Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trade Kovalev's Soother For A Muzzle


By now I'd imagine every Habs fan has heard the latest rumblings from Alex Kovalev.

My first thoughts upon hearing his complaints centered around one Kovalev trait - selfishness.

While he is now whinning about how he was used during the last season, I'm oddly struck by his former comments about hockey being a team game. In his own defense, Kovalev brought up such concepts last winter, when his lack of intensity was pointed out. The trouble with blaming everything and everyone but oneself, is one runs out of fingers to point.

Is it any surprise that Kovalev has refused to look in the mirror at any time?

Does anyone believe, Bob Gainey included, that this player can be "corrected", for lack of a better term?

With the Russian enigma now placing blame squarely at the feet of coach Carbonneau and Gainey, how can this relationship prosper?

Gainey stated in his end of year analysis on the Canadiens that he would have a sit down with Kovalev and explain what is expected of him. From Kovalev's comments, it seems they have had that little chat.

It doesn't seem to have clarified much in the players eyes!

The ego of an athlete as stubborn as Kovalev may be hard to break. I imagine that's what happens when a player is handed $18 million, has his talents written about in superlative detail, and enjoys the adoration of fans and the compliments of foes.

The inflated self esteem that is Kovalev's ego, is in need of a prick.

I'm hoping that prick has Bob Gainey for a name.

With Kovalev boldly stating that he may not return to Habs if things don't change, I'd love to hear gainey call out his nine million dollar bluff.

It's time for Bob to point out, as clearly as possible, who is running the team. It is not time for Gainey, once again, to simple airbrush the grey area into a pastel rainbow of upsides and hope.

As Kovalev balked with denial at previous comments published in Russian papers, he should be told to stick a cork in it next time he chimes that he was again taken out of context and misquoted.

He's not happy in Montreal, and the feeling has become mutual. It's time for Gainey to show Kovalev exactly where the bear takes a dump.

I hardly expect Gainey to go public with his feelings on this - it's just not his style. He ought to though, as I get the impression that Kovalev is baiting him. This seed of useless ill will could be troubling at a time when the Habs will soon be trying to look as attractive as possible in the lure of free agents.

A disenting player wreaking havok with a team's chemistry, in the off season, is no drawing card.

As I stated in a previous post, make him walk the plank.

Photoshop art by patCH longeuil - check this french site out for hilarious Habs renderings and witty commentary.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gainey On Feaster's Speed Dial















(Note - this article is transcribed from Le Journal De Montreal's Martin Leclerc.)

With the first round exit of the Tampa Bay Lightening, Bob Gainey may have invariably found himself the one compratriate capable of making his cell phone bill skyrocket.

The chances of the Canadiens aquiring an impact player via the free agent route are slim.

Gainey might be best to turn his option towards the trade route if he wishes to improve the team more quickly and in a more significant manner.

With that perspective in mind, Gainey and Tampa GM Jay Feaster make perfect dance partners.

For the second consecutive season, Feaster has watched the Lightening make the playoffs with much difficulty, only to succumb to a rapid exit.

The Lightening`s quagmire isn't complicated. Obviously the salaries of Vincent Lecavalier (7.167M) Brad Richards (7.8 M), and martin St. Louis (6M) are hampering the Lightening's ability to improve and remain competitive, because it's tied Feaster down to filling out the lineup with marginal talents. The series against the Devils gave ample proof the Lightening are a stagnant bunch.




















LITTLE OPPORTUNITY FOR

make matters worse for Tampa, the horizon doesn't look to get any brighter on the short to medium term outlook, for many reasons.

To begin with, Lecavalier, Richards, and St.Louis can hardly do better than they did this season, while being given maximum icetime.

Secondly, the farm team in Springsfield is empty of prospects. Its better players are all above 27 years of age and are tagged as career minor leaguers.

"We nothing on the farm" confided a Lightening player recently.

Finally, the team's owner William Davidson let it be known that the teams salary cap will in the 40 - 42 million range for next season.

This self imposed cap will further reduce Feaster's manoeverabilty and he is cornered by the teams salaries handed to the players. Eight players totalling a $33 million payroll include the three already mentioned and five more signed for next season. Those players are Vaclav Prospal, Filip Kuba, Dan Boyle, Marc Denis, and Karri Ramo.

If one does the math, Feaster needs to fill out the remainder of the lineup card, 15 players perhaps, with a mere $15 million.

It's almost written in the sky that Feaster will need to drop one of his three bigger signings in order for the team to improve at any stretch.

It is pretty clear to see that Gainey would be on Feaster's speed dial at this point. The Canadiens are in need of the type of player the Lightening are desperate to move. The Habs also possess a sick amount of prospects with great upsides, at a cheap price!

It's a match made in heaven, just a few phone calls away!

More on the subject.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Lost Habs Goalie - Gene Decosse



In my seemingly never ending quest for knowledge of the Montreal Canadiens goaltenders history, I recently unearthed the story of Gene Decosse at www.LostHockey.com.

The story of Decosse is an interesting one. Let me suggest that the man had a brush with infamy, to say the least.

I hope you enjoy the read.

Eugène Décosse, born on December 9th, 1900 in Hull, Québec, had the honour of backing up the legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender Georges Vézina for a lone game in the 1924 season opener against the Toronto St-Pats.

As a boy, Décosse was raised in the heart of the blue-collared area of Hull a few streets away from the E.B. Eddy paper mills and just around the corner from the Bank Hotel, which would later be owned by D'arcy Coulton. Much of this neighborhood was demolished in the 1970's to make way for government office complexes, but his childhood house remains intact, wedged between two parking lots at 57 Wellington street.

Gene made his way up the Ottawa and Hull hockey ranks, playing for such teams as the Hull Canadiens, the Ottawa Royal Canadiens and the Ottawa New Edinburghs. Gene had his first great season in 1918-19, earning a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 0.50, managing 6 wins, 5 of which were shutouts, in his 8 appearances for the Ottawa Royal Canadiens. The next four years saw him put in good performances with three different teams in the OCHL, earning two First All-Star and one Second All-Star title.



In November of 1924, Gene got his chance with the NHL, joining the reigning world champion Montreal Canadiens at training camp. It is unclear exactly why he and relatively average fellow Ottawa players René Joliat and René Lafleur all got a chance with the Habs at the same time.

Signed as a free agent, he headed to Toronto with the team to open the season against the St-Pats, but Vézina was in fine form, and back stopped the Habs to an easy 7 to 1 victory, leaving Gene to warm the bench.

The very next day, Décosse was headed for home. The french language Ottawa newspaper Le Droit painted Décosse's return to Ottawa as a good thing, claiming the conditions offered by the Canadiens contract were not worth throwing ones future away for a few dollars. The paper did not elaborate on what those expectations were, but they were presumably equally unacceptable to René Joliat and René Lafleur, who also returned to the Ottawa area following their lone games in the NHL. The pressure of family no doubt also factored into Gene's decision, as he was the primary bread winner in the family following the loss of his father to Influenza.

Now back in Ottawa, Gene somewhat reluctantly returned to the amateur hockey ranks and would play two more seasons with the Ottawa New Edinburghs before hanging up his pads for good at the age of 25. With hockey behind him for the time being, Gene focused on his career and founded the "L'Opinion de Hull" newspaper and assumed the role of editor-in-chief. Described as a workaholic, Gene also took on various other positions which included the role of Provincial Finance Receiver for the city of Hull, Special Investigator for the provincial Receiver General and Director of Provincial Security for the city in addition to serving as a city alderman for two years. During this time, he would return to the newspaper offices at the end of the day to work late into the night.



Not one to sit still, Gene also continued to make time for his love of sports, which now included baseball. He took on the roles of president for the Interporvincial League and the city of Hull League. In 1940, he built Décosse Stadium which was the centre of baseball activity for a decade before outgrowing it's needs, and falling victim to expropriation to make way for office buildings. He also served as director of the National Baseball Team in Ottawa and as manager of the Ottawa Auditorium.

