Friday, June 29, 2007

Who's The Right Free Agent Fit For Montreal?

With July 1 just around the corner, Canadiens fans are geared for GM Bob Gainey to play a mid summer Santa Clause and deliver a gift to the 2007-08 Habs season's hopes. Yes, he's made his list, and will checking it and checking it off, more than twice!

A word of precautionary advice - save initial disappointed for the 82nd game, and then judge Gainey's work. If the team makes the playoffs in 2008 - the steps were forward and not backwards moves.

Each individual fan has hopes that the Canadiens braintrust will land that big name that will further the teams chances and solidify the October starting lineup. Many names are being bandied about, while speculation persists about the next 48 hours in the Sheldon Souray negotiation, if there is in fact any talk going on with the man with the booming shot.

Gainey in assessing the teams needs, surely has a plan A, B, and C in place dependant upon Souray's departure.

Attracting free agents to play in Montreal is always a difficult task, but Gainey must approach this fact, in creating his wish list, as if no such apprehensions exist. Character players, who will not wilt under pressure, must top the list over players who simply wish to play in Montreal to fullfill longstanding desires.

If this reads as a vote against a player such as Buffalo's Daniel Briere - it is not. It is simply assessing where the teams greater needs lie in the bigger picture.

Last season, Gainey erred in retrospect, in bringing in Sergei Samsonov, for all the wrong reasons. As available free agent prospects dwindled, I regarded this particular signing as a last ditch effort to appease fans and media after more sought out players turned elsewhere. Gainey won't make the same mistake twice running, and won't hesitate to use Samsonov as an example of what shouldn't be done, should he be shut out of the July sweepstakes again this time.

Much of where he chooses to focus will depend on what route Souray has chosen to follow.

If Souray somehow remains, the focus will shift to needs up front. Should he follow the expected greener pastures, filling out the backline becomes the key priority.

Seeing as how the Canadiens drafted recently, with 6 choices out of 9 being rearguards, it is obvious that Gainey has his pulse set on where the Habs need propping up most. This is not only a future concern, but a very conscious present one also. Defenseman could also consume his focus in regards to free agents, with or without re-upping Souray.

In Gainey's mind, a team can never have enough physical and mobile defenseman, capable of playing tough while getting to the puck ahead of opponants. Should Gainey find a way of strengthening the top 6, he will not pass it up. Neater work behind the blueline, in essence, allows for greater creativily upfront. The Canadiens forwards are a speedy group, and better effiency behind the blueline will help assure that the forwards are pointed in the direction of the opposition goal more often than otherwise.

As speed is the teams strongest asset up front, the key to unleashing it lies in the forwards using their energy more wisely, and saving some for the offensive zone. If the first half of a 45 second shift is spent repairing defensive breakdowns, that energy is wasted by the time forwards cross the opposing blueline. This is where the puck pursuit style favoured by the team, in light of its speed asset, breaks down due to a lack of gas in the tank.

It all comes back to the defensemen.

Adding another whirling dervish in the Samsonov mold up front will hardly help the Canadiens repair this deficiency. Last season, the diminutive but speedy Samsonov, skated miles, often in circles, because he was a responsible two way player. His plus minus stat was quite respectable on a team where good marks in this area were few. But having Samsonov be defensively responsible robbed him of his game and hurt the team in the end. Adding that Samsonov played the season on his off wing, confusion reigned in his defined role.

This disaster shouldn't be repeated by adding the same type of player, without first addressing the blueline. This is why I see Gainey primordially seeking to shore up the D, Souray or not, either by free agency or a trade.

The conundrum is that Gainey is in the mix with many other GM's scanning the free agent market with the same goals in mind. And this season, the pickings are slim to none.

Pourring over the list of available candidates on defense, there are only a small handful of 12 names of interest that would constitute up upgrade on the Canadiens backline, from the depth positions of 1 to 6.

They include Brad Stuart (Cal), Teppo Numminen (Buf), Roman Hamrlik (Cal), Darryl Sydor (Dal), Danny Markov (Det), Martin Skoula (Min), Vitali Vishnevski (Nas), Brian Rafalski (NJ), Scott Hannan (SJ), Tom Preissing (Ott), Bryan Muir (Was), and Cory Sarich (TB). Nick Boyton, who has been placed on waivers by Phoenix and Mathieu Schneider (Det), recovering from wrist surgery are two other options.

It is likley that Rafalski, Hannan, and Stuart will re-up with their respective teams, but should Gainey be able to land either of the three, it would be seen a major upgrading. Getting Rafalski and Stuart, both key to their teams plans, will be near to impossible. If either were to leave, it would mainly be to teams with Stanley Cup aspirations rather than a middle of the pack destination. Both could command over $5 million per annum and it's unlikely the Canadiens would venture that far and pay over top dollar to mend their open sores.

Hannan is a cheaper option. The steady, stay at home type, may make himself too pricey for the Sharks, but in $3 to $4 million range, makes much sense for the Canadiens if they are lucky enough to snap him up at that price.

Next on the list would be Darryl Sydor and Martin Skoula, both efficient puck movers who can contribute in all game situations. Both are familiar with playing on very tight teams and their experience would lend itself well to Montreal's needs and goals.

Numminen, Vishnevski, and Preissing all bring experience and skill, without striking fear into the eyes of opponants. Numminen is a wealth of knowledge, but may be getting too far along to use it in vaste enough amounts to benefit Montreal. Preissing would be staying in Ottawa if the price were right. Vishnevski is solid and unspectacular defender who gets the job done without fuss or fanfare. He's a good fit at the proper cost, bit in this market he'll take the largest bait.

Markov and Hamrlik have the offensive moves, but are light on the puck carrier. As they are getting on in years also, determining whether they would be upgrade, on the ice moreso than on paper, will be tricky. Muir and Sarich would be depth aquisitions slotted into the 5th or 6th roles, which would be a reduction in ice time for both. They may come cheaper, but the canadiens could be just as well off going with youth at this point.

Boynton and Schneider remain curious options should the Habs completely strike out above.

Being that there are far more options up front, the Canadiens will attempt to bring in a forward of impact that compliments its speed and grit on the top three lines. There is much too choose from, but there are more ill-fitting pieces than there are perfect fits.

Tops on everybody's lists is Briere. The shifty and elusive centerman would add creativity to the Habs attack, but at a high price. His downside is his size, as he is worn down often as the season wears on. The upside is that his offense will bolster a team greatly during the regular season.

The names of available forwards (as of this writing) that are being mentioned that could help the Canadiens are: Ryan Smyth, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya, Keith Tkachuk, Alexei Yashin, Jason Blake, Teemu Selanne, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Danuis Zubrus, Brendan Shanahan, Darren McCarty, Todd Bertuzzi, Robert Lang, Petr Sykora, Derek Armstrong, Viktor Kozlov, Mike Comrie, Michel Ouellet, and Bill Guerin.

Of these 21 names, I would rule out those of Yashin, Lang, Bertuzzi, and Selanne immediately. The reason for doing so, in order, are: unmotivatible, age, history and sulky demeanor plus injuries, and highly unlikely to consider relocation.

Size and strength up front would be great compliments to the Habs speed. In this category, the players most likely to make those around them better and braver would include Smyth, Drury, and Tkachuk - all gamers who aren't afraid of getting their noses dirty. The list would also include Forsberg were it not for injury concerns. The Canadiens are bogged down with smaller attributes. Players who would make them play taller are not to be overlooked and Gainey surely paid attention to this facet of the game during the Stanley Cup final.

Scott Gomez, with wingers Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta, posted totals of 13-47-60 last season, a disappointment in my eyes. If he were to replicate such stats, in Montreal at his asking price, would it constitute an upgrade? A disappointment? Gomez, while hardly fleet of foot, is fairly good in traffic. His attributes however, do not outweigh his limitations, and he is not unlike Saku Koivu, a number two center in a number one role. Would dropping him down a line bring his production up and justify a hefty salary? Asking the question, is answering it.

Bill Guerin and Brendan Shanahan are short term solutions with predictable results. They will both hit in the 25 goal range, but are better seen as final pieces to a puzzle rather than building blocks. Neither would settle for a second or third line role and they would be robbing a younger player of progression in the Canadiens lineup.

Danuis Zubrus and Michel Ouellet present interesting options. Zubrus has grown as a center since leaving Montreal. His game is more complete one and he could be the type of player to trigger Kovalev's offensive instincts. Ouelllet, a 24 year old, who has scored 35 goals in two seasons, would be an interesting fit alongside Maxim Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse.

Sykora, Kariya, Blake and Comrie are what the Canadiens already have plenty of, which is small forwards. Sykora, who was passed over last season in favor of Samsonov, is the largest of the four. He is a consistant point producer but also takes mental vacations in his own end. Blake is a laser shooter in the mode of Michael Ryder, with a little more edge. Comrie is great in a freewheeling game but disappears in traffic. He's never been accused of being a team player.

Kariya is a more complete player than he was a decade ago. While his 100 point seasons are a distant memory, he remains a hard working forward who gives it all he's got. He's swift and sneaky, and while he'll try to, he won't outmuscle anybody along the boards.

The inclusion of players such as McCarty, the two Kozlov's, and Armstong haven't been brought up much, but deserve a look nontheless.

McCarty is a dirty grinder with good experience and leadership capabilities. If the Canadiens see Kyle Chipchura in the role of checking center, McCarty provides a linemate who plays and honest game and knows his role. He's a player who you know would wear the jersey with pride. In addition, dressing room nutcases make for great tension release valves.

