Leadership or Leader’s Ship?


The first duty of a leader is to make himself be loved without courting love. To be loved without ‘playing up’ to anyone – even to himself. ~ Andre Malraux

Let’s face it, the so-called story started by former reporter Michel Villeneuve is making waves in Montreal… but should it? In case you were hiding under a rock, Villeneuve reported second (or third) hand information to the effect that Michel Therrien, while having diner after playing golf, apparently told someone that Max Pacioretty was the worst captain in the long history of the Montreal Canadiens. Let’s not forget that it’s not the first time that Villeneuve tries using sensationalism to make waives, as he did just a year ago.

Trying to add fuel to the fire, or credibility to a story which can’t get traction from anyone who doesn’t have an agenda against the organisation, he added that seven or eight people told him that story. While it didn’t add to the credibility of the story, he did generate one more day of talks on radio shows, media outlets and social media. Remember the old saying: talk about it in good or in bad as long as you talk about it? But how many people told you Michel? Seven or eight?


To put this story to bed, I don’t believe one second that Michel Therrien thinks that Pacioretty is a bad captain, let alone qualify him as the worst in team history. Is it possible that he would have liked to see more from his captain last season when things fell apart? Absolutely, but Therrien is smarter than his detractors want you to believe. He knows that there is no way that Pacioretty alone could have stopped the train from derailing the way it has. The other leaders in the dressing room had to help put the shoulder to the wheel and pull the carriage in the right direction. As a matter of fact, here’s what Therrien said about his captain just last year:

This is a new role for Patches. When you become captain, you’re not given a book on how to do it. He’s doing the best that he can and he has our full support. ~ Michel Therrien

This is an acknowledgement of the facts surrounding not only being captain of the Montreal Canadiens, but facing that much adversity in a first season. My take is that many people MUST find a scape goat in order to be “happy” as a fan, as a member of the media. Whether it’s Pacioretty, whether it’s Therrien, whether it’s Marc Bergevin, whether it’s Saku Koivu who also was chased out of Montreal, those people must find the negative in everything in order to satisfy their need to complain and find someone to blame. When they don’t like someone, they’ll be more than willing to believe any negative story, made up or not, because it supports their need to put down those whom they dislike. So folks, consider the source when reading comments.

One last thing on the topic is a comment heard today on 91.9 Sports on J.C. Lajoie‘s show, when he interviewed Bob Hartley who said:

I had lunch three times recently with Michel (Therrien), the last time was less than three weeks ago. We talked about our respective teams, about the collapse which both our teams went through. I tell you what, Michel Therrien greatly appreciate Max Pacioretty. You know me, stories from the bar (or golf club)… ~ Bob Hartley

Leadership issue

So if we stick to the facts reported by those who are part of the team, like Therrien, if it’s not only Pacioretty who could have stopped that slide, where were the other leaders? Where were the four alternate-captains and other veterans, who apparently all want this team to be successful? Why, may I ask, are we only talking about Pacioretty’s leadership even knowing that he’s the captain, and not the other leaders on this team? Let’s not forget that Pacioretty received 21 of 23 votes from his teammates to be named captain a year ago! Let’s also not forget that Bergevin and Therrien were thrilled to see him being voted captain and they drove to his house to present him his jersey with the “C” on it!

The crowd gives the leader new strength. ~ Evenius

On the question of leadership, one thing that I know is that one person cannot lead a group who doesn’t want to be led. The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child is forever true, and it’s no different in team sports. With that in mind, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher all wore the “A” on their jersey. I must be missing something as I don’t hear about the lack of leadership from any of those players. If those guys led, why did the team collapse like it did? There’s only one correct answer: it wasn’t as much a lack of leadership as it was a problem of pride, guts and willingness to do what it took to reverse the season… without the true leader of this team: Carey Price.


The management team, coaches included, were in a perfect position to see what happened first hand. They had postmortem interviews and meetings, they pinpointed the main issues and they made decisions based on all of that. We saw Lars Eller being sacrificed. We saw Subban being traded for Shea Weber, we saw the addition of Andrew Shaw, and we saw the signature of Alexander Radulov after much research and investigation. Last but not least, he brought back a former captain of the team, Kirk Muller, and added him to the coaching staff.

Will it be enough? Time will tell. What we know is that Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman loved what Shaw brought to his team. We know that Radulov’s coach and GM loved what he brought to their team. We also know that Weber received the Mark Messier Award as the NHL’s best leader. They have gone out and provided their captain with quality players, known as leaders on their respective teams.

