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Puck Droppings

by admin January 26, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin January 26, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin January 19, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin January 12, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin January 5, 2010

Puck Droppings

by admin January 5, 2010

Have I ever mentioned how great this sport is? Day in and day out, the NHL is never lacking in the realm of drama or storylines. This week has been no exception, and here are my thoughts on some of the more prominent happenings.

1. Laraque sent back. Let’s give the Habs some credit. They went out and got the guy who can turn people’s faces into mashed potatoes. The whole plan went rotten when Georges Laraque decided that Goliath shouldn’t be fighting any Davids. Laraque is best with his gloves off, not on. His hands are made of concrete – which is good for teeth removal via facial impact, not for scoring goals. Sorry, Georges, but you’re not a hockey player, you’re a presence, and you just weren’t being felt.

2. Gaborik/Carcillo fight. I’ve seen the video a dozen times and there are a few things that need clarification. For one, Daniel Carcillo goes after Marian Gaborik. Secondly, Gaborik drops the gloves first. So where does this lead us? A closer look shows Carcillo zeroes in on Gaborik after the scrum develops in front of the Philly net. He swoops in and scoops up Gaborik with enough force to bring him from the side of the net to just behind it, well away from the rest of the brouhaha. I understand that as a player you get in there to protect your team-mates. But is Gaborik, a guy who is as fragile as a sugar cube in a monsoon, really going to be a threat? Ok, I get it, Carcillo, you’re a tough guy and you demand respect, but you were on Gaborik as if he were a Jonas brother, and you were a 13-year-old girl who just saw him at the mall.

3. Free Petr! Talk about a bizarre little turn of events. Petr Sykora was enjoying some success over in Pittsburgh (but next to Sid the Kid, who wouldn’t?). He won a Cup and headed over to free agency with a decent resumé. The Minnesota Wild came calling, looking to pick up some fire-power after losing Gaborik to the Rangers. Along with Mikko Koivu, Martin Havlat and Andrew Brunette, Sykora had a decent chance to have a good year. So why is it that he is being treated by the internet community as an Amnesty International case? Well the Wild, fed up of a less than stellar performance by Sykora where he had three points in 14 games, had cut his ice-time to nil and made him a season-ticket holder to the front row of the press box. If you needed any more indication that most of the Internet community, the vocal part at least, are a bunch of morons, along came the “Free Petr” campaign. It is an outcry of Sykora fans who want to see their “star” get more ice-time. Wow. As if there were not a hundred other players you should be watching. I’d rather watch Dion Phaneuf in a shoot-out than Sykora on a top line.

Now we all remember the “Vote For Rory” campaign during the All-Star period of 2007 which was a silly move to get Rory Fitzpatrick into the All-Star game in Dallas. His stats sucked, but it was viewed more as a mission to bring to light the fact that the voting system was more of a popularity contest than a merit system. Case in point, he generated tons of votes and finished third to Scott Niedermayer and Niklas Lidstrom and didn’t make the team. That wasn’t the point, though. The subject of a faulty system was brought to light, and everyone had a good laugh. This “Free Petr” movement is about as stupid as being an enforcer in the NHL, and then not fighting.

Have I ever mentioned how great this sport is? Day in and day out, the NHL is never lacking in the realm of drama or storylines. This week has been no exception, and here are my thoughts on some of the more prominent happenings.

1. Laraque sent back. Let’s give the Habs some credit. They went out and got the guy who can turn people’s faces into mashed potatoes. The whole plan went rotten when Georges Laraque decided that Goliath shouldn’t be fighting any Davids. Laraque is best with his gloves off, not on. His hands are made of concrete – which is good for teeth removal via facial impact, not for scoring goals. Sorry, Georges, but you’re not a hockey player, you’re a presence, and you just weren’t being felt.

