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Friday, April 16, 2010

Montreal French Media: The Morning After

Friday morning, we get wall-to-wall interviews and talk about game 1 of the Habs-Caps series on CKAC:

Former coach Bob Hartley:

  • We all talk about Ovie’s no SOG but Mike Green didn’t do anything either. The Habs neutralized both Ovie and the whole Caps’ D squad.
  • The key with stars like Ovie is to keep them out of their comfort zone.
  • The Caps aren’t the best team in the league but the team with the most talent; it’s two different things.
  • If I was Bruce Boudreau, I’d try to match Ovechkin against Gomez. He doesn’t speak French so no worries that he’ll get this secret.
  • Montreal’s only weak point, last night, was faceoffs. [60-something% to Caps]
  • Prediction for Saturday: Montreal has excellent chances to win and come back to Montreal with a 2-0 lead.
Former coach Michel Therrien:
  • I’m surprised that Montreal won game 1.
  • If I am Boudreau, I remind the players of the comeback the team made in 2009 in the first round against the Rangers. Use this as a wakeup call.
  • What worries me about Ovie is that it’s not a 1-game thing. He hasn’t been the same since the Olympics. Bruce Boudreau will have to sit with him and have a serious talk.
  • Lapierre’s line really impressed me.

During the Gérant d’estrades (Monday morning quarterbacks?) show, Jacques Thériault, Bernard Brisset and Jeremy Filosa go on and on. Some snippets:

Jacques Theriault:
  • I originally said that the Caps would win in 5. I have to be logical and say that Washington will win Saturday. I hope that I’m wrong!
Jeremy Filosa:
  • Washington will win Saturday on a tight game.
Bernard Brisset:
  • People are cautious; if Montreal wins Saturday, then there will be a huge hockey fever here.
  • Ovie and Semin had terrible games. Backstrom and Knuble played really well.
  • Apparently that Ovie’s personal doctor, from Russia, is in town and that if he’s there, there must be serious.
  • Washington will win Saturday.
  • In response to Theriault raving about some NHL team that is successfully building around young defensemen, he interrupts and says that Montreal banked on old fogies who were successful last night!
Later in the day, call-in shows are lined-up where fan are likely to see the Canadiens knocking the Caps out of the playoffs!

Photo credit: flickr/dan4th

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Montreal Fans on OT Win

Less than an hour after the OT win against the Caps in game one, Ron Fournier takes calls on CKAC Sports. The question? What do you think of tonight's game? Original, huh?

Before taking calls, we learn from a geek statistician that this was only the 4th time in Ovechkin's career that he got no shot on goal in a game. Call sample:

  • Caller Francois: I thought that Montreal would win. Good game from Halak.
  • Caller Karim: GO HABS GO! - WE'LL WIN IN 4. [bunch of drunks signing in the background]
  • Caller whoever: Montreal just took back the home ice advantage. Mission accomplished.
  • Caller Francis: Very happy - I think that they'll win in 4. [14-year old who'll get wiser over the years]
  • Caller whoever: The beast [Caps] has been awoken. Watch out Saturday.
  • Caller Alex: For once, we played as a team. It was great.
  • Caller Maxime: Nice win but we can't get too excited. Washington will come back strong. Stopping Ovechkin is quite something.
  • Caller Peter: GO HABS GO! [same bunch of drunks signing in the background]
  • Caller Steve: Tonight, we played as a team, which we haven't done in quite a while.
  • Ron Fournier: We have a nice team but we don't have a team built for the playoffs. We have small players and if we make it further than one round, our small size will catch up with us. Not physical enough. We do have heart, though.
  • Caller Marc: Playoff hockey tonight. I don't know if Montreal can do better than tonight but the Caps sure can. 25% odds that Montreal can win this series.
  • Ron Fournier: Ovechkin was flat. Looks like Boudreau knew, right off the bat, that his team wouldn't win tonight. I think that Montreal has 40% chances to win the series.
Over and out, mon Ron!

