View Post

What do the Montreal Canadiens Need to do to Become Contenders?

In Featured by kamal

Another season has come and gone for the Montreal Canadiens, one that saw them do well in the standings but that has left many fans feeling that the organization still needs to make some changes to take their team to the next level.

With that in mind, I humbly offer the Habs a few suggestions for the coming months.

1- At last years trade deadline, I felt the Habs would do well to move Andrei Markov, David Desharnais and maybe even Tomas Plekanec if the offer was a real solid one. The reasoning behind that was:

a)  The team had some important pieces missing if they were to become a top-end team in the NHL , (A Top line Centre, a scoring-winger and a bonafide top two defenseman), pieces that could best be acquired by trading proven assets for youngsters who had not yet had the opportunity. Getting a older veteran was not my preferred solution.

b)  That their current youngsters (Galchenyuk, Beaulieu, Tinordi, Bournival) needed to get a good deal of ice-time in the roles they are meant to play going forward.

Habs didn’t do that last year so I feel they will have to do this now. If they can move the same assets mentioned earlier, I think they will be better off going forwards. Getting a real top line center, top six winger and top 3 defensemen can’t be done during one off-season.

Bergevin should give the youngsters he has now some real playing time while at the same time accumulating a few more assets and improve the quality of the team’s depth. Once this is done, the next step has to happen:

2- Bergevin and Therrien have to learn to place more trust in their youngsters.

I understand the importance of veterans on a team but there is something to be said about giving them too much respect.

Facts are that some did not produce enough during the season and a few were a non-factor during the playoffs while some youngsters had too little rope. The Tampa Bay line of Kucherov-Johnson and Palat were great for the Lightning during the playoffs and featured a 2nd round pick, a 7th round pick and an undrafted player.

Maybe Montreal has that kind of talent but management will never know if youngsters are not given real opportunities without the fear that one mistake will mean a trip to the press box or a demotion to the AHL.

3 – Beware of July 1st

Habs may be close to being a top team but they shouldn’t jump on the Free Agency market to fill their needs. Many times, the players available are aging players whose best years are behind them, and on top of that, you have to overpay to get them. Players are an asset but so is available cap space.

Bergevin should tread very carefully. Don’t go for the best available solution, chose the right solution.

4 –  Habs need to be patient.

Usually, it’s preferable to get players during the off-season so they can ease into a new team/city but cost may be lesser once the season begins. Team with high-expectations flounder and get desperate for help, some teams decide a rebuild is in order and start giving up assets or some teams need cap relief.

This may be a good opportunity for Bergevin and the pro scouting staff to make something happen. Rangers have mortgaged their future for a big playoff run. Maybe a Brassard or Stepan becomes available?

The Blues feel they should contend but had a difficult post-season, can they get desperate if things don’t go well next season? They have a lot of depth in their organisation.  Maybe a talented francophone player like Xavier Ouellet could be an helpful piece to the puzzle. Oh, and did Jimmy Develanno not say just a few weeks ago that he expected a lot more from Anthony Mantha?

Not saying any of these are possible but a creative, bold General-Manager can make things happen.

Habs have some good pieces but Bergevin needs to do a few things differently if they are to move forward. He needs to re-evaluate the coach, the players, the whole hockey staff …and even the GM.

So what do YOU think the Canadiens need to do in order to get better?


Rick has been a scout, and has been covering and writing about hockey for over a decade.  Follow him on Twitter at Rick1042

View Post

Montreal Canadiens Get Angry and Get the Win Against the Tampa Bay Lightning

In Featured by kamal

Fuck you.

That’s what the Montreal Canadiens said to the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.

Fuck you for being up 3-0 in this 2nd round playoff series despite having been largely outplayed.

Fuck you to all the goal posts they hit.

Fuck you to last second goals and soul crushing defeats. And fuck you to being down 3-0.

From the drop of the puck tonight, the Habs looked determined, ready, and, quite frankly, pissed off.

