Friday, November 28, 2008

Carbonneau Sets A Soft Tone

I don't get it! I don't understand why a coach who has just seen his club play its best game of the season two nights earlier frigs with the mentality of his team's fragile psyche by starting his backup goalie in what could have been considered a "gimme game''.

It was repeated over and again and nauseum that the Washington Capitals were missing four starting blueliners and three forwards from their regular roster.

It was a perfect opportunity for coach Carbonneau to infer that you should never take an opponant lightly, start Carey Price as usual, and go for the kill. Keep the flow of momentum building from a strong team win.

But no...what does he do, he lowers the entire guard of the team by playing Jaroslav Halak instead, thus informing the boys that this is in fact a night off. An easy one. Two points bagged at the puck drop.

If one chooses not to believe that players actually think this way, the proof was in the pudding served up tonight. Just look at the results speaking for themselves. In preparing for a game, knowing that the backup is playing, the easy game mindset creeps in slowly but surely. It is especially stupid for a coach to announce which goalie will play two or three games before.

In my thinking, if a coach wants all concerned to be on the attentive, it would be a good policy to simply not announce the starting goalie at all. Keep the players on their tip toes and make the decision just prior to the pre game warmup.

All of this has little to do with what goalie Halak is capable of. He's a decent puck stopper, nothing more and nothing less. But if one chooses to believe Halak is the future tender of the franchise, you are sadly mistaken and misinformed.

Price is the guy. The undisputed number one who should only ever sit when the Habs play non playoff bound teams outside their division. A smart coach lets the standings dictate when a goalie plays and not the schedule. Price should play all games against Northeast division rivals, and all playoff bound teams in the conference. Halak starts against the Atlanta's, Islanders, Panthers and Lightning and their ilk.

The Capitals lineup includes the NHL's best player in Alexander Ovechkin - enough said!

Come playoff time, Price might face him in up to seven games, so it is crucial that he gets to oppose Ovechkin as often as possible. The Canadiens gain nothing in having Halak face the NHL's best sniper.

That's no brainer number one.

Goalies, it is often said, get on a roll after a strong performance. When they are hot - and Price has been in a zone - they should be played in between 7 and 9 games running. Sit Price when it shows he's tiring not before it.

Call that no brainer number two.

Carbonneau often rolls the double spins of the two games in two nights, and the backup has to play to remain fresh schpiel, but it's a crock of shit as far as I am concerned. Goalies - especially hot ones - can handle two games in two nights. If they cannot, goalie management won't camouflage the issue, no matter how creative the spin.

No brainer number three.

Now imagine the players on the Capitals knowing two days in advance that there are facing Halak instead of Price. What runs through their heads is akin to, "So this is what Montreal thinks of us, eh? We'll show them!" How would you react once you've felt you've been underestimated?

That's the fourth no brainer.

Again, all this is only about the perception behind the reasoning of starting Halak, and not a knock against him. Had the entire Habs team shown up to play, he would have won the game.

As is often the case with Carbonneau and his coaching decisions, I am usually able to resolve myself by seeing some fairness in a counter argument, but this time, I got nothing. Because I have seen this happen time and again before, his decision to go with Halak bugged me since the moment it was announced. maybe you saw this mess of a concerted effort by the Canadiens coming as well.

What irritates me to an even larger ass rash, is that the coach as team psychologist, ought to have his pulse finely tuned to the temperment of the team. He's got to know how they'll react to things before they have that chance to react. Coaches get out of tune by sweeping such concerns under the carpet after a while. If a coach does it often enough, the team starts trusting the actions he speaks more than his warning words.

The message Carbonneau ought to have sent out should have been, "Price is playing. The Capitals are a strong club and we will need our best to be at their best to win this one."

What he did in essence, is the exact opposite.

The Canadiens have just passed the quarter mark of their 2008-09 season. So far the club has coasted to an acceptable record based on the skill on the team. Admittedly, they've pulled a few irons from the fire to get the record they own, but there are two prime issues that have dogged them since game one.

For starters, the players are not gelling as they have in the past. With the Detroit win, they finally displayed some cohesive team unity. Secondly, there seems to almost be an underlying theme of overconfidence when it comes to facing rivals that ought to be easy meat. The Canadiens approach these games like they are already won. It's a big mistake that even the best teams in the league are sometimes prone to.

As I pound this out on the keys, Carbonneau is likely claiming to a random microphone that he can't fathom why his club failed to show for the game. He might malign a certain lack of leadership from some factions.

My question begging an answer is, "aren't the coaches the most important of leaders?"

Carbonneau got exactly the game he ordered tonight.

Photos courtesy of the Montreal Gazette / Habs Inside Out


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Canadiens Team Effort Could Be A Turning Point

Bust open the bandwagon doors, your Habs are back!

How quickly perceptions of a team can change upon one simple convincing win!

Beating the Red Wings in Detroit is no small claim in the course of a long season. For a team that had been trudging precariously along for a month, it is a peak and compass point, a moment for reflection, and a weigh removed from a burden, all in one.

If, as a fan, one sound win such as this can alter your faith and perceptions, you can just imagine what it will do for a team desperately needing an injection of self esteem and identity.

Between periods, Habs forward Chris Higgins brought up an interesting point during an interview. When asked how the team would fill the void in light of leading scorer Alex Tanguay's injury, Higgins didn't flinch. In essense, Higgins spoke that with everyone on the team paying the same way, it just didn't matter.

These guys were on a mission last night, and the reward was self rediscovery.

The group wearing the blue, blanc et rouge on Wednesday were cohesive and unrecognizable. Poised, patient, and with purpose. Calm, while appearing intent. They looked as though they were being coached for the first time in a long while and reacted by playing the game as units of five rather than a scrambling bunch of improvising individuals.

What the club displayed was hockey in its most primitive and basic forms. They started by doing the little things right, paying more attention to detail than they have since the season began. Even better, the exhibited an enthusiam rarely seen, for doing such plooding workmanlike tasks as beating an opponant to the puck, only to place a soft dump down the ice because the situation called for it.

Hockey is a game that is popular because of its flashes and artistry on ice. It bursts alive with dazzling manoeverisms of the puck at light speed. It captures your guts and imagination with smashing body crashes and reckless displays of wild abandon.

Winning at hockey, for a great part, involves snuffing out all these exciting aspects with tactical discipline and boring repetitive defensive management. Traps and walls, dumping the puck, and playing safe have no markee value, but they are effective when employed by groups of five lie minded players.

The system has its merits, as it allows are players buying into to it to shine when work is well done. Before teams can expect to razzle dazzle its way to the top, it must first learn command of the basics.

The Canadiens, with the win against Detroit, began building a unity of purpose that should serve them well in the coming months.

