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Boxing Day showdown

Let the fun begin tonight…wonder who will be net, the hot streak Halak or the future is now Price?

What to expect from tonight’s game?

Should've given me the autograph Vaive.

Talk about karma coming back to bite you in the butt.

Brendan Shanahan recently explained why he attacked Rick Vaive unprovoked in 1991 off a faceoff.

There may have been no provocation that night, but an unfriendly snub by Vaive, the former Leaf captain, when Shanny was 14 years old and asking for an autograph festered into some serious payback years later.

100 Years o f Habs greats! courtesy of NY DailyNews

Talk about a celebration.

The Montreal Canadiens centennial game celebrations were a spectacle every sporting fan, let alone hockey or Habs fan, just had to respect.

Watching the past greats in Habs jerseys were a nostalgic touch which would be hard to replicate by any sporting franchise short of the other titans of sports such as the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, AC Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, Pittsburgh Steelers…you get the picture.

On a personal note, seeing the king, Patrick Roy, in full goalie gear in a Habs uniform was extra special.

The last time we had seen that, he had stormed off the ice in that dark moment in Montreal history, after getting bombed by the Detroit Red Wings, then gave the 1000-yard stare to then coach Mario Tremblay and uttered to Ronald Corey that was the last game he’d played as a Canadien. For me, that was my first and last game at the fabled Montreal Forum and the only time I ever saw my last hockey hero, Roy, play.

The 100th anniversary celebrations since last season to last night were all class.

Thank you to this wonderful franchise for all the history and memories.

Hahahaha. 🙂

Needless to say, for most educated Canadian hockey fans, this is a no-brainer, of course the Habs are Canada’s team.

Forget the jock rhetoric, MLSE and Toronto media hype machine, only one team truly represents all of Canada, all Canadians and every fabric of our awesome nation. Here is a recent poll that concludes the same. Canada is not just Toronto and it is no solely English, and the Habs and adoration for the club are evidence of that.

Toronto spinsters may think Toronto is the gold standard for hockey, the true “hockeytown” and the centre of the hockey universe but it isn’t. How can it be? THEY HAVEN’T WON A CUP SINCE 1967- the LAST time there were SIX TEAMS in the NHL!!!!

The Leafs are not the New York Yankees of hockey though they claim to be. You need to win, and often, to lay that claim. The Leafs are more like the LA Dodgers hockey, plenty of great history, some good runs and wins but nothing to really show of late (though at least the Dodgers have won in recent memory).

The New York Yankees of hockey are the Montreal Canadiens and we have the 24 cups to prove it and are the sole Canadian team to win it recently, in 1993. The Detroit Red Wings can even lay a better claim to the Yankee moniker than the loser Leafs.

Watching the Leafs plod through this season has been hilarious, more so on how local media covers them. A two-game win  streak is dissected and blown way out of proportion and it is all sunny skies and roses so quickly after the doom and gloom of a week ago. This city is dying so bad for a winning hockey team the media just about falls over itself trying to spin a good yarn out of horse crap.

I feel for the players assemled for this year’s Leafs team. They are trying their best but if you don’t have the horses to run, the race can be a mighty long one, let alone just getting out of the barn.

Lordy, lord, it has been a long time since I last stepped in this place.

What can I say, the horror and disappointment of last year’s Habs season left me never wanting to return….until the Free Agent Frenzy happened.

So, after the dust settled from yesterday’s mad-signing dash we do have a different looking team, is it better? Well, it is different and somewhat better but with a whole bunch of caveats.

Scott Gomez is a fine addition but is overpaid at $7 million and losing Higgins hurts, he was one of our few forwards who actually showed up in the playoffs and played with some sandpaper in his game. Shame to lose him but Gomez helps us down the middle- though we are still missing a big centreman and this will kill us, once again. Watch Higgins haunt us like Ryder did with Boston, LeClair did with the Flyers…etc. etc.

Free agent signings of Brian Gionta and Mike Camilleri are good signings but once again, a caveat or two. I’ve been a fan of Camilleri’s since his days with the Kings and he did have a breakout year last with the Flames…if he snipes anywhere near 35 goals again is the only way to measure him as a success this year.

Gionta… he is small…tiny by NHL standards, but he once sniped 40 with Gomez in New Jersey but the past two seasons…he has not been great (same with Gomez) – may be reuniting them will spark their games to where they were two years ago when the last played together. Considering the systems they played under in New Jersey, playing for Jacques Martin should not be problem. Also, though Martin likes defence, his skilled forwards always put up solid numbers, which bodes well for Gomez, Gionta and Camillieri, let alone “The Enigma” known as Alex Kovalev.

