When the Montreal Canadiens punted Brian Gionta and Josh Georges the team not only dumped their most recent captain but two thirds of their most visible leaders. On and off the ice in good seasons, bad stretches of team play, and when coaching came complete with three rings, a master of ceremonies and a big top, these two were a constant part of the equation on the positive side.

When Gionta inked his deal with the Buffalo Sabres, one of the most scrutinized captaincies in the NHL in one of the most intense media markets in the world. The question of who can replace him is a separate one than who should replace him. This isn’t a franchise at the bottom of the well that needs all the publicity it can get. There’s no freshly drafted future of the franchise who has oodles of talent and no bad history to trot out before the media.

Many will point to the flashiest player on the roster in situations like this and say yep that’s the guy!. In which case you’re looking at two or three players, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, and Alex Galchenyuk lead that race. Probably in that order. An argument can be made for David Desharnais, who likely lands the francophone vote as well.

Taking a look at each of those candidates many list Subban as the front runner, he’s dynamic, he’s fast, strong, he can score almost at will, he’s young, he seemingly adores the media. On the negative side he’s still got holes in his defensive game, is prone to blowing his top on the ice, and is about the living definition of lightening rod.

Max Pacioretty has been the goal scorer in Montreal for the past few seasons, he’s a bigger body, has a blistering shot and elevates his game against rivals, and at 25 he has years and years ahead of him on the ice. On the negative side not only is he not a local franophone he’s yet another American, has failed in every season of his career to play a full slate of games, and a lot of the penalties he takes can be construed as the “selfish” variety.

Brendan Gallagher is young, smooth skating, possesses a quick shot, willingness to go anywhere for the puck and plays much bigger than his size. From the other perspective, he’s developing a reputation much akin to that of Alex Burrows and Steve Ott, and putting the C on that type of player says things about your franchise. There’s also the notable divisions that have been evident on this team in the last three or four years including the one along age lines.

Alex Galchenyuk has oodles of skill, is a solid powerplay contributor, and may turn into an elite forward. On the negative side you’ve got everything that can be said against Pacioretty and much of what can be said against Gallagher in addition to having the ill grace to have a Russian father.

Skill wise, no one could really fault a choice to honor any of these men. But in a market like Montreal, or any of the other original six markets, it isn’t just about skill. That’s why if I were passing the C along to its next guardian, I’d also consider what their on ice temperament is like, how well respected they are by players around the NHL, and of course looking carefully at where I think the teams window is.

For that reason the obvious choice is none of the above. While giving the captaincy to at least two of those named above would not be a mistake, that doesn’t mean a better choice can’t and shouldn’t be made. That better choice is Tom Plekanec.

The rumors surrounding Evander Kane have been higher hip waders for two plus years. There’s his supposed off ice issues. There’s the rift that is said to exist between he and management and or coaches. There’s the fact that fans in 29 cities not named Winnipeg that are home to NHL franchises would love to have him. There is also the fact that the Jets are more likely to be tanking in February than looking to add depth for a playoff run.

The latest round of hot air and hearty keystrokes has Kane, the 30 goal scoring 22 year old who is 3rd in his draft class in goals and points headed to Montreal. On the exhaustive list of players the Jets would supposedly get in return for him are Max Pacioretty. Such a trade would free up an additional three quarters of a million in cap space the Jets don’t particularly need. What else it would do for the Jets is unknown.

The question is what is Evander Kane worth? If you use the Phil Kessel benchmark of two first and a second round pick, you may be at least in the right ball park. Kane has not scored as many goals in one season as Kessel has, but he’s also never had as much offense around him. On the plus side for Kane is much more physicality, no history of cancer and an ability to shrug off media attention.

If your the Winnipeg Jets, the return for your best young talent needs to be high. The teams needs are pretty noticeably: a center capable of excelling in the one or two slot, a long term solution in goal, and a 22+ minute a night defensive defenseman who can help protect whoever is in net from some of the NHL’s top talent. Getting experienced number one centers is not easy, just look at the number of guys the Calgary Flames have tried to put into that position. Right now the Anaheim Ducks have an embarrassment of riches in net, and one of their younger goalies would be good mix for a Winnipeg team still building. Dan Girardi who is a UFA this off-season fits the mold of a shutdown defender, as does the Boston Bruins Dennis Seidenberg.

