Mike Reilly And the Habs’ Misfit Toys

MisfitToys

Bargain Bin… that’s what some of Canadiens’ GM detractors were calling him. Yet, he has been one of the NHL’s most aggressive General Managers since taking over the reigns in Montreal. He has proven that trading a big name player is not only possible, it must be done when needed. P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk are all playing elsewhere while Shea Weber, recently appointed team captain, Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Tatar, Max Domi and Mike Reilly are proudly wearing the CH. Wait… Mike Reilly?

You see, while everyone in Montreal and others around the NHL are starting to notice the Canadiens’ flavour of the month, yours truly has been warning you, faithful readers of this blog, about the possibility of that happening. I’m no prophet but you see, I was given the opportunity to watch this guy skate for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL and I was extremely impressed by this young man’s aptitudes. He wasn’t just good, he was a dominant force in what is known as the best Junior A development league in the country and that, on a team – the Vees – that would have beaten most Major Junior team that year.

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Mike Reilly – Penticton Vees

I was shocked that Marc Bergevin only gave up a fifth round pick for the guy and I certainly was thrilled to see him coming to my favourite team. Way back in March, I was telling you that Reilly was a serious candidate to become Weber’s best option as a defensive pairing partner. More recently, in August to be precise, Reilly made my list of the Canadiens’ top candidates for a breakthrough season. He is the real deal and it seems that like several players we discovered on the Las Vegas Golden Knights last year, all he needed was a true opportunity to showcase what he could do, a chance to gain the necessary confidence to do what he knows he can do… what I and many Pentictonites knew he could do.

 

The Misfit Toys

Come to think of it, Bergevin and his team sure have a knack at finding players that nobody wants and getting the most out of them, doesn’t he? Think of Dale Weise who, prior to being acquired by that Habs, had 10 goals in 162 games for the Rangers and the Canucks. He scored 27 in 152 games in a Canadiens’ uniform and was a key penalty killer for them. Weise has since scored 12 in total for the Flyers.

Perhaps the biggest steal by Bergevin was when he claimed newly appointed alternate-captain Paul Byron off waivers from the Calgary Flames. Ti-Paul had 17 goals in 138 career games for the Sabres and the Flames. In a Habs’ uniform, he has contributed 56 goals in 231 games so far, including two consecutive 20+ goals seasons while being one of the NHL’s best penalty killers.

In a smaller sample size, Canadiens’ gritty winger Nicolas Deslauriers had a grand total of 12 goals in 211 career games with the Sabres before finding his niche with the Habs. Last season alone, the LaSalle native tallied 10 goals in only… 58 games!

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Tomas Tatar leads the Habs in scoring

In the trade sending disgruntled Max Pacioretty to the Golden Knights, young centre Nick Suzuki was the key piece of the trade. The second round pick was a bonus and George McPhee is the one who insisted on including Tomas Tatar if, for nothing else, cap reasons. As a matter of fact, the Knights picked up some of Tatar’s salary in the trade. A healthy scratch in Vegas, Tatar leads the Canadiens in the first two weeks of the season with eight points in six games.

 

Who wanted Antti Niemi last year? Nobody. Nobody except Bergevin and the Canadiens. Stephane Waite knew him well from their days together in Chicago, where Niemi helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup. But after a few good seasons in San Jose, the veteran goaltender’s career went on a downward spiral, particularly the past couple of years. A 3.30 GAA and .892 Sv% in his last year in Dallas, followed by a season where he was claimed off waivers… twice in 2017-18! A 5.08 GAA and .872 Sv% with the Panthers, followed by a 7.50 GAA and .797 Sv% with the Penguins made people question Bergevin’s sanity and outrage his belittlers when he claimed him off waivers. Yet, he followed that up with an astounding 2.46 GAA and .929 Sv% on a team where everything went wrong for last season.

Last, need I remind you that the Canadiens acquired Joel Armia as an incentive to take Steve Mason’s contract from the Winnipeg Jets? While Armia has yet to fully show what he can do, the 6-foot 4-inches former first round pick winger is showing flashes of the skills the Canadiens need on right wing. Time will tell if he makes the list of Bergevin’s steals but by giving up Simon Bourque for him is robbery in itself.

Let’s not forget that Xavier Ouellet‘s contract was bought out by the Detroit Red Wings before the Canadiens jumped to the occasion to offer him a chance. So far this season, he has earned every minute that he’s played and he has proven to be a valuable asset. After seeing what we’ve seen of the Red Wings in the 7-3 routing at the hands of the Habs, I can’t imagine that Detroit couldn’t use him right now.

Honorable mentions must be given for the acquisitions of Jeff Petry (2nd round pick in 2015, which the Oilers ended up trading away), and Phillip Danault and a 2nd round pick (Alexander Romanov) for two pending UFA’s in Weise and Tomas Fleischmann.