In 1936 Gene returned to hockey as a coach, putting together the Hull Volants team from what was described as "leftover" players. Against all odds, the team had a great season and went on to win the OCHL championship, earning them a birth in the Allan Cup's eastern finals, were they were later defeated.

During the Christmas holiday season of 1954-55, the long hours of hard work and volunteering caught up to Gene, and he was admitted to hospital following a heart attack. On January 2nd, 1955, he succumbed to heart failure, leaving behind his wife and son. As the city he had given his life to continued to grow, Gene's contributions were honoured with the naming of Décosse street.

Canucks Stanley Cup Post Updated

Back on January 23rd I posted a ficticious article titled "Stanley Finally In Canucks Hands". I'd lost wager with Zanstorm at Waiting For Stanley that required me to post some Canucks content, and keeping with the mandate of Eyes On The Prize, I envisioned them winning the Cup. It was fun to write as I recall.





When first posted it, I was very surprised by the reaction it received. It struck a bit of a nerve and the most common comments it garnered was the the piece seemed almost lifelike.

While the Canucks were battling it out this week with the Dallas Stars, the post came back into mind and I've updated it to include the recent events, making even more real, or surreal, if you wish.








One thing was easy to predict - Roberto Luongo performing like a Conn Smythe candidate.

Perhaps he and Trevor Liden will make me look like Nostradamous, who knows, but I'm certainly not expecting the Rory plot twist in game 6 of the finals to occur.

That would be a bad thing for my mental health!

You can read the updated post here.

Enjoy the read!

Go Canuckleheads!

Monday, April 23, 2007

2007 Habs Missed History Lesson From 1970
























While the Canadiens 2006-07 regular-season careened towards a wild conclusion, where the hockey gods saw fit to have Montreal meet Toronto on the final Saturday night, a dramatic finish from an earlier era still percolates in the minds of the former Canadiens players who took part in it.

The history lesson went unlearned, regretably.

The drama associated with the swan song of the Canadiens 2006-07 season pales in comparison to the bizarre twisted scenario that was the tension-filled conclusion of the 1970 East Division race.Going into the final day of the regular season 37 years ago, the New York Rangers were 2 points back of the Montreal Canadiens for the fourth and final playoff spot on the final day of the season.

The Rangers were playing host to Detroit in the back end of a home-and-home series in an afternoon game while Montreal was in Chicago later that night.Hall Of Fame coach Emile Francis was behind the bench for the Rangers at the time and has fond memories of what transpired.

"I'll never forget that game and that weekend. If I didn't get ulcers then I will never get ulcers," Francis said. "I will never forget that as long as I live."

Neither will former the Canadiens of that season, John Ferguson and Yvan Cournoyer among them. As with many other Habs of the team, they believed the Red Wings purposely came up lame in the second contest against the Rangers, in order to oust the defending Cup champion Canadiens.
























The scenario that begat Ferguson's and the Canadiens' grudge against Detroit started to unfold in Detroit at the old Olympia Stadium, on Saturday, April 4, 1970.

In the 1969-70 season the former Original Six teams were all grouped in the East Division, with the six newer expansion teams taking up the West. Going into the season's final weekend, only 4 points separated the six teams. Each game was of tantamount importance and implication.

The Rangers played Detroit that Saturday night, with the Red Wings beating them 6-2. The Red Wings players were off to partytime - having clinched their playoff spot win the win.

To celebrate, champagne corks were popped and beers cracked open in the Detroit dressing room.

Nearby, in the losers room, sat an almost inconsolable bunch of Rangers who, with the loss, and with only one game left to go, were all but eliminated from playoff contention.

The two teams shared a charter flight back to New York for a Sunday matinee rematch, and it was during the flight that Detroit coach Sid Abel sought Francis out on the plane and congratulated him on coaching the Rangers to a fine season.

"Sid walked over to me and said, 'It was too bad you missed the playoffs and I said,' Sid this is not over yet. I said we know we have to win Sunday's game,' " said Francis. "We also know we have to overcome a five-goal deficit and we know Montreal has to lose in Chicago.

"I looked at him and said, 'Don't bet your farm on it. We are not finished yet. I was so pissed off."

Meanwhile, the party continued for the Red Wings, and it rolled right to the airport, as the team hopped a charter flight for New York.

"I think it was an Air Canada DC-9," says former Wings forward Nick Libett. "There was definitely some champagne and partying on the plane."

How much partying, Libett can't quite recall, though he swears, contrary to Ferguson's conviction, that Detroit did "not surrender the next afternoon because of extreme hangover, but because they had nothing to play for."

Riddle me this, what's the difference?

"It was a meaningless game to us," Libett says. "And we knew the Rangers had to score X number of goals, but I go on the record to say there was no laying down.

"It was just one of those games where they scored a lot of goals and we didn't."

A Rangers victory on Sunday, combined with a Montreal loss would have left the two teams tied in points. The Canadiens held a 5 goal advantage in the goals for tiebreaker then in effect.

Francis knew the task at hand was straightforward. The Rangers needed a blowout win over the Red Wings and they got it.

"The guys knew if we have any chance at all, we have to come out flying in that first period. We came out quick and by the end of the first period we have a 4-1 lead and it was 7-3 at the end of the second," said Francis. In the third, Francis got his 5 goal margin with goalie Ed Giacomin on the bench. The Rangers fired 65 shots on the Detroit goal.

"I decided to pull the goalie and I told Ed in the intermission he was coming out. He understood and the players all understood. We had the game well in hand. So they scored a couple of goals but we threw all caution to the wind and we threw everybody up. The only person not above centre was the goalie and he wasn't in the net. We won the game 9-5."

The Rangers were now 4 goals up on the Canadiens, with Montreal in Chicago facing the division leading Black Hawks in the final game with their playoff berth on the line. The Habs would need to win or score five goals in the loss.The Blackhawks also had something to play for - first place - and they weren't about to roll over.

Francis left Madison Square Garden to wait out the team's fate and "got home around seven at night. We could pick up Montreal (games on the radio) and I live on the ocean. I couldn't stop walking. I told my wife you listen to the game and I am going to walk and whenever anybody scores, you yell at me," he said. "So I just kept walking up and down, and she yells Chicago just scored. Then Montreal scored and it is 1-1. Now I am sweating bullets.

"Now the third period comes and she yells. 'Chicago just scored, 2-1; then Chicago just scored, 3-1; then it stared, 4-1, 5-1.' I just kept walking and I must have walked 10 miles that night.

"With Chicago up 5-2, Canadiens Coach Claude Ruel, knowing his team was not only being beaten but behind New York in goals scored, pulled goalie Rogie Vachon in favor of an extra forward - just as the Rangers had yanked their goalie that afternoon in order to pile up scores against Detroit.

The Canadiens strategy backfired: Chicago's defense backed by standout goalie Tony Esposito held fort, and the Hawks poured five goals of their own into the empty Canadien net to win a 10-2 fiasco.

For the first time in the history of the league, a play-off spot was determined by goals scored. New York had 246, Montreal 244.

In an even more ridiculous oddity, Montreal, the defending Cup champs, had 92 points, the most ever at that time for a non playoff team. It was also more than the West Division champion St. Louis Blues, who topped out with 86. Three sub .500 teams, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Oakland, with 64, 60, and 58 points respectively, were in the playoffs.

"It was unbelievable," former Montreal enforcer John Ferguson recalls. "We always thought the Red Wings laid down and allowed the Rangers to score all those goals. And there was a bone to pick between us for years after that."

Undoubtably!

For years, it bothered Ferguson. It bothered all of the Canadiens. An underhanded, dirty rotten, season-ending crosscheck to the back by a Detroit Red Wings club that owed the Montreal Canadiens nothing, but that should have at least possessed the professional integrity to show up in proper form for the final game of the 1969-70 regular season.

The prospect miffed the Canadiens many of them felt that Detroit had rolled over and played dead against New York.




In addition to Ferguson's rants, Yvan Cournoyer added, "That was an awful way for the Red Wings to finish up the season. Those guys have no pride."