2. Gaborik/Carcillo fight. I’ve seen the video a dozen times and there are a few things that need clarification. For one, Daniel Carcillo goes after Marian Gaborik. Secondly, Gaborik drops the gloves first. So where does this lead us? A closer look shows Carcillo zeroes in on Gaborik after the scrum develops in front of the Philly net. He swoops in and scoops up Gaborik with enough force to bring him from the side of the net to just behind it, well away from the rest of the brouhaha. I understand that as a player you get in there to protect your team-mates. But is Gaborik, a guy who is as fragile as a sugar cube in a monsoon, really going to be a threat? Ok, I get it, Carcillo, you’re a tough guy and you demand respect, but you were on Gaborik as if he were a Jonas brother, and you were a 13-year-old girl who just saw him at the mall.

3. Free Petr! Talk about a bizarre little turn of events. Petr Sykora was enjoying some success over in Pittsburgh (but next to Sid the Kid, who wouldn’t?). He won a Cup and headed over to free agency with a decent resumé. The Minnesota Wild came calling, looking to pick up some fire-power after losing Gaborik to the Rangers. Along with Mikko Koivu, Martin Havlat and Andrew Brunette, Sykora had a decent chance to have a good year. So why is it that he is being treated by the internet community as an Amnesty International case? Well the Wild, fed up of a less than stellar performance by Sykora where he had three points in 14 games, had cut his ice-time to nil and made him a season-ticket holder to the front row of the press box. If you needed any more indication that most of the Internet community, the vocal part at least, are a bunch of morons, along came the “Free Petr” campaign. It is an outcry of Sykora fans who want to see their “star” get more ice-time. Wow. As if there were not a hundred other players you should be watching. I’d rather watch Dion Phaneuf in a shoot-out than Sykora on a top line.

Now we all remember the “Vote For Rory” campaign during the All-Star period of 2007 which was a silly move to get Rory Fitzpatrick into the All-Star game in Dallas. His stats sucked, but it was viewed more as a mission to bring to light the fact that the voting system was more of a popularity contest than a merit system. Case in point, he generated tons of votes and finished third to Scott Niedermayer and Niklas Lidstrom and didn’t make the team. That wasn’t the point, though. The subject of a faulty system was brought to light, and everyone had a good laugh. This “Free Petr” movement is about as stupid as being an enforcer in the NHL, and then not fighting.

My first exposure to Ilya Kovalchuk was an unorthodox one; I learned his name in 2001 when a friend was holding an Kovalchuk trading card. I hesitate to call my friend any kind of hockey brainiac, but his support of Kovalchuk has gained some credibility over the past decade. The true Kovy has emerged as one the purest scorers and threats in the NHL.

There is plenty of criticism over Kovalchuk’s shortcomings. His plus/minus is a career total of -86 for instance, and none of his eight seasons in the league has ever produced a plus rating. Putting up negatives can be attributed to poor team play and porous defence, which indicates that Kovy isn’t the greatest two-way player.
Yet, his lack of defensive commitment isn’t damning. Not a single general manager in the league would refuse his services; he’s paid to score goals, not back-check. This is understood in Atlanta and around the NHL. And it’s why his negative numbers are overlooked.

When you’re putting points on the board, a silly negative rating doesn’t matter. When Wayne Gretzky put up his career high 215-point season with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1985-86 season, he was a +71. Spectacular, sure, but think of how many opposing goals he was on the ice for versus how many he was a part of. If you’re still awestruck by the plus +71, let’s fast-forward to 1993-94 when Gretzky was playing for the Los Angeles Kings. Despite putting up a modest (by his standards) 130 points, Gretzky was -25 at the end of the campaign. When we’re so dumbfounded by point production, we tend to forgive defensive liabilities.
With free agency looming on the horizon for Kovalchuk, many are wondering where he will land. Atlanta’s front office has prepared for the eventual uphill battle of convincing Kovalchuk that being a Thrasher is a good thing.

For awhile it seemed that Kovalchuk, a reputed selfish, non-caring player, was destined to be a journeyman without identity or team pride. A gun-for-hire going to the highest bidder (à-la Marian Hossa, even). Then came the 2008 All-Star Game, fittingly in Atlanta, where Ilya Kovalchuk was essentially showcased to the world and treated as a hometown hero.
That was followed by his promotion to team captain in January 2009. The ass-kissing segment was nice, but there was no talent 8212; Atlanta was still an eighth-seed at best. They went out and signed Russians Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenox, a big center and talented winger to support Kovalchuk and provide some home-grown flavour, and picked up Pavel Kubina to clean up after Kovalchuk’s defensive woes. The table was set for immediate improvement, and to sweeten the pot, the Thrashers put 2009 first-round pick Evander Kane on the roster to show they had a future. They knew the clock was ticking to entice Kovalchuk to stick around, and all in all, they were good moves. Unfortunately, the chances that Kovy re-signs in Atlanta are slim.

There is a rule in the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that states that a player’s individual salary cannot exceed 20 per cent of the salary cap. With the 2010-2011 cap estimated to drop to approximately $52 million, this means that Kovalchuk can essentially walk away with a maximum paycheck of about $10.5 million per season.
Allow me to assure you that negotiations will begin no lower than this figure. Kovalchuk is as good as it gets in scoring and will be paid accordingly. Defencemen get paid to maintain a respectable plus/minus. Snipers get paid to make goalies look stupid. Kovalchuk hasn’t just made them look dumb, he’s made them look virtually invisible.
Negotiations between the Thrashers and Kovalchuk have gone nowhere, and publicly so. As the trade deadline approaches, expect the Atlanta administration to seek alternative options instead of intensifying their contract talks. Some quick trade destinations in a rental-type capacity could include Buffalo, L.A. or Boston 8212; with some creative accounting. In the long term, look for teams like the New York Islanders, Oilers (in the midst of an overhaul), Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche to make the biggest pushes.

I promise you Kovalchuk is going to cash in, but it is Atlanta that wants to walk away from this ordeal with a sense of victory. That could come either in the form of a truckload of able prospects and high-round draft picks, or having their franchise player locked up for life. While they might not actually want Kovalchuk in jail, incarceration may be the best option if they can’t sign him long-term. After all, Kovalchuk is a great player to admire, as long as you aren’t playing against him.

It seems like only yesterday that we were expecting another fast-paced NHL season. So far the year has had its share of twists, turns and plenty of bumps; some might equate it to a rally race rather than hockey. Poolies have pulled their hair out, hockey-oriented Nostradamuses have thrown epic fits, and armchair analysts look like poker commentators trying to justify why Internet players win tournaments. Here are my thoughts on the biggest surprises from the beginning of the season to the halfway mark.

1. The Wild Wild West

When predictions started pouring in towards the end of summer as to how the West would align once the playoffs rolled around, the usual suspects floated to the top of the pack. Detroit and San Jose would surface as the top contenders, the only uncertainty being who would finish first and who would be a close second. Vancouver, Calgary and Anaheim were all locks, with the final few spots to be fought over by Edmonton, Nashville, Minnesota or even quite possibly Columbus.
Though the cosmos look kindly upon the Sharks and Blackhawks, it is unsettling to see Detroit on the outside looking in. Sure they’ve been riddled with a plethora of key injuries, but their ninth place standing is uncharacteristic.
The biggest anomaly, has been the crash and burn of the not so mighty Ducks. This past September, the majority of my hockey-minded brethren had Anaheim finishing on top. Instead, the wealth of wins has been shared amongst the traditional bottom feeders… and Colorado. Though seeing Colorado in a playoff spot isn’t a shock, their basement dwelling from last year and the bleak future set forth for this season had prognosticated another failure. Along with Pheonix and Los Angeles, the Avalanche have spear-headed a movement that suggests predictions are for bozos with gambling habits. If you’re trying to understand the wild west, toss all reason out the window. Now wouldn’t it be fitting if at the end of the season Minnesota was in first place? One can dream…

