Playoff Bracket Gone Wrong!!!

I must say, though the first two rounds of my playoff bracket went quite well.  My picks for the last 2 rounds however, not so much!

1.    Blackhawks      vs.   5.     Kings :      Kings in 7

 I had taken the Defending Champions to take it all for the second straight year.  But the Kings looked beat up against the Hawks.  The body check festival in the first round against the Blues did not help.  And the concussion suffered by Stoll in the second round against the Sharks added to the bumps and bruises that where ailing the team, leaving them with just enough juice to finish off their California hockey rivals.  When you add the concussion suffered by Richards, which cost him three games of the conference final, Drew Doughty’s cracked ankle, Dustin Brown’s and Anze Kopitar’s knee, Justin Williams’ slight shoulder separation and the absence of Willie Mitchel, this team did not look one bit like the team that powered their way to their Stanley Cup win last season.

With all of those players at less than their full capabilities, the end result was an easy 5 game series win for the Hawks.  To their credit, the Kings did go out like Champions, pushing their opponents to overtime in the fifth and final game.  But in the end, the Hawks were too fast and too strong for the Kings. The difference was seen in every stride taken during that series.  Add to that Corey Crawford making saves by the tons and you have a team going into the finals as the series favorites.


1.       Penguins        vs .     4.      Bruins :     Bruins in 6

Bruins in 6 for one reason: the net minders. I have the outmost respect for Tomas Vokoun, who has more often than not been on my list of top 10 net minders throughout the years.  But the phenomenon named Tuukka was simply fantastic and more impressive then Tomas, though the latter more then held his own after replacing Fleury in Rd 1 of the playoffs when he tended the nets against the Islanders.

The Penguins at times looked disorganised and Malkin who was their MVP when the won the Cup in 2009 seemed to be forcing the play on to many occasions.  That type of play makes it much easier for an organized coach like Claude Julien, to get his players to squeeze more out of their system, thus constricting any type of space on the ice.  In the end, better coaching and better goaltending is what got the Bruins past a team as deep and talented as the Pens.


1.    Blackhawks     vs     4.     Burins :  Bruins in 7

First and foremost, it was my first time seeing 2 Original Six teams in the final, which falls in line with the abundance of Original Six match ups we saw during this Stanley Cup run. In the end, we saw two teams who consistently draft well, develop their players the right way, have a great deal of depth and are well coached.   Most of all, both finalists have fantastic goaltending, however, in spite of this impressive list for both teams,  I had to give the edge to Tuukka and the Bruins once again but not by much.

In games 6 of the Final, Lucic scores a 3 period goal that gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead.  They seemed in complete control and it looked like we were all about to tune in for a game 7 matchup between both clubs. But with 1:16 seconds left, the Hawks pull Crawford out of the nets for an extra attacker and Bikell scores a goal to tie the game at 2.  Shock and awe is felt 17 seconds later when Bolland put’s one behind Rask to give the Hawks the lead!!  Next thing you know, that last minute had elapsed and the Chicago players were jumping all over each other as the Boston players were skating their heads down, deflated in defeat.  For the 2nd time in 4years the Blackhawks where Champions once more.

The numerous Original Six match ups, the wild Sens vs. Habs dual, the Bruins game 7 comeback vs. the Leafs, and the Hawks 17 second comeback in game 6 over the Bruins: this is one of the most memorable Stanley Cup runs I had ever seen.  The only thing that might top it: the 2014 Olympic tournament.  And I know for a fact, it will be absolutely epic!


May 13th


1.Blackhawks vs. 7. Red Wings : Hawks in 7

Wow, another Original 6 match up! I like both these teams. I feel the edge goes to the Wings in terms of goaltending match ups, which is usually the first factor for me in determining who will win the series. But the defensive brigade of the Hawks makes up for it. This series will be a long one. In essence, even though Coach Babcock had a rough year in the regular season, by no means should anyone be surprised if “Hockey Town USA” pulls it off. Never the less: Hawks vs. Kings in the Semis.

5.Kings vs. 6 Sharks : Champs in 6

The Battle of California hockey! The Sharks have speed, solid goaltending and a defence that is very well balanced with youth, experience and mobility. The Kings are perhaps not as fast as the Sharks, but they are superior in all other aspects of the game. If the Kings Back End are able to easily brake out of their zone, like they did in last year’s playoffs and able to use their size to dominate their cycle game down low, thus taking away SJ’s speed, putting traffic in front of Neimi, shooting high on him…


1.Penguins vs. 5. Senators : Pens in 6

There is a little miss-match here, however, we said the same thing about the Pens’ first match up first the NYI, and look how surprising that series was to everyone. The Sens are still so very early in their development process and it will be a good learning experience for Coach Mac’s team. Pens in 6 easy games; Anderson alone will not me enough. But watch the Sens closely in the next couple of years. They will be vary dangerous!