Max Pacioretty scored in his typical style.

Andrei Markov and PK Subban were as ferocious as an egg-fart vapor-trail.

Brendan Gallagher continued to show he’s a playoff gamer, and Carey Price, for once, got some goal support.

Carey Price must be looking at the scoreboard and wondering what that squiggly line is under Montreal… It’s a 2, Carey, a 2. #Mtlhockey

— corey collard (@coreycollard24) May 7, 2015

Also, Montreal finally showed that Tampa goalie, Ben Bishop, is actually mortal.

Wait, what?

Of course he is!

One just has to reference the Lightning’s first round series against the Red Wings, to see Detroit getting Bishop off his focus.

Bishop is a great goaltender.  But unlikely Price, he can be rattled. And the Habs did so tonight, getting to him early and often.

As a result, we saw Bishop flopping around on the ice, losing his stick, diving to try and get calls, and overall looking like a goaltender who is inferior to Price…

…which he is.

But most importantly for Montreal, their leaders lead.

From PK Subban, to Markov, to Pacioretty and more, the Canadiens, to a man, were determined not to be swept.

So golf clap for winning a game where the opposition was lacksidasical and comfortable with their three-game lead.

But now what?

Well, Montreal is still down 3-1 in the series, but they have reasons to be optimistic.

Game 2 aside, they’ve largely outplayed Tampa in this series. But more importantly, they’ve got momentum going back home to the Bell Centre.

For my money, there is no way the Habs lose Game 5 in Montreal.  No way.  Not with the pride and leadership in this group.

Equally, I don’t see any way the Habs lose a potential Game 7 in Montreal, if that game happens.

Not to jump ahead too much, but for me, it all comes down to a Game 6 in Tampa.  If the Habs can win Game 5—and I don’t see how they lose that game—they will be playing their most important and, difficult, game of the year Game 6 in Tampa.

But this is all conjecture…

The reality right now, is that the Habs are down three games to one, with history dictating that there’s no way they can come back to win.

As we saw with the Canadiens’ first round matchup against the Ottawa Senators, winning one or two games may put the fear of God into the opposition, but it doesn’t win the series.

I know it’s a cliché, but the Habs really have to take it one shift and one game at a time.  What do they need to do to win the next game?  That’s precisely what’s got to be the focus…nothing more.

It’s like that age old adage…how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

What’s your take on the series?  Do that Habs have a chance?  What do they need to do to win?

SIDENOTE: Yes, I realize it’s been the better part of two years since I’ve written anything, anywhere, about hockey.  I have to thank the great writers who have kept the ball rolling in my absence. I’m not sure how often I’ll start blogging again. It won’t be the 100s of posts I was doing per year in the past, and it might be in a slightly different voice, but I’ll definitely be contributing my thoughts on the Habs again…in some capacity!

(photo by Canadian Press)


Kamal is a smart ass who thinks he knows a lot about hockey.  He’s been on-air, started businesses, and has embraced social media, all with a focus on hockey.  He recently flew to Spain.  Have you been to Spain?

Follow him on twitter @KamalPanesar…or don’t.

View Post

Tyger By The Tail: Habs’ Observations After 2 Games

In Featured by kamal

There were an awful lot of early exits projected for the Montreal Canadiens by both fans and panelists alike once the Ottawa Senators drew in as their first post-season opponent. Even though we are only two games into the 2015 NHL Playoffs, it’s worth taking a look at what this series has revealed so far.

