Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Habs Post-Season: Draft Pick Fallout

That didn't take long, did it?

Speculation that the Oilers could be trading down their pick started mere minutes after the draft concluded when Edmonton G.M.Steve Tambellini, after being asked whether he'd be drafting Yakupov, trading the pick for a much needed defenseman, or maybe even not selecting Yakupov at all, responded "all of the above."

So he's an open-minded guy. Rational, even.

Still, Yakupov makes no sense to Edmonton, a team whose brim has overflowed with excellent young offensive talent, but has very little on either the blue line or between the pipes. Even if three or four of these young guns score 40+ goals in future years, if Edmonton doesn't have the means to keep the puck out, they'll struggle to make the post-season next year (and beyond), which would render their rebuilding experiment a failure.

Today, the navel gazers are out in full force, lobbying Tambellini to unload the pick for a number one defensemen or goaltender.

But what exactly would it take to pry that pick out of Edmonton's mitts? It's a question on the mind of many Habs fans today because Montreal is faced with an almost inverse challenge - its defense and goaltending are relatively deep, but its offense has some pretty gaping holes that need to be filled immediately.

Yakupov, who will almost certainly be playing in the NHL next season, fits the Habs desperate needs. An amazingly skilled and agile winger who would match up perfectly with playmaking centres like Desharnais and Plekanec (or perhaps even Eller). Yakupov would be the best potential candidate to fill the void that has dogged the Habs organization for years - a forward with the potential capability to dominate a game. It's an essential element for all championship hockey teams - that one guy who can take the game into his hands, and push his team to victory.

So what now? Well, if the Oilers do trade away their top pick, it's not going to happen any time soon. Certainly not in the next few days. Tambellini is no dummy - he'll be weighing options, fielding calls (he'll certainly get many inquiries), and making a move only if it fits the immediate needs of the Oilers, as the pressure is beginning to mount in Edmonton for the Oilers to make the playoffs next season. Anything less will not be acceptable.

I cannot envision the Oilers entertaining a draft swap with the Habs involving one of Montreal's young defensive prospects, either Nathan Beaulieu, or Jarred Tinordi, both of whom have great potential, but are by no means proven NHL-capable defensemen. Certainly not proven #1 capable defensemen that the Oilers need so badly next season.

Ergo, The Oilers will almost certainly not be returning any calls by the next Habs G.M. that don't involve either P.K. Subban or Carey Price as part of the conversation.

That's a pretty hefty price tag - from all rational perspectives, far too pricy. Subban and Price represent the future of Habs fortunes - they are irreplaceable commodities.

So with the draft lottery behind us, and a night's sleep to mull over future possibilities, Habs fans can probably only dream about somehow wrenching away that number one pick from the Oilers' grasp.

The reality is, what the Habs need to offer to land Yakupov is something they simply can't afford to surrender.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Habs Post-Season: Draft Lottery Edition

Did I think I would be rid of myself that easy?? No way sir, not with a 4th, or 3rd or 2nd or maybe just mayyyyyybeee a 1st round overall draft pick to be determined??

The draft takes place in a little more than 24 hours. In the meantime, the main action Habs-wise (beside cleaning out lockers) is who will and who will not play in the upcoming worlds.

So far the only Habs players confirmed to play are Subban and Pacioretty (for Canada and team USA respectively). Soooo .... there's that to look forward to? I guess?

Carey Price, who we learned today won't be playing the worlds, sustained not only a concussion during a practice on March 20, also sustained a neck injury. Desharnais, what the heck where you doing?!? It's a freakin' practice.

Anyway ... more later.

HABS GAME BLOG TRAFFIC UPDATE: Okay this is a pretty self-serving update, but the final traffic numbers for this blog experiment are in. More than 14,800 hits since game one! That's starting cold, no advertising, nothin'!

I dunno. Is that good? I think that's pretty good. We have a pretty wide range of demographics, a fair amount of European traffic (nearly half of all visits!), and sizable portion of our traffic from Russia (it's the Kostitsyns I tellz ya). Solid traffic numbers from Canada and the United States. NOTHING FROM MEXICO! Com'on Mexico, what's up with that?

So to all those who stopped by (and came back again), let me say THANK YOU! It's nice to see this page has attained a little bit of a following.

I like to think it might even be more popular for something other than a last place team. But that's next season, eh?

LOTTERY DRAFT DAY UPDATE: It's 7 hours till they draw the balls from a jug or names from a hat or throwing darts on a board, or however they do this draft selection thing. Can you feel the excitement??!

