In case you fell out of a dimensional rift in the last few hours, Sam Gagner taken 6th in the 2007 NHL Entry draft, and restricted free agent at the end of the season, had a good night last night. An eight point night to be specific. The last time that happened he hadn’t been born. He shares the Edmonton Oilers record of 8 points with a couple guys who’s names you know so I won’t bore you with them. Here’s the video of last nights fun:

Am I the only one greatly amused by the Mcguire for Canadiens GM movement that seems to be sweeping the hockey world? Honestly, I know he annoys some people by being on the air. This won’t help. He’s likely have a press conference daily any way, and how long do we really think it will take the Bell Centre faithful to eat him alive and force Molson to replace him? In his extensive tour of duty as a coach back before the lockout, the CBA, Sidney Crosby or the ends of the Stanley Cup droughts in Chicago or Boston he lasted all of six months. No coaching and managing are not the same task but Mcquires capacity for the first has to be used as a benchmark or ballpark figure to estimate his ability at the second. It’s realistically the only benchmark. His only other head coaching experience was in the ECHL, another team that failed to reach the playoffs under him.

The other slice of the “Habs need help” pie is just as hilarious. That being the Patrick Roy for coach. First the thought of Roy bellicose aura not killing and eating Mcquires ego is just too much for words. Anyone thinking the two personalities could coexists  as anything other than a Jersey Shore gone hockey reality show is deluded. Saint Patrick is owner, general manager, and coach of his QMJHL Remparts. That isn’t hugely uncommon, but I don’t think Roy ever shared the spotlight at the NHL level except when he went to Colorado. I really, really don’t know how well he’d do in either Montreal or Colorado where rumors surface every six months about him arriving to drive the suckage from the mile high city. Assuming he jumps to the NHL, either team is pretty bad and unquestionably need fixing, but if he’s the right guy is a different question entirely.

The upcoming NHL Entry draft will soon emerge from the shadow of the NHL trade deadline and playoffs. The unsurprising, but still important news that this draft class contains almost no forwards worth knowing is pretty apparent from who has been talked about. Dumba, Murray, Finn, Keokeok, Trouba, Ceci, Finn, Reilly, Reinhart are just a few of the young men who have been mentioned as potential top 15 picks on multiple lists this season, and all of them are defensemen. That’s pretty amazing given the aversion some NHL general managers to drafting defensemen. Knowing several of the GM’s who will be drafting early, expect no more than 5 defensemen to go in the top ten, three is probably more likely. The only thing I can see changing that would be those GM’s trading their firsts for NHL ready prospects or players.

When the NHL CBA talks eventually become the top news in the hockey world, don’t think for a minute this will be as simple as owners vs players. This will be big market teams vs small, older players vs younger, stars vs role players. Divisions will center around revenue sharing both among teams and with players. Escrow figures and who if anyone will be be exempt from them are a likely topic as well. One of the favorite topics of pundits over the last month or two surrounding the next collective bargaining agreement is if there will or won’t be a one time get buyout period similar to the NBA’s to rid teams of bad contracts. An issue that might or might not come up is Olympic play. With the 2014 Olympics looming, some players will be very eager to represent their country even if the NHL doesn’t formally break for the festivities. Realignment will also end up on the table. I would not be terribly surprised to see ownership pushing for a unilateral right to rearrange divisions and schedule formats.

Future NHL Head Coach Shawn Thornton has a solution the Boston Bruins current woes:

"It’s simple: show up." - Shawn Thornton, after loss to Carolina on what the Bruins can do differently http://t.co/ctWNcQnP
@ThorntonSays
Shawn Thornton Says

Also, tweet me with #BeMyBrain and ideas for my weekly contribution to Hockey This Week. You can also comment leave your suggestions in the comments here.

This is part two, part one which had 8-10 and an honorable mention is here.

Number seven: Mad For Marchand

One of the most mesmerizing stories for fans was the hellion from Halifax making the team. He wasn’t supposed to. Arniel, Hamill, Suave, Caron, Colborne were all counted to be well ahead of Marchand on the depth chart. Legend has it he told Julien before the season started he was going to score twenty goals. He started the season on the fourth line. Unless you’re the Lemieux-Jagr era Penguins, not many teams have 20 goal scorers on the fourth line. He managed to just barely squeeze Daniel Paille out of playing time early in the season. Over the course of the regular season he got under the skin of opponents, into the stat sheet often and into the hearts of millions of Bruins fans. In the playoffs he put himself in company with Lemieux and Roenick for rookie goal scoring in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Number six: Pacioretty Hit

No other hit was as analyzed, dramatized and polarizing in the last decade of NHL hockey as this one. From the word go Chara was vilified, the Montreal populace whipped into a fury by the most irresponsible media in north America. The police were involved, an investigation continued for months, and months not ending until November for an incident that occurred back in March.  The NHL concluded there was no intent to injure, Chara was not suspended or fined, but so hostile was the environment that when the playoffs started and the Bruins were set to square off with the Canadiens they didn’t even stay in the province and went instead to Lake Placid New York for practice and rest in peace and safety.

Number 5: Marc Savard

One of the saddest stories in recent memory for the Bruins played out as the team climbed to the greatest heights. Marc Savard had come back earlier than he should have from his concussion to take part in the disaster that ended the previous season. He missed more than twenty games to start the new season, and then was hit by former teammate Matt Hunwick. The hit was clean, but it was a clarifying moment that Savard should not play again soon.

As time passed it became apparent “not soon” could transition to “not again”. As more time expired updates went from “no change” to “still experiencing symptoms”. Undoubtedly, the loss of Savard led to the Kaberle trade as Savards offensive wizardly was the corner stone of the Bruins powerplay. As he began to improve slightly he made appearances at games, sitting with Bergeron in the luxury box when Bergeron sat out two games during his own concussion. As spring turned to summer Savard took to twitter (@MSavvy91) and become one of the most entertaining players with welcome insight into the Bruins, and a knack for knowing who’s going to get hot.

Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about who has the greatest influence on a teams personality. Go ahead, take a look.  I don’t see way what I said then was untrue, but it was not complete. I had hoped to follow it up sooner, but well real life and Stanley Cup run got in the way. I’m only sorry one of those happened.

It’s undeniable that there’s more than one way to build a winning team. Every general manager on the planet believes they have the right recipe. Some of them are even right. Part of the winning is just dumb luck, but only part, While the general manager, all his appointees and luck play a part in what a team will look like, just like cooking at very high or very low altitude the environment will heavily influence what a team can be made of.

The last four Stanley Cup champions clearly illustrate the differences in how one can win. Most recently the Boston Bruins did it with great goaltending, stout defense, raw physicality, questionable special team and depth. The Chicago Blackhawks did it with an amazingly deep cadre of skaters, blueline and forward lines were stacked like nothing since the Roy/Bourque Avalanche, and in the crease they had a rookie goalie who was occasionally average. The Pittsburgh Penguins won with firepower, firepower, and more firepower. The Detroit Red Wings won with a not especially physical, opportunistic, puck possession team that played a smooth skating game in front of a six week star between the pipes.

Ask each of those teams fan bases which team plays the best style. Each group will overwhelmingly tell you it’s their team. If you ask the fans of the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils or Minnesota Wild the same question the answers will be very similar. Ask any Bruins fan how they’d react to the knights of north station suddenly playing like the Habs and be prepared for stream of invective of astonishing strength. Likewise if you offer to turn the Wild into the Broad Street Bullies, you’ll be met with heartfelt but probably more politely expressed disgust. I don’t think anyone needs to ask fans in Vancouver and Chicago how much they’d adore swapping teams.

Part of the expectations of each fanbase is history and tradition. The Canadiens have been built around goaltenders for decades. The Boston Bruins have lived and died by great defensemen. The Pittsburgh Penguins success has been leashed to highly talented centers. You don’t want to be a bad goalie in Montreal. Heaven help a poor defenseman in Boston,

The longer these traditions extend, the harder they are to move. I don’t think you could market the Red Wings team that spanned the lockout in Boston. For established teams this is both blessing and curse. If you win the traditional way, you probably won’t hold fan support much better than if you’re mediocre for years. For teams that haven’t won the Cup, or who have had unstable ownership and no real identity establishing one that will keep fans in the seats, the proshop and at the tv is huge.

The expansion teams, even the long established ones who haven’t won a Cup or two or haven’t had sustained high level play have the most finicky markets for a reason; there’s nothing for a supporter to cling to. The Senators are an example of this. When they first came into the league they were built on great skating, rugged defense and a remorseless attack. Now, they have some skilled players but no depth and less identity.  The Canucks are another example of this. If they had won the cup last June, even as bad as he played the calls for moving Luongo (who isn’t the reason they lost) wouldn’t be anywhere near as loud or frequent. Don’t believe me? Look at the way the Boston media has reacted to Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Claude Julien this year versus two or three years ago.

