiques moved to Denver.

But with no racism, an investor(s) from outside the province might have stepped forward and solved both the ownership and arena issues. Then the future Videotron might have been built back then without a single taxpayer dollar being spent and Quebec would not have lost its team at all.

Go forward through the years when the NHL expanded and there was no proper arena and no rich French Canadian investor for Quebec City. An investor from outside the province might have come forward and Quebec could have been restored on each of these occasions. It may not have been up front, but behind the scenes, racism has been hurting Quebec City’s chances at returning to the NHL all along.

The irony is that probably the majority of Quebec Nordiques fans in the Province of Quebec are not racists at all and just want their team back to cheer for again. Probably the majority of people from “English Canada” want the Nordiques back too. But a narrow minded minority – it has happened with different things all through history – has imposed its will on what most people want, and fears, bigotry, elitism, and ignorance are winning again.

It Didn’t Take Long, Julien Is Back

I said in my previous article about Claude Julien that he would become one of the three most sought after coaches for rehiring, but the speed with which he returned to the NHL leaves me a little breathless. And to be hired by Boston’s most hated rival, Montreal -for the second time- there’s a lot of surrealism here.

It makes sense. Julien simply is a better coach than Michel Therrien who could not take either the Montreal Canadiens or the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens collapsed last year after goaltender Carey Price got injured and the players, notably P K Subban took the blame. But this time, with Montreal seemingly about to collapse again, this time with an uninjured Price and Therrien still at the helm, General Manager Marc Bergevin removed his coach.

Even though it is over a decade, there is something hilariously surreal in Julien’s personal professional career. To be the coach of the Canadiens, then to be fired and hired by arch-rival Boston, and then to be rehired by arch-rival Montreal… it reminds me of the Duke of Clarence in the Wars of the Roses who switched from the Yorkists to the Lancastrians and back to the Yorkists again. What`s next on Julien`s calendar, to be rehired by the Bruins when he gets fired by Montreal again?

The immediate task is to get the Canadiens out of their current slump and play like they did at the beginning of the season. Bergevin made major changes during the off season, most notably the trading of Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. He certainly showed himself willing to put his own neck on the chopping block to get the Canadiens turned around.

The hiring of Julien also raises two major questions. First, are there going to be more major changes to the Canadiens roster before the trade deadline? If the trading of Subban and the hiring of Julien is not enough, what other changes have to be made? What if Julien cannot turn the team around this year?

Second, what is an acceptable finish to the Montreal season this year? The only obvious fact is that missing the playoffs is unacceptable. But how far does Julien have to take the team in the playoffs for the fans and management to agree that this was a successful year, that there was a major improvement and they are on the right track? Put up a good struggle in the first round against a superior opponent and lose? Win one round? Two rounds?

An unacceptable finish could mean sweeping changes to the roster next year like the Subban trade this year. It could mean realizing that the current set of players are just not good enough and a major rebuilding job, starting from scratch is in order. For these reasons, Montreal will be closely watched for the remainder of this season.

Ghosts Of Montreal Canadiens Past: Price Versus Halak

There are only two things wrong with today’s Team Europe-Team Canada match. First, Canada should have lost to Team USA making this a must-win game for Canada and that the game should be held in Montreal, not Toronto.

On paper at least, this was supposed to be the worst mismatched, laughable game of the whole round-robin of the World Cup. Instead it has the potential to be one of the most dramatic and it is all because of the potential two goaltenders involved, ex-teammates/rivals, current and former Montreal Canadiens goaltenders Carey Price of Canada, and Jaroslav Halak of Team Europe.

Flashback to the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs when Price and Halak were teammates on the Montreal Canadiens. Neither had established himself as the number one Montreal goaltender and there was little to choose between them. But when the Stanley Cup playoffs started, eighth place Montreal handed the starting position to Halak who was probably the main reason Montreal fashioned major upsets over first place Washington led by Alexander Ovechkin, and then an even bigger upset over defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Philadelphia finally ended Montreal’s hopes in the Eastern Conference Final.

