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.

MReillyVees
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!

TatarBench
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!

Advertisements

O Captain! My Captain!

WeberCaptain

Unlike the character in the legendary poem by Walt Whitman back in 1865, the Montreal Canadiens’ newly appointed captain, while on the injured list until November, is very much well and alive. General Manager Marc Bergevin, head coach Claude Julien, the players in the dressing room and hockey fans around the NHL all know that Shea Weber was the ultimate choice to become the team’s 30th player to wear the “C” on their jersey.

But before we get into that, I unfortunately have to get something off my chest immediately before chanting the praize of the man, the hockey player who is known everywhere in the NHL as a rock, Man Mountain as declared by Team Canada and Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock. It’s something troubling, somber, sad but also frustrating. It’s about those who don’t have the mental capacity to understand that it’s not Weber’s fault if their golden boy, whom I won’t even bother to name, was traded from Montreal.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 6.39.22 PM

It’s comments like this one that make me sick to my stomach. It’s comments like this one that fans around the NHL are laughing at. Don’t recognise that the player that you love had major issues. Hate the trade all you want, but give your head a shake if you start hating on an amazing player, individual and leader like Weber because of it. To be truthful, behaviour like this makes you look like idiots, and I hope I’m wrong.

What this nomination means

“I prefer to sail in a bad ship with a good captain rather than sail in good ship with a bad captain.” ~Mehmet Murat ildan

Many had jumped to the conclusion that departing captain Max Pacioretty wasn’t cut for the job. Some went as far as accusing him of being a bad captain, a bad leader. Seeing how he appeared to abandon ship last season with a less than stellar effort, perhaps the captain abandoned ship when things got rough last year and that won’t happen with the new guy. Fans will need to point the finger elsewhere than “bad leader” when describing the current captain if things don’t go the way they should.

“A brave captain is as a root, out of which, as branches, the courage of his soldiers doth spring.” ~ Philip Sidney

Dad. Yes, dad. That’s the nickname players have for Weber in the dressing room. Someone whom they look on to lead the way, for advice, for leadership. A rock, full of experience and wisdom though having done it all, even at the international level. One thing is missing, something that drives him, winning a Stanley Cup and he will lead this crew in that direction. Whether he’s successful or not will depend on many factors but leadership won’t be an issue.

“In calm water, every ship has a good captain.” ~ Grover Cleveland

When things are going well, everyone is a leader. Everyone can smile and have fun. That’s usually when you hear stories about a tight dressing room. But when things get rough, when injuries happen, players underperform, when losses pile up, that’s when you see leadership. It may not always result in more wins, but it does have its impact on team morale and keeping a team focused on the ultimate goal… for when results and fate start smiling at you again.

“When the storm brews and the waves swell, only an experienced captain can control the ship and save it.” ~ Mata Amritanandamayi

Weber has the experience. In junior with the Kelowna Rockets, in the NHL with the Nashville Predators, where he wore the “C” for six seasons, at the international level as an alternate-captain for Team Canada. Not that one needs hardware to have leadership, but the NHL recognised his by awarding Weber with the Mark Messier leadership award in 2016, for his on and off-ice qualities as a leader.

“When you are captain, you are never speaking for yourself.” ~ Brian O’Driscoll

The media. Oh boy, the media in Montreal. When Andrei Markov was offered the captaincy a few years ago, he declined it because he didn’t want to have to deal with that aspect of the job. That’s saying much about the wolfpack mentality of some, but they will never admit to their wrong doing, we know that. They’ll play the ‘poor me’ or be sarcastic about it instead. Weber knows what he’s getting into and he accepted the title. Fans who are afraid that he could crumble under mediatic pressure don’t know him at all. As a matter of fact, there are media members right now who aren’t happy to see him there… because like Bergevin, he won’t be bullied by by them and they know it. The reporters, the old school ones, are happy because they have a man of integrity to interview.

“The captain of a ship can run a great ship, but he can’t do anything about the tides.” ~ Matthew Norman

While there’s no shortage of quality leaders in this dressing room, the Canadiens also named the best two guys as alternates who exemplify hard work and relentlessness, two guys who were told they would never make it to the NHL, let alone have success. Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher will have Weber’s back and the captain will be able to lean on them. Bergevin has his captain. Julien has his captain, his leaders. Now it’s up to them to right the ship. It’s up to Bergevin to provide his coach with the crew to right the ship. It’s up to Julien and his assistants to find ways to make them produce to their potential. They may not control the tides, but they are dictating the route the ship is taking.

In conclusion, I admit that Shea Weber (and Jarome Iginla) have been some of my favourite players in the NHL but I did not realise how much I miss the new captain out there, how much the Habs miss him, until I watched this clip published by the team. If you haven’t watched it yet, have a look. Season starts this week and soon, the captain will step on board. Let’s enjoy the ride together. Go Habs Go!