Top Cheese: August 2017 Edition

TopCheese

Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as Summer is winding down and the team and players are getting ready for training camp. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

Is there anyone around Montreal more negative than The Gazette’s very own Brendan Kelly? Even when trying to get around his constant negativity towards the Canadiens, he can’t help himself but to mention either P.K. Subban or take a shot at either Marc Bergevin or Shea Weber. Kelly is hired by The Gazette to cover showbiz, to spread gossips about celebrities, and he seems to be taking the same approach with anything to do with the Habs. Worse, while most people call him out of it, some are buying his Kool-Aid. I, for one, would love to see the organization put the squeeze on The Gazette as what Kelly does is borderline or straight out slander. Boy oh boy do they ever miss Dave Stubbs… In the meantime folks, stop giving Kelly the time of day. His writing and comments are not worthy as he totally lacks professionalism. Perhaps he should read this: Habs Blogger or Journalist: Who Is Who?

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Much has been said about the Canadiens’ defense, particularly after Andrei Markov signed in the KHL. However, while it might lack big names (aside from perennial All-Star Weber), it is relatively unknown and force is to admit that fans and media alike don’t know much about Jakub Jerabek. Former Habs Jaroslav Spacek has nothing but good words for the newly signed defenseman and he thinks that he can help his new team.

“He [Jerabek] is sound with the puck and uses his abilities at all times. He is good on the power play and short handed. He is a complete player. I think that he will be able to help the Canadiens all season long and I’m hoping that he gets his chance in the NHL.” ~ Spacek

The scouting report on Jerabek is that he is a good technical defenseman who moves the puck well and makes good first passes out of his zone, and who is always well positioned to make plays at both ends of the ice. So let’s give the runner a chance before jumping to early conclusions. Jerabek had 34 points in 59 games in the KHL.

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With the recent signings of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl by the Edmonton Oilers, much has been said and written about their need to shed salary. But not so fast here folks. The Oilers are $8.3 million under the cap so they are in no hurry to do anything. I read some people who seem to think that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be shopped at rebate… it’s not the case folks! In fact, unless Peter Chiarelli gets a very good offer, he will keep RNH for the season in hope that he raises his game and by the same token, his trade value. Nugent-Hopkins is just now entering the prime of his career and while we explored the possibility of a trade between the Habs and the Oilers a while back, a trade involving Brendan Gallagher, nothing is imminent.

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TSN Insider Darren Dreger mentioned recently that he feels like there is a strong possibility that disgruntled centre Matt Duchene might not report to camp with the Colorado Avalanche, unhappy that the anticipated trade is entering year two. A couple of days ago at his annual golf tournament, GM Joe Sakic addressed the Duchene trade topic with Mike Chambers of the Denver Post:

“I will be listening to offers. Right now it’s quiet on all fronts,” Sakic said. “But I’ll listen to offers on how we can get better. I’ll never name names but I’ll sit there and if something makes sense for the way we want to go, with our team, we’ll really look at that.”

Unless Duchene does hold out, it seems like Sakic is in no rush to trade the 26 year-old centre and if he ever does, he can ship him to the best offering since Duchene doesn’t have a NTC.

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Will Butcher seems to be the flavour of the month around the NHL and Habs’ fans are jumping all over it. The fact is that most Habs’ fans had never even heard the name before a couple of weeks ago and now, he seems to be perceived at Shea Weber’s defense partner next season. Come on folks. True that he had a great season last year with the University of Denver with 37 points in 43 games but let’s not lose sight of the fact that he was playing his senior year, something most top-end talents don’t do prior to joining the NHL. The 5’10” and 190 lbs Butcher is 22 years old and while Montreal has been rumoured to be in the mix, it is apparently not the case.Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 7.59.32 AM

 

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The Boston Bruins are in a bind and the Oilers didn’t help them any when they signed Draisaitl to an eight year, $68 million deal. Rumour is that the Bruins have offered David Pastrnak six years at $6 million per season, but for a guy freshly out of a 34 goals, 70 points in 75 games season, that’s just not going to cut it. The two future young stars have had a very similar start to their NHL career and you can bet that Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry, is now using Draisaitl new contract when talking to Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney. While former Lightning GM Brian Lawton tweeted that he wouldn’t be surprised if he is traded, both Sweeney and Barry have denied the rumour, as they are still working on a deal. The Bruins have over $10 million in cap space as it stands today.

 

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The Hockey News presented a tweet exposing those claiming that Marc Bergevin has built a weak team, when showing that in the past five years, the Habs are amongst the NHL’s top teams when it comes to wins.Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 8.14.42 AM

While there is no denying that the team hasn’t had playoffs’ success, let’s not get blinded by that by claiming that this isn’t a good team. As the Ottawa Senators and the Nashville Predators have shown last year, and many teams before them, once you make the playoffs, you never know what can happen.

I encourage you to look at recent tweets by the Hockey News as they have posted many Top-10, where you will find the Canadiens and some of their players, such as Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber amongst others.

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The NHL has released its schedule and the Canadiens will start their 2017-18 campaign on the road, in Buffalo on Thursday, October 5th. The team’s home opener won’t be an easy one as the Chicago Blackhawks will be in town on Tuesday, October 10th. They won’t be waiting long before their first long road trip (distance wise) as they will fly out west the following week to face the Sharks, Kings and Ducks before coming back to a 3-games home stand. You can see the entire schedule on Canadiens.com. Until then, enjoy the rest of the Summer, get some much needed fresh air and stay away from the constant negativity of some. Life is too short for that and is meant to be lived and enjoyed. Go Habs Go!!!