His fellow Canadiens felt that many Detroit regulars - aging Stars Alex Delvecchio and Gordie Howe among them-had been used too sparingly. They were incensed when Detroit's Gary Unger cheerily admitted on TV that the team had stayed up late the night before the final game, celebrating its own play-off berth. Red Wing Coach Sid Abel, looking ahead to the playoffs, did nothing to soothe Montreal by acting professionally.

"Why should I tell my guys to go out there and bang their heads against the wall? I can rest my players if I want to. That's my prerogative", said Abel, whose perogatives never included showing up with class on the night in question.

I don't know how many empty net goals Chicago got on us that night," Ferguson says. "But I think it was six, or something like that."

"That one burned for a long while," Ferguson says. "I guess we eventually made peace with Detroit, though in those days it didn't sit well with anybody." Bunkum, says Francis.

"You can tell Ferguson and the rest of the Canadiens that that's baloney," he says. "That's a lot of crap. Detroit didn't lie down. That is just Montreal's story.

Montreal's story, with 65 Rangers shots notwithstanding!
"The Canadiens had it in their own hands. All they had to do was go out and beat Chicago, and they would have been in, and they couldn't beat them.

"So that laying down stuff, it's a lot of B.S.", says Francis, who really wouldn't know, as he wasn't privy to the Red Wings antics.

NHL President at the time, Clarence Campbell spinelessly agreed with Francis, but talk of "investigation" soon faded.

Campbell was nonetheless pushed to eliminate the "goals for" criterion as a means of choosing between otherwise deadlocked teams.

"Every sporting event implies an offense and a defense, and in the empty-net games in New York and Chicago, no defense was required. That's not the way to play; I'm not satisfied with the system."

Among the most logical alternatives considered were how the teams involved fared against each other during the course of the season.
Canadiens GM at the time, Sam Pollack, was noted as saying in the aftermath that "if you'd told me at the start of the season that we'd finish with 92 points, I'd have said 'Great! Let's start the playoffs right now!' "

If it was any consolation to fans, the Canadiens rebounded the following season to lay claim on the Cup once again - their fifth in seven seasons.

Judging by the former Canadiens comments, the players hardly seem consoled by the lost opportunity.

The fact remains - and the notion could also parallel the 2006-06 edition of the Habs - the 1970 team did not do what it needed to at the time. They left their fate in the hands of others - always a dangerous proposition.
Quotes the Canadiens players, caoches Francis and Abel, and Nick Libett taken from several sources.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fun Facts and Stanley Cup Numbers



















Each year, as the Stanley Cup is about to be won, one of the more interesting stories follows that player who has yet to win. Who'll ever forget the Colorado Avalanche's crusade to win one for Ray Bourque in 2001. Three years later, it was Dave Andreychuk's turn.

There are 30 players who have played over 600 combined regular season and playoff games still active in the 2006-07 post season, without winning the Stanley Cup. These players cover 9 of the remaining 11 teams alive as of April 20th.

The players are ranked by total games played and their regular season numbers and playoff numbers are separated by a slash. The asterisks denotes the number of times a player has reached the final without winning the Cup. As players are eliminated from contention this season, they will be marked with an X.

Players Who've Played The Most Career Games Without Winning The Cup


1440 Trevor Linden* VAN 1323 / 117
1384 Teppo Numminen BUF 1314 / 70
1271 Tony Amonte CAL 1174 / 97
1161 Stu Barnes** DAL 1057 / 105
1121 Teemu Selanne ANA 1041 / 70
1096 Bryan Smolinski VAN 992 / 104
1052 Roman Hamrlik CAL 999 / 53
991 Markus Naslund VAN 953 / 38
979 Martin Straka NYR 889 / 90
982 Chris Pronger* ANA 868 / 114
950 Brad May ANA 882 / 68
927 Rob Neidermayer* ANA 854 / 73
873 Mattias Norstrom DAL 837 / 36
872 Robert Lang DET 799 / 73
867 Daniel Alfredsson OTT 783 / 84
846 Michael Nylander NYR 808 / 38
836 Mike Grier SJ 774 / 62
833 Wade Redden OTT 758 / 75
828 Dean McAmmond OTT 804 / 24
821 Jarome Iginla* CAL 778 / 39
811 Eric Lindros* DAL 760 / 51
783 Patrick Marleau SJ 717 / 66
751 Todd Bertuzzi DET 725 / 26
722 Joe Thornton SJ 672 / 50
720 Philippe Boucher DAL 669 / 51
716 Kyle McLaren SJ 658 / 58
713 Craig Rivet SJ 670 / 43
690 Chris Phillips SJ 618 / 72
681 Brendan Morrison VAN 635 / 46
605 Danny Markov DET 538 / 67

























GOALIE EXPERIENCE

Last season, Carolina goaltender Cam Ward won the Stanley Cup without having much regular season experience. He appeared in but 28 regular season games with the Hurricanes before making 23 playoff appearances. Ward's feat has only been bested by Ken Dryden, who managed a mere 6 games in 1971 before bagging both the Cup and the Conn Smythe trophy.

While goaltenders experience is often the key to a teams wictory, exceptions to the rule do occur as in the cases of Ward, Dryden, and Patrick Roy. Last season in 2005-06, the majority of playoff bound teams found themselves with inexperienced, even rookie goaltenders. This season, the goaltending crop are a little more experienced. Still, almost half the remaining stoppers have less than three full years under their belt.

I've omitted the names of goalies who have won the Cup, and placed an asterisk next to the two who have reached the Stanley Cup final.

418 Roberto Luongo VAN 413 / 5
376 Evgeni Nabokov SJ 353 / 23
372 J.S. Giguere* ANA 343 / 29
320 Marty Turco DAL 310 / 10
241 Mikko Kupprusoff* CAL 204 / 37
142 Ryan Miller BUF 119 / 23
118 Ray Emery OTT 103 / 15
130 Henrik Lundqvist NYR 123 / 7
53 Johan Holmqvist TB 48 / 5

Current Active Playoff Participants With A Stanley Cup Ring

There are currently 47 players remaining in this season playoffs that have won a Stanley Cup.

























Of those players on the 11 teams left, 14 players are no longer with the organization that they won the Cup with. Three players have returned to team that they won with years earlier, namely Jim Dowd with New Jersey, and goalies Hasek and Osgood with the Red Wings.

Almost half of the listed players, 23, have won multiple Cups, with 2 Devils (Brodeur and Brylin) and 4 Red Wings (Lidstrom, Holmstrom, Draper, and Maltby) having won 3 Cups.

Brendan Shanahan of the Rangers, has won 3 Cups with Detroit, while Scott Niedermayer of the Ducks has hoisted it as many times with the Devils.

Six players among the group have won the Cup with two different teams. Most recently, while with Tampa Bay, Brad Lukowich (NJ) and Darryl Sydor (DAL) repeated the feat they won together with Dallas in 1999.

From Tampa's winning year in 2004, Tim Taylor (Detroit 1997), and Nolan Pratt (Colorado 2001) were also previous winners.



Chris Chelios went 16 seasons between Cups in Detroit in 2002, and his first, seemingly eons ago, with Montreal in 1986.

Dallas' Sergei Zubov, a winner with the Stars in 1994, was on the Rangers team that won in 1994.

Players who have gone the longest, since winning their first Cups are Mathieu Schneider, who has been waiting 14 years since winning his first in Montreal in 1993, and Jaromir Jagr, who's gone 15 seasons since winning back to back Cups with Pittsburgh in 1991 and 1992.