The greatest rivalry in sports rejoins the fray. As always PuckSage, PuckSage.com, the NHL, The Bruins, Canadiens and anyone else you might try and blame your problems on assume no responsibility for your actions but promise to Like the Youtube video of you doing something regrettable.

Take One Drink:

For each fist pump of Rene Rancourt, or one for each bar in which an alternate singer misses a note.

Each time Carey Price is shown doing the Dryden pose.

Tim Thomas is shown smiling.

Someone mentions Perry Pearn

The words “hot seat” or “hangover” are used to describe either team.

Take Two Drinks:

Each time the Subban hit on Marchand is played.

For each replay of video from this springs playoffs.

For each injury injury mentioned.

If a Montreal skater switches between forward and defense at any point in the game.

Take Three Drinks:

If there is a post whistle scrum involving P.K. Subban and no one gets between him and whichever Bruins player he’s annoyed.

If there is a replay of Jack or Bricks best lines from the playoff series.

Each time the broadcast makes it to a commercial break without mention to the Chara-Pacioretty hit from last season.

Take Four Drinks:

If the all time record for the teams is mentioned.

Someone mentions the last time the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

Cole scores a goal.

Pouliot scores a goal.

The pain of hearing about “The Kids” in Edmonton drives you to needing pain relief.

Video or screen shots of something that happened in the game make it to twitter or a major blog before the end of the game.

Skip A Drink:

When Subban or Marchand are on the ice and someone else on their team is doing most of the jawing.

If Chara loses it because someone took liberties with a team mate.

 

This series will cover all thirty teams and go over the most important player, and player who’s performance most needs to improve to help the team succeed.

Habsland is always equipped with its own view of the universe. The Brain Trust added a couple pieces, let Hamerlik walk, but didn’t seem able to dump any of its more unfortunate contracts when teams were dying to get to the cap floor, nor did they seem too keen on any of their prospects.  None of the roster moves really strike anyone as well, impacting.

 

High Card:

Carey Price had the type of year last season that should fill every Canadiens fan with glee. He played a huge number of games, put up great numbers and then improved them in the post season. If the team came equipped with more than one potential goal scorer it might have been them and not the Boston Bruins meeting the Vancouver Canucks for an All-Canada All-Riots Stanley Cup Finals.

Wild Card:

PK Subban has is entering his second full season in the NHL. With a very solid 38 points on an offensively challenged team he’s clearly got the goods to juice the offense almost at will. With 124 PIMS that included 2 ten minute misconducts, nine tripping calls and six slashing infractions discipline is something he’s going to have to tighten up. With increased powerplay time expected and a full year for the coaches to access him its clear he’ll be given enough rope to hang himself or succeed as he can.

 

This series will cover all thirty teams and go over the most important player, and player who’s performance most needs to improve to help the team succeed.

 

If there is a team more in need of a post season cup of coffee than Ohio’s boys of winter I can’t think of who they might be. With their additions since their season ended in early April, and the chance of a sparkling rookie breaking the line up they have a good chance of making it happen. With the new deal that will lower the financial burden of the team and keep them in the city longer they should also have a little more flexibility to retain talent.

High Card:

While Captain Rick Nash is undoubtedly more talented, than Jeff Carter the latter is the key to the season. Jeff Carter has been on high end teams with a legitimate shot at winning the cup. No forward on the BlueJackets has more recent playoff experience, and some have never been on a team that has won a playoff game. Carters experience will need to be passed on to his new teammates and how much how well he does this will affect the teams post season hopes and performance can’t be understated.

Wild Card:

Of all the major deals struck over the summer, James Wisniewski received perhaps the most discussed.  It is easy to see why when you hit the stat sheet. His salary this season will be more than twice what it was last year. Despite having debuted in the NHL in the 05-06 season last season was the first year he played more than 70 games (75), and the only season he’s had more than 31 points. This is also the first multi-year deal since his entry level deal. On the plus side of the ledger when he got the chance to play quality minutes in an offensive role last season it took him just 43 games to equal his best NHL production level previously achieved in 69 games. He also managed to collect points in a hard fought series against the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. It’s pretty simple, if last year was the real James Wisniewski Columbus just got a new cannon for the blueline. If last year was an aberration, they may never live his contract down and heads will likely roll.

It would appear that Peter Chiarelli seems to enjoy yanking the rug out from the feet of his Northeast Division rivals. Over the past few years the Boston Bruins have signed from or traded from a lot of  so players. Michael Ryder just departed for the Dallas Stars, he was a Canadien. Marc Savard I’m sure has a deep, sharp memory of another former Habs and Bruins forward Steve Begin, who not long before becoming a Bruins fourth liner broke the star centers back.