Photo credit: flickr/clevercupcakes

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Post Game French Media on Habs Win Over Caps

Post game show on Montreal's French CKAC Sports radio station after the Canadiens' 3-2 overtime win against the Caps. Ron Fournier - yes, the former NHL ref - along with Dany Dubé of the game broadcast team:

  • Fournier: Isn't ironic that Plekanec got the game winning goal against Theodore after the little controversy? [Plekanec saying that the Caps didn't have a dominant goalie; Theodore asking about Tomas Jagr]
  • Fournier: No shot on goal from Ovechkin; the guy is injured. But watch out, he's going to explode at some point. Let's not get too excited.
  • Fournier: Montreal can keep up with the powerful Caps.
  • Dubé: if Montreal had lost in OT, I would have said that this game was a positive, proving that the Canadiens can hold their own against Washington.
  • Dubé: I don't think that Theodore deserves to be replaced but I wonder if he'll be back for the next game, given his poor relationship with Boudreau.
  • Fournier: 64.2% [according to some number crunching geek] of the time, the team that wins the first game of a best-of-7 series ends up winning. Before tonight, I thought that Montreal had 25% chances of winning the series. Now, I think that they have 40% chances of winning it.
  • Dubé: Washington deserved to win more than Montreal, because of their domination on shots on goals.
  • Fournier: Montreal deserved the win because of their desire and energy during the game.
Post game interview:
  • Jacques Martin: It's only one game. We'll have to make some adjustments and work hard for game 2. [talk about a boring coach - good thing we have Plekanec, Theodore, and Boudreau]
Post game show is over. Next, Fournier starts the call-in show. Stanley Cup parade will likely be the subject of discussion.

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Montreal's French Media on Series Against Caps

The Caps-Canadiens series is starting tonight and, as a service to our readers, HockeyZonePlus is bringing you some snippets of what is being said in Montreal's French media.

Let's start with Solide comme le rock, the noon-to-3 call-in show on CKAC Sports, hosted by Jean-Charles Lajoie. CKAC is a 24-hour Montreal sports station; hockey being the focus 22 hours a day, 352 days per year.

Lajoie predicts that the Caps will win... in 7!

Let's listen in and provide interesting snippets:

  • One of CKAC's reporter in DC (remember, it's Montreal; they probably have 23 people with the team): the Caps are a class organization that provided a bus to the media for transportation to the practice facility in Arlington and then downtown for the game. A cab driver (disappointing that the Caps didn't send a bus to pick him up at the airport!) told him that the Habs are the toughest opponent the Caps could have gotten in the first round. Not sure that this is a very scientific or representative opinion but apparently, if a cab driver says that, it's a prevalent opinion in DC...
  • Caller Francis: Gomez/Gionta/Gill will be in playoff mode with Maxim Lapierre pulling a Dale-Hunter on Theodore to keep him off his game. I might be naive but if we lead 2-0 once we're back in Montreal, we can put doubts in their mind and win it.
  • Caller Felix: on 5-on-5 and penalty killings, we're last in the league. We need to mess with them and make them take penalties to win with power plays. We can do it.
  • Caller Kevin: no way we can do it unless the crowd makes a huge difference as a 6th player. This year, the fans are not as enthusiastic as they were last year in the playoffs against Boston when we almost made it.
  • Caller Guy: Kind of ironic to see that the Caps are so nervous. Montreal has no pressure; all the pressure is on the Caps to meet the expectations. It's going to be a great series.
  • Caller Richard: There's no playoff fever in Montreal right now but if the Canadiens come back from DC with one win, things will change. Montreal in 7 but we won't win the Cup!
  • Caller Francoise: First time caller, long time listener! No way Montreal will win. Washington in 4.
  • Caller Philippe: to win, we have to be arrogant and destabilize them. Maxim Lapierre is a shit disturber and needs to be all over Ovechkin. Bergeron will need to be on top of his game with his shots from the blue line and the power play will be key for Montreal.
More later!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Halak's Agent Bashes Carey Price

Allan Walsh, the agent - for now! - of Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak had a simple comment on Twitter a few moments after a 3-1 Habs lost where struggling Carey Price was the goalie:
In response to negative reactions, and realizing his faux-pas, he started to backpedal and posted the following comment which doesn't seem to make anything better:


Interestingly enough, those Tweets ended up being scrubbed from Twitter later on as if they were never made. Not sure how that was achieved given that what happens on Twitter supposedly stays on Twitter.

Mr. Walsh might have stated the facts properly in his Twitter comment but he apparently forgot that he has to keep a certain level of professionalism as Halak's agent. Not sure that Halak is very happy about the episode.

There are comments that you keep for yourself and broadcasting them on Twitter is not exactly the way to do so. Anyone wants to bet that for a while, Walsh will use Twitter - as most do - only to let the world know what he had for breakfast?