2005-05 Carolina

Matt Cullen NYR
Martin Gerber OTT

2003-04 Tampa Bay
Vincent Lecavalier
Martin St. Louis
Brad Richards
Dan Boyle
Ruslan Fedotenko
Tim Taylor (2)
Eric Perrin
Nolan Pratt (2)
Cory Sarich
Andre Roy
Brad Lukowich (2) NJ
Darryl Sydor (2) DAL

2002-03 New Jersey

Martin Brodeur (3)
Patrick Elias (2)
Sergei Brylin (3)
Brian Gionta
Jamie Langenbrunner (2)
Jay Pandolfo (2)
John Madden (2)
Brian Rafalski (2)
Scott Gomez (2)
Mike Rupp
Colin White (2)
Scott Neidermayer (3) ANA
Jeff Friesen CAL

2001-02 Detroit

Chris Chelios (2)
Pavel Datsyuk
Kris Draper (3)
Dominik Hasek DET
Tomas Holmstrom (3)
Nicklas Lidstrom (3)
Kirk Maltby (3)
Brendan Shanahan (3) NYR

2000-01 Colorado

Chris Drury BUF
Jon Klemm DAL
Alex Tanguay CAL

1998-99 Dallas

Sergei Zubov (2)
Jere Lehtinen
Mike Modano
Richard Matvichuk NJ

1997-98 Detroit

Chris Osgood (2) DET

1995-96 New Jersey

Jim Dowd NJ
Bill Guerin SJ

1992-93 Montreal

Matthieu Schneider DET

1991-92 Pittsburgh

Jaromir Jagr (2) NYR

1985-86 Montreal

Chris Chelios DET

Few Former Habs Go On To Win Stanley


















When round one of this seasons playoffs wraps up, there could be as many as 10 former Montreal Canadiens left playing in this seasons Cup Quest. As of today, April 20th, here is the list of the 13 remaining below.

Danuis Zubrus BUF
Marcel Hossa* NYR
Craig Rivet* SJ
Francois Beauchemin ANA
Craig Conroy CAL
Mike Ribeiro* DAL
Stephane Robidas DAL
Chris Chelios DET
Matthieu Schneider DET
Jan Bulis VAN
Trevor Linden VAN
Rory Fitzpatrick VAN
Jason Ward TB

* Players traded directly from Montreal to current team.

I recall hearing one time, though there was were no official stats, that very few Montreal Canadiens moved on to other teams and won the Cup with that organization. I remember doing some research on that thought several years back, and it turned out to be true, for the most part.

In recent years, with the amount of players and teams in the league due to multiple expansions, I would have assumed that even more former Canadiens would have fallen into this category.

What I discovered with further research is quite interesting. Since 1955 ( over 50 years back - I had to have a cut-off point somewhere!), only six players traded from the Canadiens went on to win Cups with the teams they were traded to. Considering that the Habs must have dealt close to 300 assets since the 1960's, that is an incredible stat.

Of the six players, four would familiar to fans today, though none remain in the league. The most common trade, that of Patrick Roy, along with Mike Keane to Colorado, accounts for two of the six players. Roy and Keane would win the 1996 Stanley Cup together in Denver, the same season of the trade. Keane would win again with Dallas in 1999, before Roy won his fourth in total in 2001.

In 1990, Montreal dealt Claude Lemieux to New Jersey. Lemieux would win a Cup with the Devils in 1995, be part of a three-way trade to Colorado where he'd win a Stanley Cup the following year in 1996, before ending up back in Jersey to win a third away from Montreal in 2000.

Stephane Richer, a former two-time 50 goal man with Montreal, was shipped to Jersey also, in 1991. Richer would be part of the 1996 Devils win, before returning to Montreal for a short, and less successful spell. The Richer to Jersey-deal brought Kirk Muller to the Habs, abig part of Montreal's 1993 Stanley Cup win - call that one even.





















The other two Canadiens players to depart directly from Montreal, are somewhat more obscure. Dave Lumley was a forward in the Canadiens organizations from 1974 to 1979. While he was a decent prospect at the time, Lumley only played 3 games with the Canadiens before being sent to the Edmonton Oilers where he would win the Cup in 1984. Lumley was originally dealt to the Oilers in what was termed in the day, a gentleman agreement. He was traded for no returns, other than an Oiler promise not to choose a different player in an expansion draft for WHA teams at the time. The Oilers would send him to the Hartford Whalers the following season, only to reaquire him in time for their 1985 Cup win.









From 1984, we must go all the way back to 1961 to find the last of the six players. Dollard St. Laurent, a stay at home defenseman, was sent to the Chicago Black Hawks in 1958, while the Canadiens were in the midst of winning five straight Stanley Cups. St. Laurent would still be with Hawks in 1961, helping them to win their for Cup in ages.

Another statistic that is equally interesting is that in the 51 seasons since 1955, only 14 other former Montreal Canadiens have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, after moving from teams that the Habs traded them to. Other than the names of Mark Recchi (2006 Carolina), Guy Carbonneau (Dallas 1999), and Chris Chelios (Detroit 2002), most of the players were bit parts in the Canadiens schemes.

Other than Brian Skrudland in 1986, none of these 14 players would reach the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens. More than half of these names would barely account for a full season in the NHL with Montreal.

If history has any say, things do no look good for the playoff chances of Rivet, Ribeiro, and Hossa.

Mark Recchi - Carolina 2006
Turner Stevenson - New Jersey 2003
Chris Chelios - Detroit 2002
Patrick Roy* - Colorado 2001
Claude Lemieux - New Jersey 2000
Guy Carbonneau - Dallas 1999
Mike Keane - Dallas 1999
Brian Skrudland - Dallas 1999
Patrick Roy* - Colorado 1996
Mike Keane* - Colorado 1996
Claude Lemieux - Colorado 1996
Claude Lemieux* - New Jersey 1995
Stephane Richer* - New Jersey 1995
Gordie Roberts - Pittsburgh 1992
Gordie Roberts - Pittsburgh 1991
Rick Wamsley - Calgary 1989
Ric Nattress - Calgary 1989
Mark Hunter - Calgary 1989
Keith Acton - Edmonton 1988
Dave Hunter - Edmonton 1987
Dave Lumley - Edmonton 1985
Dave Hunter - Edmonton 1985
Pat Hughes - Edmonton 1985
Dave Hunter - Edmonton 1984
Dave Lumley* - Edmonton 1984
Carol Vadnais - Boston 1972
Eddie Johnston - Boston 1972
Eddie Johnston - Boston 1970

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crosby In Gretzky's Mold




















(Article transcribed from a Bertrand Raymond piece dated April 14th.)

A large photo of Sidney Crosby adorned the front page of last Saturday's Ottawa Citizen accompanied by the headline, "Show Some Class Ottawa, Don't Boo This Boy".

Crosby was sought out by the boo-birds each time he touched the puck during the first game of the Ottawa - Pittsburgh series. Fans cheered the referee when he disallowed what would have been Crosby's first career post season goal, and he was litterally jeered upon finally scoring it late in the game.

The fans hounded this hockey marvel, a serious young man, mature for his age, for whom the integrity of his sport are a priority, because despite his age at 19 years, he has the talent and wherewithall to put an end to the Senators playoff hopes.

Crosby has been annointed hockey's successor to Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, two of the best on-ice "artistes" the sport has known. The Citizen even predicts that one day, Crosby will receive the Order Of Canada.

Nothing about any of those claims is exagerrated. Crosby has many of Gretzky's offensive tools, he has the calm of Lemieux, and even demonstrates the off ice class of Jean Beliveau.

One of his strengths, according to people on the team who are closest to him, is always knowing what is going on around him. He pays astute attention to detail. He is conscious of his responsabilities and meets them without batting an eye.














Many demands were placed on him when he arrived in Pittsburgh at 18 years of age. After the lockout in 2004, the NHL desperately needed a selling point. Not only did he inherit the task of promoting the Penguins cause, meeting the obligation of the Pittsburgh market, but the league handed him an unheard of amount of public relations and press duties for an inexperienced adolescant.

In a sense, it contributed to making him what he rapidly became: a young athlete perfectly conscious of his professional responsabilities.

When Mario Lemieux arrived in Pittsburgh in the mid-eighties, it took the press and the player a few years to warm up to each other.

When Crosby arrived in Pittsburgh he was already a savvy, and media friendly personality.

Going all the way back to his Pee Wee years, he was a center of attention. In the Junior ranks he was sought out by every major sports publication and television chain. He was, at that point, grounded in familiar territory by the time media giants decided he was their monster.

