Tag Archives: Hal Gill

What the Habs should do this offseason

Now that the playoffs are over for the Canadiens, it’s time to look at what went wrong for the Montreal Canadiens, and what they can do to fix it for next season.

Bridget Samuels photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Carey Price is one of five Habs players I feel bad for after the playoffs.

Their main problems is they have no depth at forward, and are way too close to the salary cap limit.

The Habs lost three games in the playoffs to the Bruins, mostly because of lack of depth. If Mike Cammalleri wasn’t on the ice, you knew the Habs weren’t scoring, especially in overtime. When you compare the two teams, the Bruins depth shows the B’s should have won in five games.

After the series was over, I felt bad for five players on the Canadiens:

Mike Cammalleri – I understand some people love Tomas Plekanec. And he did a great job shutting down the Bruins top line. But Cammy needs to play with someone who can get him the puck. His line should be concentrating with scoring, not stopping the other team’s top line.

Brian Gionta – He played the whole series with Scott Gomez and Travis Moen on his line. No wonder he had trouble scoring.

Hal Gill and PK Subban – The Habs two best defencemen, they played a ton of minutes.

Carey Price – He played awesome, and was the reason the Habs went seven games. But like I mentioned, there wasn’t much help in front of him.

So what should the Habs do to improve this team? I’m glad you asked.

Buy out Scott Gomez. Gomez scored seven goals this season, for a cost of $1,051,020 per goal. That was third worst among forwards, behind only Sean Avery and Todd Marchant. Gomez is signed for three more years for a cap hit of $7,357,143. That’s way too much for what he brings to the team. I don’t actually know what he brings, but he’s being paid too much for it. According to CapGeek.com, the cap hit to buy our Scott Gomez would actually be good for next season. It would only be in the 2013-24 season it would be a problem.

Scott Gomez buyout from CapGeek.com

  • 2011-12: $1,801,587
  • 2012-13: $3,801,587
  • 2013-14: $4,801,587
  • 2014-15: $1,944,444
  • 2015-16: $1,944,444
  • 2016-17: $1,944,444

That’s pretty good. The Habs would save a ton of cap space next year, and even in that third year of the buyout, they would save $2.5 million in cap space. But it would be worth to free up the cash, the ice time and the albatross around Gionta’s neck.

Resolute photo, via Wikimedia Commons

The Habs should let Roman Hamrlik walk.

Let Roman Hamrlik walk. The Habs will probably try to re-sign him, but it’s time for him to move on. I think the Subban-Gill pairing has shown what this team needs to do on defence. Have a young guy with legs teamed up with an older defensive veteran.

But Hamrlik wants to be that young guy. He pinches in offensively way too much (especially considering he hasn’t scored more than seven goals in a season since the 2002-03 season, and never more than six goals in a season with the Habs). By pinching in, he gets caught up ice and it leads to way too many scoring chances on Price. He won’t get anywhere near the $5.5 million he’s been making the past four seasons, and it shouldn’t be in Montreal.

Don’t let Travis Moen play on top two lines. Look, I like Travis Moen. I like his grit, the way he’ll stick up for teammates, the way he plays the game. But I don’t like the fact he’s on the top two lines for much of the season. He’s not a goal scorer, and can’t see people up. Let him play on the third line, give him 10 to 12 minutes a game of ice time, and let him bang bodies out there. But don’t put him on the top two lines and then wonder why the Habs have trouble scoring.

By the way, an interesting stat about Moen? He’s never had a season where he wasn’t a negative in the plus/minus category.

Trade Jaroslav Spacek, or convince him to retire. This won’t happen, but should. Spacek is one of only two Habs defencemen signed for next season (PK Subban being the other). But Spacek was on the ice a lot during the Bruins series, and he was on the ice for the majority of goals scored against the Habs. At one point, he has on the ice for five of eight goals against. He’s a lot like Hamrlik. He’s slowed up. His injuries are a concern. He’s not very offensive anymore, and his defence isn’t very good.

So the Habs need to get rid of him. I don’t think they should buy him out, since they should buy out Gomez instead. And I don’t think there’s anyone that would want to trade for him. So the Habs need to convince him it’s time to hang up the skates. Maybe give him a job scouting, or something like that. But he should never be allowed to step on the ice for the Canadiens again, unless it’s some sort of alumni charity game.

Maniacduhockey, via WikiMedia Commons

James Wisniewski had a career year, but it's not worth what he'll be asking for.