I’ll admit to having had my pre-conceptions rearranged now that the Habs are holding a 2-0 series lead and the Sens are facing an uphill battle, needing to win the next 4 out of 5. Here are some reasons why, as well as some random food for thought.
Not A One Man Show

The Habs are a formidable team even without Max Pacioretty, PK Subban and a Not-In-God-Mode-Yet Carey Price. With Pacioretty out the first game, Subban ejected for slashing Mark Stone, and Price looking merely solid instead of invincible, the fourth line somehow managed to morph into a top line, much to my chagrin. Torrey Mitchell AND Brian Flynn both scored goals, with Flynn eventually being made first star. Team chemistry, that special brotherhood that makes players fight constantly to step up for each other, is consistently underrated as a playoff advantage and this team has it. Also the Habs have had a lot of post-season experience the past few years and that shows too. Right now they are looking like the better team, outright dominating for long stretches. Following the Game 2 overtime victory Price stated that he didn’t think anyone in the room had panicked and I believe it.

Hamburglar On The Menu

Andrew Hammond is a very good goaltender and there are times he outright stonewalls the Canadiens’ forwards, but he is still wet behind the ears and has long stretches where he looks shaky and not at all confident. This is his first post-season show and that is a lot of weight for him to carry after hauling his team almost single-handedly into the playoffs. Had the Stone / Subban drama not overshadowed everything else perhaps more would admit that up until quite recently he has been little more than a mediocre AHL goalie, a fact quite evident throughout Game 1. Meanwhile there’s little doubt that beyond elevating Price to a new level, Stephane Waite has also been watching endless tape looking for holes for the Habs skaters to exploit, which they have. There’s a reason the Chicago Blackhawks’ fans griped when Marc Bergevin took Waite away from Corey Crawford and this is why. A good goaltending coach is necessary, but a great one is a linchpin.

Leave The Drama On Broadway

Prior to Game 2 there was an awful lot of Days of our Lives Soap Opera Drama going on between the two teams, their respective fan bases, and most especially the media. A slash is a slash and deserves a penalty, and I get the rule infraction that necessitated the ejection, but if people are going to suggest that a player get supplemental discipline for an injury then maybe there should be an actual injury. Once warmups ended, Mark Stone didn’t just look fine, he played fine, good enough to lead all forwards in ice time through the first period. He finished the night with two assists and logged 18:40 in ice time. Yes, the Senators tried to get PK Subban suspended. It’s a solid strategy and you can’t blame them for trying. What you CAN blame them for is continuing to milk it right up until puck drop. At least show some dignity when your master plan fails. I have no doubt it hurts. I just have no ability whatsoever to sympathize with bullshit. Just play hockey.

Objectivity Means Nothing Anymore

Speaking of just playing hockey, the Ottawa Sun, Chris Neil, the Hockey Night in Canada panelists, the Senators own coach and GM, and absolutely everyone who had access to a microphone seemed to want the Sens to goon it up in Game 2 to retaliate against PK for the non-broken wrist. Off ice if it gets into Montreal’s head then it’s good strategy and excellent for ratings and website hits. On ice it’s suicide and will buy the Senators an early exit. The Habs don’t play that game anymore. They just don’t. On the occasions during the regular season when Montreal has gotten away from their own strategy and lost, they corrected it quite quickly. This is not the easily rattled team that Ottawa bounced after the injury to Lars Eller two years ago. And props to the Senators who realized that it just wasn’t going to work this time and didn’t become so consumed by thoughts of retaliation that they forgot about just playing hard and trying to win.

Blown WAY Out Of Proportion

While I am touching on the media, I really want to know what the hell HNIC thought it was doing during gameplay last night. I tried to watch an NHL playoff game but it kept getting interrupted by Breaking News in the form of medical updates on Mark Stone’s wrist. At one point Stone was just fixing his glove – HIS GLOVE – and this necessitated a two minute exchange (there had already been at least a half dozen prior to that) about the condition of his wrist and how Paul Romanuk and Jason York had suffered similar injuries in the past and how much it hurt and shouldn’t be overlooked as affecting his play and helping to decide this series and so on ad nauseum. By that point Stone had already earned one of his assists and no one was buying it anymore, not even some of the Senators own fans.