While several athletes of such stature tend to avoid and even shun the press, Crosby doesn't balk at his obligations, as he sees them. He's become even more in demand during his first playoffs.

Though he won't sit down for personal interviews, he's hauled into a press room daily, after each practice and game to satisfy the hordes of mics and camera's. It's replay of Gretzky's glory days.

As did Gretzky, the whole deal gets to be a bit much at times, but you'd never know it watching Crosby. After the first loss to the Senators, he was extremely disappointed with the result, yet still spent a lengthy amount of time answering questions about what had gone on. He was calm.

He had an answer for each query. He got through it all displaying a stunning amount of maturity.

It is said of him however, that he's not keen on the press conferences that involve only himself.

He would prefer to deal with the onslaught of question from the middle of the dressing room, amongst teammates, in the environment he is most confortable in.


















The vice president of communications for the Penguins, Tom McMillan, who is in charge of a team of public relations people guiding Crosby as he meets the demands, while allowing him time to breathe, explains the star's daily routine.

"Each day, he knows what's ahead of him as far as meeting the media's concerned. He meets this large task by accepting it as simply part of the job description. He doesn't ease away from any of it. After a game, he heads to his locker, strips his equipement off, and waits for it. Whether the team has lost 7-1, or won 4-0 makes no difference. He's there either way."

McMillan states that this demeanor was never suggested to him by the team. He simply understands it's his job. He knows in doing so, he's met his responsabilities straight on. Each days session tends to be lengthy enough.

While doing this, Crosby surely knows he's taking much of the pressure of the media off his teammates backs.

Last seasons Penguins, led by washed up veterans, endured a miserable season. After games, the dressing room emptied quickly, leaving an 18 year old fending for himself in attempts to explain what had happened on the ice. Crosby must have wondered if this was to be his fate in his NHL life.

His attitude was already like Gretzky's was in his twenties. He did what he had to do, and said what had to be said. He is apparently so concerned about the extent of his actions and words that he often asks the entourage is he has gone about things correctly.
























His demeanor keeps everyone ego's in the dressing room in check. He doesn't play up to the star treatment. He goes about the business of it all modestly, without the slightest trace of being self-impressed. He handles his reponsabilities with tact.

"When the team's best player conducts himself in such a manner, it's impossible not to follow", says Gary Roberts, himself the picture of a grisled veteran.

When Crosby is offered the chance to show his appreciation to those around him, no one is left out. When companies whom he endorses, such as Reebok, send gifts his way, he makes sure that teammates, coaches, and even trainers become recipients.

At the end of the season, it is tradition for players to generously take up a kitty and give a sizeable tip to the dressing room attendants who clean and wash up after the players.

Last season, each member of the teams press corps received an envelope from Crosby, as thanks. It blew them away. These folks are paid by the team for their services, but it was Crosby's way of showing them that their hard work and contributions did not go unrecognized by him.

LIFE WITH THE LEMIEUX FAMILY

Inviting a rookie to live in the owner's mansion seems to have been a stroke of genius. It was the ideal way to prepare the player for the big adventure he was about to undertake. Smartly, it was also the proper way to protect the franchise's biggest investment.

That Crosby would remain in the house in his second season is a sure sign of maturity. Crosby surely has the finances to purchase his own fancy pad and spread his wings.

Both Lemieux and Crosby are very discreet when it comes to discussing the relationship between the two. All that's been offered up is that the Cole Harbour N.S. native is at home is his new home. The owner's kids adore him. He plays ball hockey with Mario's son Austin.

The mansion is sufficiently large enough for Crosby to have his own detached quarters. No one steps on his toes.

Lemieux is not the type to impose himself upon Crosby, offering unsolicited advice. Should Crosby feel the need to approach Lemieux for advice on any matter, it starts with Crosby first.

In the first year, the setup was tailor made to suit Crosby's need. If the player has returned for his second season, it's speaks that the experience was a positive one for all concerned.

The fact that Crosby, as the NHL's brightest star, would chose to remain in a family context, is very telling of the young man's personality. Most guys his age would be showing off their downtown loft.

Lemieux is a person of incredible resources in the day to day Crosby life. Lemieux has made every step Crosby is about to, without being the beneficiary of such a launching pad of expertise.

Mario made his steps on his own, taking five years to accomplish what Crosby achieved in two - leading the Penguins to the playoffs. Lemieux got his hands on the Art Ross Trophy in his fourth season, Crosby reached it in two, at 19 years old.

His success is due in large part that he is living in the house of the best teacher he could possibly have. A Hall Of Famer who can safeguard him against all the trapping of celebrity while teaching him some of the intricacies of the game.

It should be no surprise that Crosby seems more mature than his age. He has learned so many things in one season that have had a maturing effect on him as a professional.

When he arrived in Pittsburgh, he was thrilled at the though of sharing the same dressing room as Mario Lemieux, possibly even getting a chance to play on the same line. Sadly, the experience was over too quickly.

When the penguins owner was forced into retirement by a heart ailement, Crosby was to realize that even the greatest of stars weren't indestructible.

"Watching from so close, what he had to go through daily, was very hard for me to witness", Crosby admitted.

"I understood to what point Mario loved the game. I tried putting myself in his shoes to understand exactly how he must have been feeling, how hard it must have been not getiing in the car each day to drive to the arena."

He lived through many things in a memorable first season in Pittsburgh.

His first coach, Ed Olczyk was fired and replaced by Michel Therrien.

One of Therrien's first moves was to appoint Crosby an assistant captain. The move caused quite a stir of derision around the league as many said Crosby was either too young or too inexperienced for the role.

Team Canada, managed by Gretzky, passed him over for the Turin Olympics.

When Crosby complained about officials calls not going his way, as opponants took liberties with him, he was termed a crybaby.

He watched a teammate, Zigmund Palffy, retire and leave $10 million on the table due to a shoulder injury that would not heal. The gesture was an eye opener on a rare display of professional integrity.


















Crosby's answer was deeply surprising when he was asked which moment in his first season left the biggest impression on him.

He recalls a game in Long Island, where he found himself playing alongside of Lemieux. For the first time, a play between the two clicked. Lemieux found him open, threaded a pass, Crosby caught it and scored.

At the time, the significance never struck him.

"I didn't pay much attention to what had just happened, but after he left, it became a moment I'll remember for a very long time", he said.

Monday, April 16, 2007

According To Timmins, Canadiens Future Filled With Promise






















During the course of the past week, Canadiens fans heard the raves of GM Bob Gainey, coach Guy Carbonneau, and team president Pierre Boivin regarding the Habs crop of youngters set to battle for positions on the team in the coming seasons. The most prominant of these names, Carey Price, has just begun his pro career in Hamilton and will surely be garnering much attention.

Canadiens director of player personel, Trevor Timmins, who is presently scouting at the world Under-18 tournament in Finland, recently sat down with Martin Leclerc of Le Journal De Montreal to discuss the progress being made by a dozen Habs hopefuls. The picture he paints in his assessments of the players points to some interesting decisions come training camp next September. It is almost assured some of these players will be in Carbonneau's starting lineup come October.

Here's Timmin's evaluations on the best of the prospects, by position.

Goaltenders:

Jaroslav Halak: Slovakia, 21 years old, 9th round pick 2003

"Jaroslav will be a serious candidate for the backup goalie position at the next camp. He's calm and excels in pressure situations. In his draft year, at the under 18's in Russia, he stopped Alexander Ovechkin in shootouts. Fans in Montreal have already caught a glimpse of what he is capable of when he starred for the team down the stretch. It will be interesting to watch his perform at the World Championships."

Note: Halak had a .932 save percentage in 28 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs before being called up to Montreal. He was chosen to play in the AHL all-star game and was named to the leagues all-rookie team.

Carey Price: Canada, 19 years old, 1st round pick 2005





















"The whole world over watching him be named MVP and best goaltender at the recent World Junior Championships. Friday night, he played and won his first professional game and was named the first star", Timmins said giddily.

"Carey is a goalie with an imposing stature and he uses the butterfly style selectively. He's always square to a shooter", added Timmins.

