Tuesday, February 27, 2007
.....As I was saying....veteran players on the team, following the loss of Craig Rivet, with opponents above and below them all arming up for the stretch drive, and with nobody added to the mix, save for a 4th string goaltender, have to wonder if the front office has packed it in. So they followed that lead tonight in New York. A performance against a depleted Rangers team that has to go down as their worst effort of the year. Coincidence? No way San Jose Rivet. Don't blame the players for this one.
On the one hand they're told that Rivet was expendable (check comments from Souray, Koivu, Higgins and others who feel differently) but the younger defenseman they got in return can be a valuable NHL player. So where the heck is he while Steve Begin tries to play with a foot that's as mashed up as my late Bubby's potato pancakes, and Sergei Samsanov and Chris Higgins are going through more kleenex than a 12 year old Pamela Anderson wanna be?
I thought when he made the deal with San Jose on sunday that Bob Gainey was loading up for another move. It would be nice to know if he came close. The fact that he refused to talk today, while the NHL sells the day as a marketing tool (in Canada anyway) should result in a fine. Perhaps not Lindy Ruff fine territory but a fine nonetheless. Even simple "Yes" or "No" answers would at least tell part of the story.
So, if Gainey couldn't add to the mix, while everybody around him did, it's no surprise that the players responded as if they had been told their work for the season was meaningless. And of all the people around the Canadiens family, none more so than Gainey himself, along with Carbonneau and Muller, should know the ripple down effect of losing a valuable, popular leader at this time of the year. Craig Rivet never wore the 'C' but he was at the least a co-captain.
Maybe by Friday in Buffalo the players will channel their disappointment into anger. Gainey? Maybe by Friday he'll have something to say.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Just came into the office to pick up my bag of tricks, logged on to check some e-mail, and arriving in my Inbox almost simultaneously was a message from The Canadiens that they had traded Craig Rivet to San Jose for Josh Gorges and a first round draft choice next June. This marks the second time a Habs GM has acquired a defenseman named Josh (what-you don't remember Josh DeWolf?)I like Craig Rivet very much. He's the ultimate team player. Clearly not as important on the ice as Andrei Markov and Sheldon Souray. But important nonetheless. More valuable than Francis Boullion. Yes, Bouillion gives you a lot, can skate well, plays bigger than his size, etc. But I'll take Rivet. Bouillion was awful saturday on Long Island. He was knocked off the puck early by Victor Kozlov and played jittery in his own end the rest of the afternoon. Even though he doesn't back down from anybody Bouillion is often seperated from the puck by opposing forwards. While Rivet lacks Bouillion's mobility, and as much as he struggled this season, he's been much more reliable in his own end. And has been more effective on the point on the second power play unit.
The Canadiens will receive a low first round pick and a young NHL ready defenseman for a player who wasn't in their plans. On the surface a good deal for Gainey. But while Atlanta gets Alexei Zhitnik and Keith Tkaczuk, Carolina picks up Anson Carter, the Penguins apparently ready to move on Georges Laracque, the Rangers earlier acquring Sean Avery and Pascal Dupuis and the Islanders recent acquisition of Marc Andre Bergeron makes you wonder if last Thursday's improbable comeback win in Nashville has Gainey re-examing his priorities. Maybe he needs an additional first round pick to eventually deal one in return for an impact type rent-a-player. If not, I can guarantee you that the veterans in the room will be looking at each other wondering if the front office has packed it in.
The victory in Nashville wasn't completely wiped out by the loss to the Islanders but the eastern conference match up had a lot more on the line. Don't sell the Islanders short. They've been a strong five on five team all season. Ted Nolan's record speaks for itself. Weak on the power play, especially without Alexei Yashin, they improved it with the acquisition of Bergeron. Now, after a slow start following his 15 year contract signing Rick DiPietro is playing as well as any goaltender in the east not named Martin Brodeur.
