Not a lot of time lately, but there have been a lot of stuff I wanted to touch upon. So here are 33 NHL quick hits going into the Christmas break.
1. Jacques Martin had to be fired. There are numerous reasons why, many of which I have mentioned before. Cowhide and Rubber had a good list back when Martin was still the coach.
2. One of the final nails in his coffin was his unwillingness to play the young guys. Louis Leblanc has looked good when he plays. And he scores a goal against Philly. Yet Martin only played him for four minutes that game. What’s the point of that? Leblanc would have been better off spending the whole season in the AHL getting 20 minutes a game.
3. It is interesting to note, that in Randy Cunneyworth’s first game as coach, Leblanc had 13 and half minutes.
4. A lot of people are blaming Gauthier for this mess the Habs are in. They point out the Kaberle trade as the prime example, but Kaberle has been pretty good as a Canadien. Erik Cole was a good signing. He won the battle of Halak vs. Price, even though most people thought he was wrong at the time. The real problems with this team starts with Bob Gainey. He’s the one who signed most of the guys long-term with no trade clauses. Cammalleri, Gionta and Gomez all came on Gainey’s watch. Gauthier continued that trend, with no trade clauses to Plekanec, Markov and Cole.
5. With that being said, Montreal will have to get rid of Gauthier at the end of the season. Following Gainey’s blueprint is not a good idea.
6. Remember, Gainey is still a special advisor to the team. I’m pretty sure he thinks all these faults of Gauthier’s is actually a virtue.
7. Cunneyworth will also be gone at the end of the season. He could lead this team to the Cup, but he doesn’t speak French, and that’s all that matters to many of the media in Montreal. Unfortunately.
8. Patrick Roy seems to be one of the frontrunners for the head coaching job. To me, this is the exact opposite of what Montreal needs to do. Enough with bringing in coaches who have no previous NHL coaching. Look at the last 10 coaches: Jacques Demers, Mario Tremblay, Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien, Claude Julien, Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Gainey again, Martin and now Cunneyworth. Of those coaches, who had the best success? The ones with previous experience. Demers brought the team a Cup. Martin brought them to the semifinals.
9. If I was Montreal, I’d look at bringing in someone like Marc Crawford, Randy Carlyle and Bob Hartley. All with previous coaching experience. All have won the Cup. Who cares if they know French.
10. For the record, Crawford knows French from coaching the Nordiques, but isn’t that fluent. Hartley is French, and has worked for RDS. I have no idea about Caryle.
11. Back to the on-ice product, is there anything more frustrating than watching Travis Moen playing on the top two lines? When he has the puck and he tries to thread it to a teammate, it doesn’t usually make it. Frustrating to watch.
12. Speaking of frustrating, that brings us to PK Subban. Almost every game I’ve seen this year, I’ve seen him make a horrible mistake that leads to something bad for the Habs, whether it be a goal, a shift in momentum, a penalty, or whatever. I always say to my wife: “Subban needs to score a goal here in the third period to make up for the game he’s playing.” Not sure what is going on with him. Trying to do too much?
13. What’s peculiar is that Subban played his best hockey last year when a lot of his fellow defencemen teammates were injured. His worst stretch of games last season, I thought, was those seven games in December when Markov came back. It’ll be interesting to see how Subban reacts when the d corps is healthy.
14. Moving on to other teams, I was surprised that Ottawa gave up so much to get Kyle Turris. David Rundblad and a second rounder? I can’t believe they added the draft pick, especially if it turns out to be a high second round. Runblad had 50 points in 55 games in the Swedish Elite League last year. That’s the second highest point total for a defenceman in league history.
15. What I find funny is that in Ottawa, the media is calling this a win for Ottawa. Everywhere else, they say Sens GM Bryan Murray got hosed. Does the Ottawa media ever think the Sens lose a trade?
16. I realize Murray believes he needs to rebuild the team. But why does he need so many reclamation projects,hoping guys will find their niche again while in Ottawa. Jonathan Cheechoo. Nikita Filitov. Alexei Kovalev. Marek Svatos. Now Turris. So far, Murray is zero for four with these projects.
17. To me, Turris has been overrated his whole career. I think he’ll be a solid player, but he’ll never live up to his #3 overall draft billing.