4.Bruins vs. 6. Rangers : B’s in 7

The Big Bad Bruins look pissed off because of how long it took them to dispose of the Leafs, and hungry because of how dominant they looked late in games vs. the T.O. squad. However, Ludqvist is far superior then Reimer who ended up being the big reason why the pushed Boston in 7. NYR have a defence that does not match up the Boston’s with the absence of Staal. That will be the difference in the series.

I’ll be back for the Semis.

April 30th

I have not written in my blog in a long time, so I figured giving you my playoff predictions, would be a good way to get back into it. I will follow this up with a few top 10 lists just to get back in the swing of things and to pull away from my usual essay format.


1. Blackhawks  vs.  8. Wild : Hawks in 5
Though the Wild have a well-balanced team, filled with young promising players on the rise (Grandlund, Coyle, Zucker, Brodin,) their time is far from being now, there is still a great deal of development to be done. If Backstrom is on the top of his game, which he has been all throughout season, this team can put up a fight. But it is kind of hard to go against the depth and well balanced lines of the Hawks. Let us not forget the brilliance of Coach Q.

2. Ducks  vs.  7. Wings : Wings in 7
I use the same rationale for the Ducks as I did for the Wild. (Etem, Smith-Pelly, Palmieri, Holland, Lindholm). Tthere is a great deal of youth on the rise, and plenty of time for the Ducks to be very good very soon. But I will go with the high hockey IQ, experience, and offensive depth of the Wings. Their defensive brigade is not what it once was, but with Howard, they can squeeze by Hiller and his squad in a long series.

3. Canucks  vs.  6. Sharks : Canucks in 6
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has done a fantastic job with this team in the 5 years he’s been there. (2 Semi-final appearances). On the ice, this team now belongs to Pavalski and Couture, who will carry it from here on in. Placing him on the 3rd line gives them good balance, with Burns a nice surprise on the second line. But Van, has enough to get to the second Rd.: as long as Lu or Schneider outplay Niemi.

4. Blues  vs.  5. Kings : Champs in 6
The Blues are just as big as the Kings and play just as feisty. Just like in the Ott. Mtl series, we will see 2 defensemen in Pietrangelo and Doughty who will be fighting for the Norris for years to come. But if Quick can’t do the job, Bernier will. Now, will I bet against Mr. Elastic, who is the defending Conne Smythe winner… Hummm, No!


1. Penguins  vs.  8. Islanders : Pens in 5
I really like this Islanders team. I like the core that has developed into mature young players, on the verge of their prime. I like the hockey moves made this season, such as removing DiPietro form the team’s surroundings. However, the most impressive thing about this roster: more strong prospects are close to making the team. In the end: The Pens are too deep, too strong and far more experienced. It will be 5 close games.

2. Canadiens  vs.  7. Senators : Habs in 7
This is a battle between 2 GMs for whom I have a great deal of respect for, ‘cuz they built their teams the right way. I truly believe, that this series falls on 1 player, Carey Price. If he plays like the elite goalie I know he is, then they can win this in 7, whether Spezza is in he line up or not. For me, this prediction is that simple.

3. Capitols  vs.  6 Ranges : Ranges in 7.
This series marks my 2nd upset. (Wings/Ducks). Adam Oats did a good job getting the Caps back up to par, but there is still a lot of work to do before it becomes his team, due to the fact that there are still a lot of elements from Boudreau and Hunter. Torts had his squad, are also playing well and I don’t see how Ludqvist, the best netminder in the league right now, could be out played by Holtby or Neuvirth.

4. Bruins  vs.  5. Leafs : Bruins in 5
A classic confrontation between two Original 6 teams; which will finally allow us to see who had the edge regarding that infamous deal, not too long ago. Hamilton, Séguin, and Kessel are all playing in this series and will be watched by the sports media closely. Tukka over Reimer. T.O. lack of playoff experience. Bruins win in 5.

I’ll be back for Rd. 2

Team Canada… perhaps

I know, I know… Crazy to put this up now!!! Ha ha ha…

However, making predictions this far in advance is fun, at least for a hockey freak like me it is!  But one year goes by fast.

Between now and the 2014 Olympiads in Sochi Russia, many things can change.  Revelations will come forward, players who have had an off year will bounce back and you will always have a player or two that will surprise us all. That being said, if I had to pick Team Canada’s roster for an international tournament as we speak, this is what it would look like:

In parentheses, I indicated the age of the player at the time of the 2014 tournament.