Daniel Paille was the first trade between the Bruins and Sabres not very long ago and that has worked out well. One shouldn’t forget how well the Tomas Kaberle trade worked out. For a mere first round pick, second round pick and former first round pick the Bruins got worst powerplay in NHL playoff history, a four and a half million dollar contract, and a fifth defenseman. The Senators discard Chris Kelly has been a very solid contributor.

But today, Benoit Pouliot was added to the Bruins roster. For those who don’t recall exactly who he is Jack Edwards provides a great refresher.

 

While I’m willing to give nearly anyone the benefit of the doubt, it should be noted that of all the players I mentioned as potential good matches that no where on the list was a guy who has a career goals high of 17, seems not to be able to stick with a club, and isn’t especially gifted in any aspect of the game. Working the powerplay isn’t his specialty, penalty kill is not his specialty. Hitting and physical play, also not very notable. Shot blocking and penalty killing can also be crossed off the list. As can goal scoring, play making and any other statistically valid piece.

Even before the series started, we’ve seen the temperament of the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins on display. I’m not sure the contrast could have been more stark had it been planned this way.  On ice the two teams have played hard with one team getting a suspension for a blatantly dirty hit, collected embellishment penalties and oh yes bitten the other. The other team has responded with hard checks, some taunting and focus on the game.

Off the ice the gulf has been even wider. When Claude Julien faced the media after two of his players, both leaders, both well known to everyone did something he didn’t care for he stated what it was and said it had been dealt with. When the Bruins lost a game, Julien was candid about what needed to be fixed. His opposite number and one time defensive partner, answered nearly all of last nights questions with a persnickety “it doesn’t matter”, he said it enough times I’m sure some viewers flipping over from Monday Night Raw thought they were being treated to a parody of the song by The Rock and Wyclef.

When Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron, an offense for which other players have been suspended, Vigneault couldn’t seem to see anything wrong. Despite the league dropping the ball, the only comment Juline and company made was “we support the leagues decision”. When Aaron Rome planted Nathan Horton on the blueline, more of the same. Julien and the Bruins saying they needed to move forward, Henrik Sedin, Aaron Rome, and Vigneault saying they didn’t see anything wrong, that it was unfair someone else wasn’t suspended in a different series for a hit they stated was similar.  This of course immediately after the Burrows non-suspension.

The pissy and well rehearsed Sedin ‘rebuttal’ of Mike Milbury has been well covered. Luongo’s adventures in tire pumping too have gotten all the electrons anyone could need.  Is it any wonder that this series has raised the status of the Montreal Canadiens and their fans in the eyes of many Bruins fans?

Zdeno Chara long reputed to be the most physically fit man in the entire National Hockey League hardly looks it. For the first time since his arrival in Boston he looks spent. I’ve met him on the streets after games, seen him interviewed between periods and after games where he logged Bourque like minutes and never seen him look so exhausted.

During the Montreal series Chara was held out of a game with an undisclosed illness. A short time later during an interview on the local sports radio Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli stated it was a case where he was less than 50% and then revised his estimate down further stating the Bruins Captain was less than twenty five percent. Having seen him look stiff, awkward and a bare shade lighter than Celtic green, this was hardly surprising. But even in the games following his return he didn’t look like he has in the first two games of the Vancouver series.

The operative question is, what’s wrong? Given the funk Lucic and Recchi have both been in you have to wonder if it’s contagious. Even when Chara hasn’t looked gassed, he’s been uncharacteristically lacking in physical play. Worse, he’s been on the losing end of hits more times than you can count on your fingers in the last two games, a total that often doesn’t happen in two months of the regular season. In the last two games he’s recorded just two hits. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three times he’s been knocked from his feet.While Ryan Kesler has been on hand to do the knocking at least once, its still unusual.

The most popular bi of speculation running around social media seems to be mono. With several younger members of the team, and Thomas, Recchi and Savard all having children, there’s even a reasonable chance its an accurate guess. If they were playing in Colorado one might speculate its the altitude getting to him, even at his height, but Vancouver is like Boston just about sea level. While e coli or other intestinal issues seem unlikely, the extreme paleness visible on Chara late in game two especially makes it a reasonable guess. Various forms of anemia are also a possibility, but I do wonder if we’ll ever actually know. One things for sure, whatever is wrong is effecting not just his physical stamina, but his mental sharpness. The overtime goal does not happen if he’s tired but focused, and certainly doesn’t happen if he’s healthy and focused.