The two Kozlov's are centers and almost polar opposites. Slava is the smaller of the two and plays a peskier game. His smooth passes and speed would fit neatly in the middle of Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn. Ditto for Viktor Kozlov. While he is not nearly as nifty, he brings size and creates room offensively. The trouble with Viktor is he is difficult to motivate and often plays in streaks.

Derek Armstrong is an unknown quanity in the East. The 34 year old center with decent size plays a similar role to Radek Bonk. While posting 11-33-44 totals with Kings last season, he was a surprising +13 on a team loaded down with minus players. His pricetag will make him a wise pickup for the right team.

USA Today has this list of UFA's, dated June 26, 2007. Accuracy may be questioned, as their list includes Red Wings winger Tomas Holmstrom. Upon seeing that name, I began writing this post based on him being my choice target to fix the Habs woes, and these thoughts, all for naught, quickly wrote themselves:

Immovable in the crease, and tough as nails along the boards, he is well schooled in both ends of the rink. He could easily be the Canadiens bargain at close to five million (he signed for half). His assets would make a better player of linemates such as Koivu, Ryder, Higgins, and even Kovalev, by creating chaos and being hard on the puck. He is key to Detroit's game, but the Red Wings may not be able to hold him in the fray at the price he could be worth to others. Their payroll includes many long term deals and rising stars, and Holmstrom is ripe for the plucking. If you doubt Holmstrom's usefullness, witness what Anaheim was able to do with Detroit after he was missed.

Oh well, maybe in three years!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Souray Flashback July 2006

Here's is an interesting article by the Gazette's Dave Stubbs, going back a little over one ago to July 17, 2006. At the time, Souray was heavily rumoured to be on the move, having asked for a trade. As rumours usually go, this one also proved false. It is, however, very curious to look at how things evolved from one year to the next, after Souray enjoyed a career year.

Reading over Souray's quotes, one gets the sense that he has felt at home in Montreal, despite all the challenges his time here has shown him.

Dave Stubbs, Montreal Gazette, July 17, 2006

Hockey season must be near: the rumour mill recycled the idea last week that Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Souray wants to be traded.

"These 'confirmed' reports about me asking for a trade?" Souray said yesterday. "I've never seen (Canadiens general manager) Bob Gainey confirm them, and I've not been called, nor has my agent, to confirm them.

"So I guess they're being confirmed by the people at the water cooler, and that's unfortunate. You have a lot of people who are influenced by what they read in the papers, which is a downside of playing in Montreal.

"Over the years, I think I've proven I can play here. It's not an easy place to play. Look at some of the free agents who have turned down the opportunity this summer to play here, for some of the reasons that everybody knows - the media hiding behind bushes, starting rumours. You're going to wear yourself very thin if you try to defend every single thing being said about you, so it comes with the territory.

"But do I like it here? Absolutely. I like the guys, and in hockey years, I've been here a long time, going into my seventh season (counting the 2004-05 lockout). The organization has had faith in me and believed in me, through my injuries and other issues (the distraction of a highly publicized separation).

"I'm under contract this year, and whatever the Canadiens' plan is for this year and beyond, I guess only Bob and his management team are privy to that."

"I'm just a player. My job is to take care of what's on the ice," said Souray, who is entering the final year of a three-year contract with the Canadiens that will pay him $2.432 million U.S. in 2006-07.

He'll be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and it's no secret that his 3-year-old daughter, Valentina, living with his estranged wife in Los Angeles, is the centre of his life.

But yesterday at noon, sweating through a charity ball-hockey game outside the Rivieres des Prairies pizzeria he co-owns with New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and restaurateur Andrea Dell'Orefice, Souray said he has one goal in mind:

"What's important is that I get off to a good start. For some reason, some people maybe have lost some faith in me, with all these rumours I want to be traded. I feel like I have something to prove again this year, the same way I did when I came back from my injury," when he lost the entire 2002-03 season with a career-threatening wrist injury.

"The last thing on my mind is my contract. My focus is having a great start and making sure we have a little more success than we had last year."

Souray struggled out of the gate last season, slowly finding his game in the new rules of the post-lockout NHL, his life complicated by domestic problems in late October. But he would score 12 goals and add a personal-best 27 assists in a career-high 75 regular-season games, then added three goals and two assists in six first-round playoff games against the Stanley Cup-bound Carolina Hurricanes.

He'll begin skating next week after a summer in the gym and expects to pick up the pace in August, power-skating with Canadiens strength and conditioning co-ordinator Scott Livingston, with whom he's been working this offseason.

"When camp opens, I want to be prepared for the season," he said. "We've had one year with the new NHL. It's been an adjustment, and hopefully you step in and you're ready to take your game to a different level."

Souray says he doesn't care if his agent, Paul Theofanous, talks contract with Gainey before September's training camp or during the season.

"That's why you have an agent," he said. "One way or another, the good Lord willing, I don't think I'll be without an NHL job next season. I feel great mentally and physically, and I have a lot of things in my mind that I want to achieve. When you take care of that, the contract takes care of itself.

"It's simply not a worry. Bob, the Gillett family and all the management have been good to me. If I'm in their plans for the future, that's great."

Read on.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fly On The Wall With Souray And Gainey

Have you ever wished to be a fly on a wall when a player and his agent negotiate a contract with a general manager?

Wouldn't it be interesting to be privy to such a conversation?

If you were to imagine yourself in a players position, or maybe in the GM's shoes, how do you think it would all unfurl?

This conversation takes place in Sheldon Souray's agent, Paul Theofanous' office. Bob Gainey is calling into a set up meeting, to pick up where talks last left off - which in this case, is practically nowhere land.

The dialogue contained here, pick up right after Gainey and the agent exchange pleasantries, and just before Souray arrives late.

With the free agency door about to swing open in a matter of days, I tried to place myself in the position of both Souray and Gainey, playing a type of double devil's advocate of sorts, to be fair to the negotiating process.

The numbers mentioned in talks are equivalent to what has been reported as the offer Souray turned down. Personally, I find the offer to be low, but that is beside the point. I kept it as such, just to keep it real.

Writting up a one sided conversation would give little accuracy to how such things likely go when parties are truly attempting to find common ground and sign a deal. Seeing as both negotiators play the mind game to different extents, I let the conversation flow as I wrote.

All this purely speculative of course - who even knows if this is how it works?

In the end, no deal is struck, but the parties have gotten closer on some fronts, while disagreeing on others. At the end of this discussion, it will be your own opinion whether the parties will make a deal. I left it wide open.

BG: I set up this call, seeing as there are only 100 hours or so left, to touch base on where Sheldon stands in terms of our latest offer...the second one, which is 3 years, 1 at 4.7 and the final 2 at 5, which totals one million more than the initial offer. You did receive the fax including all of Julien's details, taxes and such?

PT: You sent it, and we received it at 9:30 a.m. our time.

BG: Any thoughts on it?

PT: I informed Sheldon as soon as it was received here. Sheldon told me he appreciated the offer, the return offer....he should be getting in here any moment now. He just called to say he was held up in traffic, about five minutes away. He told me that he was intending to call you himself before next Saturday...

BG: Is that right? Because I haven't heard a thing....just all this speculation going about...other teams calling me actually.

PT: He said to me that he wouldn't be calling to specifically discuss dollars with you....

BG: Really? Then....

PT: He mentioned he wished to talk about direction, your larger scale plans. It's not all about money for him, Bob, he's cashing in either way he goes...

BG: (Laughing) It's funny how I hear that so often. Especially offer gets thumbs down or ignored.

PT: Bob we can't reply when we've nothing to add. We said no...wait and see. We didn't say no, not a chance.

BG: Paul, back awhile it was "there's alot of time to do a deal"....we have five days and now it's "wait and see". Does my teams agenda come into play at all. Seems like the track you guys are taking is an attempt to get me to negotiate against myself with the clock ticking in the background.

PT: That's not our intent...

BG: What I'm asking of you guys today, is for a counter proposal of sorts, so we can establish where we're at. Are we far off? Are we close enough to get into detail? Can we get there? Whatever. Something...

PT: When Sheldon gets here....

BG: If we can't reach into numbers, meet somewhere in there...I have to move onto considering options....which works against this coming together...

PT: Sheldon can answer that when he's in....if that's his choice to.

BG: It's imperative, Paul. My time's getting tight. I won't let myself be handcuffed. I've put calls into 3 agents, requesting time with their clients come midnight July 1....I can't ring them up and offer's dependant on so and so's last open ended chat.

PT: Sheldon just came in Bob, give us a minute, okay? Just touching down on a detail or two.
Ninety seconds pass.

Sheldon Souray: Bob, sorry to keep you waiting.

BG: How is the newborn doing Sheldon...everything good?

SS: Everything's great Bob, and I'm glad you called. I was calling you tomorrow, not sure if Paul was about to tell you!

BG: He did mention...what's on your mind?

SS: Well I wanted to know about Mike, Radek who you're looking to try to bring in. I guess the Russian defenseman didn't work out.

BG: Sheldon, our plans are to go after a player, either a UFA or via trade, that will immediatly make the team better straight away on the top lines. Our number one priority is locking you up, though. We have a short list of about 8 players (laughs), and some very interesting options attached to them.

SS: Names? Yashin?

BG: Get serious!

SS: Just that I heard you saying about closing no doors...

BG: I gotta say those things Sheldon, one never offends an agent in print. Not sure I want to divulge names to an unsigned player, but if it helps...possibilities are Drury, Briere, talked to Doug about Marleau - wants the sun and moon, not eliminating Forsberg still, at lower end. There's others as...

SS: So what about Radek and Mike? Are you making an offer...

BG: Mike Johnson?

SS: Mike! Sorry, Ryder, I meant, because...well he was our top scorer and...

BG: You come first Sheldon, I can't stress that enough. Ryder comes after.

