Top Candidates – Partner for Shea Weber

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Aside perhaps for the centre position, one of the most glaring needs for the Montreal Canadiens is for a mobile, puck-moving left handed defenseman who can log quality minutes on the top pairing to play alongside Shea Weber. Of course, winning the Draft lottery would have gone a long way as a player like Rasmus Dahlin would have been the prototypical prospect to be groomed alongside Weber, but we know now that it’s not a possibility.

While Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin does have some young blueliners bringing hope to the team, finding a proven top-4 defenseman bringing experience would go a long way in helping goaltender Carey Price bounce back from a very bad season to his standards.  Without further ado, let’s have a look as some names that may be available either through free agency or through trades, perhaps some that are already in the Habs’ brass’ plans.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

Dan Hamhuis – Dallas Stars

AGE: 35Image result for dan hamhuis
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 204 lbs
GP: 80
G: 3
A: 21
PTS: 24
TOI/G: 20:11
+/-: -6
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: At age 35, Hamhuis would be a stop-gap. He still logged some major minutes last year with the Stars and on a one or two year contract, he could be helpful, also as a mentor to young Victor Mete and Mike Reilly. He can play a sound defensive game and also be used in a shutdown role. He moves the puck very well out of the defensive zone and he has loads of hockey sense. He can also fill in with a more offensive role if or when required.

Thomas Hickey – New York Islanders

AGE: 29Image result for thomas hickey
HEIGHT: 6’0″
WEIGHT: 188 lbs
GP: 69
G: 5
A: 20
PTS: 25
TOI/G: 18:04
+/-: +20
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: Hickey is very much underrated, but he is very much appreciated by his coaches and teammates. He’s great at moving the puck quickly up ice and fairly sound in his own end. He is also extremely mobile and does not make a lot of mistakes in his own end.

John Moore – New Jersey Devils

AGE: 27Image result for john moore
HEIGHT: 6’2″
WEIGHT: 210
GP: 81
G: 7
A: 11
PTS: 18
TOI/G: 20:01
+/-: +3
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: Moore is one of my favourite candidates as a UFA for the position. He has a big frame and owns exceptional skating ability. He is a very steady defender and he shoots the puck with aplomb. His speed is useful all over the ice.

Calvin De Hann – New York Islanders

AGE: 27Image result for calvin de haan
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 198 lbs
GP: 33
G: 1
A: 11
PTS: 12
TOI/G: 18:04
+/-: +11
STATUS: UFA

JUSTIFICATION: De Haan was lost for the season in December, having shoulder surgery but he has since confirmed that he will be ready for the start of the 2018-19 season. When healthy, he is very reliable in his own end. He skates extremely well and owns good puck-moving skills. His type of low-maintenance game can register huge amounts of ice time.

TRADES

Jake Muzzin – Los Angeles

AGE: 29Image result for jake muzzin
HEIGHT: 6’3″
WEIGHT: 213 lbs
GP: 74
G: 8
A: 34
PTS: 42
TOI/G: 21:39
+/-: +10
STATUS: $4M until 2019-20

JUSTIFICATION: The Kings have the most money committed towards next year’s cap and with the way they were bounced out of the playoffs, they will be looking at making some change, possibly freeing up some salary cap in the process. Muzzin has good size and a great point shot. He moves the puck well out of danger and can log big minutes.

Alec Martinez – Los Angeles

AGE: 30Image result for alec martinez
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 208 lbs
GP: 77
G: 9
A: 16
PTS: 25
TOI/G: 22:52
+/-: +3
STATUS: $4M until 2020-21

JUSTIFICATION: As mentioned, the Kings may want and/or need to make moves. Martinec is a strong, swift and well-balanced skater with two-way ability. He also has solid puck-moving and passing skills. He usually keeps things simple and limits mistakes.