Don’t re-sign James Wisniewski. Wiz is 27 years old, and never had more than 30 points before this season.The Habs have to re-sign Gill, Hamrlik, Markov, Sopel, Gorges, Weber, Mara and Picard this season, and Subban next summer. I don’t know if Wiz fits into the Habs long-term plans. I think of that group, they try to keep Subban, Markov, Gill, Gorges, Weber and Spacek (who is still signed for another season). And then maybe someone like Picard or someone from the AHL for the seventh defencemen.

Gorges and Subban will get raises. Markov will get a small decrease. Gill and Weber about the same. Any extra cash they have needs to go toward a top-six forward. Wiz will want about $5 million a year for four years, and the Habs have a history of letting big-name players go (think Souray and Streit). That is too much for the Habs, and too much for a defenceman that didn’t have his breakout year until the age of 27. Odds are, he won’t repeat this season.

Be smart when it comes to our own forward free agents. Besides the defence, the Habs have a bunch of free agents up front. They need to re-sign Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot, Max Pacioretty, Ryan White, Jeff Halpern, David Desharnais, Tom Pyatt and Mathieu Darche. Throw in the defence, and that’s a lot of cash they need to spend (they have about $25 million in cap space, if they keep Spacek and Gomez).

I would keep everyone in that group except for Kostitsyn. He needs to go. Since he’s a restricted free agent, the Habs could get something for him, whether it be another team making an offer sheet, or through a trade.

Side note: Kostitsyn was drafted 10th overall in 2003. Picked at #11? Jeff Carter. Also available in that round? Zach Parise (17th), Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Brent Burns (20th), Ryan Kesler (23rd), Mike Richards (24th) and Corey Perry (28th). Sports Illustrated’s 2003 mock draft had the Habs takes Parise 10th overall. An updated mock draft by SI had the Habs taking Getzlaf. And yet we got Kostitsyn. Sigh.

I’d like to see Louis Leblanc make this team, but I think he’s at least two years away from joining the big club. I would say he needs to spend at least a year in the AHL before joining the Habs.  In fact, Habs and Habs fans need to be smart, and not want to rush up prospects if they’re not ready, such as Leblanc or Jarred Tinordi.

Bridget Samuels photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Tomas Fleischmann would look good as a Hab.

Sign some cheap free agents that can help on the second line. There’s no way the Habs are going to be able to afford someone like Brad Richards. But what about someone like Simon Gagne? Could he be signed for about $3.5 million a season? Yes, I understand he’s injured quite often, and he’ll probably end up getting overpaid after his finish to the season (and as Tampa gets further into the playoffs). But if he can stay healthy, he could be a point-per-game player for the Habs. His speed suits the Habs system well. But I think he’ll want too much money.

Tim Connolly could be another interesting player, but I don’t think he would fit in with the Canadiens. Teemu Selanne will be great, but there’s no way he’d ever leave Anaheim if he retires. Alexander Frolov is on his way to the KHL, where he’ll make the most money.

The last, and really only, good option for the Habs is Tomas Fleischmann. He’s still young enough to make a good impact, shouldn’t cost that much money (maybe $3 to $3.5 million), and could be a good fit for the Habs.

Do not get Alexei Kovalev again. No one has really mentioned it yet. It hasn’t come up in media reports. It probably has to do with the fact that most people aren’t looking ahead to the free agent crop yet. But there are a silly Habs fans out there. They protested when Kovalev wasn’t re-signed a couple of years ago. They will point to his interview after he signed with the Ottawa Senators, where he said he wanted to retire as a Montreal Canadien. They’ll call him the most talented player in the league when he wants to be.

But the problem is he doesn’t want to be for more than 10 games a season anymore. He’s not the same type of player he was five years. Back then, he was talented, could score and helped teammates, but was also seen as moody and enigmatic. Now he’s just moody and enigmatic. If there’s anything that will destroy the Habs season next year, it will be signing Kovalev.

Get a new system. Or better yet, a new coach. Look, I understand the Habs had a ton of success last year in the playoffs using Jacques Martin’s system. Grab a lead, play defensive hockey and don’t let the other team score. While that worked in the pre-lockout NHL, it just doesn’t measure up today. The game is too fast, and it actually takes the Habs out of the game. Playing defensive hockey with a one-goal lead, consistently chipping the puck out of the zone and not playing offence ends up costing the Habs. When the other team scores, the Habs are out of the game. It’s hard to switch to an offensive mode when you’ve spent 15 minutes playing defence. The other team has all the momentum, and the Habs are stuck.

