O Captain! My Captain!

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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.

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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!

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The Habs Will Score More Goals Than Last Year?

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Nah. Can’t be. Right? I mean… they traded away their best goals’ scorer over the past decade in Max Pacioretty. Oh and they also traded away a former 30 goals’ scorer, their second best goals’ scorer last year in Alex Galchenyuk. I mean come on! They replaced them with Tomas Tatar, a healthy scratch in the playoffs for Vegas, and Max Domi, who scored nine goals per season in the past two seasons! Perhaps Carey Price could start scoring too?

I know, I know, I’m being sarcastic (again) and making fun of a group of fans (again) who blame everything, including the weather, on Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin. I should stop but… it’s too much fun, really. Straying away from this nonsense however, let’s look deeper into the topic of goals’ scoring on a team that was already in life support in that department. Yeah, the Habs only scored 209 goals all season last year, good for… 29th out of 31 teams, with only Arizona and Buffalo putting fewer pucks behind their opponents’ goaltenders.

 Better than last season?

Yes, yes, it’s possible. No, I’m not kidding. Why you may ask? Perhaps answering a single question would help: How many Habs’ players had a subpar season last year? Fair to say that several of them, maybe even most of them not named Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron fall into that category?

Allow me. Let’s play ‘what if’… I know, as Hergé, the great author of Tintin once said: “If! If! You can get ’round anything with ‘if’.” But humour me for a bit. Yes, you faithful reader, hardcore Habs’ fan, stick around and look at this.

What if…

  • Jonathan Drouin has 20 goals instead of 13?
  • Charles Hudon has 15 goals instead of 10?
  • Phillip Danault plays more than 52 games (8 goals), so around 15 goals (his average per game)?
  • Artturi Lehkonen has 20 goals (had 18 in season 1, 12 last year)?
  •  Andrew Shaw plays more than 51 games (10 goals), so around 15 goals?
  •  Shea Weber plays more than 26 games (6 goals), so 13 based on his average, assuming that he’ll be missing October and November completely?
  •  Tomas Tatar scores 23 goals, his average the last 5 years?
  •  Joel Armia scores 15 goals (had 12 last year in a limited role)?
  • Max Domi scores 15 goals (had 9 last year, which is his average per 82 GP the last two years)?
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Jonathan Drouin is set for a better season than last year.

Those number folks, are quite realistic as I tried not to inflate anyone’s numbers. That said, it would represent around 90 more goals than last year. Okay, let’s take away the 36 goals scored by the duo Pacioretty/Galchenyuk, it’s still an improvement of about 54 goals folks. Even if the support cast scores about the same (which isn’t much to be honest), it’s a substantial increase in offense and truthfully, if Carey Price returns to form, it should results in a few more wins. Of course, I’m counting on the duo of Gallagher and Byron to put in 50 between the two of them, the same total as last year.

My prediction is that this team will score more goals than last season. Although not top-heavy with star-power in the “natural goals’ scoring” department, it should be a more balanced offense. All four lines can contribute offensively and that folks, is hard to defend against. But let’s be careful here. It will be a young team. A very young team and with that, will come the necessary growing pains, the learning on the fly, the inconsistency. Wait, weren’t they pretty inconsistent last season? Nah, they were just bad. I, for one, expect this team to be an improved group over last year… and that includes their overall offensive numbers. Go Habs Go!