GM: Steve Yzerman

Head Coach: Mike Babcock.  Assistants: Lindy Ruff, Guy Boucher.


Left Wing


Right   Wing

C Steven Stamkos, TBL (24) C Sidney Crosby, PIT (27) L/R James Neal, PIT (27)
C/L Jordan Staal, CAR (26) C Eric Staal, CAR (30) R Corey Perry, ANA (29)
L Rick Nash, NYR (30) C Jonathan Toews, CHI (26) C Claude Giroux, PHI (26)
C Tyler Seguin, BOS (22) C Patrice Bergeron, BOS (29) R Jordan Eberle, EDM (24)
*L Taylor Hall, EDM (22) * L/C Jeff Skinner, CAR (22) *L Evander Kane, WIN (23)

*taxi squad




D Drew Doughty, LAK (24) D Duncan Keith, CHI (31) G Carey Price, MTL (27)
D Kris Letang, PIT (27) D Shea Weber, NAS (29) G Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT(29)
D P.K. Subban, MTL (25) D Marc Staal, NYR (27) *G CamWard, CAR (30)
*D Brent Seabrook, CHI (29) *D Alex Pietrangelo, STL (24)  


What bothered me the most about this exercise was who I left off the roster: Getzlaf, Carter, B. Richards, M.Richards, Spezza, Sharp, Couture, Neugent-Hopkins, Marchand, Benn, Campbell, Boyle, Bieksa, Del Zotto, Hamhuis and the list goes on…  We can easily make 2 rosters as I’m sure you all know.  Iginla, Marleau, Thornton, and St-Louis; will be past their prime so, I would be surprised if they would be considered. That`s not to say that they will not still be good player.

I paired up skaters who already have some chemistry.  The Golden Line will consist of Crosby and Neal featuring Stamkos on their left. Then, I put the Staal Bros. together, alongside the scoring touch and size of Perry on their right.  Toews was so dominant in a defensive roll with Nash yet still lead the team in scoring (8pts) with 1goal and 7assists and was named tournament MVP.  We can expect the same thing the second time around, particularly due to the fact that they will be more seasoned, in addition to having the brilliant hockey sense of Giroux.  My forth line, I affectionately call the Selke Line, which is led by Bergeron the reigning recipient of the trophy and is supported by Seguin and Eberle who will both win that award at some point in their career; and will do so sooner than you think.

As the Habs get better, Price will establish himself as the league’s best for the next decade.  Consequently, my starter for the balance of the tournament, backed up by Fleury.  In front of them, Drew D and Keith will stay together as the returning pair from the Vancouver Games.  Webber who will also be a returning player, will skate with Letang who will be quite dominant on the bigger ice surface, with the ability to set up his defensive partner for shots from the point. Additional mobility from the backend will come from Pietrangelo and Subban, who can easily be paired up with more defensive defensemen such as Seabrook or M. Staal.  So there you go!  Canada’s Ice Hockey team for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi .

Repeating on the Russians home ice won’t be easy, that goes with out saying.  However, when a team stacked like this one pushes their ego to the side and executes the game plan laid out by Coach Babcock and his staff, nothing short of Excellence is to be expected!

Quick facts

  • the total salary for this team is of 133,220,603$; which by the way puts me at -57,755,603 in relation to the salary cap (before  the lockout.)
  • 13 Stanley Cups Rings
  • 13 returning players
  • 5 Captains
  • Leadership core = Capitan Crosby, Assistant E. Staal, Assistant Keith, Assistant Bergeron.

Building blocks

Keeping Murray in place was a bold move by the Senators ownership, which had acted against the wishes of the fans and media. From that point on, nevertheless, those hard times would no longer be an issue in the Capital City. Bryan Murray, a man who grew up in the National Capital Region (Shawville), displayed a great lesson in execution, in terms of making trades for draft picks and I say this with no exaggeration: it is nice to see that there are people on this planet, who can conduct business with a humanistic approach!  This is proof that you don’t have to be a “douche” within a capitalist world to make a profit and be successful.  Murray was at a point where he would have to sacrifice through trades certain key veterans that had established themselves firmly in the community and had grown within the organization.

check out my line up:

The three players in play, he traded to franchises where they would be able to grow personally and professionally; thus allowing them to take their careers to new highs. Mike Fisher was the first to go.  Murray traded him to Nashville, where he could be close to his new wife, country music star Carrie Underwood: smart move.  A first round pick which ended up being Noesen was given to Ottawa in exchange.  Chris Kelly, the second key player to be traded, would establish himself as a first rate checker, centering the third line of the team that would become the Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins.  A second round pick was given to Ottawa, who drafted in their own back yard premiere forward Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67’s.  Furthermore, in exchange for goaltender Craig Anderson, counterpart Brian Elliott was sent to Colorado, where he would be able to show teams his ability to be a quality netminder in the league.  That chance allowed him to sign a new contract with the Blues during summer. This past season was his best to date; winning the Jennings Trophy (fewest Goals Against) alongside Jaroslav Halak.  It is important to note that Murray seemed to have rewarded those players in particular for their many years of service to the community, by trading them to places where they could mature as individuals. Other trades would follow and the team’s identity would slowly begin to take shape, notably through the draft.

A Foundation bounded by youth

Phillips, Spezza, Neil and Alfredson the Cap’n, remain the core which will lead and mould the up and coming youths of the organization, reminding them of how great this franchise was not too long ago!  Daniel Alfredson will have a new delegation of Swedish players that will follow in his footsteps such as Robin Lehnar, who is for me their top prospect.  He has won the Calder Cup in the AHL and was awarded the MVP during the playoffs.  Also, Erik Karlsson who was at the All Star game this season, also won a Norris Trophy in only his third year with a total of 78 Pts.!  Then they have Mika Zabinijad, who had scored the golden goal at the World Junior Championship, allowing Sweden to win the gold medal. In addition, Jakob Silverberg, the 2012 MVP of the Swedish Elitserien for the regular season and the playoffs, scored 13 goals thus beating a record that had been set by Daniel Alfredson in the 2004 season (year of the lookout).  They also drafted some players that were born in the capital region and some that have graduated from the “Killer Kilrae Hockey Program” with the 67’s, or that have played with the Olympique’s program under coach Benoit Groulx.  Marc Methot, was born and raised in Ottawa. He came over from the Blue Jackets in a trade sending Mike Foligno to the Jackets. Also defensive prospect Marc Borowiecki is also from the capital region.  Cody Ceci and Shane Prince are two high end prospects we will definitely see with the club by next season, and will leave their mark with the team I’m sure.  They are both graduates from the prestigious Kilrae program with the Ottawa 67`s.  Though he is not from Ottawa, Jared Cowen had Chris Phillips smiling ear to ear, as he gets to mould a 2.0 version of him!

If you have read my pas blogs, we have yet another example of the importance of having a great General Manager at the helm of a franchise.  A GM who, as opposed too many, seems to understand that while hockey is a business, the hockey players are human.  With the leadership set by the 4 players on this team with “letters on their sweaters”, the youth movement brought forward by GM Bryan Murray is the insurance policy for improvement the fans and media had been crying about.  Throughout their history, patience has brought this franchise a long way and coming off the cusp of their 20 anniversary, the proof of that is being lived once more.  In the end, the Capital problems are no more.

Capital Improvement… Pt. 1 (Tough Times)

Tough Times

After peaking in 2007 by becoming Stanley Cup finalists against the Ducks, there have since been a number of Capital problems in the Capital City.  Up until that moment, the Ottawa Senators franchise had established itself as a great example of constancy; in addition to the 2007 Cup appearance, they made the playoffs for eleven consecutive years under Jacques Martin, winning the President’s trophy in ’03 in addition to four division titles.  Prior to last season, the problems involving the falling franchise (from 2007 to 2011) spanned on many levels.  On the ice: they either failed to make the playoffs, or were easily eliminated in the first round. Moreover, in three of those four seasons, had allowed more goals then they had scored. Off the ice, management had been losing control of premier players who had become distractions for the team.  General Manager Bryan Murray would eventually rectify that problem by trading problematic players such as Ray Emery and Wade Redden after he took over the job from John Muckler in the season that followed the Stanley Cup run.

Behind the Bench, the instability simply added to troubles that were sinking the team.  When Murray became GM, he gave the Head Coaching job to his assistant John Paddock.  Despite a fantastic start, the team struggled to play for .500, so Murray came back behind the bench. He finished the season with the team squeezing into the post season on a tie breaker, only to be dismantled in the first round by the Penguins in 4 games.  For the next three years, the struggles and instability behind the bench would continue. With Greg Hartsburg at the helm, the Senators were playing for less than .500.  Another big reason for the team’s struggles was the lack of quality netminders, something that had always plagued the franchise even when they were making the playoffs regularly.   Martin Gerber and Alex Auld were backups who were struggling to establish themselves as starters.  This amongst other reasons had cost Hartsburg his job.  Enter Cory Clouston, who had done a remarkable job with their farm team in Binghamton and took that momentum to the big club.  Never the less, the Sens had missed the playoffs in 2009, for the first time in 11 years.  But Clouston’s old school hard nose style would cause clashes between him and some of his team’s leaders in the long run, to the point where Danny Heatly would ask to be traded elsewhere in the summer of ’09.  He claimed that it was for personal reasons; hummm, perhaps personal problems with the coach who had “slightly” cut his playing time? But in Clouston’s first full season as bench boss, he had guided the team to the playoffs only to see his team eliminated by the Golden Sid and the powerful Pens.