"His junior team this past season, the Tri-City Americans, were not a strong club. They made the playoffs due largely to Carey's contribution. They were knocked out of the playoff early because of a lack of scoring. The upside is it gave him a chance to head to the pro ranks sooner."
Note: It is almost assured that Price will be the starting goalie for the Bulldogs next fall. With the Americans this season, Price had a .917 save percentage.

Yann Danis: Canada, 25 years old, signed as a free agent 2004


















"We'll be watching Yann closely as he finishes out the year with Hamilton. His situation will be re-evaluated once the season is over."

Note: Danis had a .905 save percentage and had a good season in Hamilton. He is currently winding out the final year of a two year contract.

Defensemen:

Jean-Philippe Cote: Canada, 26 years old, 9th round choice in 2000













Everyone was predicting that Cote would battle for a spot on the Canadiens last fall, but a knee injury set back those plans.

"J.P. made a few steps back at the start of last season, which can be attributed to the injury he suffered. He's not the best skater to start with, and troubles with the knee relagated him behind some others in his progress. Towards the final two months of the season, he became himself again and was a serious candidate to be called up to the Canadiens."

Note: Cote, a defensive defenseman, scored 3 goals and 9 assists with the Bulldogs this season. He added 115 penalty minutes to his totals.

Mathieu Carle: Canada, 19 years old, 2nd round choice in 2006









It was thought that Carle would be in Hamilton at this point, but his junior team, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are still in the QMJHL playoff picture.

"Mathieu's season was split into two halves. When he started out with Acadie-Bathurst, his game was more offense based. Since the trade, he's been practicing a tighter style of play. Regardless of the changes, he is having an excellent playoff. He's a defenseman that helps circulate the puck very well and he excels at the transition game. Both those assets will suit him well at the NHL level."

Note: Carle had 16 goals and 54 assists in 63 games this season.

Ryan O'Byrne: Canada, 22 years old, 3rd round pick in 2003













O'Byrne's was the first name brought by Timmins when it came to the teams defensive hopefuls.

"His play has made significant progress since the new year. His case is particular in that he needed to adjust a longer schedule than he'd been used to. At Cornell University, the season begin in November, so he's had to adjust as far as fatigue goes. His progress reminds me of how Chris Higgins adapted."

Note: O'Byrne is 6' 5" tall and weighs 235 lbs. A stay at home type, he registered 125 penalty minutes. He'll be one of the more closely watched prospect at camp, as he is the odds on favorite to make the jump.

David Fischer: United States, 19 years old, 1st round pick in 2006













"David had a good season with University of Minnesota Gophers and the won the NCAA Championship. He went through adjusted periods during the year, having graduated from high school games just this past season. The calibre of play is much stronger, against much larger players. David honed his defensive skills greatly, practicing a tigher style of play. We are very satisfied with how he is coming along."

Note: Fischer, who's been described as an offensive defenseman, accounted for only 5 assists in 40 games during his first season. That can be explained by the fact that he was a rookie and recieved no powerplay time, as the team has great depth in that area.

Forwards:

Sergei Kostitsyn: Russia, 19 years old, 7th round choice in 2005













Sergei is the younger brother of Andrei Kostitsyn, would split the season between Hamilton and Montreal.

"This player is a true winner. At the rate he is progressing, he is turning out to be one heck of a seventh round pick!"

"Many experts, who've witnessed alot of OHL action this season have suggested that he was the league's premier player. Sergei excels both offensively and defensively, and has very good work habits. He may even be a better skater than his brother. His skills are very sharp. He's scored goals this season while his team was shorthanded playing five on three! Not only that, he can play a rugged style as well."

Note: Kostitsyn finished third in OHL scoring with 40 goals and 91 assists with the London Knights.

Kyle Chipchura: Canada, 21 years old, 1st round pick in 2004













"He had a very good season in Hamilton. He demonstrated his worth by quickly becoming a leader on and off the ice. He has lots of character and intensity. Despite being a rookie, he never hesitated to drop the gloves when necessary. He has killed penalties as well as performing on the power play. He is the type of player who helps a team win games like the Canadiens last game in Toronto."

Note: In the Canadiens circles, Chipchura's effectiveness is said to compare admirably against Radek Bonk's talents, who he will likely be called on to replace soon enough. His totals in his rookie seasom were 12 goals and 27 assists.

Mikhail Grabovski: Russia, 23 years old, 5th round pick in 2003













"His skating prowess is dominant and his potential will allow for him to battle for a spot on the Canadiens in September."

Note: Grabovsky is a speedster than reminds one of Maxim Afinogenov. He tallied 17 goals and 37 assists in 66 games with Hamilton and made an all too brief 3 game stint with the Habs.

Matt D'Agnotini: Canada, 20 years old, 6th round pick in 2005













"He had a big year in Hamilton. Generally, he goes unnoticed on the ice until something happens. The game he played at the Bell Centre was a real eye opener for him. He's alot like Mike Johnson in that he goes about his business quietly, and you'll only notice him once he's scored a goal or two. He's the kind of player that gets the winning goal in 2-1 games."

Note: D'Agnostini is a right winger who notched 21 goals and 28 assists with Hamilton in his rookie campaign.

Duncan Milroy: Canada, 24 years old, 3rd round pick in 2001













"Milroy had a breakout season this year. He played a few games with the Canadiens this season and is expected to battle for a spot come training camp. Milroy's game isn't crash and bang - he's a shooter and has many good qualities. He's typival of certain late bloomers who continuously develop step by step."

Note: Milroy was Hamilton's leading scorer with 25 goals and 33 assists.

Ben Maxwell: Canada, 19 years old, 2nd round pick in 2006













"He was the leading goal scorer in the WHL at the time of his elbow injury last season. Maxwell has tons of potential. We believe he has what it takes to become a number one or number two center in the NHL.

Note: Maxwell had 19 goals and 34 assists in 39 games with Kootenay Ice last season.

Unfortunately Timmins didn't speak about other prospects such as Ryan White, Pavel Valentenko, or Alexei Yemelin. Clicking on their names will bring up their stats at Hockey Database.

Not The Ending The Typhoons Were Hoping For, But So What!

Reflections On A Season's Final Games.

















My girl's Typhoons team ran into it's toughest competion of the year in the Provincials playoffs, and went winless in three round robin games.

They were close, leading in the first game 2-1, but the Windsor Wilcats stormed back with a pair of late goals to yank victory from us, 3-2. That was followed by 5-0 and 5-1 losses that eliminated them from further play.

That first game, gave this hockey dad his best moments of the season - Poke Check scored both her teams goals. She tied the game up when she one-timed a rebound over the goalies leg, then took a quick feed in the slot and burried it high for the go ahead goal on the power play.

It may seem a futile and a fruitless excercise to pick at straws so small at the end of a long year (one that I always find too short on the last day of the season), but I felt I'd bring some trivialities up as it serves as a lesson in how thing sometimes go, and their perception in the big picture of things.

Our worst enemy on the day were a pair of goal nets that would not stay in place. Pretty much an uncommon scenario.

Most nets have a pipe extension that fits inside the diameter of the goal posts, going about four to six inches into the ice. These nets had finger sized pegs that looked as if they only protruded by two inches deep into the ice.

The suckers kept moving around, at both endsof the ice, the entire game.

Immediatly after the girls warmed up, I first noticed them, and shouted down to out team captain to alert an official. The official skated over and shoved them back down.

During the first two periods, they popped off several times, but only once for the opposing teams goalie, who was rather diminitive in size compared to our goalie, who is much taller and heavier. Ours was warned on one occasion to stop knocking them off.

As we were being outshot in the game, the officials perceived our goalie to be bumping them purposely, which she wasn't.

Early in the third period, a girl from the Windsor team did a wraparound from the back of the net and scored - under the side of the net!

Our goalie, nicknamed "Beezer", had slid over to cover the post, bumping it off and up slightly once again.

The Typhoons coaches from their point of view at the bench, which was opposite to mine, felt that Beezer was a little hesitant getting over, so they couldn't honestly make an argument.

