So there was a protest in Montreal the other day.
Unlike the previous protest — held to show support for Alexei Kovalev — this one was to show that the new coach of the Canadiens should be able to speak French.
And it must have been a pretty big protest. I mean, it was covered by a lot of media, it made international news, it features some controversy… wait, only 200 people showed up? So Occupy Bell Centre wasn’t a success?
Oh, well despite the protest’s failure, it did get people talking.
Take this Yahoo story (which is in English, so that must have irked the protesters), that was written by a Montreal Gazette reporter. The reporter talks to the different protesters, and there was one that jumped out at me.
The woman, named Josée Racine, who admits she’s not even a big Habs fan (it would be kind of ironic if she was a Leafs supporter, but the article never tells us), said she wants to see a more francophone hockey team in Montreal.
Never mind the fact there are only 55 NHL players who have played at least one game this season who was born in Quebec (according to Hockey-Reference.com), and that Montreal has dressed at least three of them. No, the team must be more Francophone.
And never mind the fact that the Habs brass have tried in the past to bring in Quebec-born players. Daniel Briere shunned us for Philadelphia. JP Dumont decided he liked Nashville better than Montreal. Vincent Lecavalier wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to come play for the Canadiens. And the list goes on and on.
That got me thinking: Could there be such a thing as a team made up of entirely of Quebec-born players? And if so, what would this Francophone team look like? And could they be successful?
Of course, I have to put in a mix of players: some skilled, some not-so-skilled, some tough guys, some stay-at-home defencemen, etc. Don’t be expecting an all-star team here, because the Habs wouldn’t be able to afford their salaries. I decided it would just be easier if we replaced players on the current squad with their French-born equivalent.
And I have to make sure the team stays under the salary cap.
And before I go even further, let me point out that no matter how much you wish it may be so because of their last names, Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin and Matt Moulson are not from Quebec.
Carey Price: Marc-Andre Fleury. Probably the closest to Price in terms of age and potential. Other NHL Francophone starters are either really experienced (Martin Brodeur) or really young (Corey Crawford). Cap hit of $5 million.
Peter Budaj: Jean-Sebastien Giguere. A serviceable veteran backup. Cap hit of $1.25 million.
MIA: Roberto Luongo. Although he’s awfully similar to Price in the way they are treated by fans (getting booed when things are going bad, thinking each is the greatest goalie in the league when it’s going well), that’s where commonality ends.
Josh Gorges: Francois Beauchemin. Best I could come up with for a strong defensive player. Cap hit of $3.8 million.
P.K. Subban: Jason Demers. Pretty close in career points and games, and only one year apart. Cap hit of $1.25 million.
Hal Gill: Alexandre Picard. Yes, not even close to the same type of player. But he’s the one with the most experience that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Cap hit of $0.6 million.
Raphael Diaz: Marco Scandella. A player most people have never heard of, unless you happen to be a fan of their team. Cap hit of $0.85 million.
Tomas Kaberle: Marc-Edouard Vlasic. After years of playing in San Jose, knows exactly what it takes to be a disappointing playoff performer, just like Kaberle. Cap hit of $3.1 million.
Alexei Emelin: Marc-Andre Gragnani. Although a different type of NHLer than Emelin, an exciting young player. Don’t like it? Try finding another hard-hitting young French defenceman. Cap hit of $0.55 million.
Chris Campoli: Marc-Andre Bergeron. A powerplay specialist who can’t really defend. Cap hit of $1 million.
Andrei Markov: Stephane Robidas. I couldn’t find an oft-injured Francophone defencemen, so I took Robidas, as he is the best veteran scorer out of all the ones out there. Cap hit of $3.3 million.
MIA: Kris Letang. If you think there’s anyone on the team that is as good as Kris Letang, you don’t watch enough Habs games.
Max Pacioretty: Derick Brassard. Good young talent. No idea if he can be a consistent top line player, although all the signs point to them doing so. Cap hit of $3.2 million.