However by the mid 2010-2011 season, the Sens were 14 games away from the 8th and final playoff spot.  It had been 4 years of mediocrity and pressure was placed on ownership by the media and fans alike for immediate changes.  However, we did get  a great lesson in leadership; not only from the team’s owner Eugene Mylnik who allowed Murray to set forward a rebuilding plan for the franchise, but by the man he would keep on as the teams’ GM during the summer of 2011: Bryan Murray himself.  He had stated in the middle of that season that he wanted to stay at the helm of the team and was given a long term contract at the end of that campaign.  After spending the year making key trades, setting his team up for a solid draft which included three first round picks (Mika Zibanejad 6 overall, Stefan Noesen 21 overall , Matt Puempel 24 overall ). Murray now had a core of young talented players with whom he can build the team’s future.

The Kommish Netminders Power Rankings

What I`ve done is ranked the top 10 Netminders in the league based on a haphazard yet logical system I created, in order to give this list some sort of credibility and logic…  The criteria are as follow.

  1. Stanley Cups
  2. Conne Smythe
  3. Vezina
  • Hardware = Three factors representing excellence at an elite level.
  1. 40 Win seasons
  2. 30 Win seasons, back to back
  3. All-Star Game starter/appearances
  • 30 wins or more in back to back years is established by netminders who are able to launch themselves as legitimate number ones, for their team. That number is the symbol of consistency.
  • 40 wins or All Star appearances highlight those who were able to set themselves above simply being consistent


So here we go!


1.    John Quick:

Stanley Cup 2012, Conne Smythe, 35 Wins 3x, All-Star Game, 10 Shutouts league leader.

2.    Henrik Lundqvist:   

Vezina 2012, 35 Wins 6x, 30 Wins 1x, All-Star 3x, Olympiads Gold 2006

3.    Cam Ward:

Stanley Cup 2006, Conne Smythe, 35 Wins 3x, 30 Wins 2x, All-Star 1x.

4.    Marc-André Fleury:

Stanley Cup 2009, 40 Wins 2x, 35 Wins 3x, All-Star 1x.

5.    Ryan Miller:

Vezina, 40 Wins 2x, 35 Wins 3x, 30 Wins 2x, All-Star Starter, Olympiads 2010 Top Goalie.

6.    Mikka Kiprusoff:

Vezina, Jennings, 40 Wins 3x, 35 Wins 4x, 70 Games 7 years straight

7.    Pekka Rinne:

40 Wins, 30 Wins 2x

8.    Carey Price:

All-Star Starter @home, All-Star 2x, 38 Wins

9.    Jimmy Howard:

Calder, All-Star, 35 Wins 3x

10. Roberto Luongo:

Jennings, All-Star Starter, All-Star 3x, 40 Wins 2x, 35 Wins 3x, 30 Wins 2x, Messier Leadership Award, Canucks Cap’n 2 Years

The following, make up the second tier of netminders; those who can, who have, or who will at some point bump out the aforementioned minders from the top ten. You can expect to see the stake rise of players such as Rask or Schneider in NHL’s next season.  Do to the fact that they have put up numbers demonstrating their abilities to become top tier netminders.  However, competition will be very tough!

11. Martin Brodeur:

Calder, Cups 3x ’95 ’00 ‘03, Vezina 4x, Jennings 4x, All-Star 10x, 40 Wins 8x, 35 Wins 4x, 30 Wins 2x, Olympiads Gold 2x 2002 2010, World Cup 2004, 70 Games 10 years straight.