Oscar Klefbom – Edmonton Oilers

AGE: 24Image result for oscar klefbom
HEIGHT: 6’3″
WEIGHT: 215
GP: 66
G: 5
A: 16
PTS: 21
TOI/G: 22:51
+/-: -12
STATUS: $4.167 until 2022-23

JUSTIFICATION: Prior to the trade deadline back in March, Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman was saying that the Oilers were showcasing Klefbom and speculations continue. The Oilers have several RFA’s to sign, including Ryan Strome and Darnell Nurse, and McDavid and Draisaitl’s contracts kick in this upcoming season. Klefbom owns great shutdown ability, excellent mobility and sound positioning. He can log huge minutes and is a factor on both special teams, but that didn’t keep pundits in Edmonton from pointing the finger at him for the team’s disappointing season.

Kris Russell – Edmonton Oilers

AGE: 31Image result for kris russell
HEIGHT: 5’10”
WEIGHT: 173 lbs
GP: 78
G: 4
A: 17
PTS: 21
TOI/G: 19:04
+/-: -7
STATUS: $4M until 2020-21

JUSTIFICATION: If not Klefbom, Russell is another possibility. Most known around the league as a tremendous shot-blocking defenseman – his best attribute – he plays with confidence with the puck. Russell also has enough offensive instincts to play on the power play and he does move the puck with aplomb. He definitely has great wheels and is able to skate out of trouble.

T.J. Brodie – Calgary Flames

AGE: 27Image result for tj brodie
HEIGHT: 6’1″
WEIGHT: 182 lbs
GP: 73
G: 4
A: 28
PTS: 32
TOI/G: 23:41
+/-: -16
STATUS: $4.65M until 2019-20

JUSTIFICATION: The Flames keep popping in mind when I think of teams ready to make a big move, and with the Canadiens owning the 3rd overall pick, it makes me wonder what they could pitch to Marc Bergevin to bite for trading it to them, assuming that they want Brady Tkachuk, younger brother Matthew, who already is an impact player on their team. One of the players that would help the Habs is Brodie, a defenseman who moves the puck well and is an even better skater. His offensive ability seems untapped, as he can run the power play and jump up into the rush. He is definitely capable of logging huge amounts of ice time. Oh and no, I’m NOT suggesting the 3rd overall pick for Brodie, in case someone thinks that I’ve completely lost my mind.

As for the value for any of those defensemen in trades, it obviously varies depending on the target. While rumours are circulating that the Habs are in negotiation with Max Pacioretty, many still think that it is very likely that he will be traded at the deadline. Based on his production being higher than Duchene and what Colorado received, the return would have to be substantial. Alex Galchenyuk‘s name often returns into rumours as well, and we know that Bergevin is wanting to make some change. We shall see who he was pointing to when talking about “attitude” in the dressing room. Is it June 22nd yet? Go Habs Go!

 

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A Divisive Fan Base

BadvsGoodHabs

Human beings come in all forms, with many different backgrounds, upbringing, experiences and mindsets. You can have five people looking at the exact same thing and you’ll have five different descriptions of what they’re looking at. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that as society has evolved and items were invented because of this diversion of thoughts… unless it’s combined with narcism, egocentricity or the need to be right at all cost.

Fans of sports’ teams are no different. They are human beings who will have different levels of involvements and interest in their favourite team. In Montreal, fans of the Canadiens are often referred to as passionate, knowledgeable, but also as irrational and bipolar, going from one extreme to the other. Ouch. But what is the definition of a “fan”? The word ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic’. There are a couple of definitions in dictionaries that make a whole lot of sense, particularly when put together:

1- a person who is extremely enthusiastic about and devoted to some interest or activity (Merriam-Webster)

2- : a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause. (Oxford)

How many times have we heard Habs’ fans saying that hockey is not a sport, but a religion? Being in my fifth decade on this planet and having lived life’s experiences, it’s not something that I personally agree with but it would be futile on my part to think that there aren’t people seeing it that way. And that’s where things get complicated…

The need to be right

In today’s society, with the sense of entitlement this generation is living with, where everything is owed to them (or seems to be), there is a feeling that the “my way or the highway” is more predominant than ever. Too often, opinions are mistaken for facts. If one thinks or perceives things one way, then it must be factual, right? Not so much. Whatever happened to agreeing to disagree?