An official even came to the net to shove it down once more after the goal. The female linesman was not standing on the goal line and didn't see the net lift, despite the obvious evidence.

Needless to say, the goal stood.

It was after all, Friday the 13th!

One lucky bounce later, it was 3-2.

Beezer is always are bread and butter, stealing games for us all season. In this contest, we were pretty evenly matched against a Windsor Wildcats team, that was probably more talented and skilled than we were as a whole.

The hardest part to get over is that we were outworking them - and winning the game, until the black cat stepped on a crack and ran under a ladder.

As for the final two games, we were quite simply outclassed by stronger teams, both of whom were more deserving of an "A" team designation than the "B" seeding they were placed in.





Often in travel team hockey, certain squads start the season slowly, and apply for and receive a designation lower than what they truly are. Others, and it's no myth, simply tank it to get that designation, only to face weaker competition afterwards - purposely. Such are part and parcel of the competitiveness of the sport.

The competition then gets off balance, to say the least.

Our girls however, made us proud, as they gave it everything they had.

As with youngers in sports, they put it into perspective for adults instantaneously. They walk away from losses with the same jump in their step, smiling as they go along.

Some take losses harder than others - they wear that unchild-like frown a whole minute longer.
Walking towards the arena exit doors, their uncomplicated worlds are consumed by where to go shopping and where to have lunch.

The odd parent, myself first in line, can learn from this behavior. I'm still slightly ticked about the net fiasco - but finally getting over it as I write this.

I think about all the laughs my girl and I had on the long four hour drive there and home, the time very well spent, and immediatly the smile that exudes from a 12 year old with unbreakable self-esteem makes everything worthwhile.

A perfect moment in an imperfect world.

Poke Check loves her teammates and coaches. There isn't a practice or game, win or lose, where she leaves the arena without a dozen stories to tell regarding her friends and the time she just had.

It's something to hear a kid say, "That was the funnest practice ever..."

With mine, it's become a sort of cliche I've gotten used to hearing when picking her up. To me, that reflects on the coaches she's had the priveledge of playing for.

Coaching these children isn't always easy, but the rewards can be plentiful. There is no job more demanding as far as the expectations of a group of kid's parents go. Where, for all your hard work, effort, time, and patience, your dedication is enumerated with kind words and smiles. The whole equation tidies up nicely on winning teams. On less successful teams, a measure of stress comes into play.

I've been there, in those coaches shoes, a level or three below. I can understand it ain't always a bowl of cherries. I also understand that without them and their selflessness, my kid is off doing something somewhere that may be a lot less wholesome and good.

I'd rather not think about it!

In the middle of the mix are the parents, who entrust their littler ones to a game and all its componants, for better (usually) or for worse.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the shared perspective of being both a former coach and a parent. It likely gives me a more level viewpoint, having been behind a bench for a decade. I think it might help me cope better sometimes, in the grand scheme of things.

That grand scheme is summed up in my kids smile. Straight, forward, and simple.

That smile is all a hockey parent should strive for. That is your championship trophy.

If you are expecting anything more from your offspring, that hope should arise from someone other than yourself, from someplace other than your dreams when the kid began walking at 9 months.

This hockey parent, former coach, and self confessed sometime know-it-all when-it-comes-to-hockey, has had two pivotal and illuminating moments in his daughters hockey career - keep in mind she's just 12!

Four years ago, she encountered a new coach, the coach she currently has again. That man saw someting in my kid that I never saw revealed. He turned my daughter, a defenseman at age 9, who'd scored but one goal in two seasons, into a 28 goal scoring center in one season.

Of course, I had an Olympic size dream flipout. I was astounded, seeing a limitless sky above. Moving up one age group, and with a change of coaches, she duplicated that season. My dream flipout gained reassurance, even after missing the travel team cuts.

A year later, finding the coach who made her what she was two years prior, she graduated to travel team - thrilled. I was as thrilled, wanting to measure her skill against other players of the same or higher calibre.

It was a mixed success, and I felt something under my feet I hadn't felt for some time. It was the Earth!





My kid's best game assets were an unselfish passing skill and a pretty decent shot. Measured against those mostly better players, she played double the amount of games, and registered a mere 6 goals.

She received twice as much practice time to hone her talents, yet finished fourth in team scoring rather than first or a close second. The three young girls above her, were way above her. She was simply one of the better ones amongst the rest of the pack. Initially, that was hard to take.

I consoled myself in what I perceived was a step back, by resolving that she was a good team player, who fit in where she ought to have fit depth wise.

Poke Check was having the time of her life, and belonged on this travel team, without doubt. Meanwhile, I looked for answers and explanations, to make me understand why she did not seem quite as dominant.

Dominant went hand in hand with those premature Olympic dreams. It was here that I began to understand that they were premature. My coaching understanding served me in this new perspective, and still, it wasn't easy.

She was very happy nonetheless, but she wanted better from herself. Dad felt the same.

This season, she made the travel team once again. As older girls, and as better players moved up, this season's team became a younger, less experienced group. The carry-over from the previous year left eight girls, the younger half of the team, together to compete against mostly older teams.

My Poke Check became a minor, competing mostly against majors.

Needless to say, it was rough.

Through a good thirty games of the season, she managed all of two goals. I became consumed with my own irritations on the situation. I was consumed in such a sense that I tried as best as I could to pull myself away from how I felt about things, for the benefit of the team.

I had much to say, and many concerns about my daughters play and usage on the team.
Honestly, as games went by, my daughter's play gave me less and less leverage to speak up.
While the team as a whole was searching itself, I chose to step away. Other team issues were coming to a head, and I desperately avoided being mixed in with them.

I have always beleived that if one is not part of the solution, one is part of he problem.

Poke Check remained as smiling as ever, and I identified my personal wishes and feelings as being my problem. She was being employed as a type of checking line winger, he role consisting of keeping the opposition out of her end.

At this point, my daughter and I began to discuss the situation that I, yes I, found we were in.
As a credit to her, she put the team first, and losing as much as they were at the moment, wanted me to put my personal thoughts away.

She explained it to me with all the insight allowed to a 12 year old. It would take away from the fun she was having.

I got the message, and resolved to endure the season as such.

I'd spoken to the coach and assistants, subtly dropping thoughts while fading away. I'd mention that my girl was being employed in a way that did not bring her strengths to the fore. Talks with the coaches did not exceed 15 to 20 seconds. My take is, always was, we were but one-fifteenth of a team.

Soon enough, I would learn that the coaches themselves were consumed with some even more pressing parental dissatisfactions. I chose not to be lumped in with them. Actually, my kids play, and my concerns, weren't part of those issues. Choosing to ride it out was a no-brainer, as we were not amongst those disatisfied ones causing a rumble.

I let the concerns about my child slide, not wanting to be perceived as part of a parental division.
It was the right thing to do.

As time passed, most of the teams issues were resolved. Things weren't perfect, but they got better soon enough. Dirty laundry was aired and I made myself absent.

Shortly after Christmas, the coaches shuffled some lines. They had been committed to a certain set of trios for 30 games and tossed that blueprint away when it hit a wall. The team had won but 7 of 41 contests thus far. The changes couldn't hurt.

While other parents were at the coaches constantly, to play their child with another, or not play them with a certain other player, the coaches made choices based on compatability and not complaints.

One player was switched back to defense in exchange of a rearguard moving up. The top two lines were redone, adding a checker to each from the third line. One father took his daughter home to stay and never returned, which was terribly unfortunate. A sweet kid and hardworking player, she was simply not of the same level.

This left the lines with only two centers to rotate, with three wingers to each side.

For all the resulting changes and forward line stability, only one helped the team as a whole. Poke Check was bumped up to the top unit and immediatly started to produce goals and set up twice as many as she scored.

The team suddenly won 10 of it's next 12, with a loss and a tie thrown in the streak. The games were crucial ones and included one tournament and 5 playdown games that qualified them for the provincials.

In the four tournament games, Poke Check scored twice, both in wins. She added three goals, again all in wins, in the four playdown games we won. In our next tournament, our team went 1-1-1, scoring only twice in three games. She had a goal and an assist. We played an exhibition tuneup against a boys team, beating them 6-3. She netted the games first goal.