Aren't you glad we follow Twitter for you?

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Spell Cammalleri?

How do you spell the last name of the Habs' new #13? Ask his teammates and...

Camalerri, Cammelari, Camellari, Cameralli...



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Friday, October 23, 2009

May the Real Ron Hainsey Please Stand Up?

In a piece about Ron Hainsey, Chris Vivlamore, the sole journalist following the Atlanta Thrashers on a regular basis, portrays the defenseman as a great leader with a unique sense of humor. As per the excerpt below, you'd believe that he knew exactly when and how to transition to his current attitude and style:

With Hainsey’s brand of leadership, it is all about timing. With a joke, sure. But more important is knowing when the time is right for a player to speak up. Breaking into the NHL as a 21-year-old with the Montreal Canadiens, Hainsey knew, was not that time or place. Now as a veteran with the Thrashers, after three seasons in Columbus, it’s become a natural role for the 28-year-old.

“You’ve got to pay your dues a little bit before you are telling jokes on the ice or in the locker room or being a little more outgoing,” Hainsey said. “For a young player it, can be construed as overconfidence as opposed to just being yourself. ... We have the best job in the world so there is not a reason not to have a lot of fun with it.”

Interestingly enough, two days before that profile in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, François Gagnon, one of the many beat writers following the Montreal Canadiens, noted the following about Hainsey:

"He was given the 'Hollywood' nickname while playing for the Canadien. The first round pick (13th overall) had a superstar attitude while having a rough time making his mark in the NHL. He appears to now have the maturity that was lacking when he first stepped in the league..."

May the Real Ron Hainsey Please Stand Up?

Image Source: Flickr/FrenchKheldar

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Early Returns, Part 2: The Worst of Free Agency '09

Continuing HockeyZonePlus's look at NHL free agency 2009, today we look at the team's who made moves that will almost certainly turn out badly during the league's annual free agent frenzy. Note that we'll include trades made since the draft too, and that the Winners of free agency can be found in a previous blog post here.

Losers

Edmonton
- Most people would suggest the Oilers had three problems going into next season: the lack of a top line winger to team with playmaker Ales Hemsky, no starting goaltender, and a general lack of grit and size, both up front and on defense. What have they accomplished so far? They've embarrassed themselves by getting caught up in all this Dany Heatley nonsense and thrown a lot of money at an aging and fragile Nikolai Khabibulin. The Heatley saga is, if nothing else, worth it's own column, so look for that another day, but Khabibulin? The Oilers let last year's starter Dwayne Roloson walk because they weren't willing to give a two-year contract to a 39-year old goalie. Apparently, though, a four-year deal for a 36-year old goalie was acceptable. Anyone else sense a disconnect here? Not only that, but this is such a soft goalie market that Edmonton and Colorado were really the only teams looking for a starter at all, though several teams signed backups; with goalie Martin Biron still available and several talented goalies reportedly available via trade (including Josh Harding in Minnesota and Kari Lehtonen in Atlanta), Edmonton showed a distinct lack of patience by giving Khabibulin $15 million over 4 years. Because he was over 35 when he signed, his contract is on their books whether he plays those four years or not. Had the Oilers kept their cool they could've waited a couple of weeks, a month at most, offered both Biron and Khabibulin $2 million per for two years, take it or leave it, then if neither accepted made a trade offer for Harding or Lehtonen. Not only that, but because the team was too busy messing around with Heatley, free agency pretty much passed them by, outside of Khabibulin. That means no big, tough defenseman, no gritty top nine forward, and, outside of moving centre Kyle Brodziak to Minnesota for draft picks, no clearing of the logjam the Oilers have up front of about 16 NHL-level forwards, most of whom are 6'1 or under and not quite scorers, but not quite premium two-way players either. October could be the start of another long season in Edmonton, where the fan base is getting impatient for a winner.

