Sunday, September 23, 2007

Montreal Candian Season Preview

Being that this is really our first full season to get a crack at previewing teams, we decided to contact other bloggers to have them tell the stories of their respective team's season. We will be running a team per day, possibly two teams, possibly six, all through September.

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Next up is a site that is as good as it gets. A big thanks to the crew from [four hab's fan ] for this preview of the Montreal Canadians.

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Divison: Northeast

2006-07: (42-34-6) 90pts

Playoffs: No dice

Leaders


Saku Koivu-Micheal Ryder
(22G-53A-75P)- ( 30G-28A-58P)


Andrei Markov
(6G-43A-49P)

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Will the Habs Be Stripperriffic?

This preview of the Montreal Canadiens is brought to you by Panger76, one of the Four Habs Fans, home of Hockey, Habs, Snark and Strippers. Those unfamiliar with us might want to consider reviewing our stripperrific rating system to understand wtf we’re on about.

You want in-depth preview? We laugh at Sean Gallagher and his puny little Blues piece. Let’s break it down, position by position.

GOALTENDING

The tits

David Aebischer is now The Great One’s problem in Phoenix, which is only disappointing for Northeast Division opponents. Cristobal Huet may or may not be the player he was in the second half of the 1st post-lockout season, but he is a solid starter at the very least, with gusts up to spectacular. Jaroslav Halak proved he is the real deal in a three month audition last year, making Abby and his 15 ft rebounds expendable. Halak will serve as a good, cheap young backup UNLESS uber-prospect Carey Price gives Habs’ brass no choice but to keep him up with the big club instead of starting the year in Hamilton.

After that, the Habs have some solid goaltending depth in free-agent signees Yann Danis and Cedric Desjardins. Danis took a step back last year but has not embarrassed himself at the NHL level in the past, while Desjardins has a Memorial Cup on his resume.

The cellulite
As far as Huet is concerned, FHF still denies the Steve Penney parallels. But the possibility is still out there. Plus two major injuries in two years raises concerns.

The list of great Slovakian goaltenders reads like this:

(And yes, we thought of Peter Budaj – taking the starter’s role from Brokedown Theo doesn’t count towards legendary status.)

Halak is small by NHL standards and has not yet been through the grind of an 82-game NHL season, and he’s only a year removed from the ECHL. The biggest drawback will be FHF’s inability to pullout any more “Swiss cheese” jokes after Abby’s starts.

Carey Price is 19 freakin years old.

The armpit hair
By now almost everyone has heard of Price’s championship season last year: first leading the Canadian Men’s Junior team to gold at the World Junior championships, then reading the Hamilton Bulldogs to the Calder Cup AFTER finishing his junior season. What freaks FHF out: the Patrick Roy comparisons, and off season hype only Montreal’s Stanley Cup starved fans could place on a FREAKIN 19-year old.

In the VIP Room
Huet is a fundamentally sound goaltender with the mental makeup to handle the pressures of playing the position reserved for greats on a legendary team - or as we like to call to call it, brass cajones.

Halak seems to get better every year, playing at different levels.

Our insight on Price: he’ll be a star one day. You heard it here first.

Chez Parée bound?
Yes, although a limo might be pushing it. Maybe in a nice rental car. Other predictions: Unless Price blows the doors off the competition in the pre-season, smart money is on him playing at least half a season in the AHL. Huet is gone to L.A. by the deadline for guys no one except Panger has heard of.

Number of lap dances (out of 10)

Like that Martian chick in Total Recall, we’ll give the three-breasted monster than threatens to be Montreal’s goaltending this year an 8 out of 10.

DEFENCE

The tits

Hmmm. They’re not as bad as Toronto? Markov is an above-average defenceman with stretches of eliteness. Komisarek is huge and hugely underrated. Bouillion is tough as nails and doles out huge hits despite his midget frame, plus he’s got a big heart. Hamrlik is big, strong and experienced. We don’t consider Mark Streit a defencemen anymore, but he does play the point on the powerplay competently. Janne Niinimaa will be turning over the puck somewhere in Finland this season, which is good news to FHF. Josh Georges is still an unknown quantity, but at least he’s young and has some potential.

There are some good prospects on defence, including monstrous Ryan O’Byrne and Darius Kasparitis clone Pavel Valentenkov. JP Cote played a few games a couple of seasons ago. Mathieu Carle will be good, but not this year.

The cellulite
An argument can be made that the Habs are much worse of at the start of this season that last, having lost both Craig Rivet and Sheldon Souray over the course of the last year. