Beaulieu’s Chance to Shine

BeaulieuWeber

There are many facets to consider when looking at the block buster trade that Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin has completed this summer and most so-called experts and bloggers around the internet have pretty much touched on all of them. From the departure of beloved Subban, going from surprise, to frustration and now coming around to realising that the guy they got in return isn’t just “an average defenseman”, to borrow some analytics “expert” opinion…

While Shea Weber broke into the NHL with the Nashville Predators the same year as Ryan Suter did, back in the 2005-2006 season, it is hard to tell who made whom the defenseman that they are today. One thing that we know though is that Weber, with his physical and intimidating play, has been a pretty good insurance policy for Suter who didn’t have to look twice over his shoulder, knowing that his teammate had his back.

Many people thought that we would see Weber’s true value, expecting a drop in his production, when Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent. With the exception of the lockout season, which saw Suter get four more points than Weber, it’s the Predator’s defenseman who has had the upper-hand on his former pairing partner since then. Still, his team continued to climb in the standings and were considered last year as a contender in the Western Conference, especially after knocking out the number one seed Anaheim Ducks.

Another young Predators’ defenseman has greatly benefited from Weber’s play, leadership and teaching since breaking into the NHL back in 2012-2013 and you may have heard of him: Roman Josi. You can bet that while he is an outstanding young defenseman, Josi will be the first one to notice his departure and to miss Weber. Wait, correct that… he will be second to goaltender Pekka Rinne!

Beaulieu’s turn

Nathan Beaulieu is a young defenseman who has shown flashes of brilliance in the past two seasons with the Canadiens. At 23 years old (will turn 24 in December), he has unfortunately made more headlines with his off-ice partying pictures than he has on the ice but that might change this season. For one, Devante Smith-Pelly is gone. For two, Alex Galchenyuk has dumped his bimbo and seems poised to take the next step. Then, good buddy ol’ pal P.K. Subban is gone and that might just serve as a wake-up call for the young defender who was also rumoured to be offered in a trade for some offense. As long as he doesn’t fight in the bars alongside… his dad!

nathan-beaulieu

Everyone around the league knows that Beaulieu has everything to be successful. At 6-foot 2-inches and 205 lbs, he has the size and the grit to battle in the NHL. He also possesses NHL speed as a smooth skater and has a boomer of a shot, with some very good offensive flair.  And that’s what team captain Max Pacioretty sees in him as well, as he pointed out at his golf tournament this summer:

It’s time for Beaulieu to shine. He was our best player at times last year and we want to see him back to that level right from the start. It’s time for him to showcase his great talent. (Source: RDS)

Seeing a quality player and rock solid defenseman like Weber with the team, he should have for personal objective to prove head coach Michel Therrien that he wants to be paired up with him. And if he has worked out like he should this summer, nobody would be happier than Therrien to put the Canadiens first round pick in 2011 (17th overall) in that position of success. It will be up to him to seize his opportunity to show, like Suter and Josi did before him, what he’s truly made of. He would have never been playing regularly with Subban, let’s face it.

 

Open letter to Geoff Molson

As the talks are stalling and the threat of a lockout become more and more of a reality, fans are left wondering where they stand in the big picture, keeping some hope that somewhere, someone is working for them behind the scene in this battle between millionaires and billionaires.

We, as fans, understand that the NHL is a business and while we may not be “in the know” when it comes to the details of what’s being discussed behind closed doors amongst Governors and during the CBA negotiations, we understand that labour talks are not easy. We’ve read reports that some teams can’t keep up with the cap floor and that some are pretty much guaranteed to lose money before the puck is dropped to start the season and that, in spite of a hard salary cap and some sort of revenue sharing. We, fans, want the NHL to be healthy and we want our favourite sport to thrive.

Fans also understand that the players are loved and that they are the reason why we like the game. Players are the ones being idolized, they are the ones signing autographs, attending different events and giving their time to different charity events and making public appearances. They play a huge role in our love for the game. But fans understand that for that to happen, owners need to have profitable franchises.

While there is no doubt that the cancellation of the 2004-2005 season was hard on the owners and the players, fans survived with most thinking that this was necessary to allow the NHL to right the ship, to fix its internal problems. They did, directly or indirectly, support and understood that it was a sacrifice which, hopefully, was going to make things better for the future of this league, for the good of the game we love.

You, Mr. Molson, have done an amazing job since taking over as the owner of the Montreal Canadiens. You recognized that previous management was destroying your product. You hired a trusted and knowledgeable friend and hockey man in Serge Savard to help guide you in your hockey decisions and from there, you hired a well-respected, young up and coming executive at the position of General Manager in Marc Bergevin. You understand marketing and the importance of public relations, promotion of your product and mostly, you know your market in Montreal, in Quebec and across Canada. You are putting money and great efforts into bringing back pride, just like it was back in the days of Hartland Molson and the Molson family during your team’s glory days. You, Mr. Molson, are doing your part to promote your product, to keep and grow your fan base.

Hartland Molson

But as a fan, I must ask you how you feel when you see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman conduct business the way he does? Does he have blind support from the NHL owners, carte blanche to do or say what he wants, or does he follow strict orders and guidelines put forth by his employers, who by the way pay him amazingly well, perhaps too well?

Owners who work this hard at building their franchise the way you do must cringe at some of the comments made by your representative. “Players make too much money”, was Bettman saying just the other day. Does he think fans are that stupid? Who, Mr. Bettman, is giving the players those contracts? Who put a gun to Craig Leipold’s head to give Ryan Suter and Zach Parise the money that he gave them? Yes we, fans, understand that there is peer pressure to be competitive and that in some markets, it is difficult to draw big name UFAs. But please, don’t let Gary Bettman tell us that the players are making too much money when owners agree to such contracts!

And now, fans are reading that Gary Bettman and the owners are not concerned about the effects of another lockout, a third one under Bettman? “We recovered well last time because we have the world’s greatest fans”, Bettman said. You know Mr. Molson, this type of game being played, this attitude is a very risky one. Taking the fans for granted and thinking that they’re idiots, sheep that will follow no matter what because they have in the past is very, very dangerous.

The first Habs’ captain to lift the Stanley Cup after my birth was Jean Beliveau so I’ve seen the good and the bad of the NHL. I can tell you that now, I’m seeing the ugly and while it may be a good old classic movie, it is not one that this fan wants to see in the NHL. To think that you and some other owners are putting so much effort into getting your ship back on track while the commissioner is raising a storm has to hurt you as I do strongly believe that you are a man of pride and honour, an owner with integrity. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have done what you’ve done this summer with your team, you would have been happy to pocket the money.

It is my opinion that your commissioner is ruining this game with his gimmick rules to cater fair-weather fans in the US, perhaps following orders from his good friends Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider. This fan is growing more and more frustrated and while I never thought in a million year that I would feel this way, I am seriously thinking that perhaps, it’s time for me to find another passion.

There better not be a lockout Mr. Molson or if there is, it better not drag. I have full faith that if anyone can do something about it by talking some sense to the owners, it is you. I have faith in Geoff Molson. I can’t say the same about the person representing him and the other owners.

Kind regards and Go Habs Go!

Slightly different version on allhabs.net: NHL Owners or Bettman: Who’s Driving the Bus?
En français sur fantomesduforum.net: Lettre à Geoff Molson