Early on this season, fans love the new attitude around their favourite team. The speed and work ethics displayed are a huge contrast with what they got to see last season and yes, two of the biggest culprits of taking nights off have been traded. The scoring lost in those trades has been replaced with an exemplary effort and scoring by committee, and fans appreciate that. It’s way too early to get carried away but don’t the Canadiens remind you of last year’s Vegas Golden Knights? Go Habs Go!

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That’s What You Call Hunting?

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Hunters often get a bad rep and being a “hunter” is a claim that anyone with a licence and a gun shooting at animals call themselves. Yet, if you ask true and genuine hunters, it’s not the case. Hunters who love the sport do it out of love for the sport as well as for the meat that they hope to harvest. They don’t hunt just for killing animals. They respect the game they’re after. They respect nature and they obey by law. By doing so, not only do they contribute to conservation of the species, but they are out there enjoying the outdoors, admiring what nature has to offer whether or not they “kill”. Hunting is NOT a sport to them. Hunting is a way of life, an appreciation of what it has to offer.

Living in British Columbia, I get to enjoy the openliness of the land. Here, you are free to hunt on most Crown Land and there is more of it than one will ever need. Living in BC also means respecting and appreciating that logging is one of the province’s biggest industries. Unfortunately though, hunters and loggers share the same playing field, and the Ministry of Forest is too busy getting caught in their big wheel red tape and bureaucracy to get out in the field and monitor the destruction those logging companies are doing. Knowing that they are rarely monitored, logging outfits will risk the odd “fine” for logging across creeks and wildlife habitats with little to no respect for the environment off which they make a living, as everything is done in the name of greed and money. Yes, I just said that.

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One of my treestands, 16′ up in the air

A huge collateral damage the logging industry is creating is the laziest scum on the surface of the hunting territories: the Road Hunter. You know, those guys at the office telling you that they’re going hunting? Yeah well, ask them to be more specific. They call themselves “hunters” because they have a Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) and they buy tags to harvest deer or any other prey they’re after. You know what many of them do? Go for a drive up in the hills in BC and watch them do “their thing”. I do. They sit in their truck, driving and following the highway-like roads loggers open for their clear-cut destruction and look for the vulnerable young bucks too dumb to seek cover… and they do that all day and yet, they call it hunting. “Yup, got my buck this year again”, one told me about the two-point Mule deer he shot after putting his beer down in his cup holder in his truck. “What did you get?”, he asked me.

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My girlfriend walking in one of the trails.

Let me tell you what I got. I got to go out in the bush in the summer months, prior to fire season. I went out and cut trails. I built a treestand or two. I might have build a blind as well. I squeezed in a little fishing in a remote lake that you will never see because it means walking a couple of kilometers with a u-boat on your shoulders, enjoying a few rainbow trouts.

When Fall and hunting season opened, I drove my truck to a place where I park it every year. I then unloaded my quad, put my gun on the rack in front, and took off to one of my trails, you know, the ones that I cut in the summer? I walked carefully for a few kilometers, trying to avoid branches, twigs on the ground, in hope to see that elusive buck around the bend. I went and froze my butt in my treestand, barely moving, enjoying the squirrel gathering nuts, the partridge and other birds around me. I watch the does walk below me, unaware that I’m watching them. I use my grunt call in hope that a buck is around and, later in the season, I might rattle a little bit to make them think that other bucks are battling it out.

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The view from another treestand.

You know? Hunting? The game behind the game. The strategy, the preparation, the sense of fulfillment and the gratitude of being able to be out there and enjoy every minute in nature. Appreciating sunrises and sunsets alike. The beauty that Mother Nature is providing to us. The little things in life. Simplicity. Quietness, away from trucks and noise. Wait… here you come, again… throwing  your empty can out your window. Worse, you have your young son and/or daughter in the passenger seat, teaching them to “hunt”. To you I say: “Give your head a shake. You’re not a hunter,  you’re a predator on wheels. Never will you have my respect.”

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Harvest and camp. The true experience.

My ex father-in-law is 83 years old and he got out of his truck, unloaded his quad and got himself a nice buck again this year. You, in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s… sitting in your truck calling yourself a hunter. What did  YOU do? I know what you did… I was watching your lazy butt. If only Forestry did their job and got the logging companies to comply with the laws in every cut block, and deactivate roads when they’re done. If only they limited the amount of logging done in certain areas… perhaps deer would live long enough to get bigger and healthier in our BC forests. What? One can only dream, no?

On the lighter side, I came upon this song and it did put a smile on my face. I’m sharing in hope that it has the same effect on you. To you, genuine hunters, I say good luck and good harvest. To the truck driving, gun carrying, beer drinking city boys, I say get lost.