So the system needs to change. And if Martin won’t change it, then he needs to go.

However, that new coach can not be Kirk Muller. Muller is an assistant, and those guys are usually loved by hockey players. When an assistant coach becomes the head coach of the same team, he usually struggles. It’s hard for him to become the bad guy. If Muller is to become a head coach, he needs to go elsewhere to do it.

Bridget Samules photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Zenon Konopka is exactly what the Habs need: a good faceoff guy and a tough player.

Need to get better faceoff guys. Both Plekanec (43.3% during the playoffs) and Gomez (40.7%) just aren’t good enough. In Game 7, Pleks was 6 for 30 for a winning percentage of 20% (only 10% in the defensive zone, and 0 for 8 in the neutral zone).

Zenon Konopka would be a good one. He was fourth in the league in face-off winning percentage. Plus, he’s a tough guy, so he’d be good to have in the lineup against teams like the Bruins and Flyers. Now, he’d have to curb his playing style, as Martin (if he’s still here) hates guys who drop the gloves. And Martin would have to not be afraid to use him in defensive zone faceoffs. But he’s an unrestricted free agent, so he can probably be signed for $1 million or less. And it’s never a bad idea to have a tough player on the team.

Conclusion: So when all is said and done, what does this team look like? This would be the lines in my world.

Forwards

Tomas Plekanec-Mike Cammalleri-David Desharnais

Brian Gionta-Max Pacioretty-Tomas Fleischmann

Jeff Halpern-Mathieu Darche-Benoit Pouliot

Zenon Konopka -Ryan White-Lars Eller

Healthy scratches: Tom Pyatt, Travis Moen, Nigel Dawes

Defence

Andrei Markov-Josh Gorges

Hal Gill-PK Subban

Yannick Weber-Alexandre Picard

Healthy scratches: Mathieu Carle

Goalies

Carey Price

Alex Auld

Not a huge improvement over this year’s team, but there’s a bit more depth for scoring, more toughness, better faceoff ability and a bit of a salary relief. It also builds a good solid core of defence for the future, and gets rid of the dead weight that the Habs don’t need anymore (Spacek, Hamrlik, Gomez and Kostitsyn, to name a few).

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Some thoughts on the Habs

As the Habs approach the 15 game mark, it’s a good time to have a look to see how the team is doing so far.

By Johnny Barboza Jamie Fitzpatrick (travail personnel (own work) Jamie

Tomas Plekanec is off to a great start this season.

And I’m confused as to how good, or not-so-good, this team is.

Sure, the Montreal Canadiens are third in the Eastern conference, and first in the Northeast. But after winning seven of their first 10 games, the Habs haven’t looked good lately.

What is the true Habs team? Probably somewhere in between the great start and the last few games.

The were three reasons for the team’s hot start: Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec and Carey Price.

Tomas Plekanec has been a lot better than I thought he would be, although he is slowing down the past few games (the flu will do that to a person though, so he gets a temporary pass).

Kostitsyn is showing his talent again. Hopefully, he can keep it up consistently, instead of just having flashes of it here and there.

And Price has been dynamite. He’s kept the Habs in the games, has made a lot of great saves, and is probably the top reason why the Habs are doing so well.

But it hasn’t all been good. Here are the reasons why I’m worried.

Scott Gomez celebrating a goal? This must be an old photo.

• When the top line was light out, everyone was saying “Just wait until Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez gets going.” But I was looking at it the other way, saying “what happens when the Pleks line stops scoring.” And now it’s happened. Thankfully the third line is picking up the
slack.

Gionta and Gomez, who make $12.3 million between them, have a total of three goals. That’s brutal. Part of the problem, to me, is the way coach Jacques Martin is juggling the lines. If you put Lars Eller (or whoever) on the second line, don’t take him out after a game or a period. Keep him there for five games and see if he can learn how to play with the other two. But every game, it seems as if Gionta and Gomez are playing with someone different. It must be hard to develop chemistry that way.

While watching the Sens-Habs game from the other day, my wife asked, “Who’s #11? He looks lazy.” That’s Scott Gomez. One thing I’ve noticed about him is that when there’s a turnover in the offensive zone, instead of starting to skate, his sticks his stick out in an effort to slow down the opposing player. It’s just a matter of time before he starts getting called for hooking.

By Resolute [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

I like Travis Moen, but he shouldn't be playing on the top two lines.