18. By the way, it’s not just Turris. If you take away Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk, that 2007 draft hasn’t produced a lot of top quality players. A lot of serviceable players, but not too many potential all-stars there. Right now, Kane is the only player from that draft to be an all-star. The 2006 draft has 3, while 2008 also has three.
19. Biggest player surprise of the NHL season so far has to be Brian Elliott. He bombed in Ottawa and Colorado last year, but in St. Louis, it’s like he’s the second coming of Jaroslav Halak circa 2008. He leads the league in goals against (almost half a goal better than Tim Thomas), save percentage and is tied for first in shutouts. In 16 games, he has a record of 13-2. If he had more starts, he’d be up there in wins as well.
20. Everyone’s talking about concussions, and whether there is more now than ever. I’m not saying it’s not a serious issue, but I wonder in years past, how many guys just continued to go out and play because that what tough hockey players did.
21. Worth noting by the way, that none of these concussions are coming from fighting. Just saying.
22. Can we just rename the Jack Adams trophy (given to coach of the year) the Dan Bylsma trophy. No one does more with his players than him. He loses Sidney Crosby, the best player in the world, it doesn’t matter. Evgeni Malkin need some time off? Sure, take a week. Jordan Staal misses half a season? No problem. Their best defencemen in Kris Letang gets a concussion? Take your time coming back. Another top defence, Zbynek Michalek, gets a concussion? No worries. I swear, you could give him a team full of AHL players, and he’d get them into the playoffs.
23. It’s funny how expectations can make things seem worse than they are. Ottawa was supposed to suck, but they’re a Cinderella story at 36 points. Washington was supposed to be a top team, but the world is crashing down as they sit at 35 points. Given everything though, wouldn’t you still rather Washington’s team for the rest of the season?
24. It’s not just the East. In the West, the Coyotes are a marvellous team, with 37 points. The Sharks, despite playing three less games, are a travesty at 37 points.
25. The most surprising team to me is the Florida Panthers. Most had them pegged for a brutal season, but Brian Campbell is playing like a man possessed on the back end.
26. On the other side, the most disappointing team has got to be the Anaheim Ducks. They had a top goalie, great youth, solid defence and what should be the scariest line in hockey. But it’s not amounting to much. Only 23 points so far, only one point ahead of the Bluejackets.
27. Heard a lot of people talk about Tomas Kaberle lately. One thing that makes me laugh is how people question the fact he never wanted to leave Toronto to have a shot at the Stanley Cup (until last season). They think he might have preferred staying on a losing team, and think he should have wanted to leave, and it brings him down in their eyes. But no one thinks the same about Mats Sundin. And I wonder, if the Sens asked Daniel Alfredsson to leave, and he said no, if people would look down on him. Not likely (and nor should they). That’s why it doesn’t make sense to me that they look down on Kaberle for the same reasons.
28. Hey, three quick guesses who leads the league in shorthanded goals. Cal Clutterbuck. He has four shorthanded goals. Total career shorthanded goals before this season: Two. Safe to say, no one saw that coming. He also has two powerplay goals this year. So six of his nine goals this year have come on special teams. That’s a crazy percentage. (Side note, he leads the league in hits as well).
29. A lot of teams have been underperforming this year, and it’s led to a lot of coaching changes. But this is actually a good thing for the league. It shows there’s a lot of parity. Most of the teams doing the firings were playoff teams last season, and are out of playoffs right now.
30. Yes, the winter classic is a great thing for ratings and selling the game. But I get tired of all the promotion for it when the actual game is dull and choppy due to ice conditions.
31. Also a downside, it feels like the same teams every year. Didn’t the Flyers just play in one two years ago? I’d like to see Dallas at Minnesota. Mike Modano can drop the ceremonial puck.
32. I’d like to see Brendan Shanahan go back to the way he suspended guys in the preseason. What was eight games then is only a game or two now. If you want to remove hitting from behind, headshots and the like out of the game, these guys need to be suspended for longer. It worked for Matt Cooke, who has turned his game around after last season’s massive suspension.
33. Alexander Ovechkin is up to his old tricks. I once called him the dirtiest player in the game (you can read that blog post here). When he gets upset on the ice, he hits guys from behind, slewfoots them, elbows them in the head, etc. You name it, he does it. He’s been suspended in the past because of it, and he should have been suspended when he speared Chris Neil a couple of weeks back (video here). It’s disgusting that he plays this way, yet Matt Cooke gets all the negative media attention.