Working as a group within a cohesive system made everyone on the team look good for the entire game. In fact, it was as close to a perfect win as had been seen by this club in recent memory.

All during the game, the non stars of the team shone brightly. There was the always calculated Josh Gorges, commanding his position so effectively that you could just see the full potential of the player displayed on every shift. Often seen as a bottom pairing rearguard, by seasons end, he could be regarded as the Habs most reliable blueliner. He's going to run away with the Jacques Beauchamps unsung hero whatevertheycallit award.

The fourth line bangers and zealots - Begin, Lapierre, Kostopoulos, and Dandenault - all wreaked havov consistently on Detroit's best wheels. They played like hellhounds, chasing down every loose puck, and poised to upset everything in their path. It's no coincidence that since Begin has reintegrated the lineup, the club has played sounder defense over the course of full games. His play has lit up Lapierre's game as well, and they are starting to get their due.

Carey Price had something about him in last night's game that had rarely been seen of late, the confident calm of an assured puckstopper. Price was focused so, because the mates in front of him allowed such a demeanor. He was not once caught out of position, never appeared distracted, and played as though the puck looked large to him.

The grinders on the team seemed to inspire the previously misguided offensive core into a more pronounced and deliberate effort. Players such as Kovalev and Plekanec played much better because instead of taking chances, they created chance by avoiding the lure of individual risks. You could see they were buying into a game that brought everyone along, rather than trying to carry too much responsability on their own.

It's tempting to detail each players contribution all down through the lineup, but in context, what each did was similar on the whole. It is how the Canadiens have to approach beating a team that plays like a team such as the Red Wings. Beating Detroit takes a group effort, and this is knowledge the Habs can use against any opponant.

Friday against Washington, with the likes of Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom in their midst, the same effort should yield the same reward. Should the Habs procced in the same manner and emerge victorious, it will be because they have begun to take themselves seriously.

That can only be good news!

Photos coutesy the Montreal Gazette / Habs Inside Out


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't Bet Against The Habs!

I guess I can't win for losing!

Over the last year and a half I've bet on Canadiens games four times and lost every time. Three times in the past two seasons, I've propped down a few bills hoping the Habs would come out on top, to no avail.

Last weekend, my friend Wayne - a die hard Red Wings fan - tells me that Montreal will win Wednesday's game because the Wings suck coming home after long road trips.

"Not the way Montreal's playing these days", I told him.

"Guaranteed Detroit losses", Wayne says, "I'd put five bucks on it!"

"Five bucks, that's pretty harmless. I'll take that bet!"

"You're on!", says Wayne.

Now before anyone fires me off a traitor e-mail, understand that I was not going to sit in front of the TV cheering on the Red Wings for a measely fiver. I would be pulling for the Habs all the way as always. It was just that with recent performances, I doubted the Canadiens could topple the Cup champs, no matter what Wayne's expertise told him.

And since I can't win betting on them, why not try placing some bucks on the Cup champs?

Wayne is a cook at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop - my daily coffee haunt since forever. He often kids me when the Habs are down, bragging about the Red Wings every chance he gets.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to make him swallow a bit of his bull. On top of that, the five I'd win would buy me a burger, and he'd have to cook it! I couldn't pass up the chance for such a good shit and giggle at his expense.

As it stands now, all I've won is the right to pay for a change to nag him over the game.

I can say that he had no faith in his team. He can say the same to me.

I can't win for losing!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Of Near Brushes With Habness, And The Canadiens Working On The Railroad

Hockey and the railways have a strong connection and have played an important part in uniting Canada. From the famous locomotive works in Stratford, Kingston and Montreal, to the railway hubs in Manitoba and the Maritimes, as well as in the numerous smaller towns that sprouted up along the tracks, many railroad workers have donned their skates to play for their local teams.

The Montreal Canadiens of 1909, and today's Les Habitants share a connection with the railway industry. During the time of the club's inception one hundred years ago, it wasn't uncommon that several of the team's players found full time or off season employment working on the rails. As train travel began connecting Canada's distant parts in the day, railway stations often had their own teams of players.

Today in Montreal, the Bell Centre sits directly against La Gare Windsor, which was originally built to serve as both the transcontinental terminal of the Canadian Pacific Railway and also as its company headquarters. Since VIA Rail consolidated its operations at Gare Centrale in the 1980s, Windsor Station has seen only commuter trains. These have been pushed far back from the station by the construction of the Bell on the site of the original trainsheds. Parts of the original station, including its surprisingly modernist skylit hall, are still maintained for public use.

So, why you might ask, am I writing about trains on a Canadiens blog?

That's a damn good question too!

Pardon the obvious bad pun, but I got sidetracked. I started out looking up the career of a former NHL player online, and links led me to learn about what this player had done for a living after retirement. As the player in question was a railway employee, it led to my discovering of how train travel and its industry tied into early Canadiens history. Some posts just happen this way, I guess.

This story get its start while my wife and I are standing in line at Metropolis in Montreal this past Grey Cup Sunday, waiting in the queue to see former Soundgarden and Audioslave lead singer Chris Cornell in concert.

Perhaps because I often wear Montreal Canadiens colours when I am out and about, I often get asked the silliest of questions, such as, "Nice hoodie, are you a fan?"

Of course I inform that yes, I am in fact a Habs empassioned nutcase with a blog, no less. It speeds up the conversation, and it helps to separate the casuals from the diehards of Habs fandom real quick.

My wife Joanne is the big fan of all things Cornell. She goes nutso in a similar compulsion as I do with the Canadiens and Springsteen. Me, I just like the Soundgarden stuff Cornell did best, and love my wife more than enough, to brave the chilling cold and make a great time of it. It wasn't difficult! My better half was more than determined to have our asses freeze off in a lineup all in the name of getting the best general admission seats in the house - which we did. Along the way, we met some equally die hard fans, and inevitably, with me in my Habs hoodie, the hockey subject came up.

After a few brief questions, one young woman whom we hung around at the backstage door with prior to the show's start and are now standing in line with informs me that her grandfather once played in the NHL.

"No way?", I ask, "With Montreal?"

"Yes, he played a season with Montreal, and then he went to New Jersey."

Now my brain is reeling, right. The young lady is at the most in her late twenties, but my guess is she can't be no more than 21 or 22. I'm calculating as I speak, while eliminating that Stephane Richer or Claude Lemieux or Rollie the Goalie can't possible have a 20 something grandchild.

I'm messed!

"What was his name?"

After a minute's struggle, she recalls the name - Maurice Croghan.

"He died before I was born. I never met him, but he played for the Maroons."

"Oh, okay, not the Canadiens then. It was the Jersey thing that threw me off. If he played for the Maroons, he could not have played for the Devils of course."

"No, I don't know who he played with in New Jersey, my family just told me he went there after playing for the Maroons in 1935."