2. Don’t count the old guys out just yet

Everyone loves the story of the old guy who comes back and shows up all the snot-nosed youngsters with sheer determination and grit. Grey beards and fourth-line duty worked for guys like Claude Lemieux and Jeremy Roenick. Heck, Roenick even scored a few times in his twilight years. The year started out with a ripe one: Theo Fleury, clean, sober and with a successful business under his belt, decided that it was as good time to lace “em up and give glory another honest effort. In four pre-season games Fleury recorded four points and a plus four rating, as well as a memorable shoot-out winner. After all that he ended up back in the concrete business and wrote some commentary about the ordeal on one of his blogs (which was immediately taken down). A sad ending, but a thrilling tale nonetheless.
The old guys can still sometimes bring it, but how about players who just fizzle yet never scorch the ice? Exhibit A would be none other than Maxim Afinogenov; when he played in Buffalo, he had two speeds: float and highlight. None of his goals were the result of crashing the crease or digging for a loose puck, but when he had a bit of room and a little speed in his skates, he was one of the best. Just as he was fully pushed out of Buffalo after several disappointing seasons, Afinogenov seemed destined for the Kontinental Hockey League. Lucky for him (and the Thrashers), he was offered a try-out by Atlanta in the dying weeks of the off-season. Without the promise of a contract, Afinogenov proved doubters wrong with a strong pre-season that landed him a basic, cheap contract. Ever since, Afinogenov has been rejuvenated by playing on a team with a premiere player like Ilya Kovalchuk. He’s been scoring at about a point-per-game.

Equally as impressive has been Tomas Plekanec. This fiery Montreal Canadiens centre has had ups and downs. In 07-08, Plekanec surprised everyone with a 69 point season, prompting high expectations from an already daunting Montreal fan-base. But Plekanec was nearly invisible at the “08 Stanley Cup Playoffs; his uninspired performance led to his famous self-description, where he equated his play on the ice to that of “a little girl.” The 08-09 season was even worse. A 40 point drop-off put Plekanec in the spotlight, as he had yet to be re-signed. A last-minute deal avoided the detrimental arbitration process and the media went crazy speculating possible trades and destinations. Penciled in as a second line center, expectations dipped once more; the focus switched to the Habs’ revamped roster. With less scrutiny, Plekanec excelled. A two-way player that is currently leading his team in points, he’s out-shining the other so-called “star players” for a fraction of the price. And he’s doing it with an ever changing cast of line-mates. A quick-footed, accurate passer, his confidence is his greatest weapon. The only question is whether his level of play will translate into a strong post-season.

3. O brother, where art thou?

If you have closely followed the history of Henrik and Daniel Sedin, you’ll notice that they are essentially treated as one being. The twins were famously drafted together when Brian Burke essentially two-for-one’d them. The Sedins as a single entity was established and thrived from then on. Their stats coming into the 09-10 season were as identical as their faces. Daniel scored goals, and they were usually off passes from Henrik. No one could tell them apart, and no one could tell what the impact would be if they ever were to part. The answer came early in the season when Daniel took a puck to the foot, sidelining him for a while.

The world came crashing down for the Canucks and injuries to Roberto Luongo only made matters worse. The Sedins were like two pros, each rowing a boat together. When Daniel fell overboard, Henrik not only grabbed the other oar, but motored into overdrive. He went from set-up man to pure threat. Still racking up assists with guys like Ryan Kessler and Alex Burrows, but in the process picking up a lot of goals including the first hat trick of his career. Though there is no telling the damage Henrik might have done with his brother at his side throughout the season, upon the return of Daniel to the Canuck’s roster, no pair has been more dangerous on the ice. After 45 games, Henrik leads the NHL with 62 points, four points ahead of Joe Thornton, who had the pleasure of sharing the puck with snipers Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau in the midst of a career year. With the twins locked in with multi-year contracts &- identical, of course &- the Canucks won’t be lacking fire power in the foreseeable future.
There were clearly many other worthwhile stories I could have mentioned, such as Philadelphia’s downward spiral, the Olympic roster, or the steadfast stellar play of the ageless Martin Brodeur, but when it comes to headlines, surprises are more fun. Variety is the spice of life, and the NHL is emptying the entire rack this year. Stay tuned, more unfulfilled expectations to come!