Another way for the Winnipeg Jets organization to approach this might be to aim for adding quality second line and second pairing depth via the draft. If they could swing a deal for Kane and five or even four relatively high second round picks they might just be better off long term. In Atlanta as the Thrashers or now Winnipeg as the Jets the franchise has never been known for its depth. Is this the time to go for it? As it looks very much like they will have at least one top ten draft pick of their own in the near future, it might just be.

The Canadiens:

Are clearly trying to get Carey Price into a rhythm early. In the last month of last season he edged away from the solid pace he’d set the first two thirds of the season. Douglas Murray, Jarred Tinordi, and Darren Dietz are all auditioning for defensive partners and call up priority. The forward group stretches the definition of NHL veteran just a tiny bit by including “puncher” Nick Tarnasky who last set foot in the NHL in the 2009-10 season and Ryan White has a similar PIMs to Points ratio. Max Pacioretty who led the team in scoring in the regular season and was badly battered in the playoffs is back on the ice. Most of the rest are late round picks, and undrafted players.

Goalies:

  • 31- Carey Price
    65- Robert Mayer

Defensemen:

  • 6- Douglas Murray
    24- Jarred Tinordi
    26- Josh Gorges
    55- Francis Bouillon
    76- P.K. Subban
    84- Darren Dietz

Forwards:

  • 32- Travis Moen
  • 37- Gabriel Dumont
  • 45- Michael Blunden
  • 48- Daniel Brière
  • 51- David Desharnais
  • 53- Ryan White
  • 60- Christian Thomas
  • 67- Max Pacioretty
  • 71- Louis Leblanc
  • 72- Nick Tarnasky
  • 75- Charles Hudon
  • 86- Stefan Fournier

Boston Bruins:

While most observers expect Johnson to be the backup to starter Tuukka Rask in Boston at least to start the season, the job won’t be handed to him if he isn’t at least adequate. Adam McQuaid will be in the novel position of the most veteran defenseman on the Bruins roster, in fact he’ll have more NHL experience than all of the other blueliners combined. Ben Youds is an undrafted, right shooting Minnesota born college alumni. The forward group is very interesting. New to the team are Jarome Iginla and Matt Fraser, Rob Flick and Carl Soderberg both joined the roster late last season. Craig Cunningham, Alex Fallstrom, Ryan Spooner, and Anthony Camara are all prospects that will be looking to make the team

Goalies:

  • Chad Johnson
  • Malcolm Subban

Defensemen:

  • Matt Bartkowski
  • Tommy Cross
  • Torey Krug
  • Adam McQuaid
  • Kevan Miller
  • Zach Trotman
  • Ben Youds

Forwards:

  • Anthony Camara
  • Craig Cunningham
  • Alex Fallstrom
  • Rob Flick
  • Matt Fraser
  • Jarome Iginla
  • Nick Johnson
  • David Krejci
  • Milan Lucic
  • Daniel Paille
  • Carl Soderberg
  • Ryan Spooner
  • Shawn Thornton

Anyone expecting much out of this game is delusional. At best you can expect a few mights, the Habs fighters are answered by Shawn Thornton, and Milan Lucic, Anthony Camara while not large has dropped the gloves a few times, and even Ryan Spooner warned New England Hockey Journal’s Kirk Luedeke not to leave him off the list:

Ryan Spooner chastises Kirk Luedeke for leaving him off the fighters list. from twitter

Ryan Spooner chastises Kirk Luedeke for leaving him off the fighters list.

The Montreal Canadiens had an impressive regular season edging the Boston Bruins for the division title. Second place in the east was their reward for a job well done. By April the injury bug was already on first name basis with the whole organization. A decimated team went up against the Senators in the first round and bowed out in five games. The playoffs certainly didn’t end the way they wanted, but the regular season has to be counted a ringing success. P.K. Subban went from a contract dispute to a Norris Trophy winner in less than 50 games, Andrei Markov did the seemingly impossible and remained healthy for 48 straight games as well. Max Pacioretty led the team in scoring. Rookies Brendan Gallagher, and Alex Galchnyuk brought intensity, skill, and much needed scoring to the team.

