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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Top Cheese: December 2017 Edition

TopCheese

Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as the Christmas break is approaching and the team finds itself in a bind for a playoffs’ position. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

We can all admit, things aren’t looking good for the Canadiens in their pursue of a playoffs’ spot. They find themselves three points back of the Boston Bruins, who still have three games in hand on the Habs, for the third and final spot in the division. They are five points back of the New York Rangers for the last Wild Card spot, and they have to leap-frog Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to get there.

While the odds are against them, there is still hope but the team will have to string a few winning streaks soon, very soon, if they hope to participate in the Spring tournament. The fanbase seems divided with some wishing them to sell immediately in hope for a better chance at getting the first overall pick while others, like yours truly, will never give up hope until it’s practically over. With a world-class goaltender like Price, making the playoffs should, in my opinion, be the number one priority as once you’re in, you never know. Just ask last year’s Nashville Predators…

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Speaking of goaltenders, as Carey Price goes, so do the Habs. This season, Price has played 19 games and he has a record of 8-9-2, with a 3.16 goals against average and a .899 saves percentage. Those numbers are well below what people should expect from him, and no one knows it better than Price himself. Here’s a breakdown of the goaltender’s performances in his wins, in comparison to his losses:

WINS

DETROIT 1 G 23 SA .957 Sv%
DETROIT 3 G 31 SA .903 Sv%
OTTAWA 1 G 28 SA .964 Sv%
COLUMBUS 1 G 38 SA .974 Sv%
BUFFALO 0 G 36 SA 1.000 Sv%
NY RANGERS 4 G 26 SA .846 Sv%
FLORIDA 1 G 27 SA .963 Sv%
BUFFALO 2 G 45 SA .956 Sv%
TOTAL: 13 G 254 SA .949 Sv%

LOSSES

EDMONTON 4 G 14 SA .714 Sv%
CALGARY 3 G 37 SA .919 Sv%
ST. LOUIS 4 G 30 SA .867 Sv%
MINNESOTA 5 G 26 SA .808 Sv%
LOS ANGELES 4 G 28 SA .857 Sv%
ANAHEIM 6 G 45 SA .867 Sv%
SAN JOSE 4 G 34 SA .882 Sv%
TORONTO 4 G 22 SA .818 Sv%
CHICAGO 3 G 25 SA .880 Sv%
NY RANGERS 2 G 25 SA .920 Sv%
WASHINGTON 4 G 14 SA .714 Sv%
TOTAL: 43 GA 300 SA .857 Sv%

Pundits like to pounce on Bergevin and the Habs at any chance they get but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we will recognize and admit that not many teams in today’s NHL will win games when their goaltender has a saves percentage below .900… particularly not when he’s your franchise player.

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As Kari Lehtonen reached the 300 wins plateau, The Hockey News released a list of the Top-10 active goaltenders with the most wins.

 

But I would like to add a twist to it, by including the age of each goaltender. Have a look:

  1. Luongo (38) FLA 459
  2. Lundqvist (35) NYR 419
  3. Fleury (33) VEG 378
  4. Miller (37) ANA 361
  5. Ward (33) CAR 300
  6. Lehtonen (34) DAL 299
  7. Rinne (35) NSH 285
  8. Price (30) MTL 278
  9. Quick (31) LA 275
  10. Anderson (36) OTT 245
 Also, if or when you chose to compare the number of wins by goaltenders with the all-time greats, don’t forget that the players mentioned above all benefited greatly from the overtime and shootout wins, something their predecessors didn’t, for the most part.

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In case you’ve been living under a rock and had yet to notice, the witch hunt is full on by some fans and members of the media to get Canadiens’ General Manager’s Marc Bergevin‘s head cut off. But someone dared posting Bergevin’s win/losses record, and found an interesting way to look at the trades that he’s pulled since he was made in charge of the team.

Oh he’s not perfect, don’t get me wrong, but if you show me a perfect GM or coach, I will show you a liar.

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In response to the people who have been calling for the firing of the Habs’ GM, Canadiens’ owner Geoff Molson said that Marc Bergevin has his full support.

“We’ve got some room on the cap, and you never know what he might do or might not do,” said Molson. “He certainly does have the license to improve the team, and that’s his job. I support him fully.”

This might have to do with the fact that he, like other reasonable hockey men around the NHL, understands what @HankBart91 pointed out and that he is still very much respected around the league. Fans can kick, scream and have a temper tantrum all they want, Bergevin’s job is safe until at least the end of the season.

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There are plenty of rumours going around and as we’ve explored in a recent article, the Habs Are Not Alone Looking For A Forward. That being said, Bergevin is still looking at filling the hole on the team’s top defensive pairing, a suitable partner to Shea Weber.

One interesting rumour going around is the supposedly interest from Bergevin towards another former Chicago Blackhawks, puck moving defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Oh he won’t be putting up points on the board, but he is a very good skater with good size and an excellent defender. He can also easily log-in 20-25 minutes of ice time. One has to wonder if Bergevin is talking to the Coyotes about Hjalmarsson, if the name of local product, 22 year-old Anthony Duclair, is part of it… To be followed.

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The Canadiens have announced that they were loaning defenseman Victor Mete to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships over the Christmas break. Most fans and media members are in agreement that the decision is a good one for the development of the 19 year-old.

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Victor Mete

While he played over 20 minutes per game in four consecutive games back in mid-October, Mete’s ice time has diminished since then and he’s been a healthy scratch a few times as well. He has even played forward one game in mid-November. This tournament should do wonders for him, playing quality minutes at a very high and intense level of hockey.

Where fans and media are not necessarily in agreement, is if he should return to Montreal or be sent back to junior after the tournament. The Canadiens have made no announcements about it yet, as it is doubtful that they know at this point. A lot of it might have to do with where the team will be in the standings, injuries and player movement (trades, waivers…).

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It will be interesting to see what the Canadiens do with puzzling forward Alex Galchenyuk in the near future. The enigmatic and talented forward has not been a shadow of his old self since his injury early last season and while many were blaming former coach Michel Therrien for his utilization of Galchenyuk, it seems like he’s finding himself in a second coach’s dog house with Claude Julien. At some point, people will have to stop blaming the coaches and see the whole picture about the young forward. His lack of effort is, in my opinion, the biggest reason why he’s not getting more suitable ice time in the NHL and that’s solely in his own hands.

Will he understand that one day soon, or will the Canadiens lose patience with him first? Time will tell. He still has some value on the trade market because he’s under contract for a couple more seasons and he’s not that far removed from a 30 goals’ season. Let’s hope for the Canadiens that he finds his game as they need offense and Galchenyuk would go a long way in providing just that.

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While Mikhail Sergachev is making a name for himself in Tampa Bay, Jonathan Drouin is battling through injuries and trying to learn a new position as a NHL centre. Bergevin’s failure, this past summer, was to be unable to address the team’s biggest need: a true top-end centre.

Drouin has been good under the circumstance but as it stands today, it looks like the Lightning has the upper hand on this deal. But be careful folks, don’t jump to conclusions too soon. At 14:55 minutes per game, Sergachev is sixth amongst Tampa’s defensemen in ice time, with 1:50 of which coming on the powerplay. Ten (10) of his 21 points also came on the powerplay so that doesn’t (yet) speak of a top-pairing defenseman, folks.

The support cast for both players is also quite different. Put Drouin with the Lightning and Sergachev with the Canadiens and it’s pretty safe to say that the numbers wouldn’t be anywhere close to what they are right now and that, for both players. Let’s give it a couple of years before jumping to that conclusion, shall we? In the meantime… Go Habs Go!!!