This weekends 2 goals in the first provincial game, gave her 11 on the season. In the 21 games played since the changes were made after the new year, she totalled 9 goals and 12 assists. We won 16 of those games.

After playing on travel teams for two seasons, she'd finally gotten back to the place in her game where her contributions were making a difference on the scoreboard. She thrilled and I was again content about her place on the team.

As far as those Olympic dreams go, they are a thing of the past. I'm relieved in a sense. Unless her overall game become something totally different in the following year, those ideals will remain unachievable - and that's okay.

It costs a family close to $4,000.00 to live a season like this, and ours really can no longer afford it. Bills are paid late, car repairs put off, and other things are neglected along the way. If it weren't for the goodness of sponsors and grandparents helping out, her season would not have been possible. I'm just not making the kind of money needed to pursue this route any longer.

Next year, barring any miracles, she'll play house league again. Poke Check has a little sister that may want to sign up and play in Novice. That would be the upside.

The trouble with moving back to house is the competition she will face. With two levels of travel team using up to 30 of the best players in the age group, the skill and talent level at house is greatly diluted. Two years back, when Poke Check was last in house league, she scored 23 goals as a minor in Atom. There were maybe only 4 players as good or better than her then, and they will not be in Pee Wee next season. She also missed 7 games that year, having quit in frustration. For reasons I'm still at a loss to explain, the games stopped being fun for her.

Next season, she'll be a major in Pee Wee, and quite possibly the oldest and best player there. Surely she'll be the only one with two seasons of travel under her belt.

Without the same competition against her, she'll put up points by the bucketful. Players need to be challenged, otherwise complacency sets in.

I'll have trouble with moving down as well. I hope it doesn't bring out the worst in me.

Poke Check is looking forward to being a teacher one day. That's been her focus in life since her first day attending pre-kindergarten eight years ago. Helping others has always brought out the best qualities in her. That would be the role I would suggest she takes on with her hockey team.
In class at school, she has always been able to help others out without being condescending.
She's always been appreciated by her teachers for being that way.

It will be difficult for her to adjust to being perceived differently. She enjoys accolades at times, but is not always comfortable with the attention that comes with being focussed on. The adjustment will help her mature some. Going from a child to an adolescent is a bumpy road.

An interesting season surely awaits. I hope we're both up to the new challenges.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Weekend With The Typhoons In Brampton



For regular readers of this site wondering where I've been over the next few days, I haven't died an immediate death like our beloved Habs last Saturday. My daughter Poke Check and I are off to Brampton, Ontario for the Provincials tournament. It's our final escapade of the season and we've been looking forward to it since qualifying over a month ago.

I'm even more excited than the kid is. Kids can put such things as hockey games into quick perspective, while hockey Dads freak. Poke Check has been hot since January, totalling 9 goals including 4 in the five playdown games that helped us qualify, so some fun times are expected this weekend.

The kid is just happy to be going actually, as road trips and travel team hockey can get rather complicated and expensive. My 1997 Honda Accord blew out it's right front ball joint and axle 2 days before the trip, to the tune of close to $400 - our trip's money. Great souls such as a very supporting wife, an awesome best friend, and my own cool parents rescued my ass this week, helping to finance the trip at a complicated time.

Poke Check is very grateful and so is her Dad.

I should return Sunday evening and do a quick wrap up here, for those interested.

On the Habs side of things, I have been doing some research digging, and have lots of interesting stuff ahead for the site. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

More Masked Men























I recently updated my Montreal Canadiens goalie post titled "Who Were Those Masked Men?.

It features 75 goaltenders to have played for the Habs from 1909 to the present and over 40 more who were either drafted, signed or traded for by the team but never made it to the NHL. Many of the names are instantly recognizable, and some others are quite surprising. There are lots of curious names in the listing, some remembered and others surely forgotten through time.

The listing created is meant to serve as a type of database, with hyperlinks to sites that detail the career stats and timelines of these mysterious men behind the masks. Try as I did, I could not find one singular site dedicated only to the Canadiens goalies over the years.
























In time, I will be adding more information to the post, in regards to records with the Canadiens, others who were signed as free agents, playoff wins, individual awards, and other pertinant details as I come across them. There is a lack of factual detail concerning the original 6 era, and even less for the Habs pre-NHL years of 1909-17.

Over the years, I have heard of certain goalies, such as Glenn "Chico" Resch, one-time Islander goalie, as having at one point belonged to Montreal, and the next such statistical data I will pursue will be trade logs where such information can be found.

Anyone knowing where I can access such sites or information, it would be tremendously appreciated if you could drop me a note in the comment box or at my e-mail address.

For those interested in finding out more about the goaltenders who've played for other teams in the NHL since 1917, be sure to check out the Goalie Archive and Hockey Goalies.org. There are also dozens of netminders profiled at Joe Pelletier's Legends of Hockey under the heading of Goalie Legends. Joe has recently began posting NHL Playoff Legends and has kicked off the feature with an excellent read on this one-time Habs prospect pictured below.






Playoff Predictions 2007

























For whatever it's worth, seeing as the Canadiens aren't participating, here are my predictions for how I see the first round playing out. No big discourses or analysis here, just a note or two of explanation of my choices.

In essense, when the Canadiens are eliminated, I tend to cheer for what I find would make the most compelling Stanley Cup final. This year, I can't imagine much better than Detroit-Buffalo, although I will be avidly watching the two Canadiens teams out west, hoping for the best. Don't even get me started on the Senators!

Buffalo-Islanders

Sabres in 5: The best coach in hockey behind the Buffalo bench and way too much depth for an Islander team who backed into the playoffs to handle, especially without a top goalie.
New Jersey-Tampa Bay

Jersey in 6: While the bolts have given the Devils some fits this season, I cannot imagine Brodeur being outplayed over seven games by an upstart at the opposite end.

Atlanta-Rangers

Rangers in 7: A very tough call, but veteran leadership should give New York the slight edge. Atlanta could turn out to be this seasons "just happy to be here" team.

Ottawa-Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh in 7: Another tight one. While Ottawa has improved where it has needed to most, arrogance and stupidity will again do them in again. Already, coach Murray is displaying defensiveness and a losers nonsense in certain comments, especially suggesting the Penguins are actually the favorites. The young Pens have already overachieved and have nothing to lose. The series will hardly be tilted by off-ice comments.

Detroit-Calgary

Red Wings in 7: Both teams have much to be forgiven for and will have last seasons early exits as motivation to win. Should be one dandy of a showdown and I won't be upset no matter who takes it - I love both these teams. I give a slight nod to the Wings due to the experience and fear factors.

Anaheim-Minnesota

Wild in 6: The Ducks best hockey seems behind them while Minny has put it all together of late. Wild coach Lemaire is just too smart to be outdone by Carlyle, he'll key on Pronger and Neidermayer and force his players to tire them out. Brian Burke will get louder as the series progresses, if the Canards don't measure up.

Vancouver-Dallas

Canucks in 5: Vancouver has been in playoff mode since late November and the Dallas lineup is loaded with wilting daisies the likes of Ribeiro and Turco. While the season series has been tight (the teams split four 2-1 games), this presssure cooker will bring out the worst of the Stars. With a hot Luongo, the sky is the limit.

Nashville-San Jose

Sharks in 6: Could be the roughest of all first round matchups. The Sharks made some of the smoothest trade deadline additions and have excellent depth while the Preds seemed to unsettle a stable group with the adding of Forsberg, who did not necessarily make them any better. The key will be Thornton, who has much to be pardoned for in past playoff disappearances. he seems primed to step and get mean, finally.

In the much larger picture, I see this as being Buffalo's year to win it all. They ought to be the most confident team entering the playoffs and are starting off healthier than last season, when I thought they were the best team but were undone by miserable bad luck.

My longshot team is the Sharks. Should their best players perform with toughness and grit, it should bring out the best in a solid and sturdy lineup. A wily coach in Wilson may become their biggest attribute.