It’s time to begin a new hundred years of history. It may seem unfair and even insulting to sweep a century’s worth of legends under the rug, but as the Habs’ centennial celebration dragged on through two seasons, you couldn’t help but notice the slight bits of annoyance and eventual relief as the ceremonies finally closed, and a new chapter could be recorded.

So where to begin? With one massive team rebuild already in the books, another blow-up seems way too destructive. We can’t just gauge the season as a bust if we’re not in the top four seeds of the Eastern Conference, can we? Hab fans are nothing if not patient, right? Ha! That joke is as tired and stupid as Dane Cook. The Habs, believe it or not, have a bright future ahead, and for those of you who just fire negativity like John Wayne in a saloon, allow me to give you a few nuggets to digest before we start rooting for the Red Wings or Penguins.

Let’s look at the major positive. The Canadiens have the best power play in the league. Following Sunday’s game against Buffalo, they were tops in the league at 24.8 per cent, and their penalty kill squeaked into the top 10. These are usually great signs that breed success, yet the Canadiens are barely hanging onto a playoff spot. The reason for this is that the Habs rank dead last for power-play opportunities. As of Sunday’s game against the Sabres, the Habs have only had 129 PP opportunities. Where does that rank compared to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who rank first? Fifty-one less chances. You could blame referee bias, or you can commend the discipline of the opposition, but the Habs have 33 less chances than the middle of the pack. If the Habs were the median, converting on their rate of one in four, the Habs would have eight more goals in the bank. Let’s apply that stat to the fact that the Habs have lost 10 regulation games so far by only one goal. That means approximately a minimum of eight more points for taking those games to overtime. Now apply the Habs OT/SO win rate of 76 per cent and those eight games yield another six points for a total of 14 extra points. Suddenly the Habs have 61 points, lead the Conference and are tied with the Sharks and Blackhawks for the NHL crown. All this because of penalties?!
Math is a scary thing, and in no way am I saying that this is how the chips would fall based on 33 more power plays, but let’s be realistic here. A top-notch power-play unit is wasted when either the refs hate you or you’re inept at drawing penalties. The point I’m trying to make, rather, is that the Habs have a potent weapon that they just can’t seem to draw out of their holsters often enough. They’re like a Zen Chuck Norris: so powerful, yet so passive.

To ensure future success, there are two things the Habs have to do, and one of them revolves around Montreal’s deadly power play. We need to understand that over the past four or so years, the power play’s success has been anchored on a cannon blast from the right point. It is no surprise that a threat like that will draw a penalty killer to cover and challenge the shot which in turn opens up space around the right face-off circle and slot to make a nice pass or skate in for a close range wrister.
Evidence: In 2006-2007, the Canadiens had Sheldon Souray firing rockets from the point and at one point held the top PP and PK in the league. That year he scored 26 goals, 19 on the PP, a record for defencemen.
In 2007-2008, Montreal lost Souray to the Oilers via free agency. Draft pick Mark Streit picked up the slack on the point, providing a howitzer shot and an accurate pass. Though he didn’t score many goals, he drew cover from the opposition and fed Alex Kovalev, who was money from the circle. Streit finished with 13 goals, 49 assists, and Kovalev picked up 17 power-play goals.

In 2008-2009, the Habs struggled as a result of the loss of Streit on the power play. Once again, without a true threat from the blue line, and Kovalev drawing specific coverage, the power play suffered. A trade with Atlanta to acquire Mathieu Schneider boosted the Habs PP. In 23 games in Montreal, Schneider netted five goals and 12 assists. All five goals and all but three assists came on the power play.
This leads us to the current season. Again, free agency ravaged the Canadiens’ power play potential. Floundering for the first few weeks of the season, the Habs sign free agent Marc-André Bergeron. Not known for his defence, Bergeron provided what was so essential for the Habs in the three previous years: a true threatening slapshot from the right point. In his abbreviated time in Montreal, Bergeron has potted 10 goals, six on the PP, and has fit in nicely as a true PP specialist. How scary is his shot? There is a video or two floating around YouTube of Bergeron’s slap shot nearly caving in Mike Smith’s goalie mask.
It seems simple enough. With Andrei Markov running the show on the power play, and a booming shot from the point, suddenly, the options are limitless. Mike Cammalleri is slowly replacing Kovalev’s effectiveness along the right boards/face-off circle, and Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec are doing their share to be dangerous in front of the net. So why is it that each year the Canadiens seem to have to scratch their heads and find a solution to a struggling power play? This can be blamed on the General Manager, and is our second point.