As I was saying in my last post, the Canadiens were looking for a spark from an unexpected source and Jaroslav Halak and Andrei Kostitsyn have supplied it since their arrival from Hamilton. And clearly Michael Ryder and Sergei Samsanov have look more dangerous offensively rather than just offensive. Is it now David Aebischer's turn?
I love the way Halak has looked in the four games he's played. True, he'd love the Jason Blake backhander back, but more than made up for it with several terrific saves the rest of the game. Aebischer getting the start against Toronto surprises me. He better be good. The Canadiens play their following five games on the road. In New York against the Rangers, in Buffalo, in Boston, in Atlanta and in St Louis prior to returning home against...the Islanders.
Coming up in the next day or two a complete wrap up of the first ever Team 990 Sports Personality of the Year luncheon friday at Place D'armes hotel. Saku Koivu was the overwhelming choice-as voted on by listeners-as personality of the year.
Favorite Habs from Craig Rivet's NHL debut (1994-95):
1. Mike Keane
2. Lyle Odelein
3. Turner Stevenson
4. Mark Recchi
5. Patrick Roy
Friday, February 16, 2007
Fire Carbonneau. Fire Gainey. Trade Koivu (but before you do strip him of his captaincy). Fire Muller. Fire Jarvis. (What about Rollie Melanson while you're at it?). Bring in more French guys. Aye yaye aye, here we go again.
And the mental giants in the media have it all figured out. Alex Kovalev is hurt because Sheldon Souray popped him when they got into a fight during the closed door meeting following last saturdays loss to Ottawa. Saku Koivu is playing poorly and taking too many bad penalties because his buddy Craig Rivet was a healthy scratch. Kovalev is telling everybody who hates him to fuck off by saying that he won't continue to play hurt. Bob Gainey is an idiot because he wouldn't go on the record with Journal De Montreal hockey writer Marc De Foy during an encounter on the road at a coffee shop. None of this is true, as far as I know, except for Gainey and DeFoy briefly sharing the same air space in New Jersey.
I'll pick up on this in a moment, but here's an early candidate for e-mail of the year:
From: "Bill Maslen"
Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 3:48 PM
Subject: Montreal Maroons or Morons ?
> People wonder why quality free agents don't come to Montreal? Look no
> further than the dump Samsonov campaign after half a season, or the "is
> Kovalev really hurt" propaganda running amok in the public and the local
> media. Why have the captain and Les Boyz "run out of gas"? Why are the
> goalies looking more like Theodore than "Close the door"? Has the coach
> lost the room? What a joke folks, you need to relax!
> We're begging Gainey to trade our biggest offensive weapon on defence
since Larry Robinson instead of trying to find out if he will stay here at a
> reasonable cost. The minute you become a star in Montreal, you're never
good enough any more. People forget that Guy Lafleur was booed towards the end
of his run here, and we all know what happened with St. Patrick.
> At this rate, we will be holding a 40th anniversary of our last Stanley
Cup in a few years if the fans and media around here don't get a grip on
reality and develop the patience and understanding necessary to develop a real
positive atmosphere to draw players here instead of repel them.
> Please give these guys a break and be realistic with your expectations.
> Hounding and chasing the stars away is not solving anything, and frankly,
I can't wait until Carbo has had enough of the dumb questions and flips the
> bird at us again.
Nicely done Bill.
Guy Carbonneau is going to develop into a terrific NHL coach. He's learning, like Claude Julien before him, how to do it on a daily basis, without the previous pro experience that Julien had. His hand-picked assistant Kirk Muller is spending his first pro season behind a bench. Mistakes have been made. Not fireable offenses.
Save for comments strictly relating to possible NHL rule changes (to Mathias Brunet of La Presse) Bob Gainey has not spoken publicly since the death of his daughter Laura. He never comments on trade rumours and is hardly going to issue one of those dreaded votes of confidence for his coach. So DeFoy and his allies are insulted. Like that's got anything to do with the state of the team.
Has Gainey made mistakes? Absolutely. Ribeiro for Ninimma doesn't loook good. I thought he would make a trade following that awful loss to the Leafs in Toronto following the all star break. Not knowing what's been offered, it looks like he might have waited too long. Perhaps showing too much confidence, especially in some of the players he acquired.
Let's take a closer look at some key forwards on the Canadiens and what could have been reasonably expected of them offensively(De Foy did a nice job this week pointing out that the top four forwards on the Habs this season are a combined minus 57):
Actual Typical Diff
Koivu 45 pts (47) (-2)
Kovalev 38 (46) (-8)
Ryder 36 (43) (-7)
Samsanov 40 (23) (-17)
The first table is how many points each player currently has. The second is where they should be based on a typical NHL season through their respective careers. Clearly, there is some juice missing. After scoring 25 & 30 goals in his first two seasons, at age 26, Michael Ryder has found the unlikely ability to slide backwards. Kovalev has been playing hurt and Samsanov has been the biggest free agent bust since Mark Davis. http://www.retrosheet.org/
So did Carbonneau lose the room when Rivet was scratched? Or merely his captain?(a captain who beat an aggressive form of cancer, nearly lost an eye while his team went down without him, but still gets dumped on because he's not Vincent Lecavalier) Did Cristobal Huet fail to get home by midnight? Even without Richard Zednick and Jan Bulis are there still too many Europeans on the team? Not enough French guys? Oh, so many deep questions to ponder.
For two seasons in a row the Canadiens have hit a wall at Christmas time. Last year they were re-energized by the coaching change and Cristobal Huet. This year, it appears a nasty virus has, in part, knocked them toward the bottom of the eastern conference. I've spoken to several respected scouts in the last week or so and theyre all in agreement. The Habs' gas tank is on empty. Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever told me this week the same thing happened to his team until Jaroslav Halak stood on his head and stole a couple of games. Barring a dramatic player move or two a second wind this time around is going to have to come from an unexpected source. Halak? Andrei Kostitsyn? Samsanov? David Aebischer?
And Darcy Tucker is about to re-join the Leafs. This could get worse before it gets better.
Friday, February 9, 2007
I know there was a lot of snickering when we announced the death of Anna Nicole Smith Thursday afternoon at 3:55 but I just felt sad. I had met her years ago at the old CIQC studio in Verdun when she paid an early morning visit to Jim Duff's show. She could barely stand let alone speak. As she slurred her way through a quicker than expected chat with Duff I felt a lot of anger build up towards the P.R. flak she was with. How could they allow her to embarass herself on the air like that? I don't remember what she was selling (other than herself) but she was an absolute wreck. I don't know what she's done professionally since that bizarre morning six or seven years ago, other than realize she had become a joke. But there's nothing funny about susbtance abuse. First thing I thought of when she died was how she had lasted this long.
Puts the Canadiens slide into perspective a little, huh? Maybe his critics ought to cut Pierre McGuire a little slack now that Christobal Huet looks merely mortal. Back in november McGuire said publicly that while it was obvious Huet was playing exceptionally well he wanted to wait until the 60 game mark before hopping on the Huet as star-goalie bandwagon. Maybe he
IS just good, not great. Nothing wrong with good.
Michael Ryder might end up scoring 40 goals somewhere else (John Leclair light?) but I'd rather see him go if it means prying a Peter Forsberg or a Bill Guerin away in time for the playoffs. The Canadiens have a lot of similar offensive minded players in their system, not as big as Ryder, but definately quicker. And organizational depth in goal. Bob Gainey has to pull the trigger before it's too late.
I caught the first of a series of sold out shows by Arcade Fire at the Ukranian Federation Hall (corner of Hutchison and Fairmount) tuesday night.. I love what the band is doing, giving back to its core fans before they next see them in the cavernous Bell Center. It was fun to be there in the cramped old place. Win Butler and Company may have produced the best Wall of Sound since Phil Spector but his vocals were buried in the mix of 10 instruments on stage. Bruce Hills of Just for Laughs had the same reaction but we were in the extreme minority. The acoustic-based new songs from "Neon Bible"sounded beautiful.