These three players are an improvement over what we have up front. I am thoroughly convinced that neither of the Kostitsyns and Plekanec are top line material, not even close and “The Enigma” is too much to bear as the lone genuine sniper- now he will have some kind of support.

To round out the forwards, I am sad to see Saku Koivu and Tanguay go. Saku gave a lot to the community and the team but his performances were looking tired as was his output. Tanguay was a one year project spoiled by an injury, we will miss his speed and skill. I am still uncertain on the future of Robert Lang – anyone hear anything?

I am still too ticked off about losing Komisarek to the Leafs to write about the moves on defence right now but I will say this, I have no issues with Spacek or Gill and I think they are an improvement over Brisebois and O’Byrne.

 

Time for the post-mortem on Les Glorieux, our wonderful Habs flamed out so badly this year that I am almost thankful the season has finally ended.

Since the all-star break the cracks really started to show and we never recovered. Our paper thin lineup and lack of quality depth came back to bite us in the arse. A team built along the Buffalo youth model; remember how we touted the pedigree of our kids developed in Hamilton, just barely made it through this season.

We fired Carbo, which in the end really improved nothing. How could a coach so good a season ago be fire-worthy a season later? The internal strife and cancer on this team, whatever it is, need to be exorcised.

This lineup, even if it were healthy, would not have defeated the Boston Bruins. We lacked depth and size. Honestly, last year’s playoff series against Boston should have been our wake-up call. We almost blew a 3-1 series lead against them and we have never been the same since.

Here is my personal post-mortem on this squad and what I think needs to be done regarding our unrestricted free agents:

Carey Price stays. He is 21 and he is a very good goaltender with tonnes of potential and a lot still to learn. Yes, he gave it the old “Roy wave” to fans and that is ok. He is being made a scapegoat for a team with no real defence and grit up front, let alone real scoring threats. Can he play better? Yes. Was he the lone problem? No. Get this kid a veteran back-up, a quality veteran back-up and it can only help. Halak is good goalie but he is no Price. Deal Halak if you have to, the Price is still right, it says here

We need a real, bonafide, NUMBER ONE centre. Plekanec will never be that. Koivu is way past prime. Lang is a solid number two but closer to number three centre, sign him. We need a horse down the middle, simple as that. Until we get one, we will never win.

Kovalev cannot be depended on anymore. He is an awesome talent that never seems to remain consistent. He is a top six forward, no doubt, but he cannot be the lone sniper and cannon we rely on anymore. Sign him and get him help.

Resign Komisarek, he is a solid, physical defenceman, one that we need to be in our top pairing. Yes, we have almost $12 million tied up in Hamrlik and Markov but find a way to move Hamrlik and keep Komisarek. We will regret losing him.

Good bye Saku. It has been a nice run but we have really not achieved anything with him as captain. There are emotional ties to this little Finn but let’s face facts, at 34, now is the time to move on from him and let him go. Watch Saku join his brother in Minnesota.

Alex Tanguay- I say sign him, he is a second line forward and until he was injured, he was clicking quite well under the Montreal media pressure, give him a shot

Francis Boullion, sign him, he is a mobile and gritty depth defenceman. Brings a lot in a little package.

Mathieu Dandenault – would we really miss this role player? Don’t think so, the kids Stewart or D’Agostini can do his job just as easily.

Tom Kostopoulos – he brings it every night he plays, the sandpaper we need on our last two lines, sign him.

Mathieu Schneider – resign him, has proven his worth even at his age. If you are going to have an aging blueliner, at least have one that can contribute so we can good riddance to Patrice Breeze-by.

Patrice Brisebois- for the LOVE OF GOD put him out to pasture. His value proved to be NOTHING down the stretch and in the playoffs. A waste of money, space and a developmental spot on the lineup.

Hab fans are all asking the same question “Is there a parachute to help us with this free fall in the standings?”

Honestly, what is wrong with this team? From first place last year to this debacle. Carbo gets canned. Kovalev sent home. Price breaks down. Gainey does not deliver at the trade deadline. What a mess.

Also, with so many soon to be free agents, you would expect guys to be playing harder for their future salaries, let alone their jobs. What has happened? What internal cancer is eating away at this team and ruining a promising season. They may have not been able to make a run at the Cup but a solid playoff seemed reasonable.

Now, the cherry on top, looks like our Habs will be on the auction block, just great, what else can happen – the Bell Centre burns down and we have to play the rest of our games out of Quebec City….or Hamilton?