Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Jacques Martin Era Comes To An End

What has been talked about for weeks and months not to mention years (for some of the most ardent critics) has finally occurred, Jacques Martin has been relieved of his duties.  Most of you that read my blog know that I was never a Martin apologist but in a city where you're either with him or against him, I would have to classify myself as having been with him.  I thought he was a solid coach with the record and results to prove it.  Was his system perfect?  Far from!  Was it boring to watch the Habs play hockey?  For the most part.  Did the system actually work?  Only when all 6 players on the ice did their job and did it with near perfection.  Is that a sustainable strategy?  Of course not.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's a Bigger Problem Than Just Jacques Martin

I share the frustration and sense the impending panic (for some they're already there) amongst Habs fans.  Fire Jacques Martin, fire Pierre Gauthier and on and on.  Yes it's true that the front-office has dropped the ball in terms of evaluation and preparation for the start of the season (Andreas Engqvist, really?).  The coaching staff has done even worse to start off as we'll point out below but in all honesty, the worst job so far has come from the players.  And before you start with the "it's the coach's job to get them going" (and I agree), you also need professional athletes making a lot of money to have the ability to self-start.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Andrei Markov Update?

Andrei Markov at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Int'l Airport - All rights reserved - (Please credit website if using picture)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I guess that can be accurate if you really want to dissect the intricacies of what we're seeing here.  This picture, taken 2 days ago at Pierre-Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, shows Andrei Markov waiting to board a flight to Miami.

A few things come to mind: where is he going, is there any visible swelling, why is he lifting his leg (added comfort or due to discomfort)?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Injury Hex Continues

It seems the Montreal Canadiens just can't seem to get away from this cloud that has cast a dark shadow on their aspirations of becoming an elite team.  Injuries are a real part of hockey that affect all teams and are impossible to predict.  Your best defense against them is to make sure your team depth is solid but even the deepest of teams are adversely affected when the injury bug hits.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thank You Paul Holmgren

It's not a secret that I wasn't sold on Andreas Engqvist being the Habs 4th line center.  Which is why I was a happy camper yesterday when I found out that the Montreal Canadiens had acquired Blair Betts off of waivers from the Philadelphia.  Not to be overly critical of Engqvist but in my opinion, a 4th line (also known as your 'energy line') should exhibit just that, energy!  I'm not sure why it appeared so but from my impressions it just seemed as though Andreas lacked intensity.  Was it because this was preseason or did he somehow figure that with the injuries at camp that he would be a lock for the job?  I really don't know, but in either case those are unacceptable excuses for a rookie/prospect trying to earn his way into the NHL.  You can allow for some of that type of attitude from a well established veteran but not from someone in Engqvist's position.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Exciting Opportunity...

Since starting this blog in June, I have really enjoyed writing and sharing my thoughts and views on the Habs with you, my readership.  I've seen the the site grow in popularity and gain more and more readers.

One of those readers happened to be Topham from the well-respected and strongly followed Lions in Winter blog.  As time passed and more articles were written, Topham (after discussing with his team) approached me with the idea of having me help in contributing to their blog.  Considering their excellent reputation and loyal readership, I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to join their team and help add my voice to the talented crew at LiW.

This does not mean the end for 'Big T on the Habs'.  In fact, if anything the plan is ramp up the posts on this blog as we go through our first full season.  However, should there be one or two of you that don't already follow LiW, I would hope that you would go ahead and add LiW to your bookmarks and follow both blogs closely.

So, thank you to Topham and the LiW crew for inviting me over to collaborate with you and thank you for this wonderful introduction.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I’m not quite sure why but I didn’t think the Ryan Malone hit on Chris Campoli was a cut and dry suspension.  It was definitely a headshot but I felt that it could possibly fall under one of the exceptions that Brendan Shanahan laid out earlier this year in the video that he sent out to all teams and players, where a player is reaching for the puck and puts himself into a vulnerable position (see video below).