But the then Montreal management (since replaced) decided that Montreal was not big enough for both Price and Halak and that one of them had to go. They decided to keep the younger Price and traded Halak to St. Louis leaving Montreal fans wondering ever since if they kept the right goaltender or if both should have been retained.

Price of course has since become a Vezina Trophy winner, Montreal’s main hope for success and Halak has done well with St. Louis and now with the New York Islanders. Does Montreal miss Halak? Not the way Price has developed but they sure could have used him last year when Price got hurt. Halak would have probably put Montreal into the playoffs and might have taken them deep into the later rounds.

The Montreal goaltender controversy was supposed to be over, a minor blip in hockey history that would soon be forgotten. But now the mischievous hockey gods have decided that Halak who is a ghost in Price’s closet from long ago to appear again in the flesh to oppose him at the highest level in the World Cup.

Unfortunately Canada beat the United States making today’s game with Europe meaningless except for who will play who in the semi-finals. But can you imagine if Canada had lost and had to win today and had to face Halak who would be given the chance to put Canada and Price out of the tournament?

Instead today’s game is anti-climatic except that Team Europe is not supposed to be this good and now has a chance to test themselves against the tournament favorite. But do the coaches even start Halak and Price or keep them on the bench for a potential future rematch in the World Cup Final?

As mentioned earlier, Canada should have lost, and this game played in Montreal. The hockey gods in their own perverted way have set up this potential match-up. Maybe it will not occur today, but it might occur later with even more perverted, dramatic intensity in the World Cup Final.

Subban Paid The Price For General Failure

So far in the NHL off season, the three most significant events have been Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman’s belief that his team is good enough to win it all now, shown by his signing of three of his top stars to long term contracts; the trade of Taylor Hall by Edmonton to New Jersey; and Montreal trading P. K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, a swap of top defensemen.

From Nashville’s point of view, they are trading an old veteran who cannot get any better for a much younger player who has the potential to improve. They think they have won the trade for that reason.

But to Montreal General Manager Marc Bergevin, Subban was the up-front reason why Montreal missed the playoffs. The Canadiens started out like a house on fire and raced to the top of the standings in both conferences. Then Montreal goaltender Carey Price got injured and the team plummeted for the remainder of the season until it dropped out of playoff contention altogether.

Several conclusions can be made. First is the over-dependence of the team on Price and the inability of any of the Montreal goaltender backups to either fill his shoes or to inspire the team to rally around them. There would be no Matt Murray to the rescue like there was in Pittsburgh.

Second was the inability of the coaching staff and the management to either find a worthy replacement for Price or to rally and inspire the team to make up for his loss. And third was the lack of leadership on the team itself to find a rallying point to carry the team forward despite trying circumstances. It is for this reason that Subban was made the culprit.

Bergevin must have believed that Subban was one of the leaders of the Canadiens and his spiritual failure to be the rallying point during the team’s free fall made him a star player of limited value. What he sees in acquiring Weber and also signing Andrew Shaw is that if Price gets injured again, there will be players who have the inner steel to keep the team’s head above water and not panic.

Bergevin had better be right. Subban was a popular player in Montreal and his trade for the much older Weber raises many questions about Montreal’s future and the decisions for the trade.

Do you blame the team’s collapse on the lack of leadership by the team’s star players and have you picked the right one to trade? Is Subban merely a scapegoat for coach Michel Therrien’s inability to rally the team and Bergevin’s inability to sign a competent backup goaltender during the previous off season or make a trade for one after Price got hurt? Why should Subban be traded when he does not play the position that Price plays? Why did Montreal build a team that was overly-dependent on its goaltender?

In making such a controversial trade, Bergevin is putting both Therrien’s and his own future on the line. Because if Montreal remains in the doldrums and Subban flourishes in Nashville, there will be questions raised about the leadership of the team and this time the players will not be the focus of it.