• I like Travis Moen, I really do. But he should not be getting top six minutes. Ever. He’s a good grinder who chips in the with the odd goal. But he shouldn’t be playing with Gomez and Gionta on a regular basis.

• I’d love to see Montreal have a player who isn’t scared to knock an opposing player on his butt. But I realize that’s less and less likely with the style of play the Habs use.

• Andrei Markov looks like he needs another month off. He has not looked good since coming back. Granted, he missed all of training camp due to injury, but he doesn’t look like a leader back there.

• The powerplay has been putrid. It’s last on the NHL. About the only good thing about is that they haven’t given up a shorthanded goal (one of only seven teams to do so). But it’s not working. And Martin’s changes only leaves me scratching my head.

When the Habs have a long 5 on 3 powerplay, they put Gionta out there, despite the fact he’s had a bad season. Wouldn’t it be better to put someone out there that can put the puck in the net? And of course, when Gionta had the best chance on the powerplay, he didn’t score.

PK Subban seems to be deferring to Andrei Markov on the powerplay.

This past Saturday, against the Sens, he put Mike Cammalleri on the point, which was brutal, and lasted for one period. Cammy was playing right defence, would streak down the left side and dump the puck in. But the Sens players could dump the puck out pretty easily, because Cammalleri was on the wrong side of the ice. Cammy needs the one-timers. He’s not the one who should be carrying the puck in.

When he took Cammalleri off the point, he put PK Subban there. But that meant Subban and Markov were playing together at the same time on the powerplay, which is a bad thing. Really, they should have Subban play with Jaroslav Spacek on the powerplay, and Markov with Roman Hamrlik. That way, their top two powerplay defencemen are playing on two separate lines, and it helps both lines. When Markov is playing with Subban, PK seems hesitant to shoot the puck as much, deferring to the elder defenceman. That’s not a good thing. Splitting them up should change that.

And finally about powerplay, despite all the changes, Martin still doesn’t get anyone to stand in front of the net. When the Bruins powerplay struggles, they put Chara in front of the net. When the Sens have trouble, they stick Chris Neil there. When the Habs have trouble, they stay the same. Why not take a Hal Gill or a Ryan O’Byrne and stick him in front of the net. That not only screens the goalie, but forces a defenceman to come play the Hab player in front of the net, opening up the ice for the other guys. (I also find it sad I couldn’t think of a big body tough guy Montreal could stick in front of the net besides two defensive defencemen.)

• The faceoffs have been brutal for Montreal this season. It’s turning into their Achilles heel. They’re 24th in the league in faceoffs. Jeff Halpern is the only regular faceoff guy at above 50 per cent, at 56.4. So next time there’s an important faceoff during a game, why not put Halpern out there? The guy can score, and does play strong defence. So could it hurt to put him out there in the final minute while nursing a 2-1 lead? Or for that matter, at any point of a game?

By Vava manouche (Own work by author) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Carey Price needs to make sure the upcoming Canucks game doesn't affect him.

• The next game is a big one for Price. Last season, Price was rolling along, playing awesomely, making 77 saves in his first two games, victories over the Leafs and Sabres, allowing only four goals total. Then came a west coast trip and he played the Canucks. Remember, Price is from B.C., and so there must have been extra pressure on him. Unfortunately, the defence forgot to show up, and Price let in seven goals in two periods (none were his fault, they were all two on ones, or guys standing along in front of the net).

Price struggled after that, losing his next six games, allowing Jaroslav Halak to come in and steal the #1 job. Now it’s up to Price to make sure this game against the Canucks, win or lose, doesn’t derail his season… again.

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Habs make a move… then three or four more

So my prayers are finally answered.

Scott Gomez will now be a Montreal Canadien, as opposed to a New Jersey Devil (one of his former teams).

Scott Gomez will now be a Montreal Canadien, as opposed to a New Jersey Devil (one of his former teams).

After years of Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey doing absolutely nothing at the free agency/trade deadline, this summer he decided to go crazy.

And it actually makes me excited for this upcoming season. So much so that I actually took my PS2 version of NHL 09 last night, made all the relevant trades to get the players up to date, and then started a whole new dynasty.

Here what the Habs have done so far:

Brian Gionta: 5 years, $25 million.

Mike Camalleri: 6 years, $30 million.

Hal Gill: 2 years, $4.5 million.

Jaroslav Spacek: 3 years, $11.5 million.

Scott Gomez: Traded for Chris Higgins.