What may have helped my mindset is the fact that I didn’t watch or listen to the game live.  First, my Blackberry started buzzing with messages from some friends that were asking me how many games I thought it would be and with their predictions of about 5 games.  So maybe it was the anticipation of a terrible hit that skewed my perception or maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t influenced by Malone’s apparent recklessness and borderline play leading up to the hit.  I viewed the hit for what it was and to me, it looked somewhat similar to something that I had seen earlier in Shanahan’s video of legal hits.  I’m not saying that it’s identical but it fit in that frame so to speak.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Yes I know.  I get it.  Jacques Martin is not your ideal coach.  He doesn't get mad when he needs to, he doesn't rip the referees when they deserve to be ripped, he's far too passive, he has no charisma, he has no imagination and no vision.  Defense first, offense optional.  Have we covered all the bases?

What about the 2010 Playoff run, you ask?  Well, don't you remember, the Habs were down 3-1 to that offensive juggernaut known as the Washington Capitals.  And do you remember what happened after that?  A certain Mr. Halak decided that it was going to be his coming out party.  But wait a second, weren't you watching the TSN telecast of the game?  That GM-wannabe, Pierre McGuire, credited the Habs victory in Game 5 in Washington to Kirk Muller.  Come again?  Yep, apparently it was Kirk 'is work' Muller who had the brilliant idea of putting Travis Moen on the top line and that apparently single-handedly changed the whole dynamic of the Montreal attack.  Please!

Monday, August 15, 2011


Ever since Glen Sather bought out Chris Drury's massive contract, there has been speculation on whether or not Habs management would be interested in securing Drury's services as their 4th line center.

It's not a secret (and we have touched on it in the past) that Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin are trying to build a team built on speed and skill up front and veteran leadership at the back.  A definite bonus is if a player has been an established or proven winner throughout his career.

This blueprint has looked very promising that it can and will deliver results in the post-lockout NHL.  Clearly though, there have been some exceptions especially when it came to filling in the role of 4th line center.  Starting with Bryan Smolinski, continuing through to Glen Metropolit, and last year's foray with Jeff Halpern.  All of those signings ended up working albeit with varying levels of success.

The problem here is that all of those guys were signed to fill a lessor role knowing that they had lost a step (or two) due to age and they were willing to do whatever was being asked of them in order to remain in the NHL.  I'm not sure that same scenario would play out as smoothly with Chris Drury.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


It's been a few days now that Josh Gorges has signed his 1-year, $2.5M deal with the Montreal Canadiens and the reaction from Habs fans has been expectedly mixed.  We've seen varied reactions but the general consensus (from what I've read and heard) seems to be that one year was simply not enough and that the Habs seem to have short-changed Gorges.  Being a numbers guy through and through and looking at the deal, I cannot help but think that the contract seems like a fair one for both sides.  And yes, I can already hear you yelling out, "but what about the intangibles" that Gorges offers.  So you know what?  Let's take a look at those intangibles on BOTH sides of the coin.  Just as a disclaimer, I'll add right here, that I would've preferred to see Gorges signed for 3 years at $3M per (but not a penny more).

Friday, July 8, 2011


That's the question I have been hearing from Habs fans throughout the day yesterday as the Canadiens starting July 5th announced an array of minor deals.  Gauthier started the week with the signings of goaltenders Peter Delmas and Nathan Lawson.  He then inked veteran forward Brian Willsie and concluded with the minor-league trade sending Ryan Russell to the Blue Jackets organization in exchange for 6'4" Michael Blunden.

So, who are these no-name players and why is Gauthier wasting his time signing and trading for them?  The answer is both simple and complex.  As you all know, the Hamilton Bulldogs are the Canadiens' farm team and as such, Gauthier's required to also assemble their roster.  That's the simple part.  The complex?  Well, it's not that complex actually.  Hamilton is where Habs management sends their most prized prospects to develop into (hopefully) future NHLers.  That's right, the future success or failure of your Montreal Canadiens depends on the kids currently (or about to start) playing with the Bulldogs.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Today came news that Zenon Konopka had signed with the divisional-rival Ottawa Senators.  That is not good news for Habs fans.  Seeing that it only took a 1-year deal worth $700K to ink Konopka, I'm really quite befuddled that Habs management didn't up the ante a bit and secure his services.  I was really hoping that Konopka was in Gauthier's target list of players to acquire during this off-season.  I also thought that someone would overpay him in dollars and term and thus make it a difficult signing to accomplish.  Obviously, this didn't happen so from my point of view, today's failure falls squarely on the GM's shoulders.