 

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Habs Players Get Into Mentorship

McCarronMitchell

You are a young hockey player. At 18, you are drafted to the NHL. To boot, it’s the most storied franchise in the game who called your name. After attending a camp or two, you eventually sign your first professional contract. Immediately, you feel not only the pressure to wear that legendary uniform, but fans are already starting to idolize you. When you finally make the big club, you enter this world of glamour, fans recognizing you everywhere you go. You are young, good looking, with pockets full of money and girls are all around you wanting nothing more than to be the next hockey girlfriend/wife. What could go wrong?

There have been plenty of examples over the years all around the NHL where these situations get to a young player’s head and Montreal is no different. If anything, it might even be worse, hockey being the only major professional sport in town (no disrespect intended to the Impact and the Alouettes), and with bars closing at 3:00 am. The inner circles of corruption and drugs are everywhere and temptation to “live the life” is omnipresent, and young players are most vulnerable to it.

With the Canadiens, we have seen first hand the effect of what I refer to as “vedettaria“, has had on players, particularly on local talents who are placed on an even higher pedestal. Whether it be fans pushing for Guillaume Latendresse to stay in Montreal while still of junior age, Jose Theodore being made bigger than he really was, Mike Ribeiro and Pierre Dagenais were preferred to Saku Koivu and Craig Rivet when things blew up in practice… those are just a few concrete examples proving that point, contributing to the fact the Bell Centre had to let them in through the garage door just so their head could fit through the doors.

So pardon me if I am a bit concerned about seeing Jonathan Drouin come in and be the new face of the Canadiens in their promos on Canadiens.com. Jerseys and T-shirts sales, taking on the streets in Montreal doing live interviews with fans, the Habs are obviously taking full advantage of having the most talented young local product in the NHL playing for them. Here’s hoping that the young man keeps both feet anchored to the ground.

Local products weren’t the only ones however and current management has done a good job at weeding out the distractions. They gave Zack Kassian a chance, Marc Bergevin sitting with him immediately after the trade, but his demons were too strong, Canadiens’ GM trading him before the troubled forward could play a single game after he rammed his truck into a telephone poll at the wee hours in the morning. Devante Smith-Pelly loved the nightlife and guess what happened? In addition to him not being the most coachable,  P.K. Subban was traded for rubbing his teammates the wrong way, some claiming that his ego was bigger than the team. After several chances, Nathan Beaulieu will now pursue his career under the leadership of… Evander Kane!

The Canadiens almost “lost the handle” on star goaltender Carey Price but Bergevin pushed all the right buttons by bringing his mother to live with him, and his then girlfriend. And Alex Galchenyuk‘s outings have made the news from time to time, management still trying to decide if he’ll turn it around like Price or if his fate will follow Beaulieu’s.

Leadership stepping up

While some laugh at the concept, Bergevin believes in character and positive leadership and that’s why he acquired the likes of former Mark Messier Award winner Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw, Torrey Mitchell and Jordie Benn (amongst others), to better support the existing leaders in captain Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov.

At the end of last season, we were able to witness the newly found friendship between young veteran Andrew Shaw, who took rookie Artturi Lehkonen under his wing. The two were inseparable and Shaw sees a lot of himself in his young teammate.

“He’s [Lehkonen] fun to be around. He’s a kid having fun … he’s enjoying life. He kind of reminds me of how I play. He plays physical, he goes to those dirty areas, he competes, he goes to the net, and I like that in a player. I try to help him out, how he can better his game, what he needs to keep working on, what he needs to keep doing to be successful in the league.” ~ Andrew Shaw

Shaw isn’t the only one taking young guys under his wings, as we have discovered this summer. Earlier this summer, Brendan Gallagher posted a picture on his Instagram account of he and Shea Weber playing a round of golf at Pebble Beach. Ironic in the sense that Weber broke Gallagher’s had with a slap shot previously, Gally is considered one of the team’s young leaders, who is learning from one of the best leaders in the entire NHL.

Captain Pacioretty didn’t take long to reach to newcomer Drouin and the two are training together this off-season in preparation for the upcoming NHL season. The 22 year-old Drouin can’t ask for a better welcome to the City than having the one wearing the captain “C” on his jersey taking the time to train with him, in Montreal.

 

More recently in an article on Canadiens.com, we found out that 32 year-old veteran Torrey Mitchell is training with 22 year-old Mike McCarron, pushing each other. And McCarron is learning a lot from the veteran.

“This is my first summer training one-on-one with another guy with that much experience. He’s definitely showed me what it takes to stay in the League that long. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever worked out with,” said McCarron, who trains with Mitchell five to six times per week off the ice. “Sometimes you look at him like he’s crazy, but that’s why he’s been in the NHL for so long. Training with Torrey has definitely helped me train harder this summer.”

Where this mentorship will lead to when it comes to on-ice production remains to be seen, but there is not a soul who can see the negative in such collaboration. It looks like Bergevin’s message is getting through and the leaders are, well, just being themselves. And as a fan, I have to say that I love what I’m seeing… and so does management, rest assured. Go Habs Go!