Zadorov and The Cute Little Habs

Back in the days when I played junior hockey, players held each other accountable and NHL players did the same. If referees missed a call, or even if they called a penalty on a cheap shot, the victim was looked after by his peers. If you did something questionable, you knew that you’d have to answer for your action. And that’s why rats back then were not only few and far between, but they were much, much braver. They knew that they couldn’t hide behind a rule protecting them. They knew that someone would come to pay them a visit with his gloves off.

Last night, Nikita Zadorov, a 6-foot 6-inches and 235 pounds defenseman of the Colorado Avalanche, violently hit 19 year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the corner. Kotkaniemi fell on his head and neck to never return to the game. The Canadiens have announced that Kotkaniemi suffered an “upper body” injury, which we all know is, at the very least, a concussion and would not accompany his team in New York to face the Rangers. The two blind mice on the ice – otherwise called referees – both missed the infraction. The sad part is that some people are supporting their decision. It seems like the need to try to appear unbiased is stronger than the recognizing and acknowledging the facts. In my opinion, which is shared by many people it seems, it was a slew foot that took Kotkaniemi off balance before being thrown to the ice by Zadorov. But who’s right?

First, lets see what the NHL rulebook states:

A player using his LEG or foot to KNOCK or kick… Now, let’s have a look at the hit itself.

Notice Zadorov’s right leg. His foot gets off the ice in a forward motion, knocking Kotkaniemi, forcing his legs forward. Zadorov used his upper body at the same time to slam his opponent violently to the ice. Granted, it wasn’t as clear in real time but if, after watching this, you still don’t think it was a slew foot, people should definitely question your motive as the act is very clear.

Canadiens lack of response

After the dirty hit, I got immediately thinking that had Zadorov done that to Mathew Barzal in Long Island, for example, he would have had to deal with Matt Martin that game. Unfortunately, the Canadiens have Charles Hudon, Jordan Weal and Nick Cousins needed to play on the power play (sic) instead of having guys who can help protect their talented players. Just last week, I had compiled a list of players that GM Marc Bergevin should try to acquire to make his fourth line more like the New York Islanders. It would go a long way, in my opinion, to bring this group together.

Chris “Knuckles” Nilan

Still, even with the Habs not having anyone who can take on Zadorov, the lack of response from his teammates was extremely disappointing. Fine. Don’t go after the monster Zadorov. But what kept them from going after Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen or Samuel Girard? Nothing. Nothing but lack of caring, playing for your fat paycheck instead of for each other. The lack of emotion displayed by the Canadiens’ players last night is enough to make the great John Ferguson roll in his tomb and Chris Nilan give himself a concussion from shaking his head. Those guys cared for their teammates. It sure had a similar effect on yours truly. The Habs need even more character from guys who actually care.

I’ve touched on it in many occasions on this blog, but the Instigator rule should be amended for the good of the game. But the NHL made their bed and there is no way that they can change it back now. Not with the legal implication it would bring. This is perhaps the biggest gaff by Commissioner Gary Bettman, his “legacy” in which he’s done everything in his power to screw the players both financially with multiple lockouts (and by ricochet the fans) and on ice, putting them at a bigger risk than ever before. Go Habs Go!

Rumour: Habs in Late Stage Discussions For Gostisbehere?

An eight game losing streak has everyone on edge in Montreal and even after snapping out of it last night against the New York Islanders, the tension is still omnipresent around the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. After taking a 3-0 lead and dominating the game, Claude Julien‘s troop almost folded once again, surrendering two late goals to the Isles, who were playing their second game in as many nights. The team is fragile and with the Canadiens already thin on quality left-handed defensemen, the loss of Victor Mete is being felt and that, even with the outstanding play of Ben Chiarot, who played over 29 minutes against the Bruins in Boston and over 30 minutes last night against the Islanders.

Since then, beat writer Martin McGuire of 98.5 FM radio seemingly was on the air dropping a bomb, drawing a lot of attention in a fanbase desperate for action, any action that would bring in help for their favourite team. According to McGuire, who claims getting this information from a solid informant, the discussions between the Habs and the Philadelphia Flyers in regards to Shayne Gostisbehere have intensified. McGuire claims that the negotiations are at an advanced stage.

Gostisbehere, who was a healthy scratch for a few games last week, seems to have fallen out of coach Alain Vigneault‘s good books and with a cap hit of $4.5 million until the 2022-23 season, it’s an expansive scratch for a team only a million dollars below the salary cap ceiling. “The Ghost”, as they call him, played in the Flyers’ last three games, gathering three points (2G-1A) with a plus -3 differential in that span.

Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin, who is in Russia trying to convince prospect Alexander Romanov to make the jump to the NHL next season, has failed to find a suitable defense partner for Shea Weber since making his acquisition three years ago. The fact is that top-4 defensemen don’t often become available and the asking price is usually quite high for them.

Take those rumours for what they are folks: rumours. We know that Bergevin doesn’t leak rumours and in this case, it doesn’t appear to come from Philadelphia. Further, the Flyers didn’t have a single scout at the Canadiens’ game last night. Yes, it is possible that they’re not looking at getting roster players in return though.

While not known for his defensive prowlesses, Gostisbehere is a good puck-moving defenseman with good speed, who can provide offense from the backend and quarterback the point on the powerplay. The 26 year-old rearguard had a 65 points season two years ago, before taking a step back with 37 points last season. In 25 games this season, he has nine points (3G-6A).

EDIT – From Elliotte Friedman’s 31 thoughts after I wrote this article:

Captains’ ceremony

Prior to the game against the Islanders, the Canadiens, celebrating the team’s 11oth anniversary, invited several former team captains to join in the celebration. As the Habs know best how to do, the ceremony was tasteful and filled with emotional historical moments. From the on-ice video on Robert Charlebois‘ “Je reviendrai à Montréal” to the presentation of the captains coming out of the tunnel, and the family picture with the current Habs on the ice, fans were treated, once again, with a beautiful tribute to the men who wore the “C”.

If you think for a second that players, current and past, don’t care about the history of this team, think again. When they see how idolized those guys are, even the ones who never got the opportunity to raise the Stanley Cup over their head in Montreal, they realize how deep the roots of this team are in the City, in the Country.

I feel so fortunate to claim that I’m old enough to say that I have was given the privilege to watch each and every one of the captains introduced last night and it revived so many great memories, reminding me why I’ve been a Montreal Canadiens’ fan for five decades and why I will be until the day I die. Players change. Ownership, management and coaches change. But the CH, the logo, the history, the passion and the entertainment don’t. The love for this team remains and that, whether the team has success on the ice or not. No, it’s not settling for mediocrity. It’s years of pride and passion that simply don’t vanish. It is my hope that you, readers, feel that pride and that one day, you will be the ones writing and talking about it… as I do now. Go Habs Go!