In '35, then his name is on the Stanley Cup!", I exclaimed, to her confusion.

"I'm not sure, I'd have to ask."

I told her quickly that the name Maurice Croghan rang a bell, and that I was familiar with the history of the Maroons franchise. If indeed he played in that season, his name would be ingraved on the Cup. I told her I would look it up once I arrived home.

"Do an internet search in a couple of weeks, and you might find somthing at my site", I suggested.

The young lady, whose name I dumbly never asked for, changed the conversation flow from there, and we began talking about where we were from and what we did for a living.

She informed me that she was from the eastern townships of Quebec, in a place familiar to me - Cowansville, Quebec. I made a mental note of it, once I got into researching just who was Maurice Croghan.

As it turns out, Croghan was actually Montreal Canadiens property for a season, upon the disolution of the Maroons after the club's final 1937-38 campaign. In looking up the player, I came upon the interesting connection to the railway industry.

A brief resume of Croghan's short NHL stint reads as such: The defenseman who went by the name Moe in the day, wore number 16 and played in 16 games for the Maroons in 1937-38. Moe Croghan was termed a sturdy defensive rearguard in his day, and counted no goals or assists in his short NHL time. Upon the Maroons franchise going out of business, he became property of the Canadiens, playing in some exhibition games prior to the start of the 1938-39 season - in possibly the Habs most dismal era on record.

Croghan was born November 19, 1914 in Montreal, and played junior and senior hockey in his hometown until joining the Quebec Aces in 1936. Croghan's talent were on display that season, as the Aces ventured all the way to the Allen Cup, and after his successful run he was signed on by the Maroons.

There's no accounting of Croghan playing with a New Jersey based club around this time, but he wasn't far off in stints with the Habs affiliated Providence Reds and Springfield Indians, where he split his 1938-39 season. From 1939 to 1941, he played with the Montreal Victorias of the MCHL and the Montreal Royals of the QSHL.

After his retirement from the game, the native Montrealer relocated to Sherbrooke, Quebec, taking on a job with the Canadian National Railway as a locomotive engineer.

At age 64, Croghan passed away of a heart attack on February 7, 1979, and he is burried in Lac Brome, Quebec. In his obituary seen here, his birth name may have been "Morris" and not "Maurice", as the Lost Hockey website states a photo contribution from a Moe Croghan Jr, and this obit lists a Morris as one of his children. He was survived at the time by his wife, nee Lillian Hartley, and two daughters, Sandra Nicholson and Linda Mailloux.

That was all the detail I could find on Croghan's hockey career and life away from the game. From searching the net, I was led to site called Hockey Railroaders, that featured a more detailed account of how some former Montreal Canadiens players made a living away from the rink.

From the early 1900's, up until World War II in the 1940's, several Canadiens players, as well as other NHLer's worked on the railroad across Canada. Aurel Joliat, Maurice Richard, Dickie Moore, Marcel Dheere, Herb Gardner, Sam Pollock, Joe Cattarinich, Lorne Chabot, Len Grosvenor, Harry Mummery, and Howie Morenz all spent a good deal of their youth and playing days learning a trade that would provide income to them once away from the rinks in summer.

During WWII, the Canadian Pacific Railway reorganized its entire shop systen for the war. Wartime shop production signaled the end of the Great Depression and offered jobs to many of its laid off CPR employees.

The Canadiens original goalie in the 1909-10 season, Jos Cattarinich, was a brakeman with CPR when he met and befriended Leo Dandurand. The pair would go on to own and manage the Canadiens for several seasons, as well as partnering in the tobacco business and horse racing endeavors.

Mummery who played for both the Canadiens and Toronto Blueshirts in 1917, was employed by the CNR as a locomotive engineer. Also working as a fireman during the season, Mummery brought his rail eating ritual to both the firehouse and the arena dressing room. A large man at 250 pounds, Mummery set up pot bellied stoves in both workplaces, cooking large steaks in them with the help of a freshly hosed shovel, a practice he took to while riding the rails and cooking his meat in the steam engine's fire box.

Morenz followed his father and uncle, apprenticing as a machinist with Stratford's Grand Trunk Railway in 1919. The Canadiens future star played for three teams in different levels in the city, one of which was operated by GTR. In one incident, Morenz had dropped a metal block on his foot, causing it to swell badly - not bad enough to cause him to miss that night's game however. After the contest, Morenz's skate boot literally needed to be cut off to remove his swollen foot from it.

Morenz was always proud of his trade, and oftenmentioned that he was a machinist by profession. Two years later, Morenz and his GTR team played a game against the Montreal CNR shops at the Mount Royal Arena. The GTR team led by Morenz steamrolled the CNR's, and Howie scored 9 goals. The performance caught the attention of the Canadiens director Cecil Hart, who then made it a point to sign Morenz.

Before his NHL career got going, goaltender Lorne Chabot worked full time with the CPR in Brandon, Manitoba while playing senior hockey with the Wheat Kings in 1921. A age 16, Chabot had enlisted in the army. Unaware of his age, he was stationed in France, driving an ammunition wagon with the Royal Canadian Field Artillery. He was soon found out and sent home.

Former Canadiens defenseman Herb Gardiner got a late start in professional hockey due to his committments to the war and the railroad. Gardiner had quit playing senior hockey at age 18 to work for the CPR as a surveyor. After serving three years with the Canadian Army, Gardiner rejoined the CPR while playing with the Calgary Tigers in the WCHL. In losing to the Canadiens in the 1924 Cup final, Gardiner made the Habs acquaintance and was signed by them two seasons later.

Len Grosvenor, who toiled with the Canadiens in 1932, worked his entire life, in and around hockey, on the railroad.

Onesime Richard, the father of Maurice, worked as a carpenter for 40 years with the CPR. Each morning he would board the train in Bordeaux and catch a ride to the Angus shop, where he would build freight cars. Maurice joined him in 1942 while playing for the Canadiens Seniors, earning up to $40 a week working as a machinest for the Munitions Department. The future Rocket was on leave a great deal at this time due to his burgeoning hockey career, and did not resign his position with CPR until after his 50 goal season.

Following his retirement from hockey in 1938, Aurel Joliat went on to work for CNR in Ottawa as an agent. He was also later employed as a coach and with the Quebec Liquor Commission.

St. Boniface's Marcel Dheere joined the Canadiens in a trade on Christmas day, 1940 and also found work at the time with Montreal RCAF and Montreal Canada Car. Dheere played hockey at several levels including the Canadiens over the next few seasons before leaving the city. He served in the military in 1944-45, and the strong connections he made while in Montreal set him up for employment with the railway as a switchman for the next 30 years.