Other than the obvious toughness and fighting element that Konopka brings which is important and needed, he also brings another essential skill, prowess on face-offs.  This particular facet of his skill-set is why I thought Konopka would be a perfect fit for the Habs.  Considering that face-offs were a major area of concern for the Habs last year, it boggles the mind to not add depth in that area at such a reasonable cap hit.

Monday, July 4, 2011


The Montreal Canadiens made their splash of the off-season on the first day of free agency, locking up power-forward Erik Cole to a 4-year deal worth $18M (AAV of $4.5M).  The move clearly plugs a long-time hole that has plagued the Canadiens for many years.  The Habs finally have a legitimate crease-crashing forward who will not hesitate to abuse opposing defenders with every chance he gets.

At first glance, the term seems a bit on the long side and the money a tad high but this has become a necessary evil these days.  More and more, the realization has begun to set in that to get who you want in the face of 29 other competing General Managers, you will have to sweeten the pot a bit more than would be ideal.  Comparing Cole's contract to what other players signed for as the day progressed made it seem more palatable.

There were many Habs fans hoping that the Canadiens would target and sign Erik Cole.  Although Cole would not have been my first target, I am fully cognizant that what he brings to the team is something special and something that was missing.

Erik Cole's signing doesn't deviate from the strategy that Bob Gainey along with Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin decided to implement when they made-over the Canadiens roster just a couple of years ago.  That strategy: to build a team comprised of proven winners, with both speed and skill.  Erik Cole fits that mold to a T.  He's not only a Stanley-Cup winner but also brings considerable foot speed to go along with his skill and bruising size.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Went off to the country over the Canada Day weekend expecting a nice and usual day from Pierre Gauthier (read: quiet) and low and behold, not one but two signings!  Both of the moves are significant enough that they've changed the complexion of the team.
The first signing was that of Peter Budaj and I must say, it surprised me as I didn't expect the Habs to go after someone that was going to cost more than $1M/yr nor did I think that they would go after someone who wasn't already designated as a clear back-up.  One could argue that Budaj is just that but I'd rather think of him as that goalie who battled it out with Jose Theodore and won the #1 spot a few years ago.

Yes, Budaj has struggled as a starter in this league but it's worth noting that the teams, with which he had his worst stats, also were terrible.  He has also played very well in stints, throughout his career, which shows promise and ability.

From a technical standpoint, Budaj plays the position correctly and efficiently and his raw talent has allowed him to make it to the sharp-shooter filled NHL.  He has had issues by leaving his catching glove too low and then corrected it by holding it too high.  In my opinion, I believe that his lack of further development has been directly linked to the Avs' failure in hiring a proper goalie coach - a real 'faux-pas' in today's hockey.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

WIN, WIN.....WIN situation with WIZ?

Chris Botta
Former New York Islander employee, reporter and blogger, Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) reported on his twitter account that James Wisniewski would be signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets within 24 hrs.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, I'm not saying this is definitely going to happen.  I'm just relaying what I've read and considering the source, I wouldn't be surprised if it did indeed pan out as Mr. Botta is reporting.  One has to think logically that during Wiz's time in Long Island he may have built a professional rapport with Chris and therefore may have some inside knowledge as to what James is planning on doing.

If Wisniewski does indeed sign with the Blue Jackets, this has to be seen as a win, win, win situation for the Habs.  Not only does the return for Wisniewski become a respectable 5th round pick but you've also managed to ship Wiz off to the Western Conference and keep him away from your bitter rivals, the Boston Bruins, who will be desperately looking for a powerplay quarterback.

Although, I still think the most logical destination for Wisniewski is to go back home to Detroit, I would be more than happy to see Detroit not gain the services of Wisniewski considering their already potent firepower.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


So we've learned quite a bit today on how your Montreal Canadiens defense is shaping up before the free agency frenzy that starts on July 1st.

We know that James Wisniewski is not signing in Montreal after being shipped off to Columbus earlier this afternoon for a 7th round pick (to be upgraded to a 5th round pick should the Blue Jackets succeed in signing him).  We also know that Roman Hamrlik has refused to accept the 1 year deal that Pierre Gauthier offered him.  According to Petr Svoboda, Hamrlik's agent, the dollar amount was decent but the term was not with Hamrlik looking for a 2 to 3 year deal.