And that’s the difference between a leader’s ship and leadership!

Bergevin has said that he doesn’t want players who want to win, he wants players who hate to lose. He also wanted to add some much needed grit to a line-up in dire need of it. He wants players (not just one) who will stand up for each other, guys who will be willing to do what it takes to win and turn things around. Let’s only hope that he was able to bring in enough to bring this team back to where it’s been since he took over: amongst the best in the league!



Beaulieu’s Chance to Shine


There are many facets to consider when looking at the block buster trade that Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin has completed this summer and most so-called experts and bloggers around the internet have pretty much touched on all of them. From the departure of beloved Subban, going from surprise, to frustration and now coming around to realising that the guy they got in return isn’t just “an average defenseman”, to borrow some analytics “expert” opinion…

While Shea Weber broke into the NHL with the Nashville Predators the same year as Ryan Suter did, back in the 2005-2006 season, it is hard to tell who made whom the defenseman that they are today. One thing that we know though is that Weber, with his physical and intimidating play, has been a pretty good insurance policy for Suter who didn’t have to look twice over his shoulder, knowing that his teammate had his back.

Many people thought that we would see Weber’s true value, expecting a drop in his production, when Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent. With the exception of the lockout season, which saw Suter get four more points than Weber, it’s the Predator’s defenseman who has had the upper-hand on his former pairing partner since then. Still, his team continued to climb in the standings and were considered last year as a contender in the Western Conference, especially after knocking out the number one seed Anaheim Ducks.

Another young Predators’ defenseman has greatly benefited from Weber’s play, leadership and teaching since breaking into the NHL back in 2012-2013 and you may have heard of him: Roman Josi. You can bet that while he is an outstanding young defenseman, Josi will be the first one to notice his departure and to miss Weber. Wait, correct that… he will be second to goaltender Pekka Rinne!

Beaulieu’s turn

Nathan Beaulieu is a young defenseman who has shown flashes of brilliance in the past two seasons with the Canadiens. At 23 years old (will turn 24 in December), he has unfortunately made more headlines with his off-ice partying pictures than he has on the ice but that might change this season. For one, Devante Smith-Pelly is gone. For two, Alex Galchenyuk has dumped his bimbo and seems poised to take the next step. Then, good buddy ol’ pal P.K. Subban is gone and that might just serve as a wake-up call for the young defender who was also rumoured to be offered in a trade for some offense. As long as he doesn’t fight in the bars alongside… his dad!


Everyone around the league knows that Beaulieu has everything to be successful. At 6-foot 2-inches and 205 lbs, he has the size and the grit to battle in the NHL. He also possesses NHL speed as a smooth skater and has a boomer of a shot, with some very good offensive flair.  And that’s what team captain Max Pacioretty sees in him as well, as he pointed out at his golf tournament this summer:

It’s time for Beaulieu to shine. He was our best player at times last year and we want to see him back to that level right from the start. It’s time for him to showcase his great talent. (Source: RDS)

Seeing a quality player and rock solid defenseman like Weber with the team, he should have for personal objective to prove head coach Michel Therrien that he wants to be paired up with him. And if he has worked out like he should this summer, nobody would be happier than Therrien to put the Canadiens first round pick in 2011 (17th overall) in that position of success. It will be up to him to seize his opportunity to show, like Suter and Josi did before him, what he’s truly made of. He would have never been playing regularly with Subban, let’s face it.


Les MisérHabs


There are many reasons why it is difficult to recruit and convince NHL players to come and play for the Montreal Canadiens. Of course, taxes are always an issue that we hear often. This, however, has been fixed by slightly overpaying the free agents to accommodate for a higher tax bracket. The weather, depending on where the player played before, could be a factor. Going to the rink in Florida or California or in a snow storm in Montreal is quite different. Language, culture, kids, spouse and/or pressure are all other deciding factors. But don’t forget one of the biggest factors of all: the constant attention by some media members and the negativity that follows!

When it’s pointed out, the most guilty media are the first ones to claim innocence. Yet, those are the same people who will be down a General Manager or a head coach’s throat if they can’t trade, sign or develop impact players and if the team is struggling on the ice.  I can’t be the only one noticing the irony in this situation, right?