SS: I don't want to meddle in his demands, but my guess is he'll head to arbitration like he almost did last year. Seeing what 30 goal guys are getting right now, I have to have questions about whether both of us are affordable together, you know.

BG: Are you suggesting that if I were to sign him by the, let me put it this way, are you thinking that if the both of you get the money your looking for, there's nothing left for anyone else to be brought on board?

SS: It's not about the money I'll seek, Bob. The team...

BG: If it isn't then why didn't you sign either of our two offers....if it's not about money?

SS: (Long pause) I just want fair money, Bob.

BG: Our offer was fair enough, don't you think?

SS: In terms what might be my market value....I don't know....I'm not really sure.

BG: Well Sheldon....I guess the snag here is....the only way for you to be sure is to hit the open market. That's what I'm attempting to avoid here, because what that day might mean to you, means an entirely different thing to us.

SS: I understand that!BG: We won't be calling you that day. We'll be pursuing other areas....and agressively. The dollars targeted to you....will be offered possibly as many as two or three players, depending. So it's in both our best interests to....

SS: Well I want to try to find a way to stay in Montreal, Bob, but all the questions I have are being answered vaguely, and I just want to know....I want a clear picture of what happens after you sign me....

BG: We try to win the Stanley Cup, Sheldon! (laughs)

SS: (laughing)....yeah, but when?

BG: Let me see here, where did I put that crystal ball? (laughing still), It says two to three years, maybe...the crystal ball is foggy....but my tarot card reader says that if I don't sign a certain defenseman...

SS: Niinimaa, right!

BG: (busting a gut) Nah, too many i's to dot on that contract, man!

SS: Okay now, seriously Bob. I want some answers to things. I need to know where the team is going...more precisely.

BG: Sheldon, what did you think about what Hamilton did? Our immediate starts there. In regards to that, it's doubtful that after July 1, that any offers of substance from us are given to Johnson and Bonk. They both underperformed in our estimation, and the offers I'm prepared to give them to return here are only slightly greater than those of the players I feel can replace them....several Hamilton candidates....

SS: Yes, but that's not...

BG: ...the candidates are ready....that saves dollars my good friend. Lots of them. Ryder, it's unavoidable... will take up a chunk of that and Tomas has earned and deserved a honest increase....doubled if not more. I'm preparing myself for the eventuality that Ryder's salary won't be our offer, it'll be the arbitration settlement. That happens later in July, of course....after the free agents are scattered all over the league...

SS: Okay then, can you tell me this then...

BG: Sheldon, I'll answer any question of yours as honestly as I can....but what I do not know, and what I can't predict, I refuse to lie about.

SS: Put it this way, then...if Ryder gets 5 million, like....a worse case scenario for example...if he gets 5, two weeks after all the more prominant free agents disappear...or you've signed a pair of players....maybe including me. Then what happens then?

BG: Well how do you want me to answer such a hypothesis? To be can I know. I could say that I don't agree Ryder's worth that kind of money to us....but damnit, I like the kid, I like him alot. Who knows...we sign the right centerman and he's a 50 goal scorer...

SS: No doubt...

BG: But with an arbitration awarded contract, it's one year only, he's free next July, and we're stiffed! Now if the arbitration award is beyond our assessment, the options are to walk away - which I'd hesitate to do...or sign and trade him, which would....

SS: You'd do that, really?

BG: Given certain choices....if pigeonholed in a sense....possibly.

SS: And can I assume, when you say in certain situations...that you mean after signing me?

BG: That's what we're trying to accomplish here today, isn't it? I mean that that is my goal...first and foremost.

SS: You keep coming back to that!

BG: Of course, what would you expect. I want you signed Sheldon, but I'm not a reckless man. You're asking me for defined, definite, and finite answers... and I don't know what else to tell you. I have an agenda to follow....each avenue has inevitable all analogy would are the first domino. What happens with you, affects whatever we do going forward. You want honest answers on outcomes I have no way of predicting. I won't deceive you.... you know we really should have had this chat back in early April....

SS: We had lots of time to....

BG: I have many players and contracts to deal with... I can't make that call. Even if I had....Paul's still listening in I'm sure, it's his payday too....

PT: Still here listening in Bob...

BG:...even if I had, would it have even gotten back to you? My apologies Paul, I've seen a few...

SS: Well, we're having that chat now Bob, so let's let it be as productive as it can be then.

BG: Give me a number then, Sheldon....let's try that tact...see what it gives.

SS: I'm uncomfortable with that route....I can't assess....

BG: Why not?

SS: I just won't be comfortable...

PT: Six million a year Bob, let's start there....

SS: Paul, shut up (laughing), no numbers....Bob...

BG: Paul, how would I ever justify paying him more than yourself into my shoes and riddle me that!

SS: Bob....can you hold on a second please...Paul's asking me to put you on hold, I apologize...

BG: Do what you gotta do....I'm here.

(Souray and Theofanous discuss matters for a brief minute. The fly on the wall is not privelege to this discussions. The fly, unfortunately, cannot be in both offices at once. It has just landed on a picture of the 1986 Stanley Cup champions when...)

SS: Bob, please disregard Paul's last comments....

BG: Okay, Sheldon....but is that amount your ballpark figure? I have to ask...

SS: No, no, no...I'm not even going there....Bob, you won't get a number out of me. Again it's not about....

BG: Sheldon, I've been as honest as I can be with you. I've probably revealed more than I have wanted to, to you, in this discussion, and I..... don't think we've made in an inch of progress.

SS: I wouldn't say that....

BG: Well we haven't, I haven't. All things considered if we were to pick this back up in a day....I honestly would not have a better idea where to start.

SS: I don't share that opinion.

BG: Of course you don't! You've revealed little in the way're asking all the things I have no solid answers've revealed no salary demands, no preferred team direction, no personal insights as to your family situation, heck, your agent even faxed us the medical reports from the shoulder surgery rather than calling me courteously...I had to call Paul myself for further details...and he was surprised I did! No matter how much I tell you, no matter how much I divulge in regard to team plans....I still have nothing from you guys to build upon...nothing that enables an offer coming forth.

SS: Okay, listen up! I know I'm complicating your existance....

BG: Tell me about it...

SS: ...but I just need to whatever way you can assure me....that I'm returning to a winning team.

BG: Didn't I ask you earlier about your thoughts on what happened in Hamilton?

SS: Yes...but I didn't have a chance to answer it.

BG: Well, it's like this my friend. The worst of worst that I don't get the free agents I'm willing to pursue. And if that's the be it. Unlike last season.... I should have trusted my instincts.... I won't be calling to sign what would be our third, fourth, fifth hell with 'em. I can live with bringing up hard working players over big dollars any day...

SS: Not necessarily a bad thing, but...

BG: When I suggested earlier that there were 7 or 8 players in our sights...I wasn't bluffing. There are 3 defenseman, 2 centers, and a wing on either side. All the remaining RFA's....we've absolutely no interest in. All but two are North American....and beyond that, if there is no one I feel that can help this team move forward...for the money, I'll stick with players we've been grooming....

SS: Staying with the plan....

BG: You're a big part of the plan, Sheldon...everything rests on you...but because you guys gave us no sign of life a month ago...all my plans, backup plans....are geared towards moving ahead. Even if you told me whatever lie you wanted me to tell you... about what would make you sign....I won't do it. I won't put myself in a position of dealing with a resentful player at any time down the line.

SS: You're not going to budge on any...

BG: Godamnit, Sheldon! What do you want me to say?

SS: Changing the subject a bit, would you throw in a no-trade clause into my contract?

BG: Whoa! Where's that coming from?

SS: Just wondering. Should things sour, I'd want to have the option of choosing destinations....

BG: Hold on a minute...with that kind of thinking. Do you envision...with things sourring as you say...that all options would then be open for you to choose?

SS: I understand that point, Bob. It's just that it makes the first option mine and no one else's.

BG: You think? Who chooses the time frame? The circumstances?

SS: I understand your reaction to that, Bob....

BG: It's not a reaction's tons of possible scenarios neither of us can predict. I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of such a clause...but it's attached to the contract size...dollars and length...

SS: Of course it is, but...

BG: Confidentially here, for our ears only....honest to God's truth....there's a GM who's called me at least a dozen times since the end of the season...pertaining to your eventual departure....asking if I am interested in taking on the type of contract we are presently discussing....he's damn desperate to find a take for this player of his....his offers decrease with every call and it scares the crap out of me to even think about it.....

SS: McCabe? Jovanovski?

BG:... scares me to think that...well...we could be in that boat too...

SS: But Bob, you are trying to sign me, aren't you not...

BG: Yes, Sheldon....but a deal that suffocates us both in worst's beneficial to neither of our follow?

SS: So the no-trade clause is out the window then?

BG: No...not entirely...not for the duration to speak of.

SS: Well then....what?

BG: Depends on it's length...on it's size...

SS: I see..

BG: Sheldon...give me floor here for a minute....we're getting nowhere fast while time's running...

SS: Okay..

BG: Allow me to throw some things out at you....that you may not be aware of. First, at the trade deadline, did you think I was going to trade you?

SS: Geez, I don't know. I had worries.

BG: What did I tell you as it approached?

SS: Alot of things, man. About disappointing fans. The record. The playoffs. Inquiries.

BG: Sheldon, I told you firmly, once my mind was made up, that I'd only be listening to calls in your regard.... I wouldn't be doing the calling....

SS: It wasn't really reassuring!

BG: Oh no! I didn't trade you off for a draftpick, did I? Sheldon, I didn't make a single call....didn't return a call....all based on the belief of what was best for the teams chances. I was prepared to....risk hanging on to you even if you might sign elsewhere....risk missing the playoffs....but still I listened to offers because that's my job...and we held onto you because of lots of reasons....there was the stretch drive...the fan interest in the record.....what it would have done to the team spirit...but the biggest reason of all is that I wanted you to stay...
SS: Yes, you've told me all before, back at that time....