Finally, a news release from the Canadiens indicating that Yannick Weber had agreed to a 2 year deal that would pay him $1.7M over the term of the contract.  A cap hit of 850K is reasonable and well-deserved for Weber who continues to develop and showed glimpses of really solid play in the postseason last year.

Although there is a still a slight possibility that Hamrlik could potentially re-sign with the Habs, I would consider that possibility remote.  Considering the lack of free agents this year, I have little doubt that Roman will get his 2 year deal from another team and I don't blame him for going after it.  This is most likely his final NHL contract and he should maximize his earnings before he retires or goes the way of the KHL.  He provided the Habs organization with solid and effective play over his 4 years with the club and was handsomely rewarded for his efforts.


Let me preface this article by saying that my first option if I were Pierre Gauthier would be to re-sign James Wisniewski.  I would be more than willing to give him a 5 year deal paying $5 to $5.5M per year with one stipulation, I wouldn't offer him a no-trade clause.  And if it was absolutely necessary, then I would offer a limited no-trade, one where he can specify a maximum of up to 5 or 6 teams where he would not to be traded to.

I truly believe that having Wiz in your bottom pairing would sufficiently shield him from any minor defensive woes that he may have; yet it would allow for the Habs to have his offensive capabilities available to them on the power-play and whenever they would be trailing in a game.  Wiz would also be the ideal insurance policy on Andrei Markov being healthy.  If Markov were to re-injure his knee, you could then start to think about LTIR for Markov and an eventual trade or buyout of his contract.  Point is, you would have Wisniewski, a capable substitute, under contract and ready to go.  Should Markov show that he has in fact recovered and become his dominant self once again, you could then use Wiz as trade bait at the trade deadline to get that missing piece (whatever it may be at the time).  At worst, you should be able to trade Wiz during the off-season next year and open up enough cap space for the re-signing on Price, Subban and a top 6 forward.

What we don't know is whether or not Gauthier has already attempted all of the above or more only to be rebuffed by Wiz having decided that he would like to test free agency come July 1st.  What we do know is that Gauthier has offered Roman Hamrlik a 1-year deal to re-sign with the Montreal Canadiens and it has been suggested that Roman will make his decision today.  Although Hamrlik would not be my first choice, I have come to conclude that signing Roman Hamrlik would not be such a terrible backup plan.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


In the weeks leading up to free agency, there has been a lot of chatter about how Brooks Laich would be an ideal signing for the Habs on July 1st and why not?

Currently under contract with the Washington Capitals, Laich is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st should the Caps fail to re-sign him before then.  Listed at 6'2" and weighing in at an even 200 lbs., Laich represents that missing component of size and grit, in a forward, that that Habs have been missing for several years.  Of course, it's not just his size that matters but also his knack for getting into the dirty areas and his willingness to deliver a crushing hit to an opponents' D.  If only Benoit Pouliot had some of the heart and edge that Laich possesses.

So, a forward with size and isn't afraid to use it and can put up some decent numbers offensively.  Sounds like a match made in heaven?  Not if you're asking me.

Brooks Laich is one of the most coveted forwards in this year's UFA class that is very thin.  After Brad Richards and Teemu Selanne (who will only re-sign in Anaheim if he does return to play), there is a gap in points produced, to the next group of players, of which Laich belongs.  If we then remove all the players who are moving past their prime and those who do not fit the power-forward profile, we're left with the oft-injured Erik Cole.

All of this just means that for what he gives you, Laich will be overpaid and not just in dollars but also on term.  His agent will be looking for a minimum of a $4M per year deal that extends for 4 years.  And the latter part is what I'd like most Habs fans clamoring for the organization to sign Laich to pay close attention to.  If the Montreal Canadiens, were truly 1 power forward away from contending for the Stanley Cup, then it would be conceivable for them to over-commit to a player in that magnitude.  However, they are not.  And Laich is not a player to overspend on when you're current payroll already has 2 over-inflated contracts in Gomez and Spacek.