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Kovalchuk Non-Committal to Signing With Habs

He came back to the NHL to win a Stanley Cup. He signed with the… Los Angeles Kings. Things turned sour, to the point of being a healthy scratch before being sent home waiting for a decision. The Kings eventually waved him with the purpose of terminating his contract, which they did. The phone wasn’t ringing off the hook when Montreal Canadiens’ GM made the call. Ilya Kovalchuk had the opportunity to prove that the experience in Los Angeles was just a hiccup, that he still had some good hockey left in him. Desperate, he signed a two-way deal paying him $70,000 in the AHL and $700,000 at the… NHL level, barely over minimum wage for a NHL player.

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Road Warriors

Sometimes, some things just cannot be explained. You try to figure it out, using logic, science and every information available, and it just doesn’t make sense. How do you explain ‘Deja Vu’, this distinct, puzzling, and mysterious feeling of having experienced a specific set of circumstances before? Unexplained phenomena are all around us with topics that include spontaneous human combustion, crop circles, the Bermuda Triangle and how the Tampa Bay Lightning lost in four games in the first round of the 2018-2019 playoffs.

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Trading Tomas Tatar? No Way! Unless…

Yes, the Canadiens are once again out of the playoffs. Yes, it’s the third year in a row. Yes, it will be the fourth season in the last five years that they are not part of the “real season”, the Stanley Cup playoffs. Yes, it is frustrating for everyone. Medias and broadcasters will be grumbling because they won’t be making their money, as the interest from this huge fan base won’t be there. Fans are already on edge because they’re frustrated. Rest assured that in spite of what some want you to believe, EVERYONE in the Canadiens’ organisation is also frustrated, from the owners to the players and anyone in between.

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All Star Break: Decision Time

The All Star break is over, players raced around the rink, took slapshots and even shot pucks from the rafters of the arena. The (awful) tournament style games are done and teams are returning to the ice, with the NHL schedule starting on Monday. Making things worse, some teams like the Montreal Canadiens are coming out of their bye week, as fans and media members are chomping at the bit to see them back… either to cheer them on or to have new material to complain about.

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Trade Kovalchuk? Re-Sign him? Both?

In a season where Montreal Canadiens’ fans don’t have much to celebrate about, the signing of former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk by team General Manager Marc Bergevin feels like a breath of fresh air. Brought in to help provide a warm body during a plague of injuries hitting the Habs, the Russian right winger has delivered more than anyone could have expected so far.

We know the story. Kovalchuk wanted to come back to the NHL and signed a 3-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings paying him an average of $6.25 million. In his first season back to the NHL, the 6-foot 3-inches 222 lbs winger managed 16 goals and 34 points in 64 games, playing an average of 16:14 minutes per game, with a team worst minus -26 differential amongst Kings’ forwards. This season did not start well between Kovalchuk and the Kings either as he only had three goals in 17 games and was already minus -10, going as far as being a healthy scratch. Los Angeles decided to keep him away from the team until they made the decision to buy him out. He played his last game with the Kings on November 9th and his contract was finally bought out on December 17th.

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Most Likely to Get Traded or Not Be Traded

Another game, and the rollercoaster of emotions continues if you’re a Montreal Canadiens’ fan. Great start of the season, followed by injuries to Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron, bringing an eight game winless streak. A few wins later, the hope is back but it’s then followed by yet another sequence of eight games without a win. The morale is low for Habs’ fans but then, they win two in a row, returning within seven points of a playoffs’ spot. Fans regain a glimmer of hopes but the team falls flat on their face at home against a Chicago Blackhawks’ team who had played the night before. Back to nine points behind, there is little hope once again.

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Julien Not So Subtle About Drouin

November 15, 2019. That’s the last time Canadiens forwards Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron played a NHL game, both getting injured in a dominant with over the Washington Capitals. Since then, Drouin was operated on his wrist and Byron on his knee. While Byron suffered a setback by skating too soon, Drouin seems to be getting closer to a return to the Canadiens’ line-up, his team seriously struggling since he’s been out.

For the last two days, Drouin has been skating on the top line with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher in practice as Tomas Tatar is recovering from the flu. So far, so good, right? Not so fast… This is what Claude Julien had to say after practice yesterday:

“It was an injury that required surgery. The decision to come back belongs to the player. We can’t force a guy to play if he isn’t comfortable. We’ve confirmed with the doctors that everything is good; his injury has healed. It’s up to the player to make the decision about when to return. We’re waiting to hear from Jonathan.” ~ Claude Julien

Ouch! Talk about throwing the player under the bus! In other words, we don’t know why he doesn’t want to play as he’s ready. But we can’t force him to. It seems pretty clear that Julien isn’t impressed with the amount of time his left winger has been out and seems to feel like Drouin is milking it. The fact that Julien would feel that way isn’t right to start with, but to publicly put him on the spot like that in front of the media? That’s going too far in my opinion.

Without taking sides about the validity of Douin’s injury here, we can all agree that calling one of your top players out publicly about an injured is not a good thing. Add this to the list of questionable decisions made by Julien for the past twelve months or so, I guess. To be followed, I’m sure… Go Habs Go!