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?

bannièrehabs2

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 before jumping to conclusions, let’s give the runner a chance before jumping to early conclusions. Jerabek had 34 points in 59 games in the KHL.

bannièrehabs2

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.

bannièrehabs2

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.

bannièrehabs2

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

 

bannièrehabs2

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.

 

bannièrehabs2

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.

bannièrehabs2

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!!!

 

Thank You – Merci – Andrei Markov

markov2016

It’s the new NHL. It’s a league with a hard salary cap, making trades extremely hard and complex to complete, a league which brings the business aspect of the game to a level so high, that it often comes at the expense of what team commitment used to be. Fewer players than ever finish their NHL career where it all started and to traditional hockey fans, to those who have experienced seeing the commitment between teams and players, that’s a bit of a shame. 

Andrei Markov is no different. In the “old NHL”, he would have signed with the Canadiens. But due to the business aspect of the game, with a hard cap, with Carey Price scheduled to take up $10.5 million of the team’s payroll, Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin couldn’t tie his own hands by giving in to Markov’s demands of $12 million over two years. Perhaps is it because he doesn’t feel Markov can sustain two more years at a high level, or maybe it’s to keep his options open for John Tavares, but no one can deny that the end of The General on the Habs’ blue line was a business decision.

MarkovTorch

Habs’ fans and media have a way to make players bigger than they really are, as they have done with Mike Ribeiro, Jose Theodore, Guillaume Latendresse and Alexei Kovalev, or with P.K. Subban more recently. Contrarily however, Markov is a lot bigger than most people give him credit for. Why? Because he is a shy individual and he never liked interviews, preferring leaving the spot light to others.

But don’t be fooled. GMs around the NHL knew all along Markov’s worth. Mike Komisarek owes Markov his one and only big contract when he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent. Sheldon Souray looked like an All-Star playing alongside Markov while in Montreal. And the Canadiens’ powerplay was, for many years, Andrei Markov.

But all wasn’t always rosy for Markov in Montreal. He reached a low in popularity in Montreal when, in three seasons from 2008 to 2010, he played a total of 65 games due to various injuries. During that period, what drew the ire of fans and media alike is when he insisted on participating in international tournaments when he couldn’t help his own NHL team. Admittedly, I was one of them!

Markovkid

It is unfortunate that he won’t be able to reach the 1,000 games plateau with the Canadiens, needing only 10 games to reach this milestone. A career of 16 seasons, he was the longest serving Montreal Canadiens, a title which he now passes to long time teammate Tomas Plekanec. The 34 year-old centre will start his 13th full season with the Canadiens and has 921 regular season’s games under his belt. The next longest serving Habs? None other than Carey Price, who will start his 11th season with the team which drafted him. Captain Max Pacioretty is next, he who will begin his 10th season wearing #67 in the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge uniform.

“I’ve never been nervous that way, even on my wedding day I wasn’t nervous that much. I had to make a very difficult decision. I will not be back with the Canadiens next season. For the past 16 years, I was proudly wearing the Habs jersey. Each and every day, I realized how lucky I was to be a part of such a great hockey organization.

I guess now it’s time to move on. It’s sad for me to leave. This organization was a big part of my life and always will be, but now I’m looking forward to new opportunities. They say that if one door closes, others will open.”

With his 572 regular seasons’ points, Markov sits in second place amongst defensemen in the long Montreal Canadiens’ history, tied with Guy Lapointe, with only the great Larry Robinson ahead of them. There is no doubt in my mind that The General’s jersey #79 should be hanging in the rafters of the Bell Centre and that he will be well deserving of a nomination into the Hall of Fame.

Some people will use his departure to crucify Bergevin and the Canadiens’ organization, claiming to those who will listen that they should have given Markov what he wanted. Those people however, sit behind a keyboard writing crap about the Habs, and don’t run a NHL team. It’s business and they know it, but controversy sells and they’re feeding on fans’ ignorance to get hits for themselves or on their web site. Fortunately, most reasonable fans can see right through it.