BG: I kept my promises....

SS: For sure and...

BG: Now be completely honest here....the offers Philly got for Forsberg....that the Blues got for Tkachuk...I didn't receice any calls of the like for you....those I did get were not from teams that saw you as anything more than a rent-a-player for the I was low-balled left and right....not even a first rounder, Sheldon. Before I got these measley offers....they were all preceded by questions concerning you, your missus, and California....California this, and California that...every call..

SS: I was quite firm in publically denying all of that, Bob, I said it over and....

BG: Sheldon, the thing is....the rumours did hurt talks then....if I had been intenting to deal would have been for squat! Now it is my job to know what you're market value is. So in that regard I made calls...midseason up to the All Star break...I had to have answers to the California questions gauge your assess it for the trade deadline as well as July 1st, and my calls went to teams on the West coast....all four...and do you want to know what I found....I found little in...

SS: You're think you can bluff me here....please Bob don't take....

BG: Sheldon I wouldn't do know me better than you want to hear about what happened?

SS: I'm not sure this is constructive in any sense...

BG: I'm gonna tell you anyhow because...

PT: Bob, Bob, Bob....whoa there, whatever you think you're going to tell Shelly about the coast teams...I'll counter with what it is I know about it

BG: Fine Paul, if you know of the offers I've received, feel free....the floor is yours, man. If you know of the interest I was able to gauge...go right ahead...

PT: I just don't see the sense in trying to persuade...

SS: I'm going to take a piss...

PT: Look Sheldon has a very sound take on his will be there no matter where he chooses to land. But it's not about that for him, it's about fit and....

BG: If it's not about money for you, understand this is for us....I got 15 million to play around with...that can go fast real this puzzle, I have to place the biggest piece....most important one first to go forward...number me a friggin' figure so I start with answering all Sheldon's questions on team composition....give me a figure in a three year range..I'll throw in the no trade on the final two then...

PT: You'll do the clause then?

BG: Only in consequence with ....sorry, that's the wrong term....only attached to a specific length...meaning a three years...

PT: The two final years...

BG: I'm willing to go.....(THUMP!)

PT: What the heck was that noise? Bob....

BG: Sorry.

SS: Back....

BG: Flipping horse fly got in the office! Killed it!

PT: Sheldon, Bob's just given into three years, final two with the clause...

SS: Is that right! Then tell me then, what the coast teams had to say now...

BG: You might be in for a's not good....they brought up too many questions when I talked with them....there was concerns about lifestyle....

SS: Why does that stuff need to be discussed now...I'd just like to know what they offered for me..if you would...

BG: It ties in with why I got offered what I was the context in which they took the wasn't my aim to....Okay, I'm gonna stop right here for a second....all cities and teams have particulars...some things I want to ask you about Montreal...

SS: Huh? What do mean? Tell me about...

BG: Promise, we'll get back to it. I promise you. I just want to ask you a few things about Montreal, from the perspective of an outsider, when the Canadiens traded for you....what were your impressions before....what were your first thoughts were coming here....maybe we're getting away from being at a place where I can ask this again, so I'm asking it now...

SS: We'll whatever! Just as long as we get back on the subject...

BG: We will, rest assured...tell me your first impressions being traded to Montreal....I wasn't here seven years ago.. to know about that time...

SS: I was excited...shit scared truthfully to come here. I had lots of worries but knew I'd play more at that time...

BG: What was the first thing that you found....impressed you?

SS: Oh, definitely Lemaire at the airport. I played for Jacques before of course. He was assistant to Houle....he came and took me from the airport. Incredibly classy!

BG: But we do that almost as policy and the player aquired when he lands...take him...

SS: No,'re not following Bob, he came to Newark International, he flew down....we came up here together...

BG: No way....why in the world would he...

SS: He knew me....always liked me. Lemaire told me he recommended me strongly to Reggie, and really appreciated it that he was able to make the trade...

BG: Quite a first impression...

SS: He hates the press so much, it's awful. On the plane over, we talked alot about it. He gave me tons of valuable advice how to deal with it...the positive influences it has...he really believed in me, like big time...

BG: What advice...what in particular did he say about the press...

SS: Just how to cater to them. Look them in the eyes when answering questions, win or lose or play there...don't shy away and hide...stand up and offer honest...don't squirm with the truth....all stuff that worked well for me....that I've passed to the kids really...

BG: I just can't believe all that from Lemaire....after some games....the guy undressed in the showers practically...

SS: He witnessed what had worked for others I's funny!

BG: Oh yeah, I'll have to bring it up next time....any other things..positive about Montreal, about the'd say made lasting impressions like that?

SS: The injuries, the first time with the wrist...the good training and positive support and stuff...never feeling left out and that. When all hell broke loose with Angelica a year and a half back...talks me and you had brutal I played in those days... I let everybody down in a never flinched.

BG:You weren't the first player I'd seen go through that you know....

SS: It's small time've had helped me keep a straight head on....has lots to do with why me and Angie got back...

BG: Kids my friend...just kids...

SS: And all the teams wives helping me with Valentina and's gonna be um....damn.

BG: What is it?

SS: Anything else you want to know?

BG: Save for it for another....okay? You want to know about the West still?

SS: Absolutely, man. Tell me!

BG: Only Burke called and...

SS: No way!

BG: Oh yes way..but it was fruitless, nothing he was willing to part with....can you blame him?

SS:Geez no!

BG: I couldn't talk about Perry or Penner, Getzlaf, Beauchemin...nada....didn't have a first rounder to give up....asked him why he even bothered to call....just kicking tires really....didn't get any further on Craig Rivet was a five minute returns.

SS: What about the Sharks then.

BG: They offered what we got for Craig, plus the problem he just layed on the Leafs. Doug's an excellent manager...don't give crap what anybody thinks...he just does what's best in his mind.

SS: Why didn't you take that deal?

BG: I did...oh you mean for you? No it was...

SS: No I meant for Craig, but would you have taken it for me?

BG: He didn't offer it for you, honestly, he sought Rivet because he was looking beyond last playoffs into this year...

SS: Is that a fact?

BG: Doug did resign him!

SS: And Lombardi don't want to know, right? He's said stuff publically I believe...missed a good chance to shut the heck up!

BG: And Nonis was and still is too capped to consider it.

SS: The whole west coast thing, it's just a bunch of.....

BG: You've never said anything pro or con in that area.

SS: Paul said three years, right..why is that? Why not four, Bob?

BG: I wouldn't have you running out at the same time as our highest paid player again...not wise.

SS: But it was set up like that last time....

BG: Did I think you were gonna score 26 goals?

SS: I'm not happy about three years, any thoughts about five then?

BG: None at all...(laughs) if you were 25 maybe then I'd consider it.

SS: I have to think in terms of this being possibly my last a way.

BG: We could do two and do this whole process over again then....

SS: This contract, this money at this time, it represents the rest of my family's life...the kids generation...I was hoping to near 20 million....the years only being important if it reaches that amount.

BG: So if you were saying you get an offer of....say 3 times 6...not good enough?

SS: Four at 20 is it.

BG: Well our offer is 4.7 then two years, both with the clause, at 5....14.7 all told....if I were....not that I am going to....if we were to add another 4.7 year in there making four years all hits 19.4...we're $600,000 off, right?

SS: We're talking $150,000 a year...

BG: But If I go to 4, off comes the clause....because I'll need the flexibility then, we drafted six defenseman this weekend, in four years, and with the guys we have coming up in the years leading there...I need that window have to understand that...

SS: $150,000 Bob, with the clause...

PT: It's a bargain...a loyalty discount for godsakes!

BG: I could ponder that overnight if you..... consider two years both no trade 5 per.

SS: See, that's a deal I'd prefer elsewhere....where I could be absolutely sure that power play minutes turn in to goals again....and in two years...hit the market a second time....with a better chance even....

BG: What about that 20 then? That last contract! This is getting like trying to hit a butterfly with a're wavering all over on know what you're guaranteed of here....

SS: Don't swat the butterfly Bob, it'll ruin your image!

BG: No I've got notes here...we've just pursued three different avenues....I zero back down....which team do you like for two season to give you big numbers?

SS: Detroit, Pittsburgh....

BG: In the east now....wavering....your game is divide and conquer here...

SS: Never heard of it.

BG: I play that your agent....we're doing alright by the commission fees and get back more than your 150 per

PT: Hey, smart guy...

SS: I'll think about two with the Habs then....but be prepared to come up some...

BG: There you go again....but there's progress here I think...

PT: I think we're selling ourselves short....there's foolish money out there...

BG: There's none here....I pressume want to win don't you not?

SS: We've made progress....but deal with Ryder if possible....and Drury over Briere....

PT: Bob, should we get to July first, our intention is not to sign the first day out....we're thinking of watching it play out...

BG: That changes quick when money and opportunity conspire can change like it did with Shanahan last year....nothing's carved and best intentions and promises flee with it....

SS: I like some of what we touched on....I want to sit back a to the wife some.

BG: We can do that...if you want....we did get somewhere, I think....but here's the thing....our money and best offer will not compete with some other deals you might get tendered pushing me to July is backing me off a cliff really.

SS: Give us a time to be back here tomorrow then....

BG: Early as you my time is too early for you....ten or eleven is more like it....your time.

PT: Bob, you get in there at seven...

SS: I'll get down here earlier, beat that damn traffic in...

