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Home Sweet Home: A Road Warriors Summary

Finally! The NHL season is well underway and we are already starting to notice some surprises across the league. The Carolina Hurricanes as sitting at the top of the league with a 4-0 record. The Buffalo Sabres are leading the Atlantic division. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars are out of a playoffs’ spot. The San Jose Sharks have yet to win a game in four attempts, being outscored by a combined 12 goals so far!

The Montreal Canadiens are set to play their first home game of the season tonight after a heartbreak loss in overtime to the Sabres last night. In three road games, the team has yet to lose in regulation and they are coming home with a total of four points. There have been some positive points, and some not so positive aspects that we’ve all noticed. So here’s a summary of the pros and cons of the Canadiens’ first road trip.

PROS

Jonathan Drouin
  • Habs have accumulated four out of a possible six points on this road trip to start the season
  • Only Montreal and Boston have yet to play a home game in the Eastern Conference
  • Habs are a single point back of the almighty Maple Leafs with a game in hand
  • They haven’t lost in regulation
  • They average four goals per game (tied for 6th in the NHL)
  • They average 35 shots on goal per game
  • The power play is clicking at a rate of 33.3% (3 for 9), tied for 5th best in the NHL
  • Nine players with at least 2 points
  • Jesperi Kotkaniemi didn’t score a single goal on the road all year last season. He has two in three games.
  • Joel Armia, Jonathan Drouin. Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen all have three points.
  • In addition to his three points, Drouin has a team leading plus -3
  • Five players with a faceoffs’ percentage of 50% or over, led by Nate Thompson at 56.4%
  • Never die attitude, came back from at least two-goals deficits in all three games.

CONS

  • They allow 4.33 goals per game (7th worst in the NHL)
  • They allow 39.7 shots per game
  • The penalty kill is at a dismal 69.2%
  • Tomas Tatar has eight penalty minutes
  • Rookies Cale Fleury and Nick Suzuki are struggling off the gate, realizing this isn’t preseason anymore.
  • Carey Price with a 3.69 GAA and .900 Sv%
  • Keith Kinkaid with a 4.93 GAA and a .872 Sv%

It’s early. Too early to gauge the season on only three road games. But we are starting to notice some tendencies, some good ones and some bad ones. For example, in spite of having three assists, it is clear that in order for the Canadiens to take the next step, they need an improvement on the top-6 forward group for Lehkonen and if Suzuki delays much further to show signs of offense, they will have to find a solution there as well. The defense is atrocious, as is the penalty kill and the goaltending, while not the team’s biggest weakness, will have to improve.

That being said, there were more positives than negatives in this first road trip and now that Claude Julien will have the last changes for the next four games (at home), we should see the pendulum slowing down a bit and allow to give us all a better idea of the team in front of our eyes. The first road trip, while not perfect, is mission accomplished. Now onto the first home stand. Go Habs Go!

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Serge Savard Needs a Reality Check

Ah the famous debate that will never end: How many Quebec-born players should the Montreal Canadiens have? The politically correct answer would be to have a team-full of local products. The reality however isn’t that simple. A combination of the NHL having more teams preventing the Canadiens from drafting as often, and the fact that Hockey Quebec simply doesn’t produce as much quality talent are both key contributors to this sad reality.

As we know, Geoff Molson consulted Serge Savard back in 2012 to help him find the team’s next General Manager and their choice was Marc Bergevin. Recently, the former Habs’ alumni and star defenseman was on Tout Le Monde En Parle with Guy A. Lepage and they touched on a very delicate topic: the number of local products on this Habs’ team. Savard said:

I come from this world where there has always been a majority of francophones, or at least half the team were francophones with the Canadiens. As a GM, I had 4-5 scouts in Quebec and I don’t even know if they have one right now. We let all the good talents go, guys like Giroux, all guys we could have had.

Further, the former Habs’ GM stated that when he met with Bergevin for his initial interview, he gave him one piece of advice:

The Quebec people will let you win in English but they won’t let you lose. If you have all anglophones on the team and you win, they’ll let it go. But everything will come out if you don’t have any. I think he heard me but he didn’t listen to me.

Wow! Just wow! With all due respect for Savard (and I had a lot both as a player and as a GM), not only did he overstep his boundaries, but he provided Quebecers with false or tainted information.

1- For one thing, Claude Giroux, in spite of his French Canadian name, hails from Hurst, Ontario, and not from Quebec.

2- Back when Savard played, there were tons of Quebecers in the NHL and that was with a NHL composed of anywhere between 12-21 teams over his career. Today, to start the season, there are 40 Quebec-born players starting the season in the NHL, spread across 31 teams… but we’ll get back to that.

3- According to the team’s website, Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens have Donald Audette and Serge Boisvert as scouts in Quebec. They have two scouts for the entire USA (Trevor Hanson and Bobby Kinsella), three scouts for Europe (Michal Krupa, Hannu Laine and Christer Rockstrom), one scout for Sweden (Tommy Lehman), one for Russia (Artem Telepin) and a goalie scout (Vincent Riendeau). So for a small territory like Quebec, two is huge in comparison to any other region.

So in all due respect, Mr. Savard, before going on big TV shows criticising, at least do your homework. For example, La Presse reporter Alexandre Pratt did some great work when he researched the number of Quebec-born players starting the 2019-2020 season at the NHL level.

That’s right. That’s 40 players across the NHL spread over 31 teams! How many were there “back in your days”, Mr. Savard? No wait, I won’t ask you because you certainly didn’t take the time to research that and therefore, so we wouldn’t want to put you on the spot… again.

According to hockeydb.com, at the peak of Savard’s career in 1973-74, the NHL counted 84 Quebec-born players, spread across 16 teams, or an average of 5.25 Quebec-born player per team. Today, there are 40 spread across 31 teams, so 1.29 per team. In other words, there were more than twice as many Quebec-born players in the NHL in 1973-74 as there are today, with half the number of teams. So do the math…

Further, in the organisation, the Habs have:

  • Martin Lapointe (Director of Player Personnel)
  • Larry Carrière (Senior advisor, Hockey Operations & Director of Player Personnel, Laval Rocket)
  • Claude Julien (Head Coach)
  • Stéphane Waite (Goaltender Coach)
  • Dominique Ducharme (Assistant Coach)
  • Mario Leblanc (Video Coach)
  • Francis Bouillon (Coach, Player Development)
  • and most of the training staff.
  • Joël Bouchard (Head Coach), Alex Burrows and Daniel Jacob (Assistant Coaches) for the Laval Rocket

We’ve touched on that in the past when talking about the Habs and the Quebecois syndrome and no one would like to see more Quebec-born players than yours truly but the biggest part of the blame doesn’t sit on the Montreal Canadiens’ shoulders, but rather on Hockey Quebec for not developing their local players. Because beyond politics is a Habs’ reality… and Mr. Savard forgot to educate himself before making those comments. Thankfully, you did as a faithful reader of this blog. Go Habs Go!