I'm a pretty happy dude today. We're going to get at least the 4th pick overall, probably the 3rd, and who knows ... maybe the 1st? It's a CAN'T-LOSE day.

Speaking of losing and losers, this was posted today by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. I laughed. A long, round, hearty laugh.

If I can translate the scribe, it goes a little like this:

So sorry Leafs fans for being terrible for the 7th straight season. PLEASE KEEP BUYING TICKETS TO OUR GAMES AND PLEASE KEEP SPENDING YOUR MONEY ON US. PLEASE?!?

And you know what? The poor fools probably will.

DRAFT UPDATE: We draft 3rd!!!

Oh well.

Edmonton gets number 1. So they keep piling on the big picks So finishing 29th was the big prize after all.


Let the Subban for the Oilers first round selection speculation commence.

POST-DRAFT CONTROVERSY UPDATE: Ha. So this is rather amusing, if true. Soon after it was announced that the Habs had "won" the 3rd pick, Mikhail Grigorenko supposedly went on the Twitter (as you do) and blasted out the following:

"Can't wait to be a drafter and play for P.Roy again."


Within seconds, Grigorenko's tweet spread like wildfire over social networks (as they do), and as everything began to hit the fan, the tweet was deleted from his account (too late of course).

Soooooo ... a few Q's out of all of this:

1) If Grigorenko made that tweet, is he privy to some inside info on who will be the Habs next coach, or is he merely speculating on the rumor mill, which includes Roy as a leading candidate?

2) Is he privy to inside information, or has he already been informed by Habs management that they will be selecting him this June?

3) If he was told in advance by Habs management (obviously in confidence), will loose lips sink the ship of his selection? Will the Habs recalibrate and look at drafting someone else?

Personally I'm not opposed to the Habs taking this very talented kid as their first selection - he could very well become a superstar, or at least a very good forward. But I also wouldn't be adverse to the club exploring possible opportunities with the Oilers, especially in light that they're desperate for a young, capable defenseman right now. Yakupov is the clear-cut first choice, but he's not what they need (or possibly want?) at the present.

Let's see where this goes over the next few days and weeks.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Game Eighty-Two: Leafs v Habs

Is it true? Is it possible? Have we reached the finish line? Is the nightmare of disappointment now at an end? Is this finally, really the end?

It's been quite an experience. Blogging (just about) every single minute of every single Habs game during, no less, one of the worst seasons in the 103 year history of the Montreal Canadiens.

Is this to say the whole experience, the countless hours spent posting during the game, and researching in-between contests, was futile? Certainly not - the whole experience, much like running marathons (of which I do) was entirely gratifying. Especially when you reach that finish line, look back, and remind yourself that you just ran that whole damn thing by yourself.

And anyway, beside the win/loss record, which was entirely disasterous, this was almost certainly one of the weirdest seasons in Habs history. The pre-game coaching firings, the mid-game trades of out best players, the fanatical reactions to individual abilities to speak languages, the maddening and seemingly endless string of injuries, watching and commenting on this organization while it teared itself apart in ultra slow motion was utterly fascinating.

The fun won't stop after tonight. We have a very important draft coming up featuring a very high pick. We have the highest of management positions to be filled. We have many opportunities at hand to fill glaring voids, most of them on offense, this summer via the free agent market. It's going to be very interesting process to witness.

And really, this team has SO MANY critical pieces already in place, it is more than possible - one might go so far as to say probable, for this team to make the necessary moves to make it more than playoff contenders next season. There is plenty to be optimistic about.

So tonight!!! The last game, with some matters on the line. The Oilers can still catch us for 28th, assuming they beat the Canucks (a tall order) and we lose to the Leafs (an even taller order).

It seems as though everybody was at practice this morning. Moen! Gionta! Will they play tonight? Why the heck not! Let's have at least one game of what this team was supposed to be - with Markov quarterbacking the line.

I'm going to enjoy crossing that finish line. And take the summer off, and start all over again.

First Period:

- Oh, Toronto. 5-on-3 and you still find a way of allowing Plekanec to get a break for a goal? Sigh.

- I know Phaneuf is world class with a blistering shot, but some of the careless mistake he makes, it's no wonder that Leafs fans are certified.

- Leafs doing a relatively good job with possession, movement around the Habs zone is relatively efficient, but Canadiens defense giving Budaj solid protection.