BG: Okay give my best to all.....later.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Draft Day Fun With The Subbanator

You just gotta love P.K. Subban, the Belleville Bulls defenseman who was the second of six rearguards taken by the Habs in the draft this past weekend.

Subban has earned the moniker "The Subbanator" for his outspokeness and quotability. He left an impression on everyone it seems and was beside himself with joy at being selected by his favorite team.

No sooner did he have the Habs jersey pulled over his head when his exuberance shone out loud. He wasted little time in declaring that not only would he make the Canadiens come training camp, he had plans for his own personal day with Lord Stanley's mug all in order.

When Subban declared, "I want to bring another Stanley Cup to Montreal and then bring the Cup back home, parade it through the streets of Toronto and let all the kids touch it", the room just fell apart.

The Etobikoke native wasn't a Leafs fan for long. "I started as a Toronto fan but my dad is the biggest Montreal fan in the world," said Subban. "You walk in our house and there's Habs flags everywhere.

"So I ended up growing up a huge Habs fans. This is truly amazing."

Canadiens scout Trevor Timmins is quite high on Subban, professing that he will be without doubt the fastest player in camp.

From the scouting reports I've read so far, Subban's skills are not in question. His offensive game and his speed are raved about, while his defensive liabilities are suspect. From the soundboards of Bulls fans, it is told he is often prone to foregoing the safer route in sacrifice of an up ice rush - a trait not uncommon in eager and skilled youngsters.

One thing is for certain, his enthusiasm is awful contagious, already drawing one comparison to Jeremy Roenick, for better or worse. Time will tell whether this talented youngster can reign in his instincts for the more subtle aspects of the game.

Upon researching info on Subban, I came upon an interesting site called P.A.S.S., which is a summer hockey camp. I'm not sure what the initials stand for, but the site featured P.K. in their Student Spotlight section as a player with ...get this...the North York Canadiens!

The picture below shows Subban as a Novice AAA player and I'm guessing he was all of 10 or 11 years old at the time. The short bio makes it sound as thought the P.K. we are just getting to know has been this incredible character for quite some time. He'll be a refreshing treat!

"P. K. is a highly skilled novice who has attended PASS for four years. A player with exceptional desire and drive, you can expect maximum effort from P.K. when he is on the ice. A third year novice playing his first season of AAA, P.K. enjoyed winning the MTHL Carnation Cup with the Canadians. A versatile player, P.K. plays forward and defense, and is an asset to the team in either position. P.K. is an excellent student who takes his studies seriously. He enjoys art, math and reading. P.K.’s goal is to play in the NHL and to be dentist when he is finished playing hockey. In the summer, P.K. enjoys outdoor sports, including basketball."


One of the fun parts of the NHL Entry Draft for me is hearing the great stories from past drafts. Someone, I forget who or where exactly, made mention of this tale. I'd heard this one long ago and figured I'd look it up.

It occured in 1974 when the event was titled the NHL Amateur Draft. Back then the draft was along and drawn out affair, sometimes lasting past 20 rounds. Seems as long as managers were still choosing players, the process would continue. On occasion, the day would end with one team picking several players in succession.

An example of this happened in 1978, when the Canadiens used picks 229 throught 234 to select the six final picks of the day. It seemed a fruitless exercise to many, however the Canadiens managed to unearth two future NHL'ers with those picks - Louis Sleigher and the one and only Chris Nilan!

In 1974, however, Buffalo Sabres general manager Punch Imlach became restless with the time consuming unfoldings, and protested it in a unique manner.

Using pick #183, Imalch selected Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas. Everyone thought that the Sabres had uncovered a new talent base from across the ocean.

The surprising pick delayed the draft some, and it was only after an attempted check a week later was it discovered that the player was in fact inexistant.

Imlach was found out and later revealed that Tsujimoto was a waiter in a Japanese restaurant that he and the teams owners had visited the night before. "Katana" was actually the Japanese word for a saber! It sounds like they had it all planned and had succeeded in getting their point across.


Every year after the draft ends, when I'm all done pondering the hits and misses of day, I scan down the list of 7 rounds of players looking for the funniest and silliest sounding names. There's always a bunch of them, and while this year is maybe slim talent wise, it's a banner year for those kinds of names that will either become an editor's nightmare or journalists and publicists dream.

If but half of these players make the NHL grade, the puns and witticisms will be endless. Here are some of the better ones, to which I added the first thing that came to mind.

Matt Rust: No one's been at his door in a while!
Ryan Thang: Does his crash and bang thang!
Maxim Gratchev: Extreme case of Russian jock itch!
Ryan Molle: Too soft for the NHL.
Paul Posta: Goes postal!
Ben Winnett: He won't Winnett in Toronto
Ben Blood: First member of Blood, Sweatt, and Turris fantasy hockey line.
Bill Sweatt: The only sweat you'll find on new Reebok jerseys.
Kyle Turris: A Turris attraction for Phoenix
Zack Torquato: Coolest name in the draft after Max Pacioretty and Ben Blood
Linus Omark: Siblings are named Snoopy and Rerun.
Patrick Maroon: Could be on an NHL version of Survivor or Lost
Tyson Sexsmith: Blacksmith, locksmith, sexsmith; which trade would you like to master?
Luca Caputi: Caputi goes kaput!
Nick Eno: Throws up before every game!
Ryan Gendur: Gendur bendur!
Trevor Nill: Not much chance!
Trevor Cann: A little better chance!
Jake Muzzin: Things are buzzin' with Muzzin
Oscar Mollar: Hope he's got all his teeth!

Just call me Mike!

Luca Cunti: Headline nightmare in the fine tradition of Corey Pecker and Yataka Fukufuji.
Cade Fairchild: Wasn't Kate Fairchild an actress?
Cody Almond: Coaty? Sounds like a delicious snack.

Debunking The French Canadien Territorial Rule Myth

There is a popular myth, longstanding in fact, and surely perpetrated by decades of Maple Leafs frustration that the Montreal Canadiens superiority from the early 1950's to the late 1970's was due to the simple notion that they had territorial rights to the province of Quebec's two greatest hockey talents annually.

The myth has gained ground on the factual truth in many minds based on the coincidental perceived removal of such rights and the Habs descent down to normalness since the heyday of the dynasty years.

But the myth, hockey fans, is complete bunk!

The small sliver of truth and fact behind the one time territorial Habs clause fails to back up the claims of those who have cried "No Fair" like whining children for years.

I first remember heading about this when I was all of seven years old.

The myth was cemented into young impressionable minds in hockey rinks and schoolyards Canada wide by Maple Leafs fans needing a convinient excuse in explaining their own clubs decline.

I grew up with kids who believed it then. I know some of them as adults who still believe it today.

The twisted yarn is so maligned, it even now includes the drafting of Guy Lafleur first overall in 1971, as well as others, as part of it's Leaf derived legend.

If the myth were true, the Canadiens would have also snapped up Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert, and Gil Perreault among others. The possibilities are endless - they would have likely never lost a game, nevermind the Stanley Cup.

Looking back on it all now, on how the mistruth spread, it's become clearer as to why it would permeate logic, given the finger pointing nature of Leafs fans, who have consistantly failed to look in their backyard to explain their failings and past inferiorities.

It's almost as if they agreed in unison that the myth would be their battlecry, their common shield of armour in the face of defeat. One day, somewhere in time, a little light went off in someones head. I can almost see it now.

"Well no wonder the cheaters won all them damn Cups, the Kweebeckers got the two best Frenchman every year..."

I've long known the truth is othewise, and have long sought out a source that would explain it best, with insightful completeness and perspective.

With much talk of Canadiens drafts in the past few days, the old territorial rights rule reared its famaliar head in chat room talk, when somebody posted a link to hockey historian and trivia expert Liam Maguire's site. As a Canadiens fan himself, Maguire has also been confronted with this myth numerous times, and sets the record straight. He has interviewed many on this very subject, including Sam Pollock, Scotty Bowman, Dick Irvin, Marcel Pronovost, Rod Gilbert, Yvan Cournoyer and numerous others.

It seems the origin of the rule is as old as the NHL itself, going back to wartime days when the fortunes and faith of franchises fluctuated annually.

Contrary to popular belief, the NHL did not start out as an Original Six league. Many teams came and went, existing anywhere between two or three years up to a decade, including the original Ottawa Senators.

Not unlike today's revenue sharing programs amongst sports teams, league members back in the day, found creative ways to assist in each other in the help for financial survival. Often this was done by way of player and monetary loans, but what team owners discovered back then was that locals stars filled seats to great capacity.

This fact was evident even in pre-NHL days, and especially true in Montreal, where a rivalry was built up to fullfill a demand for a french team to compete against the english Montreal teams of the day, the Wanderers and Maroons.

One year after the birth of the Montreal Canadiens, known then as Le Club Athletic Canadiens, it was decided that this would become the franchise that would cater to the desires of the french speaking clientele. Slowly but surely it filled it's roster with french names and proceeded to become semi-successful on the ice, but teetering financially off it.

Over time, the Canadiens became the only Montreal franchise remaining, outliving the Maroons and winning Stanley Cups in 1916, 1924, 1930, and 1931. It fought on through hard times and financial up and downs, and during a spell in the late 1930's, the team was on the brink of folding.

It was around that time, that the idea came up to offer the Canadiens the exclusive rights to two players per year as a means of maintaining interest and ensuring financial success.

To quote Liam Maguire, "(It was) decided that the Montreal Canadiens could take any two players from the province of Quebec in a special draft. There was one rider however. None of these players could have already been previously signed to a C form (confirmation form) with any other club."