So the old debate about whether we'll ever see a current male pro athlete in a team sport come out was rekindled this week when former NBA center John Amaeche announced he is gay(through a taped interview with ESPN to be seen monday). As I stated on the air, I hope to be around when it does happen. The stated argument against such a development is the extreme negative reaction to that possibility, from teammates and "fans". Do you honestly think any amount of verbal abuse heaped on such an athlete would be worse than what Jackie robinson went through 60 years ago? Or Hank Aaron while he was chasing Babe Ruth's ghost in 1974? I think we will see a brave guy, backed by a brave organization(no jokes about the tomahawk chop) reach that point where player and team see the greater good. And I think it'll happen when that athlete, whomever it might be, is in the final year of his career.
Having said all that, it's very sad that members of the media in this city, and in this country, are not yet prepared themselves to come out. And I don't mean just the sports media. I am aware of a few openly gay sportswriters and radio hosts in the United States, but outside of Richard (Bugs) Burnett in Hour where are they on this side of the border? Reminds me of my early days in this business when I worked in the same building as an FM Radio News Director who's behavior at company Christmas parties was legendary. Yet he always went home to his wife and kids. Until he could no longer wait for "special occasions". So he got divorced and came out. Another well known male media type used to invite guys out to strip joints after last call to get them worked up enough so he could pleasure them (yes, I was invited once). How sad, I thought, to have to keep up a front, to live a lie, and for whom exactly? The guy was awfully lonely. Never made it to 60.
Had the great pleasure to interview Packers legend Jerry Kramer("Instant Replay") prior to the Super Bowl. In the course of our conversation about the Packers dynasty of the 60's Jerry talked about how many players of his generation were in dire financial need. Abandoned by the current NFL owners and Players Association. I was outraged to learn that one of his best friends was getting a pension of $126 a month. Sounded even worse than the NHL pension fund fiasco that the late Carl Brewer battled for years to correct. Sure enough, moments after we spoke, Jerry had a press conference which too many media outlets, especially those directly connected with the NFL, chose to downplay or ignore completely. But among those who were listening was one of America's finest columnists, Ray Ratto of the San Fransisco Chronicle:
Favorite NFL stars of the 60's:
1. Jim Brown
2. Joe Namath
3. Jerry Kramer
4. Daryle Lamonica
5. Gayle Sayers
6. Bob Hayes
7. Roman Gabriel
8. Johnny Unitas
9. Dick Butkus
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Meandering thoughts while basking in the glow of yet another easy win over Global at the Chili Bowl serving table at
-Doesn’t anybody work at Global?
-Wouldn’t you like to see Peyton Manning stuff one of his footballs into a certain Gazette columnist who shall remain nameless?
-I can see why the Habs coaching staff loses patience with Alex Perezhogin. A terribly lazy penalty deep in the offensive zone led to the Islanders comeback win Saturday afternoon
-Are you beginning to think that maybe Saku Koivu’s left eye problem is finally affecting his play?
-I would have benched Michael Ryder and Chris Higgins for their inaction Thursday in
-Pierre McGuire standing between Jarko Ruutu and Garth Murray was priceless. But where was
-Don Koharski dishing out 27 minutes in penalties to Sheldon Souray and zero to Colby Armstrong was the worst call I’ve seen in years, or the worst since Bruce Froemming worked the plate at Olympic Stadium
-Why doesn’t the
-As I predicted earlier, the Chicago Bears will be nothing more than tackling dummies standing in the way of a Colts Super Bowl win, but 430 net total yards to 265? 24 first downs to 11? And 38:04 time of possession to ? It was almost too easy for the Colts.
-Joseph Addai would have been a strong choice for MVP but it’s Manning who directs the offense, tough to argue with his selection.
-I’m impressed by Michel Therrien’s seemingly new-found ability to stay calm. Let’s see if he remains so at playoff time.
-Aren’t the Canadiens a much better team when Aaron Downey plays?
-Now that Manning has won his championship, whom do the critics attack next, Steve Nash?