12. Anti Niemi:

Stanley Cup 2010, 35 Wins 1x, 30 Wins 1x ,

13. Ilya Bryzgalov:

40 Wins, 30 Wins 2x, World Championship Gold

14. Jaroslav Halak

Jennings, legendary Playoff Run

15. Jonas Hiller:

All-Star, 30 Wins 1x

16. Mike Smith

38 Wins 1x

17. Tuuka Rask

Best goals against average in 2010

18. Kari Lehtonen

30 Wins 2x

19. Corey Crawford

30 Wins 2x

20. Craig Anderson

35 Wins 1x, 30Wins, 1x

21. Semyon Varlamov:

World Championship Gold 2012 (Undefeated/10-0)

22. Corey Schneider

Career stats: GP 68, Wins 38, a glimpse of what’s to come in a complete season  

23. José Théodor

Vézina, Hart, All-Star Game, 30 Wins 4x, Bill Masterton

24. Tomas Vokun

30 Wins 3x

25. Ondrej Pavelic

29 Wins last season

The Youth Movement (continued)

They added to all of this, by drafting Alex Galchenyuk 3rd overall in this year’s draft, the Montréal fan base and media can finally stop their rhetoric of: “We need a big center”.  Alex will be exactly that; a big body center who will be able to utilize his full arsenal down the middle such as: His ability to make plays, his relentless work ethic and his great sense of the game, which allows him to excel in the defensive aspects of the hockey rink.  These are element that will allow him  to make an earlier jump to the big league due to the fact that he will be able to fit in a forth or third line role, and, learn much like Lars Eller did in his first couple years.

The latter’s development last season was good.  I expect a breakout season from Lars on the third line with Moen and Bourque or perhaps Armstrong if he can stay healthy.  As for the rest of the bottom six, they have a great list of supporting players; I see no problem on that end.  I cannot wait to see what Ryan White will give, staring the season at 100% in route for his first complete NHL Season.  He will be strong on a line with Brendan Prust.  In physical games against the Broad Street Bullies, The Big Bad Bruins, or the Leafs; les Canadiens have no more reasons to be intimidated, due to the fact that they have a supporting cast that can set the pace of the game just as well.

From The Back And Out

The team’s strong point however remains the back end, mainly because of their depth.  It starts and ends with Markov, who must be at 100% in order for this team to have any chances of making the playoffs.  Markov’s presence and All-Star abilities puts everyone back in the position they should be occupying in regards to the depth chart.  His calm style of play as he skates deep into the opposing end has always had a great influence on his pears.  This is how I feel he dictates the pace of play for his team, on both sides of the ice; this obviously includes the Power Play that has struggled in his absence.  With Alexei Yemilin, he finally has the big presence by his side that can keep the other teams in check, should they decide to pick on Markov.  His best years were when he played alongside Mike Kommiserek.  Yemilin who in his first pro year, is already one of the premier technically sound body checkers in the league (236 hits 4th amongst D’s)  skates, shoots, and sees the game fare better
the Mike did.  This will completely benefit a Markov who lost a little bit of mobility in the last three years because of his Achilles tendon and 2 ACL injuries.

Josh Georges! My kind of player, my kind of individual; this man is a professional in every sense of the word.  Integrity, Humility and Empathy are the three key elements to a great leader and he embodies them to the fullest extent, much like Gionta.  He easily led the league in blocked shots last season with 250 and looked great playing alongside P.K. as the team’s top pairing.  The latter improved in two key statistics in comparison to last season: he went from 24 to 29 assists and when from -8 to +9 in regards to his plus minus rating.  So, anyone who tells you that he is selfish, or that his defensive game is not up to pare, well you can shut them up with both of those important stats.  Expect them to be a formidable tandem for years to come in Montréal.  As for the rest of the of the supporting staff on this defensive brigade, it’s quite simple, Kaberle and Boullion will start the season as the 5th and 6th defensemen on the depth chart, until they get pushed out by either: Webber, Diaz, Beaulieu, or Tanordi in due time. In the end, based on their upside alone, it is inevitable that all four players should end up being good NHL defensemen.  Whether the two Swiss players, or the two first round picks, spots 5 and 6 on this brigade should easily be theirs within the next couple of years

There are two players I like watching more than anyone in the NHL, Pavel Datzuk the magician and Carey Price, both for the same reasons.  They are sooooo smooth!  In fact, Price is so smooth on the ice that from now on, I will call him Silk! His lateral movements are subtle yet explosive and in his execution, his saves, seem fare to easy.  He is a complete netminder for he does everything like clockwork, moreover, does so with a great deal of swagger and confidence, I love it! : Leadership, rebound control, reading the play, the glove hand, playing the puck, communication with his d-man, mental and emotional IQ, plus whatever else I forgot, this kid has it all covered. Montréal fans should feel privileged that they will get to see evolve a player who will be one of the great netminders of the decade and I say this with no exaggeration. His 3 All-Star appearances, which include starting as a rookie at the Bell Center during the Habs centennial, is a testament to that.  And he was selected to the All Star Game this season, in spite of the fact that he plays with a mediocre team.  The 38 wins we saw from him two years ago, is much closer to the kind of statistics we can expect from Carey moving forward, especially with the competitive team that is to come.  Expect him to be the type of netminder who will reach 40 wins more than twice in his career.  I know that in the next decade, it will be a treat watching him shatter not only some franchise records, but league records as well; mind you, there are a lot of elite netminders these days…

The Canadians are on the right track: Youth by the pound, strong recruitment and development programs, a hockey operations department with a clear vision and plan.  Furthermore, the bottom six up front will embody the spirit of the Gainey, Carbo and Jarvis; in the end, fans can only be patient, in hoping that the dynasty will rise once again.