Subban for Weber will either be viewed as a wise decision or rank with the misuse and departure of Patrick Roy – the last time Montreal won the Stanley Cup.

The Montreal Canadiens Preview

The Montreal Canadiens had an interesting season last year. Being the only Canadian team in the playoffs and to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s safe to say that they had a successful season last year. But there is always room for improvement, they barely escaped the clutches of the Bruins and when they did they were quickly ousted by King Henrik and the Rangers in six games. But that is all in the past, now let’s preview of the 2014-2015 Montreal Canadiens.

Off Season Changes

Top 3 Subtractions

The Montreal Canadiens did a few interesting things during the offseason. They lost a lot of key pieces and didn’t get any big acquisitions to really fill in the holes. They lost top six forward Thomas Vanek, captain Brian Gionta and traded top four defenseman Josh Georges. Here is an in depth analysis for all three in particular order.

Thomas Vanek

Let’s start with Thomas Vanek had 15 points in 18 games in the regular season, which is great! In the post season he had ten points in total which is a great contribution. During the trade deadline the Habs desperately needed more offense. Also they needed some size and they got it. Vanek provided them a good amount of offense and provided more of a bigger presence. He got in front of the net and helped out here and there in the dirty areas. But the truth is: Vanek isn’t that sort of player. He uses his hands more than he uses his size in those situation. The Habs were looking for a bigger Brendan Gallagher and didn’t get it. Montreal did lose a top six forward but it wasn’t a huge lost, sure they might’ve lost some production but it just wasn’t the right fit. Vanek didn’t fit in the role they were hoping for.

Brian Gionta

Now to talk about what most people say is the biggest lost this season for the Canadiens: Brian Gionta. This year Gionta produced 18 goals and 22 assists which gives him 40 points in 81 games. Gionta has been producing around that many points for a while now (excluding his past two injury riddled seasons.) Gionta wasn’t ever the one to really be known for his scoring touch. He was captain for his leadership qualities and his role on this team was a defensive player who help mentor the younger players. Gionta lost his grip on the offensive role when younger guys began to step in (Gallagher, Eller, Galchenyuk and as of recent Bournival.) Gionta’s time in Montreal really ran out, management didn’t think of him as a vital piece to resign at a hefty price (three-year, $12.75.) Letting go of Gionta ultimately gave them more money to give to Subban in the monster contract. Looking at this now I think it’s best for the franchise, the fans and Gionta especially to move on.

Josh Georges

Now onto the move that confused me the most out of all of them, the Josh Georges trade to Buffalo . This was a result of a leak of information about a rare trade with rivals Toronto that included Georges. The deal was in place and all that needed was for Georges to wave his no trade clause. But he didn’t. This causes a bit of stir which resulted him getting traded to Buffalo instead for a second round draft pick. This move confused me for the most part, first of all why would they want to trade such a solid defensive defenseman and secondly why Buffalo of all places Josh?

Montreal is losing one of their best defenseman who really was the anchor for P.K Subban. While Subban was making plays and over extending to try and get a goal Georges was there to make sure that if Subban were to fail that at least someone would be able to keep things at bay. Georges was the main reason that Subban could do his highlight reel goals and take such high risks. Now who do you play with Subban? Do you split up Emelin and Markov?( Who were a great student-mentor pairing.) Or do you trust Tom Gilbert, Mike Weaver or one of the young guns enough to pair with Subban?

Overall I think this move forces Subban in awkward place. He knows have to really prove that he can play both sides of the game. He’s going to have to take less risks and really make sure to make the most of his situation. In the end the Habs need to work with what they got and they still have a really good core without him!

 

Top 3 Additions

There isn’t much to choose from, the Habs didn’t pick up many pieces. They many did house cleaning so they could sign P.K Subban. Here are the top three additions that the Canadiens made this offseason.