"At this time in the NHL and right through the late 60's amateur players were signed by NHL teams to C forms and then placed on their appropriate junior clubs or minor pro clubs depending on their age. The most extreme case of this was Bobby Orr. Orr signed a C form three weeks before his 12th birthday with the Boston Bruins. He was so young his parents signature was required. When he turned 14 he began playing for Boston's junior sponsored team, the Oshawa Generals. That's how Orr became a Bruin."

"From 1936-1943 Montreal protected 14 players through this special draft. Unfortunately none of them ever played a minute in the NHL. Reason being, anybody who could tie their skates and chew gum at the same time were already long signed by other NHL teams including the Canadiens who certainly wern't going to survive solely with this rule."

"The hope was that there would be a spark from signing a French Canadian kid, even better if he could play a bit. The thought was that this could help attendance and thereby help Montreal.

It never did. What really helped Montreal at that time were two shrewd moves. One, a trade with the Montreal Maroons which brought them Toe Blake and two, the signing of Elmer Lach to a C form, who was from Saskatchewan by the way. He was signed after the Rangers passed on him. Lach attended their camp first."

The root of the myth may lie in the fact that just prior to the Habs landing Blake and Lach, the Canadiens first two stars were Edouard "Newsy" Lalonde and Aurel Joliat, both owners of French sounding names. Along Georges Vezina and the Cleghorn brothers, these two succeeding hero's, who were at one time traded for one another, were important facets of the Canadiens success in the 1920' and 1930's.

What many may not know, is that neither Lalonde or Joliat was a home grown talent. Lalonde was billingual, and was born in my hometown of Cornwall, Ontario (a great source of pride!), and Joliat was an Ottawa born player, of Swiss descent.

In the excellent book "Lions In Winter", by Chris Goyens and Allan Turowetz, Joliat comments on his being aquired from the Saskatoon Shieks for the popular Lalonde in 1922. As Habs fans were upset at seing a french speaking player leave, Joliat adds, "Still, it was easier for (GM Leo) Dandurand to trade for me than for a Dick Smith."

The Canadiens other big star of the time, possibly the first true superstar of hockey, Howie Morenz, also has a Swiss background.

Maguire further clarifies the myth's mystique by stating that the reasons the Habs survived the 1930's doldrums had nothing to do with the territorial rule, and everything to do with Lach and Blake working out brilliantly with a player the Habs didn't have in their future plans.

"The rest of the league passed on Montreal GM Tommy Gorman's offer of a trade for what seemed to be a very brittle but explosive goal scorer named Maurice Richard. Richard had suffered injury after injury in his first three years of pro. Gorman tried to unload him but nobody wanted him."

"Needless to say Richard's coming out party in 1943-44 and the subsequent effect he had on the game in the next 17 years has been well documented but suffice to say, these were the three major reasons (Lach, Blake, Richard) for the success of the Habs over a nearly two decade span - not some bullcrap rule that although was well intentioned did nothing to extend Montreal's stay in the NHL at that time. In fact they were even worse in 1940 than they were in 1936."

Bolstered by the "Punch Line", the Canadiens would win the Stanley Cup in 1944 and 1946, but Maguire states that there were two other pieces to the puzzle that would ensure Canadien supremacy for the coming decades.

"It happened in 1946 and 1947, respectively. With the French Canadian rule now rescinded and Montreal rolling with two Cup victories in a three year span something else was going to be needed for the franchise to rise to the extreme greatness they would see in a few short years."

To the distress of Maple Leafs fans, they unwittingly assisted the Canadiens a second time, and in similar fashion. The first had been the firing of coach Dick Irvin Sr. years earlier, who continued to be as successful with Montreal as he'd been with Chicago and Toronto.

"Toronto owner Conn Smythe fired Frank Selke Sr. and Montreal quickly hired him. Selke had a vision about a series of teams in the minor leagues that would be stocked with players that Montreal would sign to C forms. These minor league teams and the players on them were soon to be known as a farm system."

"This was the origin of the farm system as we know it today. It took the rest of the NHL 2-3 years to catch on to this idea but they did and they've all benefited from it but Montreal had a tremendous head start and in some instances they purchased the rights to an entire league to get a certain player."

"They did this for Jean Beliveau and Bobby Rousseau. In Beliveau's case it didn't matter because he told the Habs to get stuffed anyway. He was happy in Quebec and there were only two players in the NHL making more money than Jean who was in the QSHL. That was Rocket Richard and Gordie Howe. Finally Selke was able to sign Beliveau in 1953 when as he put it, " I opened up the vault and said help yourself Jean!" Great quote"

"The move in 1947 was the hiring of Sam Pollock. Pollock came under the tutelage of Selke and finally in 1963 became his successor as GM of the Canadiens."

"In 1963 the NHL finally realized there were a glut of players, post second World War 2 births, that were coming of age to play in the NHL and even with the C form system, stones were being left unturned. For the first time a draft was implemented. There was never any thought that this would one day become the life blood of the NHL."

"In 1963 the NHL finally realized there were a glut of players, post second World War 2 births, that were coming of age to play in the NHL and even with the C form system, stones were being left unturned. For the first time a draft was implemented. There was never any thought that this would one day become the life blood of the NHL."

"At the time the six NHL teams would draft in a rotating order any player who had not signed a C form. Ken Dryden was a draft pick of the Boston Bruins. Boston traded Dryden to Montreal."

"In 1963, the French Canadian rule was brought back for the Montreal Canadiens. It was not necessary, no question about it but Selke and Pollock worked a sweet deal and got it back on the books however the same rules applied. The player could not have signed a C form with any other team."

"From 1963-1967 none of the players Montreal selected played one minute in the NHL, ever. Finally in 1968, they drafted their first live one. A goalie named Michel Plasse."

"In 1969, it was determined that this would be the final year of the draft in this manner and the sponsorship of Junior A teams would cease to be. All players were to be 20 years of age or older and they would be eligible for a Universal Amateur Draft."

"Montreal was given one final kick at the French Canadian can and they made the most of it by selecting Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif. That was it for the French rule."

"By then Sam Pollock or Trader Sam as he was known, was working magic year in and year out on draft day and by flipping players in Montreal's farm system that had been so expertly set up years before by Selke and ran by Pollock, for draft picks. Players like Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay, several others, were selected with picks that Pollock acquired through trades."

This should clear up any misconception about this long believed fallacy, born primarily by frustrated anti-Montreal fans who for decades suffered through parade after Stanley Cup parade.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Habs Vs Leafs Draft Picks Since 2000

An NHL Network article, written in the aftermath of the entry draft, caught my attention yesterday with an opening statement seemingly comparing the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs at the draft table in 2007.

Sadly, there was no comparison. Sadder, I spent 10 hours doing one myself.

Straightjacket, PLEEEASE!

The piece was titled "Leafs Forced To Be Patient At Draft", and begins with the hookline "The Montreal Canadiens had drafted five players before the Toronto Maple Leafs got to the microphone for the first time in this year's NHL entry draft".

"Holy mackerel", I thought to myself, "this ought to be a delicious read!" Not!

I've been hoping for quite some time, to pounce upon a piece comparing the Canadiens and Maple Leafs draft strategies and prowess. The next line in the article killed my enthusiam for such a thesis, with the most logic defying, brain dead summation I've read in months, namely: "But the Leafs feel it was well worth the wait."

Talk about a spin doctoring conclusion!

As for the hyped hookline with the Habs reference, the disappointing piece never revisits the Canadiens - Leafs draft comparison premise in any way.

I'm guessing that such an angle would, or could, hardly be approached in a CP penned piece. The article has no named author - who'd want to attach their name to such drivel! - and is all too dependant on Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr.'s quotes for content and opinion.

Reading Ferguson's musings and assessments are quite a treat! One can almost feel sorry the teams fans, having to put up with such nonsense and incompetence from their hockey heads year after year. I trust that lame written pieces such as this, spun and doctored by Ferguson contribute to the dumbing down of the Leafs Nation intelligencia. And I use the last word loosely.

The Leaf scout is like the old Maytag repairman, sitting around waiting for his services to be called upon!

No less than 3 draft choices were traded away by Toronto this past weekend, in return of a fairly good backup goalie in Vesa Toskala, who has never had the adventure of playing behind anything as porous as the Leafs defence, and a player the Leafs had to take in the deal, Mark Bell, who is a time bomb of personal issues waiting to happen.

In Maple Leafs logic, these were seen as good moves that Ferguson termed "makes the team better".


Ferguson then says that "this is not your typical draft weekend", even though the Leafs had typically traded away their better picks on the day for a pair of players that don't improve the team greatly in any sense. Toskala, soon to be a UFA, will be a happy to leave Toronto UFA goalie in a mere 12 months. Not long after that, the player the Maple Leafs could have drafted, Logan Couture possibly, could be making his NHL debut.

San Jose used the aquired Toronto pick to flip flop choices with St. Louis Blues and move into the ninth slot and snap up Couture. It's a move that will come back to haunt the Leafs again and again.

There's an old saying that goes, "If you do not learn from history, you are bound to repeat it."

In 1990, Toronto was desperate for a puck moving defenseman to help regenarate their stumbling offence. They started the 1989-90 season 0 and 5, and panic set in. The tossed their 1st round pick in the 1991 draft to New Jersey for journeyman rearguard Tom Kurvers. The plan didn't pan out as they finished 19th in the league, giving Jersey the 3rd overall pick in the draft. The Devils happily chose Scott Neidermayer! Kurvers was gone in less than a year, but his addition likely kept the Leafs from finishing dead last and getting the first pick overall. That would have given Toronto Eric Lindros!

Live and learn, except in Leaf land.

Now obviously, there is a large difference in the talent that was available that season compared to what many call slim pickings in 2007. The Leafs were left with choosing six players between rounds 3 and 7 in a watered down draft year.