After high school graduation in 1943, Sam Pollock was a junior clerk with the railway for a few years, while also working in hockey and baseball. He left the railway for good in 1946 to coach and scout in the Canadiens organization. Three years later, Pollock signed Dickie Moore, a CPR alumni, to a Montreal Junior Canadiens contract on the word of Frank Selke.

Hope you enjoyed this little sidetrack - it was more to do than blogging about O'Byrne derailing!


Friday, November 21, 2008

33 Things You Might Not Know About Patrick Roy

Aside from holding numerous goaltending records and counting for some momumental achievements in hockey, Patrick Roy's career has had it's share of interesting moments away from the limelight. Here are 33 lesser known facts and trivial details about Roy's career in hockey.

1 - Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy not only faced each other in junior, they were in fact born on the same day - October 5, 1965.

2 - Roy's father Michel, and his mother Barbara, were both athletes in their youth. The father toiled some in hockey, but was mainly involved with tennis. His mother was an Olympic swimming hopeful, named after Barbara Ann Scott. Patrick's brother Stephane had a brief NHL career with the Minnesota North Stars.

3 - Patrick's first strides on the ice came on former Canadiens player Leo Bourgeault's (1932-35) backyard rink in Ste Foy.

4 - Daniel Bouchard of the Nordiques and Rogatien Vachon of the Kings were Roy's first goalie idols as a young boy. In the first NHL game his father brought him to, he got to watch Rogie in action against the Canadiens. Bouchard later gave him a stick, that Patrick was known to sleep with for luck, and a hockey card that he always kept carefully placed in his locker. Roy couldn't resist the temptation, and the stick was used in games as a 16 year old with St. Foy.

5 - At age 9, Roy and two Atom team mates were asked to participate in a shootout in front of fans at the Collisee in Quebec. The Nordiques were hosting the Chicago Cougars, whose assistant coach was Jacques Demers. Roy stopped 4 of 6 shots he faced.

6 - At the 1976 Quebec International Pee Wee tournament, Roy helped his team go three rounds deep despite the loss of their leading goal scorer. During the tournament, Roy had his photo taken with a 12 year old Brett Hull.

7 - When he was fourteen, his father gave him a set of 1951-52 Parkhurst hockey cards, and it set him on the road to becoming an avid collector. He still owns the Parkie set featuring the Beliveau and Rocket Richard rookie cards, and his collection has grown to include over a 100,000 individual pieces.

8 - At 16, while playing for the Midget AAA St. Foy Gouverneurs, Roy brought his team to the league title and the the final game of the Air Canada Cup in Victoria. Along the playoff route, he was suspended three games for shoving an official after a disputed goal involving a gloved pass. Roy returned to lead his club to the Canadian midget finals, only to be undone by Burnaby's Cliff Ronning.

9 - Roy's father Michel claims that his son has a photographic memory. During the hearing for the suspension mentioned above, Roy retold exactly where everyone stood and where the puck lie during the incident. He not only was able to name each person and what they were doing, he was able to account for what each person was able to see. His perception of detail also extends to statistical data, such as player stats and hockey card trivia.

10 - There's something to be said for a good goalie on a bad team progressing quicker than a goalie on a good team. All during Roy's development, straight through to Granby in the QMJHL, Patrick played mainly on clubs where he was peppered with shots.

11 - The Canadiens scouts noticed Roy on a trip to Granby to have a look at Stephane Richer. During the game, Granby were killing off a 5 on 3, when three players broke in alone on Roy. After stopping the first two, Roy threw the puck at the third player, gesturing him to give it his best shot. That summer, Montreal drafted both Roy and Richer.

12 - The Canadiens drafted Roy with the third round pick received from trading defenseman Robert Picard to Winnipeg in 1983. Curiously, the Habs had acquired Picard from the Toronto Maple Leafs for goalie Michel "Bunny" Larocque.

13 - In his initial training camp with Montreal in 1984, he was given the number 32. The following season, Roy asked for number 33, but was again handed 32. When Montreal decided to leave Richard Sevigny unsigned, Patrick finally got his wish.

14 - Roy got his chance with the Sherbrooke Canadiens following the end of his regular season in Granby when the baby Habs backup goalie Paul Pageau asked to leave the club to attend his wife's pregnancy. When Sherbrooke's starter Rick Moffat went down to injury, coach Pierre Creamer gave the net to Roy, who had played inonly one regular season game. Roy won the first playoff start, and the rest is history.

15 - Throughout his junior career in Granby, Patrick never won a individual award or placed on an All Star team. Contrary to popular belief, he did not win the most valuable player award with the Sherbrooke Canadiens in their 1985 Calder Cup win. That merit went to Brian Skrudland. The first major individual award earned by Roy was the 1986 Conn Smythe trophy. Not a bad place to start!

16 - Roy appeared in his first NHL game on March 1, 1985 against Winnipeg, and he had current Canadiens coach Guy Carbooneau to thank for it. Patrick was called up in late February from Granby to replace starter Steve Penney, who suffered an injured groin on a shot by Carbonneau. Backup Doug Soetaert was replaced after two periods and Roy made his debut, stopping the only two shots he faced to earn the win.

17 - Upon signing his first contract with the Canadiens, Roy did like most players and went out and purchased his first brand new car. Strolling cockily into a Honda dealership, Patrick spotted the car he wanted and announced to the salesman that he was ready to buy it. The salesman, not recognizing him from Adam, tried to shrug Roy off as just some cocky kid, telling him he couldn't afford the payments. When Roy proclaimed he was prepared to pay cash for expensive (at the time) Prelude, the salesman got serious. The deal was done so hastily by the anxious pair, that Roy's new Honda ran out of gas at the bottom of the first hill he met.

18 - The "Casseau" nickname came from Roy's constant diet of french fries when he made the club in 1985. "Casseau" is the french word for the box holding the chips that seemed to constantly accompany Patrick's meal. Team dieticians and conditioning experts made certain the habit was not long lasting. A Conn Smythe trophy win rebaptized him Saint Patrick for good.

19 - Roy's first NHL start came on October 10, 1985 in Pittsburgh on opening night of the season. He was given the start over vets Soeteart and Penney, and made 23 saves for his second career win.

20 - One his way to winning the Stanley Cup and becoming the youngest ever winner of the Conn Smythe trophy in 1986, fans and media became fascinated with Roy's ritual of superstitions. Beyond holding conversations with his goalpsosts, Roy never skated accross the blue or red line, wrote the names of his children on his stick, kept all the pucks from his shutouts in his locker until seasons end, and used or wore the same equipement for game's on end during winning streaks. By his second Cup and Smythe in 1993, Roy had shed practically all of his eccentricacies.