David Desharnais: Already from Quebec, so he doesn’t need replacing. Cap hit of $0.85 million.
Erik Cole: Alex Tanguay. Older player that has surprised everyone with their scoring prowess immediately after being signed by a Canadian team. Cap hit of $3.5 million.
Michael Cammalleri: Daniel Briere. Seems to score in bunches. Every time I watch them play, they score. How do they not each have 100-goal seasons? Cap hit of $6.5 million.
Tomas Plekanec: Patrice Bergeron. A consistent 20-goal scorer, whose main job is to shut down the other team’s top line while adding defence. Cap hit of $5 million.
Andrei Kostitsyn: Gui Latendresse. Wait, you mean the Habs traded the wrong underperformer who gets booed by fans? Cap hit of $2.5 million.
Lars Eller: Mathieu Perreault. Good young third-line centre. Cap hit of $0.525 million.
Travis Moen: Maxime Talbot. Hey look. It’s the career third-liner who is has a reputation of being tougher than he is! Cap hit of $1.75 million.
Mathieu Darche: Doesn’t need replacing, as he’s already from Quebec. Cap hit of $0.7 million
Michael Blunden: Philippe Dupuis. Both can be sent down to the AHL with no problem. Cap hit of $0.65 million.
Scott Gomez: Vincent Lecavalier. Just because we need a cap-killing contract that people are going to boo when they realize a $7 million player isn’t going to break Wayne Gretzky’s records. Cap hit of $7.72 million.
Ryan White: Francis Lessard. Semi-permanent AHLer. Cap hit of $0.55 million.
The team doesn’t look like the greatest, does it? Especially on defence. As it is now, that French Canadiens team is at $54.145 million.
Sure, I know most people will say “Look, you’re obviously not including the superstars and the young talent. Where’s Paul Stastny, Martin St. Louis, Alex Burrows, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, David Perron, Jason Pominville, Mike Ribeiro, P.A. Parenteau, etc.” But those are upgrades on the above team, which wasn’t my point. And remember, for every Ray Bourque that is from Quebec, there’s a Patrice Brisebois too.
But let’s just do a top French players team, just to see what it looks like. Ignore the fact no one will ever put together a team of just top American players, or top Swedish players, or top Ontarians, etc. If they did, the French media would think there’s a bias against the French.
But just pretend the Habs did get the top players. Below would be the team (brackets are the cap hit for each player).
Goalies: Luongo (5.33), Crawford (2.67)
Defence: Letang (3.5), Robidas (3.3), Bergeron (1), Demers (1.25), Beauchemin (3.8), Gragnani (0.55), Vlasic (3.1)
Forwards: Brassard (3.2), Briere (6.5), St. Louis (5.6), Ribeiro (5), Burrows (2), Stastny (6.6), Bouchard (4.08), Perron (2.15), Pominville (5.3), Lecavalier (7.72), Latendresse (2.5), Bergeron (5), Parenteau (1.25)
Looks a lot better, no? Of course, that combined salary cap is a whopping $81.4, only $17 million over the cap. And some of those guys are due for raises next season.
Here’s the thing: As mention above, there’s only been 55 players this year who have played at least one game in the NHL that was born in Quebec. Ten of them have been goalies. It’s pretty hard to stock a team of Quebecers when there’s not that many of them in the NHL.
The team doesn’t need to get more French. They need to get more good players. No one would be complaining if the Habs had the Red Wings team. Even though there’s no Quebec-born players on Detroit, would Habs fans be booing Lidstrom if he didn’t speak French like they did to Saku Koivu? Would Quebec media say there needs to be more French players on the team, even though they have a Stanley Cup, a finals lost, two other semi-finals in the last four years, and are in second place in the Western standings this year? Would people really be saying, “you know, I like Mike Babcock, but he’s not French enough?”
If so, then that last paragraph shows you what the main problem with the Habs is. You get the best players and coaches possible, no matter what language they speak. End of story.