We all know the usual culprits, and I’m not referring to the journalists-wannabe, or the multitude of bloggers (like yours truly). We’re talking about so-called “traditional media”, on the radio, on television, in the newspaper, on the internet, on social media. Why is it that even “common mortal” fans notice that more and more members of the media seem to have an agenda against the Montreal Canadiens’ organisation and/or it’s management team? Where in the definition of “reporter” or “journalist” does it say that you now have to replace reporting the news with pushing your views on certain issues, against certain people while using the media platform being made available to you? Perhaps a better question would be why do those media outlets allow such behaviour from their so-called reporters?

Well one radio station in Montreal didn’t stand for the propaganda spread by one of their on-air personalities, as Mario Cecchini, CEO of RNC Media who owns 91.9 Sports radio, came on air to explain why he fired Michel Villeneuve, the guy who came out and started this whole story about Michel Therrien qualifying Canadiens’ captain Max Pacioretty as “the worst captain in team history” while sitting at a table after a golf game.

When I heard him say that, I remember thinking to myself: finally, someone who will stand against the non-sense spread by media personalities in Quebec who are openly going after the Canadiens’ organisation from Geoff Molson to Michel Therrien, nipping at Marc Bergevin at the same time. This is their bread and butter and he knows it. Well done Mr. Cecchini and here’s hoping that more media executives follow your lead and make their employees accountable for their “work”.

Not to be outdone, another guy who has had a beef against the Canadiens for many years now, Réjean Tremblay decided to poor it on by supporting Villeneuve in his claims. I have not heard this myself but I’m told that Tremblay claimed to have different sources than Villeneuves telling him the same story. If true, just how many people did Therrien say this to for so many people to hear it? You’d think that he stood up at a microphone somewhere to make the announcement if there are so many people who have apparently heard it!

Max Pacioretty

Remember that Tremblay is the same guy who was terribly upset at the Montreal Canadiens for refusing him the rights to use the team colours for his TV series “Lance et compte” (He shoots he scores). The same Réjean Tremblay who decided to teach Mario Tremblay a lesson after he declined him an interview without going through Donald Beauchamps. If you understand French, Mario confronted Réjean on air and it’s gold!


Regardless, this article is not as much to decide if Therrien said it or not (which I don’t believe he did), but to determine why the need to pull stuff like that. What do reporters, journalists, have to gain from pulling out stories like that one? No, it’s not to inform, as they’re not willing to name their anonymous sources. If it was legitimate, they would or those sources would come out to say who they are. The only reason is either personal vendetta against a person or the organisation, or it’s to try to make themselves look important, drawing themselves in the limelight for their two minutes of fame.

Little do they know though, is that unless the listeners, readers, viewers or fans also share the same agenda, it’s those reporters who end up looking terrible in those stories. It’s them who immediately loose their credibility and if their employers don’t act on their actions, it can also fall on them as well.

Dave Stubbs (picture from his twitter account)

Have you ever wondered why TSN’s Bob McKenzie, or TSN and ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun are so respected in the industry? One of my all-time favourites, Dave Stubbs who is now a columnist for NHL.com, is also very respected. Why? They report and give analysis. What they talk about is based on facts and all refuse to go with “anonymous” sources or stories. There are many more than those three by the way.

Personally, I wish to seem some organisations and/or players sue those attention-seekers for defamation of character and teach the rest of them a very, very valuable lesson. As for myself as a blogger, and for the vast majority of traditional media, we’ll keep on writing and talking about what’s happening on the ice, and try to stay as neutral as possible in our delivery and in our content. There are many great media members in Montreal in both English and French. Don’t waste time with the TMZ reporters around the team, as their next chapter might just be “The Days of our Habs”.

Cap Situation Handcuffing The Habs


Remember the good ol’ days when there was no salary cap? When the richest teams could outbid everyone else to get all of the marquee free agents by throwing ridiculous money at them? And it worked so well… NOT! Baseball is ridiculous with some teams spending four times more on payroll than others. The NHL salary cap, in spite of making it difficult to complete trades and to fix teams’ mistakes, is there to stay and for good reasons.

Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin finds himself in a difficult position to start the 2016-2017 season, as he finds his team with approximately $1.4 million dollars of projected cap space with a roster of 22 players (14 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goaltenders), according to generalfanager.com. Granted, the team might decide to go with 13 forwards and/or seven defensemen to start the season, giving a bit more room under the cap, but those cuts are likely to be rather small salaries (relatively speaking) anyway.