21 - Patrick's impersonation of axe wielding Ron Hextall cost him eight games during the 1987-88 campaign. In a game on October 19, Roy became annoyed at constantly being bumped and shoved by the North Stars Warren Babe. He then took it upon himself to deliver a two handed paddle whack to Babe's ankle during a scuffle between the Habs John Kordic and Richard Zemlack of Minnesota. When Roy returned to action on November 14, he did it with panache, shuting out the Blackhawks 3-0.

22 - It has often been an opinion that Brian Hayward was the best goaltending partner Roy ever had. Behind the scenes, the pair shared an uncomfortable coexistance. Room mates on the road, Roy often felt that Hayward was trying to sabbotage his starts by partying long and loud the night before.

23 - From the 1988 season until October 16, 1989, Roy had a 35 game unbeaten streak on Forum ice. Dale Hunter of the Nordiques ended the run with overtime goal on that date.

24 - Coach Pat Burns once fined Roy for sleeping in and missing a practice in 1989. The goalie blamed his infant son Jonathan for knocking a phone off the hook that was to bring his wake up call.

25 - Roy suffered few injuries during his career, but he was unfortunate in the early 1990's. In December of that year, the Maple Leafs' Wendel Clark shoved a tumbling Petr Svoboda over Roy, causing him to sprain a medial collateral ligament in his leg. He returned three weeks later to shut out Calgary in his first game back. The following season, he tore ligaments in his left ankle when he ventured out to play a stray puck and became sandwiched in a Graeme Townsend - Donald Dufresne collision. He'd miss part of the 1991-92 season, when the injury was reaggrivated.

26 - When Roy won his second Cup with Montreal in 1993, he and the club set an NHL record that will be near impossible to match by winning 10 consecutive overtime games. In the process the team tied the record for most wins in a row with 11, while Roy became only the second player to earn two Conn Smythe trophies.

27 - Roy played the entire 1993 playoffs with an illegal width goalie stick. (Just kidding!)

28 - After Game 2 of the 1994 playoffs, Roy suffered an emergency appendectamy that caused him to miss game three of the first round against the Bruins. Returning victorious for a game 4 win, an exhuberant hospital attendant claimed to have the actual removed appendix from Roy, and attempted to auction it off.

29 - With relations between Roy, certain team mates, and management sourring in the fall of 1995, general manager Serge Savard had a deal on the table to send him to Colorado when the season began. Savard hesitated to make the move, hoping things would smooth over, but was fired shortly thereafter. The trade would have brought goalie Stephane Fiset and forwards Owen Nolan and Adam Deadmarsh to Montreal.

30 - When Mario Tremblay was first announced as the Canadiens coach replacing Jacques Demers, it caught Patrick offguard and in an uncomfortable way. Someone in the Montreal media mentioned Roy laughing, and it didn't help appease what would turn into a volcanic relationship not long after. Roy explained his giggles by proclaiming that since Tremblay was a former team mate, his signing made him feel old. Tremblay's first words to Patrick were, "You stop the pucks, I'll coach!"

31 - Not long after becoming a member of the Avalanche, Roy represented the club in the 1996 All Star game. Joel Quenneville, then an assistant with Colorado, joined in on a card game with Roy, Ray Bourque and others on a plane trip to the game. In the middle of playing hands, Roy told Quenneville, ''You know Joel, we're going to win the Cup this year.'' The coach, unsure of what he's just heard, says "What?", to which Roy repeats himself, without adding a word of explanation. The Avalanche won the Cup five months later.

32- After Patrick had played in his 1000th career game, the Avalanche celebrated the event by gifting Roy with several tokens of appreciation. The NHL kicked in with the now standard silver stick, but it was the presenter who Roy appreciated the most. Along with his Cup wins, Roy always mentions that meeting Rogie Vachon on this special night would long hold a place in his heart.

33 - Roy had many off ice indiscretions by the time he retired, few of them helping his public image. Lesser known was his kindness away from the lights, bringing kids onto the ice after practices to take shots on him. One particular time, Roy played along with a youngster, letting him score on every rush the whole time he was out there with the legend.


Gainey Catches Sundin Practice On Hopes Of Restoring Talks

As per RDS and TSN, the Montreal Canadiens have renewed talks with unrestricted free agent Mats Sundin.

Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey met with the 37 year old Sundin in California on Wednesday in hopes of restoring talks between the two sides.
Sundin has been working out in Los Angeles since early November, where he is expected to begin skating next week.

However, while Sundin is showing signs of returning, he hasn't made any decision yet.
In mid September, the Canadiens acquired forward Robert Lang from the Chicago Blackhawks after deciding to move in a different direction from the Sundin sweepstakes.

"We had developed a priority and had we been able to entice Mats Sundin to comeback and play and comeback and play with the Canadiens, we would have done that as early as June of this summer," Gainey explained at the time.

"(Sundin) didn't give me any indication he was going to make a decision and my hockey department and I were not prepared to wait for a player who may or may not decide to play in November, December or January or February."

As many as six teams have expressed interest in Sundin's services, including the Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers.

Last season, Sundin enjoyed one of his best seasons, finishing with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 74 games and leading Toronto in scoring for the fourth straight year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Removal Of Kovalev As Power Play Focal Point The Key To Recreating It

The formerly top ranked Canadiens powerplay has gone AWOL, and rectifying it is a top priority for the team in trying to get back on track and refind it's consistent winning ways.

The Canadiens PP currently sits 25th in the NHL, having counted on only 12 of 82 opportunities thus far for a conversion ratio of 14.6%. Only the Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Panthers, Devils, and Islanders are faring worse.

In assessing what is not working at present, it is important to understand the reasons behind the unit's lack of success so far.

What is difficult to breakdown, is that Montreal certainly have enough offensive elements to succeed with a man advantage, at first glance. All the keys seems in place, with a nice mix of snipers, forwards strong on the puck in corner board battles, some good sized options in front of the net, and good puck movement from the point. So far, the units used have created enough chances to merit continued patience and faith, but without results both will wear thin.

In past seasons, isolating the prime ingredients for the Canadiens power play success was a simpler matter. In 2006-07, Sheldon Souray's blasts from the blue line were a constant threat. Two reasons accounted for Souray's success: no one dared get in the way of the quickly unleashed bullets, and the shot was most often highly accurate.

In 2007-08, a Souray - lite in Mark Streit manned the point, and while his shots were nowhere near Souray's in velocity, they were accurate and low, and efficiently dispensed. Streit was equally adept at moving the puck as swiftly as he shot it, and that enabled the other shooters big gains.

With either of Souray and Streit, the opposition was kept off guard and guessing due to the varying options, and that was how the Canadiens capitalized most often.

Perhaps misunderstood most in these schemes during this time, was the role of Alex Kovalev on the right side. Other than the changing faces at the point, he is the one of two constants on the first unit. His role is essentially to quarterback the powerplay from the right board out, and it is his work that other teams have keyed on and adjusted to most swiftly this season.