Pushing things even further is this need to be right… at all cost. People put themselves out there, have strong opinions, and they are so vocal and feel so strongly about them, that they reach the point of no return. If things don’t go as they said, as they claim, they must do anything and everything in their power to try to save face. They will accuse others, they will deny, they will find every other excuses in the books in order to justify thinking what they’re thinking, for saying what they’re saying, to ‘prove’ their point.

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Remember the famous blue and black, or white and gold dress debate? And unless you lived under a rock for the past month or so, how can we forget the ‘Yanni’ or ‘Laurel’ phenomenon? Is it remotely possible that two people can see things differently, and is it so hard for us to not only recognize it, but to accept it as well?

The Canadiens’ fan base doesn’t need me to point out situations where this applies, right? The controversy about every and any coach not named Scotty Bowman has the fan base divided. Whether it be Jacques Martin, Randy Cunneyworth (remember the language debate even for an interim coach?), Michel Therrien and even Stanley Cup winner Claude Julien, fans are divided on their decision-making and ultimately, on their capability as coaches.

It’s no different when it comes to General Managers… Réjean Houle, André Savard, Bob Gainey, Pierre Gauthier, and now Marc Bergevin have all been through the ringers by some of the Habs’ fan base, while more (or less) respected by others.

Players such as Mike Ribeiro, Saku Koivu, José Théodore, Patrice Brisebois, Alex Kovalev, David Desharnais, and now captain Max Pacioretty and even Carey Price are making the rounds amongst some of the fan base. Need I mention that guy in Nashville?

Social Media contribution

Like there are not enough topics for Habs’ fans to be divided about, the arrival of Social Media (particularly Twitter) has created a monster. Worse is the fact that it’s being fed greatly by some media members, some who, in my humble opinion, don’t deserve the title of journalists, who use their platform to spew their views, often strong dislikes borderline hater, instead of reporting the news. You know who they are. They are more prominent in print media and radio shows, but you find a few on television as well.

Social Media

Fans read, listen those opinions and because it suits what they think, it becomes their reality. With social media, they now have a voice, an immediate medium to channel their beliefs and one person agrees with the other and it quickly creates a ‘side’ on a topic. Think about it… someone posts a strong opinion and has hundreds, if not thousands of people instantaneously knowing about it. How do you back out and save face now? Plus if others, media member(s) include, think the way I do, then it must be true. It must be factual, right? No, it’s not.

Now you have narcissistic and egocentric individuals joining the bandwagon on both sides of the debate(s) and the name calling starts. The ‘Subanista’ and the ‘Bergevin lovers’, the ‘Weber fans’ vs the ‘Subban fans’, the ‘negative fans’ or the ‘rose glasses fans’… It’s either black or white (no pun intended), no room for grey area. Because you speak in favour of someone, you are being catalogued as a ‘lover’.

A perfect example of that is the racism card used against those who speak up against P.K. Subban… in the accusers’ mind, it must be it, as how could someone not think like me? Yes, it has gotten to that point! If you speak against someone or a behaviour, you are then  catalogued as a ‘hater’. Either way, you have lost all credibility with the ‘other side’ because you disagree on a topic.

While I know that this plea will not have any influence on the issue, it is one that needs to be done regardless. To both sides, it’s time to grow up and stop acting like children. NHL players, coaches, general managers and even water-boys and particularly owners don’t owe us anything. Stop with the entitlement. You want something? Go get it or ask for it. You want respect? EARN IT. Earn it by your actions. Be the bigger person and don’t get dragged into this non-sense. Don’t feed on the media members preying on you to get readership, listenership or viewership. They know exactly what they’re doing, they got you exactly where they want you. You are their sheep when you play into their hand. Have a mind of your own but mostly, mostly, respect the fact that not everyone thinks the same way as you do… and that’s perfectly okay. It’s something that even I have to keep reminding myself of and that, on a daily basis. Go Habs Go!