This type of scoring chance on a Habs goalie will only happen in practice from now on.

This type of scoring chance on a Habs goalie will only happen in practice from now on.

And the Habs still have about $12 million left in cap space. They do have a couple of unrestricted free agents. But ultimately, I would like to see them try and re-sign Alex Tanguay. And maybe Saku Koivu for sentimental reasons.

But let the rest of the walk, especially Alexei Kovalev.

I’m excited Higgins is no longer with the team (the most over rated player on the Canadiens of the past 10 years). I’m excited the Habs have a clear cut #1 line for the first time since the days of Vincent Damphousse, Mark Recchi and Pierre Turgeon. I like the singing of a big defenceman (Gill) to patrol the back end.

For the first time, I’m generally excited for this team. And all it took was about $100 million in signings and trades.

See Bob, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

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Pittsburgh Penguins preview

I may have started making my picks too early.

Last week, I was confident the Pittsburgh Penguins would win the division and the conference, even with the loss of some key forwards, such as Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone. But then the news came out that their top defenceman Sergei Gonchar is out until March with an injury. And their second-best defenceman, Ryan Whitney, is out until for three months.

You think that would be enough to shake my confidence in this team. But no, even with their losses and their injuries, they still have enough talent to win most of their games.

Forwards: Before last season, this was seen as Sidney Crosby’s team. If anything happened to him, the franchise was doomed. But Evgeni Malkin stepped up his game last year when Crosby went down with an injury. Malkin scored 47 goals and had 106 points to lead the Penguins to the division title, and only one point out of first in the conference.

And despite their losses up front, they still have a good young core of players. Jordan Staal is a beast on the ice, and is a great penalty-killer. He’ll pick up a lot of the slack left behind. Matt Cooke is a good fourth-liner that can play on any line if need be. And Petr Sykora should be good for close to 30 goals again.

Defence: Anyone else not worried at all that their top two defencemen are injured? With Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney out, all the pressure falls to the other defencemen, but they should pull through quite well. They won’t be expected to score goals, so they’ll be able to rest when the powerplay in on the ice.

Brooks Orpik is a solid defensive defenceman who will help shut down the other team’s top lines.

Hall Gill’s career was reborn once he was traded to Pittsburgh from the Toronto Maple Leafs last year. Who knew he knew how to play defence?

And young Kris Letang (he’s 21 years old) will get a chance to mature this season.

Darryl Sydor will help with the leadership back there, as he’s been there before and has won a couple of Stanley Cups.

Plus, Gonchar is set to come back a few weeks before the playoffs. So he’s healthy, rested and raring to go during the stretch drive.

Goaltending: It looked like Marc-Andre Fleury’s career was going to be ruined at an early age. He was thrust into a bad situation in Pittsburgh, and he got hammered. A goalie is a special breed of player. Once he loses his confidence, he’s sunk. It was only two years ago where he won 13 games out of 50 and had a goals against of 3.25. But he’s been improving every season. His save percentage has gone up and goals against has gone down every single year since he joined the NHL. He’s now turned into a quality netminder, and he is now seen as one of the on-ice leaders of the team.

Pool picks: Jordan Staal may not be selected in many drafts, thanks to his 28 points last year, but he is worth a late-round draft pick. He was used mostly as a defensive player last season, but may get a chance to play with Evgeni Malkin. If that happens, watch for his point total to go up. Stay away from any player you may be hearing will be playing with Sidney Crosby. Crosby’s linemates change every other game as the coach tries to match lines. Miroslav Satan may sound like he’s going to play with Crosby, but then one day the head coach will think, “Wait, Miroslav Satan? Seriously?” and will then proceed to switch things up.

Miscellaneous:It must play with your mind if you’re a player on a team that went to the Stanley Cup finals, just to see your team almost get dismantled. Gone is Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Jarkko Ruutu, Georges Laraque, Marian Hossa, Adam Hall and Ty Conklin. The hardest thing to replace out of those players is the leadership Roberts brings to the game. But those players had to go, or else the Penguins would not have been able to keep their top superstars. But that’s life in the new NHL.

Expected finish: First in the Atlantic division, first in the Eastern conference

Overall: Even with all the losses, the Penguins will still have a great year. If healthy, Crosby will get about 130 points and 40,000 endorsement deals. Gonchar will come back in time to lead the team to a 13-1-1 record in the last 15 games. And Jordan Staal will break through to prove that he is the best Staal brother in the NHL.

So Pens fans, there’s no need to worry. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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