Earlier in the season, the Canadiens sought to employ it's other first unit constant, Andrei Markov, in much the same manner as Streit was worked last year. By moving Markov over to Kovalev's side of the ice, they figured to capalize on the swift passing between the two to keep the puck in constant motion. Unfortunately for Montreal, Markov was not as comfortable on the opposite side, and his shots at the nets are neither as hard, swift or as accurate as the former foils who played there.

By focusing on Kovalev - essentially double teaming him - the opposition has rammed a spike into the Canadiens power play gears. Truthfully, this is not a new challenge. It began late last season, and became more exposed as the playoffs wore on.

As other teams improved their penalty killing against the Canadiens, they also became less fearful of taking penalties, and thus imposed a more physical standard against the Habs five on five.

What other teams do on the penalty kill is quite basic: they position their four point box openly to form more of a rectangle, with the two closest points aimed directly at Kovalev. With limited space, Kovalev often tries to create options where there are none - flipping passes off the ice where there are no clean lanes, or skating a back and forth "S" pattern to open his end of the box and sneak a shot on goal.

The higher forward closest to Kovalev places his stick in the lane of the pointman, and the defenseman playing him also points his stick toward the blueline, thus negating the cross ice feeds. In this coverage, Kovalev dipsy doodles, circling over his own path in an attempt to open the slightest of spaces and lanes.

Where Kovalev becomes his own worst enemy, is when he attempts longshot plays to create movement on the opposition side. His soft flips to the point fail increasingly, because who ever is playing that position can neither one time a shot, or cradle and move the puck swiftly.

The bigger problem with Kovalev being rendered straightjacketed on the power play, is that it stagnates the four players teamed with him. The forward at the opposite side of the ice, the left wing, almost never sees the puck. The player at the net, or beside it, can only react once Kovalev has shot on goal. That player, the center, must also play the right corner, to allow Kovalev an additional pass option. The defensemen are played tightly enough, just daring Kovalev to risk a fragile pass in that direction.

What results is that the Canadiens players possess the puck for great lengths during their advantage, but the five man unit is almost as immobile as the oppositions defensive setup. When a powerplay does not keep the puck and players moving at all times, it spells disaster.

It must be pointed out that the players involved on the unit are working hard to create opportunities during the ticking seconds. This is not to say the unit isn't working misguidedly. They have tried several tinkerings on the unit to no avail, such as employing a fourth forward - be it Alex Tangauy or Sergei Kostitsyn - on the left point in order to spread out the areas from which the puck can be played, passes can be made, and shots can be taken.

The solution does not lie in the removal of Kovalev per se, but it may require the romoval of him as a focal point. Subtracting the club's most offensively gifted player from the unit is a foolish notion, but reinventing how he works during the advantage is the starting point.

To that end, Kovalev sometimes sets up on left side of the ice, facing the exact same coverage scheme. What differs in this setup, is that his cross ice feeds become less of a risk and his shots on net come from a closer range. His stick is also further away from his opponants, which means he can attempt to move to net more freely to create shots and opening. Where this plan runs into trouble is that Kovalev is not as comfortable with it, and he is still the focal point for the opposition while doing the same things that were not working at his usual space.

Where the Canadiens now stand, is in working against what the opposition regularly throws at them in terms of coverage. The secrets of how to conceal the Habs firepower have been shared league wide, and it is now up to the Canadiens to make the required adjustments to get it moving once more.

Most observers have long believed that placing a larger player in front of the goal is the way to go, but the method in which such a situation works is not always clear. A player seemingly poised on the goaltenders doorstep, screening the view and picking up rebounds is often an illusion. Such a player has to keep himself moving, either from the side of the crease into the goalie's view, or crossing the edge of the crease in order to keep defenseman busy and turning away from the puck focus.

Having a player simply stand on the goalie is akin to nullifying the advantage itself, as his coverage then falls in the hands of the netminder. The four remaining players on the offensive are then covered more tightly man to man, and the extra player the team enjoying the power play has, is now two hundred feet away in their own goal. This setup simply doesn't work as most folks perceive.

What is perhaps doing the Canadiens the biggest diservice at present is the fact that the old methods worked with ease for two plus seasons, and that breaking old habits is hard to do.

After pointing to what has ceased working on the Canadiens power play, one is left to wonder what possibly can unstagnate the efforts of the emn working it. A solution might be to decentralize the Kovalev role in it while maintaining the use of his talents.

To do this, the Canadiens would then employ Kovalev and his passing skills on the blueline. He would only shoot on net when obvious chances presented themselves. Otherwise, he would act only as a simple wheel man in rotating the puck to both sides of the ice with defense partner Markov.

Their passes would have to be brisk, and they would ideally not be holding on to it for long periods of time. They would be advised to move it often and fast in order to tire and frustrate the coverage. They would switch places along the blue line during possession to create options to skate in closer during the crossovers. To facilitate puck movement, their wingers would also be in constant motion, swinging like pendulum points from side to side.

The duo at the blueline would not be played as tightly as Kovalev was by himself before, as it would open all kinds of room nearer to the net. The wingers on both sides would then return as more viable pass and shoot options, and more movement overall would be created. All of both wingers and center could attack the net at given chances, creating more confusion for the opposition.

What a scenario such as this could provide if properly deployed is great deal more room and movement while enjoying the advantage. The keys to any successful power play involve creating space and scoring chances by maintaining puck possession options while moving it fluidly to cause confusion and kaos.

The idea of Kovalev playing the point would return the fluidity to the Canadiens powerplay offense.

The puck and the space to create with it would then become more equally shared amongst the unit's participants. In essence, it would be like giving the players back the skills that have been robbed of them by having Kovalev rule the unit.

The recreation of the power play would not work overnight. Players, especially Kovalev in this instance, would have to get comfortable with the new rigors of it. For one thing, Kovalev would have to learn caution and read inopportunity more precisely. Markov and the remaining players would need time to adjust to receiving passes from angles and areas they have gotten away from. It could take as much as ten games for the unit to become comfortable. By that time it ought to be producing at a better clip that what is currently dying before everyone's eyes.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Roy Guests On L' Antichambre

Patrick Roy, whose jersey will be retired by the Canadiens in a pre - game ceremony on Saturday, will be the quest tonight on RDS's nightly hockey chat, L'Antichambre.

Host Alain Crete, along with Michel Bergeron, Jacques Demers, and Bertrand Raymond will be discussing the career achievements of Roy, and the show airs at 9:30 this evening. Roy will be joined by Jacques Tanguay, his co - owner on the Quebec Remparts, as a discussion of junior hockey will also be involved.

Count on some surprises from the L'Anrichambre team, including some top 10 Roy moments and a statistical quizzing of Roy - a fanatic of such things.