Starting From the Top

What will it take for this franchise, that was once the measuring stick of excellence, to regain the glory of its past?  A team that has rewarded its fans with 24 Stanley Cups in their 103 years of existence, most of which were being won in consecutive manner.  As of late, they have yet to make it back to the big waltz that is the Stanley Cup Finals since 1993; which was the last time they were crowned as champions.  That year, they overcame the LA Kings in 5 games.  Since that final,  the Kings are the current defending champs, which now makes a title run even more pressing for the Habs, leaving a fan base more impatient than ever before, craving for a parade on “la rue Sainte Catherine” like a hobo yearning for food.

See my full roster here:

Marc Bergevin.  Having a good General Manager is vital; now the Montreal fans can be reassured.  I believe Marc will establish himself in the next couple years as one of the most competent GM’s in the NHL.  He is the spark that will allow this team to re-become very competitive again.  The decisions that he has made so fare are quite impressive, even though Bob Hartley was my first pick for head coach of les Canadiens and that Michel Therrien was not even on my top five.  However, Therrien did surround himself with some very competent people such as Gérard Gallant a proven winner and respected by the junior players he coached, plus Clément Jodoin who will be Therrien’s strategist.  A good leader knows that he must surround himself with people who will push and challenge him constantly, in order to collectively reach the goals that he will establish for the team.  I think les Canadiens missed a huge opportunity to bring Larry Robinson back into the fold.  With all of the young defensemen growing within the organization, Larry would have completed this coaching staff beautifully and with the Stanley Cup ring he won as the head coach of the Devils in 2003, he would have brought the kind of experience that becomes quite a boost to any coaching staff.

Bergevin also tripled the size of the Player Development department, which is no longer fused with the recruitment department, all of which has been under the direction of Trevor Timmins for the past decade.  The work that he has done in administering this vast branch within the hockey operations of the team, is nothing short of  impressive, for he drafted a great deal of players still active in the NHL today.  He was given a contract extension this summer for his fine work and he has been given new allies that will help him in properly developing the talented young players on the depth chart.  Now with a new Director of Player Personnel in Scott Mellanby, a new Director and Coach of player development in Martin Lapoint and Patrice Brisebois respectively; the Habs can finally develop great players within their franchise, instead of seeing them shipped away too soon, only to flourish elsewhere.

At the forward position, the Habs have one big hole in their line up on the second line.  They need a winger for Tomas Plekanec; who is a world class center and when well surrounded, is one of the most complete centers in the game.  He has easily scored 20 goals in the last five seasons, with the exception of last season where he punched in 16; you can even go as far back as his three years with the Hamilton Bulldogs (the Canadiens farm team).  That hole, should have been filled by P.A. Parenteau, and in doing so, would have given them the first rate Quebecois player that fans and media have long been asking for.  Playing alongside Plekanec and Gionta, Parenteau who is a fine play maker, would have had two players who can easily score 20 goals, year in year out.  Bergevin still had the opportunity to fill that gap. Shane Doan (Cousins with C. Price) was also available this summer; he ended up staying with the Coyotes after all. Signing a player of Doan’s pedigree to a 2 year contract, would have given the Habs the luxury of taking their time in developing the quality young forwards they have drafted in the last few years.

The Youth Movement

What fans will love the most about this team, is that they have quite a few such as: Louis Leblanc who is very close to being a full time NHLer, has enhanced his game tremendously in his first season as a professional and has gained 10lbs of muscle this summer.  I have him penciled as a left winger on that second line, if ever a move is not made to fill that gap or if Bourque cannot deliver (currently injured for 6 weeks).  He would be more then capable of holding his own with Gio and Tomas as his mentors.  Danny Kristo who is playing in his last year of College at the University of North Dakota and is improving his stats down there year after year. Brendan Gallagher whose cardio is off the charts is a 2.0 version of Gionta and is just coming off his third straight 40 goal season in the WHL.  Of course there is also the Captain of the Memorial Cup Champions (Les Cataractes de Shawinigan) Michael Bournival.  Quite a collection of youth and talent on the rise in this hockey club up front and all four players participated in the World Junior Championship.