When you enter a season looking to bounce off the eastern conference floor, you can’t ask for much more. This off season they added Danny Briere with a two year deal, and former San Jose Shark and Pittsburgh Penguin Douglas Murray on the defensive end. Looming over the team is an impending cap crunch. If the salary cap stays roughly the same, they are going to need to shed salary to be cap compliant in 2014-5. We saw that work to the advantage of the Blackhawks in the first of their most recent championships, can the Canadiens do that?

This season opens with a divisional rival visiting. The Maple Leafs pay a visit on October 1st, and the bleu, blanc, and rouge next host the Philadelphia Flyers before a three game tour of Western Canada. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks will all play host to the Habs. The only back to back set is in Alberta, and that’s after four days off and then there’s a two day break before meeting the other team named for residents of Canada.

Number of days 1-5:

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: Canucks

Weakest opponent: Flames

Home games: 2

Projected points: 7

October promises to be a character test month for the Canadiens. There aren’t many top tier teams on their schedule. Only five of the teams they square off with were in the playoffs last year. Eight of their games are at home, with just five away in the seasons opening 15%. In the opening month, of those non playoff teams the Flyers and Oilers can be said to have improved, while the Flames and Stars are arguably only different than last year.

The biggest obstacle to this teams success lies within their own organization. The conflicts at ice level that received so much attention two seasons ago, did not appear to have been resolved at the end of the playoffs. The rumor mill insists those are not the only conflicts in the organization either. If the majority of the gentlemen working in the CH can pull together, there really isn’t a ceiling on what this team can do.

Filling out the Team USA roster will require a mix of youth, international experience, and attitude. The Russians, the Canadians, and the upper echelon of European teams will not be intimidated by half the roster returning, or even two thirds. Part of what will be needed is a bit of familiarity, so anyone who has played with likely players wins the tie breaker over complete outsiders.

Top Priority:

  • Craig Anderson, he’s played with Erik Johnson, he’s the best goaltender in the NHL this season, and he’s got enough of a different style from both Miller and Quick that if the coach has to make a change, the opposition will have to make adjustments.
  • Dustin Byfuglien, big body, can play defense and forward, has won the Stanley Cup has played with Patrick Kane.
  • Jason Pominville, an infusion of skill is needed and this guy has it.
  • John Carlson, is highly talented, knows the tendencies of several of the big names from some of the other national teams.
  • Max Pacioretty has turned into one of the most interesting players in the NHL. Almost a point per game player on a team that has been injury prone over the last two seasons.

Priority:

  • Kevin Shattenkirk, has played well in the very defensive system in St Louis, has also played in the more free wheeling Colorado system in the past.
  • Seth Jones, has won World Junior gold, will likely be part of team USA for years to come, even if he only plays seven or eight minutes a game, good experience for the future.
  • Alex Galchenyuk, has played with Jones internationally, and plays with Pacioretty on the Habs.
  • Rob Scuderi, no international experience, but has won Stanley Cup’s in two radically different systems, the Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, among the leaders for US born defenseman in shorthanded ice time.
  • James van Riemsdyk has had solid international experience, currently playing with 2010 Silver Medalist Phil Kessel.

Possible:

  • Alex Goligoski, the Dallas Defenseman gets overlooked a lot, but it should be noted he’s putting up almost identical offensive numbers on the far less talented Dallas team as he did with the Penguins. Has a small amount of international experience.
  • Justin Faulk, great young defenseman burdened by a poor defensive team. Has played under the flag, plays in all situations, like Jones will likely be around for the next three Olympic cycles, has played with Gleason.
  • Drew Stafford, scored 52 points in 62 games including 31 goals two seasons ago, plays with Pominville, some international experience.
  • Erik Cole, former Olympian, World Championship experience, two time thirty goal scorer, played briefly with Galchenyuk, and a season with Pacioretty.
  • John Gaudreau, speedy little pure goal scorer,
  • John Gibson, WJC tournament MVP, stud goaltender.
  • Rocco Grimaldi, speedy, agile, had two goals in the WJC win over Sweden.
  • Blake Wheeler, great reach, good speed, plays in all situations.
  • J.T. Miller, played in on the WJC gold team with Gibson, Gaudreau, Grimaldi, Jones, playing for the Rangers and getting compliments from John Tortorello.