- Desharnais line really zipping so far - nice to see that line pad their stats a bit before the night is done.

- St-Denis looking really good on the PK. I maintain the competition for that 7th D spot against Weber is his to lose this September.

- Pretty inelegant period. Special teams were quite dreadful. Going to be really difficult to lose to this Leafs team.

Second Period:

- What a terrible change by the Leafs defense, and Pacioretty with a sharp angle shot that really had no business going in. Habs extend their lead.

- Paciorety's score narrows the team goal scoring gap to one. Cole better get on his game.

- Toronto looks dreadful, especially in their own zone. Headless chicken routine. Painful to watch.

- Habs caught doing another pick. Do they practice this stuff? Do they know it's almost certainly going to get spotted and called every time?

- Budaj having a pretty solid night, but the difference in mobility between and and Price is night and day.

- Pacioretty of all players, with the hit of the night.

- Komisarek. It's really astounding to see how far he's fallen since getting lured over to Toronto. Totally uninvolved, barely competent - not sure if he's playing with some physical incapacity. He certainly looks like a guy with zero confidence. The Habs really dodged a bullet when their offer was declined in an attempt to resign.

- As much as it pains me to say this, Campoli's final five games of the schedule have been the best of his season. Still not good enough to possibly rationalize his return.

- Sorry Max, you can't kick them in. Woulda tied him with Cole.

- That Pacioretty near-miss wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for a fantastic block and pass by Markov to set up the shot. I'd love to see how far this team would go with an 80 game Markov season.

- Love that penalty by Subban. If you're going to take one, do it with style.

- St-Denis becoming a bit of a PK specialist, no?

- Rene Bourque demonstrating that when he actually tries, he can actually be effective.

- Leafs hooking and grabbing everything in sight. Finally the officials can no longer look the other way.

- Plekanec simply couldn't believe that he missed that shot into a gaping Leafs net (beautiful pass by Kaberle to set him up by the way).

- Subban takes the mantle for hit of the night. Leafs enraged but it was totally clean.

- Can I say this? Toronto is terrible. No way we could possibly lose this.

Third Period:

- Leafs come a stormin' to start the period, wonder if they got a talkin' to by Carlyle in the dressing room?

- And Pheneuf with a blast that draws the Leafs draw to within one.

- Leafs really pressing. Could see this tied up soon.

- Never mind. Cole with his 35th on another stopple close-in try. Habs on their way.

- I suppose there's satisfaction to be had from handing the Leafs their butts on a stick on the last night, but it'd going to cost us a precious draft pick lottery spot, and we're still not going to finish ahead of Toronto. Oh well.

- Really?? Staubitz scores the final Habs goal of the year? Seems fitting.

- Habs win!!! And 2011-12 is a wrap.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Game Eighty-One: Habs v &apos;Canes

ONE MORE GAME TO GO. After tonight. That's all that matters. Then the nightmare will be over.

It's a must-lose tonight or we can kiss that 2nd pick lottery slot goodbye.

Kaberle is back in from injury. Emelin is out from injury. So already it's looking positive.


First Period:

- Late to the game. I see I missed almost nothing anyway.

Second Period:

- Habs powerplay right back on form. It's terrible. And Kaberle is back. So the Gauthier hangover continues.

- Blake Geoffrion with pretty much the clinical example of how to do a wraparound. 'Canes defense was pretty much AWOL. They, like Tampa last night, look pretty dispirited.

- Budaj fails to cover the puck and LaRose tucks in his own rebound to tie the game. Budaj continuing to make fundamentals misplays, which may give Habs more pause to reconsider their backup options this summer. Not convinced Budaj's job is safe.

- Muller sending out the Skinner line against our 4th, which has been struggling big-time in the defending zone. Big vulnerability for Habs tonight.

- Ward with a ridiculous save on Desharnais. What can you do?

- Staal nearly tucked one past a totally unsuspecting Budaj whose awareness appears to be somewhere in the clouds.

- Staal is just soooo good - he's everything the Habs desperately need right now for a centre. The way he set up LaRose was a thing of beauty.

- Plekanec with his 10 gazillionth shorthanded breakaway of the season, Ward really pulling out the horseshoes this period.

Third Period:

- Ruutu with another beautiful setup, this time to Harrison who beats Budaj but not the goalpost. Elite players are a joy to watch, regardless of the uniform they wear.

- Spacek is the low guy on the 'Canes blue line totem pole, clocking in barely 6 minutes almost halfway through the third.