Manny Malhotra

            I really like this pickup for Montreal! In opinion probably their best one! Personally I loved Malhotra in Vancouver. He was a key penalty killer and was an ace in the faceoff dot. He was one of the best defensive center men in the league! Then came the devastating eye injury that sidelined him pretty much the entire year. Almost all the experts doubted that he could make it back into the NHL. Everyone thought that his career was over. He made his recovery but he was far from a hundred percent. After a few more seasons in Vancouver GM Mike Gillis forced him out of the lineup. The following season after that (which happens to be this last season) he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes on a tryout contract. After he officially signed and he played in his known role. He killed off penalties and took defensive zone face-offs. This is a great addition after the departure of captain Gionta. Malhotra also brings great leadership and inspiration to the younger guys. He is going to be a great example for other players to follow not only on ice but off it too. I can’t express how much I love this pick up. I see him in a fourth line center role and on the penalty kill. I really hope he works out well in Montreal.

P.A Parenteau

            I don’t know much about Parenteau. Last year he had 33 points in 54 games. Most people suggest that he is here to replace Vanek as a top six forward. Which is very concerning. But Vanek did play on the first line most of the time in where ever he was. Meanwhile Parenteau played on a defensive third line with Jamie McGinn and John Mitchell who aren’t known for their scoring touch. Maybe he’ll excel playing alongside Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk. In past season when he played for the Islanders his production has been much better. So we’ll see, he’ll be an interesting fit on that projected line.

Tom Gilbert  

            Tom Gilbert has recently became a country man ever since he left Edmonton back in 2012. He wasn’t a fit in Minnesota after two seasons there and he left the rebuild that was happening in Florida. After all of this he has ended up in Montreal. The only fit I see Gilbert in is a cheaper Josh Georges. Which amazes me since how do you replace a defensive defenseman like Georges with another offensive defenseman. It’s not like I hate Gilbert but I don’t think it’s a fair trade off. But the biggest delima here is where do you really put Gilbert? Do you trust him with a younger guy? Do you split up Markov and Emelin and put Gilbert with Markov? Or do you put him with Subban? Like I said earlier P.K’s partner needs to be extra cautious just in case Subban get’s punished for over extending. I do expect Gilbert to put up numbers but replacing Georges with him leaves a defensive void there. I expect the defensive core to step up as a committee to fill that gap.

Final Thoughts

In all honesty the Habs took the safe route. They locked up Subban for long term and for a lot of cash. That had to have been their biggest move of the off season. They also replaced some players that had to leave (either because they wanted to move to a different team or that Montreal moved them to get more money to sign Subban.) I like having Malhotra instead of Gionta (even though many will disagree with me) Parenteau will be an interesting fit in my opinion and I’ll be looking forward to see how that works out. Even though I don’t agree with subbing Georges out for Gilbert I guess I’ll have to live with it. Overall I’m just happy that the Habs didn’t make any drastic and stupid moves. The only move that might cost them down the line is Subban’s contract but I rather think of happier thoughts. Thank you for reading and we’ll see how the season turns out for the Canadiens.

Interview With Jeremy Grégoire!

6ae7171e2f96ae6b5fc011545d53021eWe recently caught up with Jeremy Grégoire of the Montreal Canadiens! He was drafted 176th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft! Before that, he played with both Chicoutimi and Baie-Comeau. Just a cool fact, his father Jean-Francois also played professional hockey! You can follow him on Twitter, @JayGreg32. You can also follow me,  @HkyBlogger, and “like” us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog

As per usual, we are in bold.

Without further to do, here is our interview with Jeremy Gregoire!

How has your day been?

My day has been good. I left for the United States for a week long vacation. I had a huge month with the combines, the draft ,and my training so I’m glad to see my family for a small break.

What’s a day in the life of Jeremy Gregoire?