It's unlikely that the picks will one day add up to much at the NHL level. There may potentially be three AHL'ers in the six picks.

So naturally, Ferguson will then talk about the Leafs inexistant scouting and organization depth!

For the record, while Hamilton was winning the Calder Cup, the Toronto Marlies finished last in their division in the AHL, out of the playoffs, just as the Leafs were.

Ferguson of course, fails to recognize that the Leafs prospects on the farm need winning surroundings to further their developement. He high fives the team scouts, who must surely be gringing their teeth at all the confidence shown in them and says, "It was a credit to our scouting staff to have identified in the past few drafts, Justin Pogge, and other players that were not first-round picks but have now progressed to be the equivalent of those."

First he names Pogge, the Leafs best prospect, and suggests he's worthy of a number one pick.

Then he explains why he traded for a goaltender. That's just funny!

Then he credits the scouts he has just refrained from using for the two first rounds, while bragging of organizational force, and ties it all together with - "So that kind of depth allowed us to make a move that really shores up our goaltending."

So in other words, the Leafs are moving forward by adding net depth in the one position already held by their strongest, worthy of having been a top pick, goalie prospect. Along the path, they sacrifice a bonafied top two line center prospect and other picks in order to climb sideways in the standings.

The article writer won't critique this of course - he's still spinning from the spin, like an auger straight into the ground, burrowing down Leaf style.

Some people still believe Ferguson is trying to win a Stanley Cup in this way.

I believe he wants to be a teacher one day!

Since 2000, even before Ferguson's hiring in August of 2003, the Leaf draft pickings have been slim.

In the six drafts between 2000 and 2005, Toronto has chosen exactly 50 players. In that same time span Montreal has chosen 52. In general, Toronto has had more later round picks to speak of.

Toronto has had 4 first round picks in those years, with 2 players from those years currently in the NHL, Carlo Colaiacovo and Alexander Steen. The two who were let go are Brad Boyes (24th, 2000) and Tuuku Rask (21st, 2005). The Leafs last first rounder Jiri Tluslty, still junior aged, made positive steps with the AHL Marlies, seeing action in 6 games.

Montreal has kept all six of it's first round picks, with only Ron Hainsey from 2000 having been cut loose. Four of those first rounders have reached the NHL level, Marcel Hossa (16th, 2000)Mike Komisarek (7th, 2001), Chris Higgins (14th (2002), and Andrei Kostitsyn (10th, 2003). Banging down the door are Kyle Chipchura (18th, 2004) and of course Carey Price (5th, 2005).

I wanted to compare the draft picks by Montreal and Toronto between 2000 and 2005. I thought it would be interseting to see how the players have done since being chosen and what their contributions have been at both the NHL and AHL levels.

My findings were partcularly curious in respect to what has recently happened this past season.

The amount of players from the six drafts I chose to look at, are practically even on both teams, in games played and point totals. I added the totals of all players, including those who have since left the organization. I compared what the players have added to the teams in terms of points and games played since joining the NHL. I also compared what the draft picks brought this season.

Being that the Canadiens and Maple Leafs were but 1 point apart after 82 games in the 2007 standings, the findings here attest to the teams being quite even at present.

There is a trend however that shows the Canadiens draftees are gaining on those of the Leafs at the NHL level. Without spelling it out statistically, player by player, the trend is shown in the difference between 2006-07 points and career points. Simplified, the Canadiens draftees have a bigger percentage of career points scored in 2006-07 than the Leafs players.

This is open to many types of interpretations and analysis.

Further on, I will list all the players from both teams, and show NHL totals for 2006-07, as well as career numbers that include last seasons. Additionally, I will also list all players drafted and their totals at the AHL levels for this past season.

In Toronto, since 2000, 9 drafted players have suited up for the Leafs. They include Carlo Colaiacovo, Brendan Bell, Jay Harrison, Kyle Wellwood, Maxim Kondratiev, Alexander Steen, Matt Stajan, Ian White, and Karel Pilar. Their career NHL totals are: 822 career games played, 117 goals, 234 assists, and 351 total points. Seven of those players participated in 372 games with the Leafs this season, for totals of 49-115-164.

On the Canadiens, 13 drafted players in the same time span have been uniform. They are Ron Hainsey, Marcel ( I'm definately not Marian) Hossa, Jozef Balej, Alexander Perezhogin, all dearly unmissed, and Mike Komisarek, Duncan Milroy, Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, Andrei Kostitsyn, Mark Streit, Maxim Lapierre, Mikhail Grabovsky, and Guillaume Latendresse. With only Komisarek as a roster player prior to the lockout, they have played in a cummulative 1029 career games. The offensive numbers read: 141-199-340. This past season, the remaining 10 players played a total of 517 man games, adding in 85-124-209 totals.

The differences career wise are as follows:

4 more players over the 6 seasons have played for the Canadiens.
207 more career games played by the Canadiens players, which would average out to 50.2 games for the additional 4players on the Habs
24 more goals scored by the Canadiens players.
35 more assists by Leafs players.
11 more points by the Leafs players.

The differences in 2006-07 are:

3 additional drafted players on the Canadiens.
155 more games played by Canadiens draftees.
36 more goals scored by the Habs.
18 more assists for the Habs players.
44 points more by the Canadiens players, which is a 14.7 points per extra Hab Draftee.

Of the 10 Canadiens players, 9 equalled or bettered their previous best total. Perezhogin, who didn't, has undefected of sorts, back to Russia. Of Toronto's 8, five equalled or bettered their previous bests, while 3 slipped back. No large drops either way.

If each teams regulars are looked at seperately from callups, the average Toronto draftee played 58.8 games in 2006-07, compared with 63.6 for Montreal.

Prior to 2006-07, the 7 Canadiens regulars had 409 games of experience in the NHL, compared to 348 for the Leafs players.

It is at the AHL, that the trends greatly exposed themselfs. (sarcastic typo!)

Twenty eight of 52 players drafted by Montreal since 2000 have put in NHL or AHL games this season, as opposed to 18 of 50 for the Leafs. Four players from each team have since left the organizations.

The player totals above include goaltenders, however the invidual player statistics that will follow do not take such numbers into consideration. Suffice to say that Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak`s numbers are greatly superior to those of Marlies goaltenders Mikael Tellqvist, J.F. Racine, Justin Pogge and Todd Ford. The total goalie games played are greatly in the Leafs favor - as this is a comparison of draft picks numbers, Yann Danis' totals lay in the balance.

Seventeen players chosen by the Canadiens in those six draft years were with the championship Bulldogs team this past year.

The Marlies had a record of 34-39-7 for 75 points. They scored 220 goals and allowed 270. Of the 48 players who dressed as Marlies, 11 were Maple Leafs draft choices. They include 3 goalies and 8 forwards and defenseman who played in a total of 332 games in the AHL. The offensive totals combined for the eight players are 46-83-129.

The Bulldogs regular season record was 43-28-9, for 95 points. They scored 243 goals and allowed 208 against. 34 players dressed for the Bulldogs, 17 of which were Canadiens draft picks. Aside from the two Habs drafted goalies, 15 forwards or defenseman combined to appear in 727 man games. They scored 168 goals and added 252 assists for a total of 420 points. In 22 playoff games on the way to the Cup, 13 of 17 players dressed and accounted for 41-67-108 totals in a combined 206 games.

All together, the Bulldogs Canadiens prospects played 933 games, with totals of 209-319-528.

Compared with the Marlies Leafs prospects, the Buldogs got experience in an additional 601 games and outscored the Marlies by a margin of 163-236-399.

An asterisk signifies the player is no longer with the team. The bracket number is the position and year they were drafted. The +, -, and = notations pertain to season point totals rising or falling. The career totals include the 2006-07 season.

Starting with the Maple Leafs draftees.

NHL Toronto 2000-07

Mikael Tellqvist* (70-2000) 41 career games, 16-16-4 record, 1 GP in 2006-07, 0-1-0
Carlo Colaiacovo (17-2001) 73 career games, 10-16-26, 48 GP in 2006-07, 8-9-17+
Karel Pilar* (39-2001) 90 career games, 6-24-30
Brendan Bell* (65-2001) 32 career games, 1-4-5, 31 GP in 2006-07, 1-4-5+
Jay Harrison (82-2001) 13 career games, 0-1-1, 5 GP in 2006-07, 0-0-0-
Kyle Wellwood (134-2001) 130 career games, 23-64-87, 48 GP in 2006-07, 12-30-42-
Maxim Kondratiev* (168-2001) 7 career games, 0-0-0
Alexander Steen (24-2002) 157 career games, 33-47-80, 82 GP in 2006-07, 15-20-35-
Matt Stajan (57-2002) 232 career games, 40-54-94, 82 GP in 2006-06, 10-29-39+
Ian White (191-2002) 88 career games, 4-24-28, 76 GP in 2006-07, 3-23-26+
Staffan Kronwall (285-2002) 34 career games, 0-1-1
Jeremy Williams (220-2003) 2 career games, 2-0-2, 1 GP in 2006-07, 1-0-1=

AHL Marlies 2006-07

Robbie Earl (187 - 2004) 67-12-18-30
John Mitchell (158 - 2003) 73-16-20-36
Staffan Kronwall (285 - 2002) 47-3-14-17
Jeremy Williams (220 - 2003) 23-6-9-15
Martin Sagat (91 - 2003) 71-4-11-15
Dominic D'Amour (88 - 2002) 42-2-9-11
Jiri Tlusty (13 - 2006) 6-3-1-4
Phil Oreskovic (82 - 2005) 3-0-1-1
J.F. Racine (90 - 2000) 31-11-14-3 3.33 .889
Todd Ford (74 - 2002) 5-2-1-0 3.27 .869
Mikael Tellqvist (70 -2000) 3-2-1-0 3.95 .882
Justin Pogge (90 - 2004) 48-19-25-2 3.03 .896