Long Shots:

  • Emerson Etem has proved himself at the junior level in the WHL, he’s yet to make a big mark in the NHL, but he’s got speed to burn and plays on the same team as Bobby Ryan, some games for the NAHL national team.
  • Tyler Myers if he can somehow get his grove back he’s undeniably talented, has developed some aggression, and is both a good skater and puck handler.
  • Brandon Dubinsky, has had a downturn in production lately, but had a good World Championship and is a great two way player.
  • Jack McCabe, captain of the gold team, solid defender, but the defense is the area where the team is likely to have the least turnover.
  • Jimmy Howard no slight on his talent, but he’s about the fourth best American goaltender in the NHL right now. National development team veteran.
  • T.J. Oshie, depending on how the top lines shake down he might find himself tapped to captain the penalty kill effort, also plays with Backes, some national experience, plays physical.
  • Kyle Palmeri has a hat trick this season, and half of his goals have been game winners, national experience, and plays with Bobby Ryan.
  • Paul Gaustad, incredible faceoff man, great penalty killer, like Oshie could end up as a “role player”, team guy.

Given the eventual composition of Teams Canada and Russia, ensuring there is a viable penalty kill, players at all positions who can skate, and guys who won’t wilt under physical play or the bright lights of Olympic play take priority over pure skill with questionable fortitude. With a deep enough team, playing against the weaker teams gets easier because you can use your whole bench and stay reasonably fresh for the games where one bad five minute stretch can bounce you from the metal round.

 

 

More games, more hockey Americana to enjoy.

Tonight in God’s waiting room the Sunshine State the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will square off, no word on early bird specials at the concessions:

  • Seeing Red are Scott Clemmensen, Peter Mueller, George Parros, Drew Shore, and Jack Skille
  • Flashing across the ice in White and Blue are, Ryan Malone, Nate Thompson, B.J. Crombeen, Adam Hall, Matt Carle, Brian Lee, and Matt Taormina.

Toronto’s home squad are hoping to be inhospitable hosts to their fellow Ontario team as the Karlsson and Speazza deprived Senators roll into town. The twoWant will be looking to leapfrog Montreal and tie Boston in points for a share of the Northeast lead.

  • Casting a vote is likely team USA goaltender Craig Anderson, backed up by Ben Bishop, Mike Lundin owns a piece of the blueline while Jim O’Brien and Erik Condra make their way as forwards.
  • Toronto’s Americans are rearguards John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek, the forwards are Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, David Steckel, and Mike Brown.

The Philadelphia Flyers will be bringing a very Canadian squad to Montreal:

  • The only American on the Flyers roster is Tom Sestito, the pride of Rome New York (we’re not counting the traitor Couturier who plays for Canada internationally.)
  • The 20% American roster of the Habs includes possible Olympians Alex Galchenyuk and Max “Tweets At The Movies” Pacioretty, team captain Brian Gionta, Eric Cole, and blueliner Francis Bouillon

Wang’s “not really for sale” Islanders host the equally financially stable Devils tonight:

  • Rick Dipietro is on pace to pass last years total games played, Joe Finley and Brian Strait will skate in front of the crease, Kyle Oksoso leads the American presence with Marty Reasoner as its elder statesman, and Colin McDonald and Keith Aucoin round out the roster.
  • First round draft pick Stefan Matteau and Stephen Gionta will be joined by Bobby Butler, Mark Fayne, Andy Greene, and Peter Harrold are the Devils Americans.

Anaheim will stop to roost in Nashville for the night.

  • Bobby Ryan and Nick Bonino will be in the lineup for the Ducks and Patrick Maroon, Kyle Palmieri, will be out there with Nate Guenin and Ben Lovejoy.
  • Hal Gill stands on the blueline for the Predators, the nearly as tall Paul Gaustad plays pivot, and with them are Colin Wilson, Craig Smith and the teams longest tenured American David Legwand.

The Blue Jackets are looking to look their best for their new General Manager, while the Coyotes hope to slip past the idle Wings.

  • Jack Johnson leads the blueline with James Wisniewski, John Moore and Tim Erixon, while the forwards are missing the injured Cam Atkinson, RJ Umberger, Brandon Dubinsky, Jared Boll, and Nick Foligno will all look to make their presence felt.
  • Keith Yandle, a probable Olympian, Chris Summers and David Moss are the American contingent for the desert dogs.

In a battle of bottom feeders the Oilers and Avalanche will square off.