Montreal - Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Montreal's mandate this summer to get bigger up front? Specifically on their top two lines? They were going to let Saku Koivu walk because he's too small, Alex Tanguay because he's small AND fragile, and Alexei Kovalev because he plays like he's small. So who do they add? Scott Gomez, who we'll call 'Tiny' (he's 5'11), Mike Cammalleri, 'Tinier' (5'9), and Brian Gionta, you guessed it, 'Tiniest' (5'7). Sure, the Habs desires to make a big trade for Tampa Bay star centre and 6'4, 220 pound Quebec native Vincent Lecavalier were probably unrealistic from the start, and yes, outside of second-tier free agents like Mike Knuble, Nik Antropov and Erik Cole, none of whom are first line forwards anyway, there wasn't a lot of size and talent on the free agent market. Still, they dealt more than they should've to the Rangers for Gomez and his nearly $7.5 million per season salary and overpaid for Cammalleri at $6 million/season for five years, though that one's almost forgivable, since somebody was bound to overpay around that much to Cammalleri anyway. But the real topper is Gionta, who's goal totals have gone down each of the last four seasons (from 48 to 25 to 22 to 20). He'll be paid $5 million a season for the next five years, so the Habs better hope being reunited with his old Devils centre Gomez reverses his downward trend of goal-scoring, even though at 30 years of age he's looking a lot like a player in decline. They did manage to add some size on their blueline in Hal Gill, even if sometimes he looks like he can barely skate anymore, and hopefully some power play points in the inconsistent Jaroslav Spacek. But even though one of GM Bob Gainey's virtues is supposed to be his patience, all these moves show a huge lack of it. Gainey would've been better waiting for some of his young prospects, led by goaltender Carey Price, who, no matter what Gainey does, is still a few years away from prime time, to mature. Instead, he's moved one of his best prospects, college defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and Chris Higgins, one of the team's leaders, for Gomez, lost all his cap flexibility by signing Gionta and Cammalleri too, and added a couple of aging veterans in Spacek and Gill to take up roster spots that he'd have been better off giving to a younger player.

San Jose - General Manager Doug Wilson promised some big changes after his Sharks were bounced in the first round of the playoffs this past season by Anaheim, a playoffs the Sharks entered as the #1 seed in the West and one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup. So far, he hasn't delivered; in fact, it's looking more and more like the Sharks might enter next season with almost no changes to their core players at all. Wilson did enter the free agent season with the notable disadvantage of being fairly close to the salary cap, but he didn't help his cause by re-signing defensemen Rob Blake and Kent Huskins to $3.5 and $1.7 million contract extensions, respectively. Now he has over $22 million locked up in seven defensemen, the same ones that, outside of Dan Boyle and Huskins, who didn't even play against the Ducks after being acquired from them at the last trade deadline, looked so ineffective against Anaheim. Forget making changes, with so little cap space left now, the Sharks might have trouble getting enough forwards under contract to fill out their roster next season; they only have eight under contract with only about $1.5 million left to spend. For that reason alone, the Sharks must have some kind of move forthcoming, if only so that they can ice a full team. Forwards Patrick Marleau ($6.3 million next season), Milan Michalek ($4.33 million average for the next five seasons), Jonathan Cheechoo ($3 million average salary the next two seasons), and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff ($3.1 million average the next two seasons) look like prime targets to be moved, but really, who's going to want them at those salaries, let alone give the Sharks fair trade value for them? Wilson seemed to have the right idea heading into the off-season (he all but came right out and said that he needed to shake up his team's core with a trade) but thus far his execution is sorely lacking. With a lot of teams already close to being set with their salary committments for next season, outside of some kind of blockbuster trade what exactly can Wilson do? And if that blockbuster means Dany Heatley, like some rumour sites are suggesting, is getting him going to help change this team's reputation as a squad with no heart that can't take the next step towards being a champion, or make it worse?

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Head May Roll in Alberta, Lecavalier Rumours and more

Some quick hits today as the NHL regular season winds down:

I can't be the only one thinking that if the struggles of both of the NHL's Alberta teams continue that heads will roll. In Edmonton, the Oilers front office put the sights squarely on head coach Craig MacTavish by adding two scorers at the deadline. The message was this: if you can't get this team into the playoffs after we've added just the thing you've been complaining you needed all season, you're gone. Whether the old-boys-from-the-glory-days network in charge of the Oilers will follow through if the Oilers don't make the playoffs is another question.