Yet, rumours keep circulating through traditional and non-traditional media to the effect that Bergevin is still trying to tweak his line-up for the upcoming season. Just days ago, François Gagnon on RDS wrote that the name of Nathan Beaulieu was circulating around the NHL and Bergevin, just like he did with P.K. Subban, did nothing to appease the rumours:

“My job is to improve the team. Nathan (Beaulieu) is not being showcased, to borrow a hockey expression, but I have received calls and yes, I’m listening to what other teams have to offer. It’s my job to listen, analyse. Nathan is a good young defenseman. We still don’t know what role he will play in the NHL. If I want to improve my team, I must move players who have value. That’s exactly what I did when trading P.K. (Subban) to acquire a guy like Shea Weber. You get nothing for nothing in the NHL.” ~ Marc Bergevin

But what exactly could Bergevin be looking for to improve his team? For one, the Canadiens have been tied to rumours about defensemen for quite some time. While they did improve defensively with the Subban and Shea Weber trade, many believe that this move is showing a “win now” attitude. The Beaulieu rumours would go along those lines, particularly that the Habs have been linked to UFA Kris Russell and more recently, Kevin Shattenkirk, more experienced defensemen.

Another question mark on the Canadiens is the team’s ability to score goals and that, even with the addition of Alexander Radulov who, let’s face it, is a question mark at this point. There is a blatant hole on left wing, behind Max Pacioretty, particularly if Alex Galchenyuk plays at centre. While Sven Andrighetto has shown some good things, is he ready to have an impact on the top-6 on a regular basis?


As we’ve explored in a recent look at the team’s Top-12 prospects, there are some very interesting young guns who might be ready to step in this season, due mostly to the fact that Bergevin is building through the draft as he said he would. But on a team where it seems like “win now” is the attitude, it leaves huge question marks. With rookies also comes the learning curve of NHL play. The calibre of play will go up from rookie camp to the main camp. It will go up a couple of notches during exhibition games and will seriously rise when the NHL season starts. And the hockey being played in the NHL in October won’t be at the same level as what will be played comes January. There is no telling how rookies would perform and continue to develop at that point.

Artturi Lehknonen

Many, including Saku Koivu, seem to feel like Artturi Lehkonen is NHL ready. What no one can predict is at what level he can contribute. While he did well against men in the Swedish Elite League, this is the NHL, the highest calibre of hockey in the world and it’s being played on smaller ice surfaces.

Michael McCarron is also showing great signs and he came close to making the big club as a rookie last year. He showed up at rookie camp at 226 lbs, which is 10 lbs lighter than last year at the same time. He adjusted his diet and training regiment this summer in order to be faster on the ice, speed being a bit of a question mark about him. He will be battling hard for a position but again, can he produce on offense regularly?

Another outstanding rookie trying to make the big club is Nikita Scherbak, who scored a beauty in the rookie tournament against the young Penguins. He has the size and speed, and we know that the talent is there as well.


Creating cap space

How exactly could Bergevin do this without creating huge holes in his line-up? That’s the dilemma that he’s faced with at this point.

He could try to trade away some contracts. Rumours have circulated around Alexei Emelin and his $4.1 million cap hit for some time, but he’s still there and one would think that had he had to be traded, it would already be done by now. He is also one of the few physical defensemen on the team so one has to wonder if trading him would make the Canadiens too soft defensively.

Tomas Plekanec had five goals in his first six games to start the season last year. Bergevin extended him for two years at $6 million per season (without a NTC) and he then scored 9 goals in his last 76 games after that. But if you were to trade him, you create a huge hole as the team isn’t rich on points producing centres at the time of writing those lines. While I personally would like to see the Canadiens get bigger up the middle, if you trade Plekanec, you must get another points producing centre in return, which is unlikely.

David Desharnais

Many (myself included) are puzzled at the fact that David Desharnais is still with the Canadiens. Either the Canadiens are oblivious at what he has shown last year, or they simply couldn’t find a taker for him, which I’m hoping is the case. Buying him out would have freed-up just over $2 million of cap space, but would have added $1.2 million to buyout cap for the next two years, for a team which is already hit with $1.3 million this year for Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau‘s buyout. Unfortunately, the buyout window closed on June 30th.

While this team is much improved from last season, I’m not convinced that it can be considered a contender just yet. If the attitude is “win now”, something has to be done and Bergevin still has some serious work to do. Trades are difficult to complete during the season with so many teams tight against the salary cap. But once some teams start struggling off the gate, we could start seeing some action. That usually starts happening in November. In the meantime, we might just have to see what direction the Canadiens’ brass decides to go, perhaps seeing how those young guns have progressed.