- 'Canes all over the Campoli/Kaberle dynamic duo. If this game were actually important I'd be adverting my eyes with those two on the ice.

- Nice pick by Subban. Too bad it was right in front of the referee.

- What an effort by Plekanec on that 2-on-1 shorthanded rush, delivering a perfect pass to Blunden who deflects it just past the post. Plekanec unsung hero for the Habs tonight.

- Carolina the much better team from 2nd period forward. They deserve the two points. Take them. Please?

- That's so Bourque. Any other forward would have taken that puck and pulled away for a break. Instead he slows up, and has the puck easily stripped away from a defender from behind. One of the laziest forwards to wear a Habs uniform in a very long time.

- Uhoh. Spacek takes a careless penalty giving the Habs hapless powerplay a chance to win the game. Not good.

- Oh PK. Well, I suppose the hapless label is earned. At least that takes care of the powerplay (Staal had a good argument for a penalty shot).

- Oh great. Now the 'Canes take another. Habs with 4-on-3 chance.

- Just. Dismal. That might have been the worst I've seen all year.

- Wow. They're calling everything the last three minutes. Habs again get a man advantage. And Cunneyworth actually asks for time?

- Plekanec at the point during a man advantage continues to be a disaster. Why are they going back to this tried and terribly failed strategy?

- Habs are gonna have more 4-on-3 time in OT. Not good.


- Desharnais with some terrible decision-making plays last two shifts.

- Habs specialty teams petty much a disaster tonight.

- If it's a shootout it's an automatic loss, right?


- A win will make it virtually impossible for the Oilers to catch us for 28th. So com'on guys, lose this? You've done it all year long to near perfection, so just one more time? Please???


- Eric Staal. Thank you. The dive for 29 stays alive.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Game Eighty: Bolts v Habs



Read it and weep DEADMONTON.

CAREY PRICE IS DONE UPDATE: Radio-Canada is reporting this afternoon that Price suffered a concussion last week, and as a result, may get parked for the rest of the season. Sooooo ... hopes for that 29th place finish just got a bit brighter!

The official line from the team, by the way, is that Price is being evaluated from day-to-day. In other words, nothing much has changed as far as this organization's approach to providing information about the health of its players - it pretty much doesn't.

First Period:

- By far the single most difficult part of blogging these games is mustering up the interest in watching them. But there is that "race" for 29th, so all is not lost.

- Would it be too much to ask Budaj to be especially terrible for the next 180 minutes?

- Emelin with a rare score but that goal was ALL Desharnais. Very pretty.

- I guess that's Budaj's answer to my previous question.

- Bourque with his usual "gaping net" missed shot of the night.

- Staubitz with a knucklehead penalty trying to pick a fight. Might be the only one going off.

- It's a 4-on-4.

- Campoli. About the last guy you'd want on a breakaway. Well, maybe after Staubitz.

- Ain't a whole lot of intensity out there tonight. Game resembles more of a scrimmage at practice.

Second Period:

- Cole pads the stats a bit with 33rd of the year, one-timing a picture-perfect pass from Desharnais, who is reminding Habs fans that in this lost season, there is still plenty to be optimistic about for 2013.

- Excellent puck control, this time Markov doing what he does best, setting the puck up on a tee with a perfect pass, this time Pkekanec driving it home. Habs more or less killing hopes of not finishing ahead of Edmonton.

- Since the first drop of the puck, Tampa looks like a pretty dispirited bunch. If it weren't for the Badaj gift, they'd still be sitting on zero.

- Stamkos hasn't lacked opportunity to score his 59th tonight. Just not going in for him.

- 20 minutes of Zzzzzzz left hockey to play.

Third Period:

- That's two for Budaj. Will he complete the goaltending giftwrapped hat trick?

- Scoring change. Take one away from Plekanec, give Cole his 34th. Deflected the shot in apparently.

- Pacioretty ends his 11 game scoring drought, courtesy some pretty shoddy coverage around the Bolts' crease. Two goal lead is restored.

- Pacioretty and Cole have combined to score 65 (and counting) this season. If you had told me that before this season started, I'd be overjoyed, and logically deducing the Habs would be pretty high up the playoff ladder. What a waste.

- One more goal will move Cole into a tie for 9th place in the League for goals scored. Nifty.

- Make it 66. Smokin' shot by Pacioretty. Icing on the cake.

- Oh well. The win is nearly a fatal blow to our tanking aspirations. No way I'm cheering for the Leafs in Saturday.