  • Erik  Johnson leads the Avs blueline, assisted by Matt Hunwick while Aaron Palushaj represents the forwards.
  • Edmonton occasionally lets Ryan Whitney on the ice along with blueliners Core Potter and Jeff Petry and forward Chris Vandevelde.

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.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • that Niklas Lidstrom (10) would have more penalty minutes than Matt Cooke (8)
  • Jason Garrison would lead NHL defensemen in goals, have a +10 for the Florida Panthers, and not be in the top 25 in points for defensemen
  • No one who has won an Art Ross or Rocket Richard would be in the top three for either goals or points
  • Bobby Ryan would be the most interesting name in the trade rumor mill
  • Tim Thomas would go 9-0-0 in November
  • a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs would be a NHL star of the month in November, and it wouldn’t be Phil Kessel but Joffery Lupul
  • two of the most visible sufferers of head injuries in the NHL, Max Pacioretty and Sidney Crosby would be embroiled in controversy over having delivered them

Teams

  • the 30th place Columbus Blue Jackets (5-3-2) would have a better record over their last ten than the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins (5-4-1)
  • the Northwest division, would be led by the team with the second least goals division, the Minnesota Wild
  • the 27th best offense would belong to the team leading the Western Conference in points, also the Minnesota Wild
  • the team with the best goals against in the league would be less than a month into a coaching change, the St Louis Blues
  • the Pacific leading Dallas Stars would be the only team to lead their division with a negative goals differential
  • the New Jersey Devils could have the best penalty kill in the NHL, but allow the most short handed goals against
  • not one of the six division leaders (Pittsburgh, Boston, Florida, Detroit, Minnesota, Dallas) would possess a top six powerplay
  • the Carolina Hurricanes with the 29th best defense, and 26th best penalty would lead the NHL in short handed goals
  • three coaching changes in one week in the NHL would lead to two new to the NHL head coaches, and one guy switching coasts.

First you get money:

  • Cap space is one form of money, and the obvious one.
  • Real spendable income is the other.

For some teams, the only thing that matters is the cap, not every team can (or is willing) to spend to the cap. And spending money for the sake of appearing competitive doesn’t do much good. Even with the salary cap rising and rising since the end of the lockout, getting rid of bad contracts requires you to find a fool to take the contract, wait it out, buy it out, or bury it (if possible) in the minors.

Then you get the power:

  • One type of power is the ability from ownership to move and get a big name with presumably a big contract.
  • Another is having few enough contracts signed to make it possible to take in multiple contracts if need be.
  • Assets like draft picks and valuable prospects are highly useful.
  • Fan support. Moving a big player in or especially out can have an effect on ticket sales and merchandise sales, and tv ratings.
  • Manageable non-movement and non-trade clauses.

The balance of these powers isn’t always apparent, but they all play into the equation and whatever teams management say, the last one is a huge thing. Dennis Wideman was traded from Boston (in part) because he was being actively booed by the home crowd.  Vincent Lecavalier wasn’t traded out not just because of his contract before Stamkos hit the team because he was the only name the casual Tampa Bay fan knew.

After you get the power, then people will respect you:

  • Respect the other management enough to offer what they need at a reasonable price.
  • Be honest about the condition of the players.
  • Respect they players you are thinking of bringing in.
  • Respect what your team, and coach do.
  • The fan bases respect once lost (if ever acquired) is hard to get back.

Does anyone doubt the Canadiens fans would have been furious if two days after the Pacioretty hit the front office traded for Zdeno Chara? How well received do you think even the (apparently) reformed Matt Cooke would do with the Bruins fans (and players)? Can anyone anyone see Marty Broduer welcoming Sean Avery to the New Jersey Devils? I can’t see any of those things either.

When it comes to respecting what players do, if you’re looking to find a large physical pair of first line players who skate well and play gritty, trading for the Sedin twins is probably not your best option. Likewise Mike Green has several good qualities to his game, but if you need a premier shutdown defenseman, you’re shopping for a burka at Victoria Secret’s.

If you have a coach with a mouth like Boudreau’s, bringing in a guy like ‘hockey Tebow’ Rocco Grimaldi may not make for a great mix. Coaches who are well known for riding their veterans over young players, may not be the right guy to have in town if you’re attempting to rebuild with young talent. And of course a fairly young coach who played in the NHL recently might not be the best guy to put in charge of one of their former teammates or a player they had a contentious relationship with.

Coming up a look at who could land some of the big fish.