I will be running a few pieces on Roy this week, leading up to Saturday's ceremony before the Bruins game. Take note that the ceremony will begin at 6 p.m.

This weekend I began to read "Winning, Nothing Else", Roy's biography written by his father Michel. In a contest a Greatest Hockey Legends some weeks back, I was the lucky winner of the bio, in a Wiley Books contest giveaway. Once I'm a deeper into the book, I'll add my thoughts here.

One small interesting detail - trivial as it might be - occurred during Roy's first season playing goal when he was nine. His Atom travel team was selected to put on a shootout show at Le Collissee in Quebec City, between periods of a Nordiques and Chicago Cougars WHA match in 1973. The Cougars coach that night, was none other than Jacques Demers.

Back in September, I posted some content having to do with overcoming the controversy of his departure from Montreal, a flashback to his Hall Of Fame induction speech, and a really strange dream I had of how his night would go down. You can check them out at the links posted below.

Roy Jersey Retirement A Ribbon On A Gift To Younger Fans And Old

Patrick Roy Hockey Hall Of Fame Induction Speech - Inside The Heart And Mind Of A Driven Persevering Warrior

Patrick Roy - In My Dreams!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Once Upon A Time, The Canadiens Made The Blues Legit

The Canadiens are in St. Louis tonight to play the Blues in a rare Sunday night game. Often when the Canadiens and Blues meet, I think back to all the players who have shared both jerseys over the years.

The Blues were once the Canadiens Annex, thanks in no small part to Scotty Bowman, who coached the team in their first three seasons starting in 1967.

When the NHL expanded by six teams that year, the Blues, on Bowman's advice, picked apart the Canadiens minor league teams and built a fairly solid roster very quickly. Bowman knew his stuff, and the Blues made three straight trips to the Stanley Cup final.

With a team loaded with former Habs, the Blues lost to the Canadiens in 1968 and 1969. The following year, St. Louis fell to the heavily favoured Bruins in four games. In fact, when Bobby Orr scored the Cup winner flying through the air, it was a former Hab - Noel Picard - who tripped him!

Early Blues history has the Canadiens written all over them. The Plager brothers, Barclay and Bill, who became legends in St. Louis, were once coached by Bowman in junior when they played for the Canadiens sponsored Peterborough (T.P.T.'s) Petes. Bowman lured some great names from the Canadiens past to play for the Blues during those years, including Jacques Plante, Doug Harvey, Ted Harris, Jean Guy Talbot, and Dickie Moore.

Small wonder the Blues contended so quickly!

Since 1967, sixty-six players, including many former Canadiens, have worn both the bluenote and the CH. Here's an alphabetical listing.

Don Awrey, Murray Baron, Normand Baron, Red Berenson, Bob Berry, Christian Bordeleau, Andre Boudrias, Valeri Bure, Jim Campbell, Guy Carbonneau, Shayne Corson, Bill Collins, Wayne Connelly, J.J. Daigneault, Gilbert Delorme, Rory Fitzpatrick, Ron Flockhart, Dave Gardner, Doug Gilmour, Gaston Gingras, Phil Goyette, Ted Harris, Doug Harvey, Sean Hill, Fran Huck, Pat Hughes, Mark Hunter, Mike Keane, Christian Laflamme, Mike Lalor, Guy Lapointe, Michel Larocque, Claude Larose, Gary Leeman, Chuck Lefley, Jocelyn Lemieux, Bill McCreary, Rick Meagher, Sergio Momesso, Dickie Moore, Phil Myre, Ric Natress, Greg Paslawski, Noel Picard, Jacques Plante, Michel Plasse, Stephane Quintal, Rob Ramage, Stephane Richer, Vincent Riendeau, Phil Roberto, Jimmy Roberts, Bill Root, Martin Rucinski, Glen Sather, Brian Savage, Bill Sutherland, Jean Guy Talbot, Larry Trader, Pierre Turgeon, Perry Turnbull, Ernie Wakely, Rick Wamsley, Eric Weinrich, Doug Wickenheiser, and Rick Wilson.

Additionally, several Habs prospects, such as goalie Ted Ouimet, and prospect Andre " Moose" Dupont, also got their NHL careers rolling in St. Louis, after toilling in the Habs system for years.

In 41 years of games between the Blues and Canadiens, the Habs have owned them big time. The teams have met 118 times, with the Canadiens holding a record of 70-25-22, with one overtime loss.

Here's hoping the dominations continues tonight. The Blues owe us!

Canadiens Testing Gainey's Patience

The Canadiens 2-1 loss to the Flyers on Saturday had some small silver linings, but a loss is still a loss. The good news, if there is anything possitive to take from this game, was that the Canadiens were not blown out of the water like they had been against the Bruins and Maple Leafs this past week.

Still the Canadiens are slumping, having lost four of five, and calls are beginning for something to be done about it.

For General Manager Bob Gainey, the Habs play of late must surely disappointing. Trust that he won't be calling a press conference to discuss it. Gainey, who has an almost legendary patience, won't make a rash move in assessing this team's chances.

The Canadiens have four games in seven nights this coming week, after which they will be one game shy of the 20 game mark. How they perform during that stretch could be crucial. If Gainey were to make any kind of impact move, it will be here that he begins to seriously ponder such a thing if the team has not shaken it's doldrums and found some level of consistency.

There seems to be a rising number of issues with this season's team. It's character is often questionable. Discipline haunts them at the worst possible moments. Identity might also be an issue. This team wants to be a slick offensive machine, but grinding gears are needed to motor the wheels.

It could also be that the rest of the league has caught up with them in some regards. The club is still a young group, and opponants adjust to them after a certain time, and learn how to play them with familiarity.

These are the assessments that Gainey and his coaches will have to make after the next stretch of games. Time is of the essence in bringing about these decisions, for if Gainey is going to make a statement move, the value of the moved assets will need to be assured. On the flip side of the coin, the assets might also be declining in worth. Tough calls could be made.

Watching the Flyers game on RDS, on more than one occasion commentator Benoit Brunet alluded to the notion that the Canadiens were in fact working hard on the ice, but it was in fact the mechanisms of their work which were causing their problems. Such is typival of a team in search of itself.

The trouble with an extended slump such as this, is that fingers start being pointed amongst team mates, and names start being dropped in order to assess blame. Nothing good ever arises from such behavior. Add that to Gainey's plate!

The coming week will be an interesting one for patient Bob!

A little tie - in side track here, that only has to do with the Canadiens in a peripheral sense.

This is all about expectation, dedication, vision, worry, and foundation. As a Habs fan, you can take it as a call for patience and / or perspective, when wishing on dreams. When something is being built, it takes time to see it through.

The video clip below is from my favorite Jersey devil, and I found that it made for one inspiring song, in light of a whole bunch of things, the Habs included.