When Don Cherry is the voice of reason — he didn’t think Subban should have been suspended — you know that the show has gone off the rails. Unless Romanuk and York have stock in some sort of miracle micro-fracture treatment maybe they could just go ahead and defer to Dr. Recchi on this one, and thankfully he has not yet felt it necessary to weigh in. This is a national broadcaster — THE national broadcaster — for the Stanley Cup playoffs in a country that eats, breathes, sleeps and obsesses about this sport. In the playoffs you guys need to up your game too, not reduce yourselves to TMZ On Ice during gameplay.

Habs Need To Find The Jugular

While the Habs did go 1 for 6 on the power play, the fact is had they lost in overtime there would be a lot more focus on missed opportunities. During Montreal’s first two power plays in the third period there was a glaring lack of urgency and hunger, especially when contrasted with the second period power play which saw Pacioretty tie the game. Yes they were up a goal, but this is not the regular season and they can’t take their foot off the gas and just assume Price will bail them out. The Canadiens have lacked a killer instinct for far too long. If they keep passing on these golden chances and let up it’s going to cost them dearly in the post-season. After watching them go through this all season, why haven’t they learned this vital lesson yet? Instead the power play became a momentum killer, and this is playing with some serious fire during the playoffs.

History Will Always Matter

Outside of Montreal it is hard to explain how incredibly the team’s history still impacts its present and future. After PK Subban got bounced from Game 1, it was Élise Béliveau who calmed the Habs’ best blueliner. The recent, heartfelt losses of Jean Béliveau and Elmer Lach are also fresh and carry weight with not just the fans, but the players themselves. Teams without that sort of history can and do win the Cup all the time but once again, these are the little things that can and do factor into a post-season performance without ever appearing on any scorecard.

So what do you think of the series so far? Is it what about you expected?
View Post

It’s Playoff Time…Time To Take A Look Back

In Featured by kamal

This is it. Eighty-two games are in the books. Now, it’s a two month sprint to 16 wins. Just to make the playoffs this year was a monumental task, whether you played in the Eastern Conference or the Western Conference. The eighth seeded team in the Wes…

Former Habs Defender Dollard St-Laurent Passes Away at 85

In Featured by kamal

The Montreal Canadiens family has received another loss in just a matter of days.This morning, the organization announced the passing of defenceman Dollard St. Laurent at the age of 85.St. Laurent was known for his crushing hip checks and made life ver…

View Post

Saying Farewell to Elmer Lach

In Featured by kamal

In a cloudy hockey rink, one can see two teams battling back and forth for the puck. One is clad in white with red and blue trim and the other in red accented in white and blue. The passing is tape-to-tape perfection as the players glide without missin…

View Post

Habs’ Fronting Defense All About The Numbers

In Featured by kamal

In the 80’s and 90’s, when being physical in front of your net was the norm, defensemen were expected to be the last player between their own goaltender and an attacking forward. Since the lockout of 2004-2005 and the elimination of cross-checking and …