I am someone that loves to work out a lot so all week long I am in the gym and my schedule changes depending on the day. Usually, I go to the gym early in the morning for an off-ice training session and go back home after to eat and sleep. After a little dinner, I go back for an on-ice session. It’s like that 5 times a week.

What’s something people don’t know about you?

When I was a kid, I studied in an art school. We had piano and violin lessons every day. So I played these instruments for 6 years and I was getting pretty good at it. I’m still not bad.

Your dad played hockey professionally. What’s one thing you’ve learnt from him that gives you an advantage over other players?

Growing up seeing my dad play hockey made me realize very fast what a professional athlete needed to do to be successful, so when I started to play, I knew I had to work hard and practice to reach my goal. I may have improved a little faster when I was young because of that.

You were in the middle of a slump when you were traded from Chicoutimi Saguenéens to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. What’s it like when you first realize you’ve been traded?

At first, I was happy to have a chance to redeem myself after a bad start in Chicoutimi but leaving my friends in Chicoutimi, where I stayed for a year and a half, was the hardest part.

You played a much more disciplined game after being traded to the Drakkar. What has been the biggest change between Chicoutimi and Baie-Comeau in your opinion?

I think that the difference was in the way I approached the game. In Chicoutimi, I guess I put more pressure on myself, just because it’s my draft year. I was forcing plays and becoming frustrated. In Baie-Comeau, I just played to have fun, like I always did before, and the results were positive.

Would you say being traded was a turning point in the season?

It was definitely a turning point, the fact that I played the same style of hockey as the Drakkar helped me a lot through the second half of the season. It gave me the opportunity of being drafted even with a bad first half.

At the end of the season, how do you prepare for a grueling postseason?

I had meetings with the hockey staff in Baie-Comeau and training to prepare for the Combine. I enjoyed it a lot, now it’s time to relax a bit before the next season.  

You represented Canada at the Ivan Hlinka U18, what was that like?

It was a very special event for me. It was my first time with the national team and we won the gold medal. Being part of a great team with the best players of the country was awesome and visiting Europe for the first time was a great experience.

At the Ivan Hlinka, you played mostly in a fourth line role; something you’re not familiar with, how did you adapt?

I liked it a lot actually, it made me discover another role and it made me a more complete player for the future. At the beginning, it was difficult to think only defence and concentrate on winning big face-offs, but after two games, I was playing a solid defensive game.

This is your draft year, if I was a GM, and I asked you why I should draft you, how would you reply?

I think that I’m a good two-way player who brings energy and leadership to a team. I can play the role the coach asks me whether it’s a defensive or offensive one.

Take us back to the draft, what was it like? Where were you and how is it like to be drafted by the Canadiens?

The time I spent in New Jersey was great. The draft is a unique event in a hockey player’s life. I was sitting with my family and the other players waiting for the draft to start and we could feel the crazy atmosphere. The New Jersey Devils fans were great, it was almost like a hockey game, they were so noisy. When I heard my name announced and realize that it was the Montreal Canadiens, I was so happy. Even if I wasn’t a Habs fan growing up, I always used to watch their games on the television and being a French-Canadian drafted by Montreal is a dream that a lot of people in Quebec would have love to realize. I am now proud to be part of the most decorated organization in the NHL.

The next part is more a rapid fire round. Don’t think, just answer.

Ready?

Favourite Food?

Sushi

Favourite team growing up?

I think I was the only Sens fan growing up in the Quebec province.

Favourite sport to watch that’s not hockey?

Golf, on a rainy afternoon!

Watch the movie or read the book?

Both…is that a good answer?

4 hour bus ride, how do you spend the time?

Music and homework is the way to do it.

Final questions:

Who should we interview next? 

My Russian buddy in Baie-Comeau, Valentin Zykov

Do you have any advice for aspiring hockey players?

Be passionate for you sport, it’s a great sport that needs hard work and determination.

Thank you for your time.

Photocreds: Twitter.com