The Habs are a classy bunch… supposedly. When they aren’t snatching purses or hanging out with gangsters, they represent an honourable hockey brand. Part of this is to adhere to certain organizational rules and orders. One of which that is strictly followed is the policy of not negotiating with players until after the season. Ok, I can see how this can be a useful policy so as to not distract players with financial nonsense during the course of a season, but let’s look at the casualties that ensued. Souray: gone. Streit: gone. Kovalev: gone. What stings most is that these were all players who were incredibly effective. The power play would thrive and then get nerfed by a stubborn administration. Streit, by the way, went on to sign in Long Island for $4.5 million, a bargain when you consider his point totals, defensive responsibility (only plus-player on the god-awful Islanders) and proven power play effectiveness. What pains me even more is that Streit was willing to sign in Montreal for nearly half that amount. That wasn’t just a mistake, that was yelling the wrong name in bed.
When will Bob Gainey understand that locking up pieces of the puzzle early is just as important as identifying who they are? Le grand ménage that Gainey engineered is great, but what now of Plekanec who is a top scorer in the league? Every assist and every goal is another ka-ching in his eyes. Do you think he’ll forget about the arbitration nonsense? The refusal to sign him last year, coupled with his great season this year spells a financial disaster for the Habs.
Do you want future success, my dear Montreal Canadiens? Lock up your power players, and drop the “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” act. It is hurting you more than you know.

Look for Puck Droppings next week under its new title, “Skates on a Plane.”

It’s time to begin a new hundred years of history. It may seem unfair and even insulting to sweep a century’s worth of legends under the rug, but as the Habs’ centennial celebration dragged on through two seasons, you couldn’t help but notice the slight bits of annoyance and eventual relief as the ceremonies finally closed, and a new chapter could be recorded.

So where to begin? With one massive team rebuild already in the books, another blow-up seems way too destructive. We can’t just gauge the season as a bust if we’re not in the top four seeds of the Eastern Conference, can we? Hab fans are nothing if not patient, right? Ha! That joke is as tired and stupid as Dane Cook. The Habs, believe it or not, have a bright future ahead, and for those of you who just fire negativity like John Wayne in a saloon, allow me to give you a few nuggets to digest before we start rooting for the Red Wings or Penguins.

Let’s look at the major positive. The Canadiens have the best power play in the league. Following Sunday’s game against Buffalo, they were tops in the league at 24.8 per cent, and their penalty kill squeaked into the top 10. These are usually great signs that breed success, yet the Canadiens are barely hanging onto a playoff spot. The reason for this is that the Habs rank dead last for power-play opportunities. As of Sunday’s game against the Sabres, the Habs have only had 129 PP opportunities. Where does that rank compared to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who rank first? Fifty-one less chances. You could blame referee bias, or you can commend the discipline of the opposition, but the Habs have 33 less chances than the middle of the pack. If the Habs were the median, converting on their rate of one in four, the Habs would have eight more goals in the bank. Let’s apply that stat to the fact that the Habs have lost 10 regulation games so far by only one goal. That means approximately a minimum of eight more points for taking those games to overtime. Now apply the Habs OT/SO win rate of 76 per cent and those eight games yield another six points for a total of 14 extra points. Suddenly the Habs have 61 points, lead the Conference and are tied with the Sharks and Blackhawks for the NHL crown. All this because of penalties?!
Math is a scary thing, and in no way am I saying that this is how the chips would fall based on 33 more power plays, but let’s be realistic here. A top-notch power-play unit is wasted when either the refs hate you or you’re inept at drawing penalties. The point I’m trying to make, rather, is that the Habs have a potent weapon that they just can’t seem to draw out of their holsters often enough. They’re like a Zen Chuck Norris: so powerful, yet so passive.