Conversely, I can't help but think that Calgary GM Darryl Sutter put the sights not on his head coach, but squarely on himself with his deadline moves. Dealing as many draft picks and younger assets as Sutter did to get Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold badly depletes an already thin Flames system. Not only that, but Sutter is the one who committed nearly $6 million a season for six years to goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who's struggled badly down the stretch run. He also inexplicably handed journeyman defenseman Jim Vandermeer, who's played only 37 games, a three year deal worth $2.3 million a season, and committed big money to defenseman Cory Sarich, who's not one of Calgary's top four defensemen, and centre Daymond Langkow, who's now making $4.5 million a season to play on the second line behind Jokinen. These are all deals that run past next season, when the league's salary cap is expected to go down for the first time. If the Flames fail to make it past at least the first round of the playoffs, Sutter will have quite a mess on his hands here, and may well pay the price for it. And he does have a coach in Mike Keenan who has on more than one occasion gone from behind the bench to the GM's job when his boss couldn't cut it...

Is there anyone out there willing to bet against New Jersey coming out of the East in this year's playoffs? Anyone? Anyone? No, I didn't think so.

Somebody suggested to me the other day that with Zach Parise emerging as a new American-born star in the league that the NHL should be making an effort to market him to help sell the game in the United States. But if the NHL could never follow through with that line of thinking when Mike Modano was in his prime, an American-born player who was not only talented and fun to watch, but was (and still is) one of the most handsome guys you're ever likely to see, why would they get it through their heads to do it with Parise? With all the league's somewhat meagre player marketing push behind poster boy Sidney Crosby, we've already seen what can happen when an equally talented player such as, oh, Alex Ovechkin tries to hog some of the spotlight (see above). A better question is this: why can't the NHL seem to market more than one player as it's poster-boy at a time? Other sports manage it.

What happened to Florida's playoff chances? Not so very long ago it looked like they were a lock, and that they might finish as high as 5th in the East. Now they're floundering in 9th and might not be able to catch New York or Montreal. I don't see a lot of Panthers games here in Toronto, but I understand that Jay Bouwmeester's play since the trade deadline, when he figured into a lot of rumours but wasn't moved, has just gotten worse and worse. It must be driving his agent nuts. He used to have the hottest commodity going heading into this season's free agent period. At this point, though, how can a team not look at Bouwmeester's play in the latter quarter of the season and wonder if he just can't handle the pressure when the games get tough?

Finally, I understand that the Vincent Lecavalier to Montreal rumours just won't die, with yet another story in the Montreal Gazette today about them. But here's something for Montreal fans to ponder: there's a pretty credible line of thinking that says that Lecavalier hasn't put up great numbers this season and has struggled the last quarter of the season or so because his shoulder and wrist are hurting. Lecavalier had surgery on his right shoulder last summer, and because of it a scheduled surgery on his right wrist had to be cancelled. If Lecavalier's shoulder and wrist are both bothering him this season, well, those are problem that are over a year old, and thus are starting to look like chronic injuries, and quite possibly things he'll have to deal with the rest of his career. Lecavalier's 28 years old, and his 11 year contract extension with the Lightning begins this summer. Leaving aside just how asinine it was to sign him to that extension in the first place, we can now see several reasons why Tampa Bay might want to deal him, the first two being those injuries and their need to surround star in the making Steven Stamkos with talent closer to his age. But should Montreal really be anxious to add Lecavalier, especially if it costs them a couple of first round draft picks and either prospect PK Subban (who skates as well at age 18 as almost any player I've seen) or Max Pacioretty, plus a player or two off their roster? That's the kind of package Montreal media people were suggesting in January, and it's an awful lot. Especially for a guy with a guaranteed 11 year contract worth some $78 million and a growing history of shoulder and wrist problems. Even if he is French Canadian.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Pat Burns Won't Sing God Bless America in Iraq Anytime Soon

Former NHL coach Pat Burns is a regular contributor to CKAC, a Montréal-based all-sports radio station. When asked to comment on the threatment that some of the thousands of Habs fans got at the Boston Garden when making the road trip for game 3 and 4 of the Canadiens-Bruins series, Burns declared something along the lines of: "If you go to a party in Iraq and start singing God Bless America, you're in trouble."

He then followed up saying that Boston fans are pretty tame and that's nothing compared to what would happen if fans were to show in drove in Habs gear in Philadelphia or Washington. "Washington has one of the worst murder rate in the US."

Good Old Pat needs to have a closer look at the crowd in DC and he'll notice that fans cheering for the opposition, wearing their jersey, are often there in large numbers. To the point that Caps owner Ted Leonsis and the marketing department devised ways to try to make it harder for rival fans to get tickets.

One thing is for sure, Pat will always be colorful.

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