NHL Montreal 2000-07

Ron Hainsey* (13-2000) 32 career games 1-1-2
Marcel Hossa* (16-2000) 59 career games 10-9-19
Jozef Balej* (78-2000) 4 career games 0-0-0
Mike Komisarek (7-2001) 220 career games 6-24-30, 82 GP in 2006-06, 4-15-19+
Alexander Perezhogin* (25-2001) 128 career games, 15-19-34, 61 GP in 2006-07, 6-9-15-
Duncan Milroy (37-2001) 5 career games 0-1-1, 5 GP in 2006-07, 0-1-1+
Tomas Plekanec (71-2001) 150 career games, 29-47-76, 81 GP in 2006-07, 20-27-47+
Chris Higgins (14-2002) 143 career games, 45-31-76, 61 GP in 2006-07, 22-16-38=
Andrei Kostitsyn (10-2003) 34 career games, 3-11-14, 22 GP in 2006-07, 1-11-12+
Maxim Lapierre (61-2003) 47 career games, 6-6-12, 46 GP in 2006-07, 6-6-12+
Mikhail Grabovsky (150-2004) 3 career games, 0-0-0, 3 GP in 2006-07, 0-0-0+
Mark Streit ( 262-2004) 124 career games, 12-35-47, 76 GP in 2006-07, 10-26-36+
Guillaume Latendresse (45-2005) 80 career games, 16-13-29, 80 GP in 2006-07, 16-1-29+
Jaroslav Halak (271-2003) 16 career games, 10-6-0 2 2.89 .906, 16 GP in 2006-07, 10-6-0 2.89 .906

AHL Bulldogs 2006-07, playoffs totals in second bracket.

Duncan Milroy (37 - 2001) 64-25-33-58 (22-2-11-13)
Corey Locke (113 - 2003) 80-20-35-55 (22-10-12-22)
Mikhail Grabovski (150 - 2004) 66-17-37-54 (20-4-7-11)
Andrei Kostitsyn (19 - 2003) 50-21-31-52
Matt D'Agnostini (190 - 2005) 63-21-28-49 (22-4-9-13)
Kyle Chipchura (18 - 2004) 80-12-27-39 (22-6-7-13)
Jonathan Ferland (212 - 2002) 78-23-14-39 (22-3-6-9)
Maxim Lapierre (61 - 2003) 37-11-13-24 (22-6-6-12)
Cory Urquhart (40 - 2003) 30-5-12-17 (18-2-2-4)
Michel Lambert (99 - 2002) 49-11-5-16 (14-2-2-4)
Ryan O' Byrne (79 - 2003) 80-0-12-12 (22-2-5-7)
Matthieu Aubin (130 - 2005) 25-2-3-5
Andrew Archer (203 - 2001) 16-0-1-1 (19-0-3-3)
Jon Gleed (212 - 2004) 8-0-1-1
Jimmy Bonneau (241 - 2003) 9-0-0-0
Jaroslav Halak (271 - 2003) 29-16-11-0 6SH 2.00 .932
Carey Price (5 - 2005) 2-1-1-0 0SH 1.53 .949 (15-6-0 2SH 2.06 .939)

Drafts are about the future. Looking back, the comparisons here, even out fair enough.

As for the future, the Canadiens have success written are over their draft picks.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Habs Media Poised To Slam Esposito Slight

If you watched through the first hour and a half of the NHL's 2007 Entry Draft, you no doubt caught several glimpses of Angelo Esposito sitting in the stands, patiently waiting to hear his name called.

You surely noticed the facial expressions and morphing demeanor of the kid, changing from excited teenager to confused adolescent, lips pursed in a defiant pout.

Come the 12th pick, the gleam in Esposito's eyes went from anticipation to sullen dejection in two words: Ryan McDonagh.

Quickly, amongst the Esposito family clan, disbelief blew across their gazes. It was as if they'd opened their front door and saw ghosts.

What you did not see, was the piqued ire of thousands of pro-Esposito boosters in La Belle Province, convinced their star would be donning the sacred bleu, blanc, rouge on this night, angered and disappointed at this most improbable fate.

If you listen closely, you will be able to hear computer keyboard keys slamming, pens scratching, and printer press wheels churning - all because the so-called smartest hockey man in Quebec chose to pass over the local protege.

Bob Gainey likely made triple the enemies as he did friends in choosing McDonagh over Esposito. He also did what was best for the Canadiens.

Everyone understands the logic behind wishing for Quebec born stars to become Montreal Canadiens. There's no need no dwell on and discourse the meaning of the term "Habitants".

There's no need to list the positive points versus the negatives when it comes to choosing Quebecois talent. It is all, actually, besides the point.

The job mandate of Gainey and company is to select the player they best feel serves the Canadiens needs. They did so by choosing to go with a player, a defenseman, who brings size, toughness, and some offensive prowess, to an area sorely lacking in these qualities amongst the teams prospects in regrards to depth at this position.

McDonagh will never be as spectacular as Esposito may one day be, but that doesn't make the pick a catastrophic error.

There will be, of course, the inevitable Denis Savard scenario comparisons, from the 1980 draft. Get ready to read about all it over and over again. And again.

The french Quebec media will make this comparison, and be all over it like Hugh Hefner with a fistful of Viagra on a Playboy Bunny.

The simple truth of the matter is the comparisons simply don't fly.

Backtrack to Savard and the 1980 draft for a moment, for clarity's sake.

Savard was an offensive dynamo, with stats Esposito could only envy. He was ranked third by Central Scouting that season, behind the 89 goal scoring Doug Wickenheiser, and potential franchise defenseman David Babych. 21 NHL scouts were unanimous in thinking the best player available was Regina's Wickenheiser. The Quebec media vehemently disagreed. They backed a Savard pick all the way, because he was dynamic, and because he was a homeboy.

Hindsight is a very powerful history revisionist.

In looking back on the 1980 draft that went wrong, many fail to remember that all Canadiens centers at the time were on the small side. There was a defined need to bring in a pivot over six feet tall, and over 200 lbs, to fill a gap that remained since the trading of Pete Mahovlich.

Now you have a choice between a shifty 5' 8'', 175 lb dazzler of a center racking up great totals in a defensively challenged QMJHL, or a 6' 3", 210 lb 89 goal scorer in the tough as nails WHL.

Who would you choose?

It's a no brainer that you take Wickenheiser!

What unfurled after, may be a case study for psychology majors.

The Canadiens chose to leave Wickenheiser in the stands on the date of his NHL debut, against none other than Denis Savard. The homeboy, likely spurred by the sprurn, was the game's first star.

Wickenheiser felt it like a thousand bitchslaps, and never recovered from his team's lack of faith in him.

Savard, of course, went on to a Hall Of Fame career, jersey retirement in the Chicago Stadium's rafters, and legend status. Wickenheiser settled for a defensive player role, shuffling from team to team, before retiring due to injuries. He sadly died of cancer complications at age 39.

All of this somehow made the Quebec journalists right in their initial prognostications.

Again, history revisionists skewered the truth.

Savard never came close to a Stanley Cup in Chicago, he won one with Montreal in 1993, not as a prime contributor, but as a bit player. Look at that year's team celebration photo - he's dressed in a suit. All Savard's aquisition cost the Canadiens, which was prompted by relentless demands from the Quebec media, was Chris Chelios. Chelios was hardly a media darling back then, and the papers portrayed him as detrimental to the team.

Can you even begin to imagine, if had Chelios stayed?

The media rarely admits it's errors. Their goal has nothing to do with being correct - it has to do with selling newsprint.

Think about that, while you anger over the Esposito slight.

The paper media, as well as the television media, will lead you to believe whatever it needs you to believe, in order to sell tomorrow's paper, keep you watching the sports updates, or tuning into the radio talk shows.

Of those writers, commentators, and talk show hosts, you would be challenged to find one know-it-all who has done the Canadiens scouting staff's work involving Angelo Esposito. They have covered him inside and out, better than we can imagine.

The average full time NHL team scout takes in, on average 200 hockey games a year. They have witnessed Esposito in all his highlight reel glory as well as undocumented lower points, to which I trust there are many more than have been reported.

If Esposito had a string of brutal games - does that sell papers?

Not only do these scouts know the inside out on Esposito, they have also watched hundreds of others players and evaluated their potential. Province-wide. Country-wide. Continent-wide. World-wide.

That's their job. They do not sell papers.

These scouts won't appear on the TV in interviews to suggest that Esposito is not the next Guy Lafleur. Those highlight goals by Esposito will be an alluring fraction of the story, but the truth is, Esposito isn't even the second coming of Stephane Richer.

Perhaps the next Mike Ribeiro?

Nineteen picks went off in the draft before Pittsburgh chose Esposito. What does that say?

With his draft day value dropping like an anvil off the Champlain bridge, don't expect a detailed article as to why it happened.

You may have read that the Canadiens interviewed Esposito three times. The writting suggests that they were extremely interested in him.

Could it be that the Canadiens were so unsure of Esposito, that they brought him back all those times, and remained unconvinced that they should snap him up?

They weren't alone!

Trust this, it's doubtful you will read that story - the angle of truth doesn't sell to people unwilling to hear it!

Having said all this, if given the chance, Esposito could do really well in Pittsburgh. It's a great set up for him. It's also one he wouldn't have gotten in Montreal.

In the coming years, if he does shine in the jersey of the flightless birds, before criticizing the Canadiens for not picking him, I'd like to have someone name the Canadiens player most resembling Sidney Crosby, who could helped such things happen.

Good luck!