To ensure future success, there are two things the Habs have to do, and one of them revolves around Montreal’s deadly power play. We need to understand that over the past four or so years, the power play’s success has been anchored on a cannon blast from the right point. It is no surprise that a threat like that will draw a penalty killer to cover and challenge the shot which in turn opens up space around the right face-off circle and slot to make a nice pass or skate in for a close range wrister.
Evidence: In 2006-2007, the Canadiens had Sheldon Souray firing rockets from the point and at one point held the top PP and PK in the league. That year he scored 26 goals, 19 on the PP, a record for defencemen.
In 2007-2008, Montreal lost Souray to the Oilers via free agency. Draft pick Mark Streit picked up the slack on the point, providing a howitzer shot and an accurate pass. Though he didn’t score many goals, he drew cover from the opposition and fed Alex Kovalev, who was money from the circle. Streit finished with 13 goals, 49 assists, and Kovalev picked up 17 power-play goals.

In 2008-2009, the Habs struggled as a result of the loss of Streit on the power play. Once again, without a true threat from the blue line, and Kovalev drawing specific coverage, the power play suffered. A trade with Atlanta to acquire Mathieu Schneider boosted the Habs PP. In 23 games in Montreal, Schneider netted five goals and 12 assists. All five goals and all but three assists came on the power play.
This leads us to the current season. Again, free agency ravaged the Canadiens’ power play potential. Floundering for the first few weeks of the season, the Habs sign free agent Marc-André Bergeron. Not known for his defence, Bergeron provided what was so essential for the Habs in the three previous years: a true threatening slapshot from the right point. In his abbreviated time in Montreal, Bergeron has potted 10 goals, six on the PP, and has fit in nicely as a true PP specialist. How scary is his shot? There is a video or two floating around YouTube of Bergeron’s slap shot nearly caving in Mike Smith’s goalie mask.
It seems simple enough. With Andrei Markov running the show on the power play, and a booming shot from the point, suddenly, the options are limitless. Mike Cammalleri is slowly replacing Kovalev’s effectiveness along the right boards/face-off circle, and Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec are doing their share to be dangerous in front of the net. So why is it that each year the Canadiens seem to have to scratch their heads and find a solution to a struggling power play? This can be blamed on the General Manager, and is our second point.

The Habs are a classy bunch… supposedly. When they aren’t snatching purses or hanging out with gangsters, they represent an honourable hockey brand. Part of this is to adhere to certain organizational rules and orders. One of which that is strictly followed is the policy of not negotiating with players until after the season. Ok, I can see how this can be a useful policy so as to not distract players with financial nonsense during the course of a season, but let’s look at the casualties that ensued. Souray: gone. Streit: gone. Kovalev: gone. What stings most is that these were all players who were incredibly effective. The power play would thrive and then get nerfed by a stubborn administration. Streit, by the way, went on to sign in Long Island for $4.5 million, a bargain when you consider his point totals, defensive responsibility (only plus-player on the god-awful Islanders) and proven power play effectiveness. What pains me even more is that Streit was willing to sign in Montreal for nearly half that amount. That wasn’t just a mistake, that was yelling the wrong name in bed.
When will Bob Gainey understand that locking up pieces of the puzzle early is just as important as identifying who they are? Le grand ménage that Gainey engineered is great, but what now of Plekanec who is a top scorer in the league? Every assist and every goal is another ka-ching in his eyes. Do you think he’ll forget about the arbitration nonsense? The refusal to sign him last year, coupled with his great season this year spells a financial disaster for the Habs.
Do you want future success, my dear Montreal Canadiens? Lock up your power players, and drop the “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” act. It is hurting you more than you know.

Look for Puck Droppings next week under its new title, “Skates on a Plane.”