The song is called "Workin' On A Dream", and this You Tube clip became glued to my cranium after just two listens. In this video from two weeks ago, a dedication went out to Senator Barrack Obama. I want to send it out to Anna Gainey and T.C. Denault. They both know why. The lyrics to the song are below the clip.

Workin' On A Dream

Out here the nights are long and the days are lonely,
I think of you and,
I'm workin' on a dream,
I'm workin' on a dream.

Now the cards I've drawn is a rough hand darling,
I straighten my back and,
I'm workin' on a dream,
I'm workin' on a dream.

I'm workin' on a dream,
Though sometimes it feels so far away,
I'm workin' on a dream,
And I know it will be mine some day

Rain pourring down I swing my hammer,
My hands are rough from,
I'm workin' on a dream,
I'm workin' on a dream

I'm workin' on a dream,
This struggle can feel like it's here to stay,
I'm workin' on a dream,
But our love will chase the trouble away

I'm workin' on a dream,
The weekend feels so far away,
I'm workin' on a dream,
Our love will make it real someday

Sun rise up, I climb the ladder,
A new day breaks and,
I'm workin' on a dream,
I'm workin' on a dream,
I'm workin' on a dream,
I'm workin' on a dream,

I'm workin' on a dream,
The weekend feels so far away,
I'm workin' on a dream,
Our love will make it real someday

Not everyone is a fan of Bruce Springtseen and the method he uses to attach politics to daily life. I for one, find him to be one of the few songwriters in the rock and roll sphere with enough popularity and balls, daring enough to make that connection. Neil Young is another brave soul, who cares more about society than dollar signs to speak his mind.

Either way, and irregardless of what was mentioned above, if you are a Boss fan, tonight on NFL halftime, a clip of the E Street Band performance of this tune set to football highlights is set to air. The song will be included on the next Bruce Springsteen disc coming in January.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Canadiens Lacking What Begin Brings

According to Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, the Habs played what was possibly their best game in two seasons last Tuesday, when they blanked the Ottawa Senators 4-0 to rebound from what the coach called their worst game in the same span, a 6-3 humiliation two nights prior against the Maple Leafs.

Perhaps the Canadiens just found the one rival in their path with a slower pulse in the Senators, because two nights later, the Habs stunk out the joint against the Bruins.

Truth be told, Ottawa is about as dysfunctional as the Tampa Bay Lightning most nights, and beating them shouldn't have been anything to get excited about. Heck, two nights later, the Islanders handled the Senators with ease, and so went the theory the Habs have cured any of their ails.

Without the benefit of anything more than video evidence to suggest only part of the story, the Canadiens seem in need of some kind of a boost.

To echo the phrase uttered by former disposed coach of the year Orval Tessier, the Habs have looked like they are in need of heart transplants of late.

I call chemistry into question. More precisely, the lack of it.

All kinds of adjectives could be employed to describe the Canadiens recent play. They could include sluggish, uninspired, individualistic, unfocused, distracted, and without heart.

One of the more popular topics of late, when discussing the Habs woes, is the contribution of Georges Laraque, hired to make the entire team taller by a few inches. Or so, it was billed.

Laraque hasn't exactly carved out his niche on the team as of yet, and it wouldn't be a stretch to claim he has been a glaring non factor in almost every game he has been dressed for. Playing on the Canadiens fourth line - an energy line in essense - he has made slow footed Guillaume Latendresse look like Paul Coffee by comparison.

I can't fake it. I like the guy, but there is no polite way to say that Laraque has done absolutely squat so far this season.

Some might suggest that last Tuesday, Laraque's presence kept Ottawa's Chris Neil quiet. That would be true, if they had actually lined up against each other on the ice when the score of the game was still being contested.

While others have contemplated what Laraque is or isn't bringing each game, I have missed what dressing him each game has eliminated, namely the contribution of energetic fourth liner Steve Begin.

Since popping in the insurance goal against the Flyers in the third game of the season, Begin has sat out 8 of the last 11 games this season. He's almost become a afterthought in the Canadiens scheme of things. His name is often mentioned in the same sentence as the phrase "days are numbered" when it comes to his contribution in team terms.

Now, no one will confuse Begin with being nothing more than a simple role player, but here is where putting his role, his traits and attributes, and his dedication come into importance. He brings to the Habs, a deckful of intangibles few players on the team can boast of.

Feel free, if you choose, to see Begin as simply a player who has been the victim of a trio of bad timing penalty calls in the last season and a half. So the guy is overexhuberant - I wish that could be said about a half dozen nameless others.

Begin has the third longest tenure on the club, after Saku Koivu, Andrei Markov and Patrice Brisebois - who skipped two seasons. He was actually Bob Gainey's first acquisition upon becoming the Canadiens GM in the summer of 2003. That tenure, and the path taken, means something to the team chemistry.

Comparing Begin's stats to Wayne Gretzky is missing the point. Begin brings bucket loads of guts, spirit, leadership, dedication, grit, speed, and heart to the team.

Allow me to bring up these questions:

Have you ever seen Begin coil when it comes to dropping the gloves in defense of team mates?

Have ever seen Begin back away from a hit?

Do you know that, as a member of the Saint John Flames in 2001, Begin was voted playoff MVP despite not being his team's leading scorer?

Begin knows what it takes to win, and what it takes to create a winning atmosphere. He's a wild card's loadful of intangibles, enjoying a press box view while the Canadiens lack all the things that he could bring on a game by game basis.

Begin might just play ten minutes a game or less, but he spends the other fifty on the bench yapping. Knowing his character, his contributions eminate from there as well.

Would it be a drastic alteration to the Habs game plan to play him regularly and gauge his effect on the club for two weeks?

As I watch the Canadiens dedication issues lump into a pile, this is one managable move that would barely be cause for friction.

It's time for an injection of heart - it's cheaper than a transplant!


Friday, November 14, 2008

A Letter From The Gainey Foundation

A quick follow up here on the Habs Inside Out fan summit donation to the Gainey Foundation after last month's raffle. The amount donated to the fund from fans totalled $1,250.00 and today I received a thank you note on our behalf.

Below, are the contents of the short note sent from Anna Gainey. Take a minute or two to visit the Gainey Foundation website and learn about all their endeavors. A big thanks once more to all the HIO summiteers who gave so generously of their time, their wallets, and of their collections to make this happen.

November 12, 2008

Dear Robert:

On behalf of my family, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Habs inside - out group for their generous support of the Gainey Foundation. I received both the money order and cheque you sent by mail.

I regret not being able to meet with you at Baton Rouge the night of your visit. I hope you all had an enjoyable time in Montreal.

Many thanks again for your time and efforts in making in making this donation possible.


Anna Gainey,
Executive Director