View Post

Changing Up The Canadiens’ Power Play

In Featured by kamal

Since December 5th, 2013, the Montreal Canadiens power play has been a one-trick pony, and ranked in the bottom third of the National Hockey League.
Many believe the problems starts behind the bench, with a collective lack of offensive prowess among the Canadiens’ brain trust. Some would have you think that analytics dictates who gets to play with the man advantage. While that may be true on teams with a plethora of offensive talent, like Chicago or Pittsburgh, a team like Montreal needs to look at its power play proficiency historically and pinpoint what could work for them.
The Bomb From The Point Is Mandatory
malakovThe Habs have always been blessed with some of the best point shots in the league, with the likes of rear guards Vladimir MalakovSheldon SourayMark Streit,Marc-Andre Bergeron and now P.K. Subban.
Despite the big shot, since the 2000-01 season, there has been one constant on the point. The presence ofAndrei Markov to help distribute the puck. The native of Voskresensk, Russia has shown an incredible ability to read penalty killing formations, finding passing lanes or sneaking in back door when the situation allowed it.
Essentially, a howitzer from the point and a puck distributor is a must for any power play strategy.
Creating Offense Off The Half-Wall
kovalevThere was no one better than former Habs’ right winger Alex Kovalev as far as offensive productivity from the hash marks in is concerned. His incredible stick handling ability, along with his vision and patented outside-in deke were unparalleled in his stint with the Canadiens.
Prior to Kovalev’s arrival in Montreal, former captain Saku Koivu, as well as right-winger Mark Recchi, had the same ability to see the ice and pick their spots, although their skill level didn’t compare to that of “L’Artiste.”
Movement Is The Key
naslundWhether it was the 80’s, where the power play had Bobby SmithMats Naslund and Kjell Dahlin, or the 90’s with Vincent Damphousse and Brian Bellows, or the 2000’s with the aforementioned components, there was one constant. Not a single player was stationary.
Defenseman were given the liberty of moving from the slot to the point and forwards could switch wings ad-nauseaum.
For example, when Bobby Smith would carry the puck deep into the offensive zone on the power play, Naslund would shade over to the right-wing as an option should Smith continue behind the net. If Smith would stop in the corner, “The Little Viking” would cut through the slot, giving Smith a passing option. If that wasn’t available, the puck would come back to the point to Chris Chelios, while Smith would take position in the slot and Naslund would post up at the hash marks on the strong side
Mandatory Power Play Prerequisites
As a hockey coach myself, I always look for two out of three skill components when assessing a player’s potential power play effectiveness. Speed, vision and size are the keys to an effective power play.
Using those factors, players like David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher would not get a stiff of power play time, despite their effort level or offensive gifts.
The Tools Are There For Success
Using the requirements I’ve laid out, these are the power play units that I would have on the Canadiens:
Alex Galchenyuk – RW, Lars Eller – C, Max Pacioretty – LW, P.K. Subban and Nathan Beaulieu – D
Tomas Plekanec – RW, Jakob De La Rose -C, P-A Parenteau – LW, Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry – D
Some of you may think I’m mentally unstable at this point, but look at the dynamic.
Beaulieu & Markov – Point quaterbacks
Both defenseman have the ability to skate up and down the offensive zone, alternate their positions to find passing lanes and create confusion for the defending team.
Subban & Petry – Point-side shooters
Everyone knows that both these rear guards can hammer a puck on goal without missing the net the majority of the time. Shot accuracy is of key importance for any shots coming from the point, since they oftentimes create second chance opportunities because of their velocity.
Galchenyuk & Plekanec – Half-wall quarterback
Both players have the ability to shuffle up and down the half-wall while looking for options. Galchenyuk more than Plekanec has the skill set that is best suited to replace the power play creativity lost after the departure of Kovalev. Their skill set also lends itself to carrying the puck into the offensive, maintaining possession of the puck, and finding the right outlet for distribution. They would also serves as the second centre on their respective units.
Eller & De La Rose – Net-front & support
These youngsters show the physical attributes that are required to retrieve pucks that are dumped into the zone when the situation dictates it, or come in support to another forward that may get to the puck first. They also have the physical strength to establish position in front of the net to fend off defenders and screen goaltenders, while having hands that are soft enough to finish on rebounds in tight.
Pacioretty & Parenteau – Shooters
These veteran forwards have shown success up until this point in their careers when their sole responsibility is to shoot the puck. While Parenteau can also serve as a puck distributor, Pacioretty’s ability to drive the net and wreak havoc in the mid-ice lane would open up second chance opportunities for anyone that may be trailing the Canadiens’ leading goal scorer as he enters the attacking zone.
Sound thinking? You be the judge.
Special teams aren’t rocket science, but they require strategy and knowledge of the abilities of every player on your roster. I’m sure that Habs’ head coach Michel Therrien knows his wards very well, but his reluctance to use set units for his power play instead of just rolling his lines has even the most knowledgeable hockey mind baffled.