The Hamilton Bulldogs 2012/2013

I decided to focus this blog entry on the Hamilton Bulldogs; just to reassure the crazy and pessimistic Hab fans, that their team’s future looks much brighter than they think. This is a pretty nice looking club!

See my full roster here:

The strength of this team comes from the back.  Cedrick Desjardins was a Memorial Cup Champion in 2006 and was named the tournament’s best netminder. He also put up big numbers in the QMJHL, in the ECHL and in his last five seasons in the AHL which includes a previous stint with the Bulldogs three seasons ago, his stats are quite respectable.  Plus, he played his two first career NHL games with the Lightning in the 2011 season winning both games.

On defense, Frederic St-Denis was at the AHL All Star game last season and his coach at the time Jacques Martin had nothing but praises for him.  I like his style of play; he plays a very intelligent game and he will have a solid training camp much like he did last season. He will most likely be the team’s first call up on defense. Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu each bring very specific elements to this team and will become elite players in the NHL very soon. Tinordi will be a premier shut down defensemen, and Beaulieu will be known for his puck movement and scoring ability.  Both will be able to play big minutes this year and should be regulars with the big club as of the 2013 season.  The best path for their development would be for them to spend a full year in the AHL, with a few NHL games here in there this season just to give them a taste. You should all keep a close eye on Morgan Ellis as well, who is coming off a Memorial Cup winning year with Shawinigan and has grown leaps and bounds this past season.

Up front, where the media and fans claim they have no depth, I find it to be quite the contrary.  The Montreal Canadiens drafted Alex Galchenyuk 3rd overall in this year’s draft.  If he starts in the AHL centering what looks to be the Bulldogs 1st line, which he should, expect him to win the Rookie of the year award.  He will have on his wing: Louis Leblanc who is in my opinion NHL ready but can still benefit from a full year in the AHL, especially if he is playing with Alex, who is just as proficient as he is, in terms of hockey IQ.  Add Aaron Palushaj, a player who averages close to a point per game in the AHL and you have a lot of offensive punch on the first line.  The question is: “Can Aaron now take that consistency to the big club?”

On the 2nd line, Gabriel Dumont who tallied 51 goals in his last junior year in the QMJHL looked quite comfortable in his three NHL games last season.  He would be centering a line featuring Brendan Gallagher who scored 40 goals or more in three straight years in the WHL and was an impact player during the 2012 World Junior Championship (6 goals in 6 games).  As well as Patrick Holland who was obtained in that weird deal that sent Mike Cammalleri to Calgary.  He was 6th in points in the WHL with 109 and his 84 assists displays his great play making ability, which is a perfect fit for a line with snipers ready to unload pucks by the tons.

On the 3rd line, center Michael Bournival, should adapt quite well to the AHL level.  The Captain of this year’s Memorial Cup Champions (Les Cataractes) would be on a line with the only 2 question marks I have on this team.  Alexender Avstin is in his third year as a pro.  If he is going to show what he can do, especially regarding his offensive production, this has to be the year.  The same can be said for Blake Geoffrion.  This late bloomer can be an effective 4th line player that can contribute in the playoffs. Let us hope that he worked on his skating and acceleration in the off season.  Both of these players will have the luxury of skating with an excellent center; thus, it will be up to them through their skill set to show management where they will fit, in regards to the big club.

With Sylvain Lefebvre at the helm, this promising young team now has another very promising head coach.  The Canadiens Hockey Club has always done well in regards to bringing in top quality head coaches.  Hab fans are crossing their fingers that they don’t lose him to another team.  This potential version of the Bulldogs looks even better than the one that won that Calder Cup in 2006-2007 when Carey Price won the Most Valuable Player award.  Mikhail Grabovski, Andrei Kostitsyn, Max Lapierre, Kyle Chipchura, Matt D’Agostini and Ryan O’Byrne were the only 7 players including Price, who are still playing in the NHL today after making a significant contribution to that championship run. I think we can all agree that this year’s Bulldogs pack a much bigger bite than that team, particularly in terms of skill set and upside.  Moreover, with players such as Sebastian Collberg, who should have been a first round pick. Tim Bozon, son of Phillip Bozon the first French hockey player to play in the NHL. Charles Hudon who will be at the world Junior Championship this year, after looking quite impressive in this summer’s Summit Series and of course Danny Kristo, who is finishing his 4th and final year playing college hockey at the University of North Dakota. With lots of pieces to move around if a trade is needed, the future finally looks bright in Montreal; it seems that the road to the Stanley Cup begins in Hamilton!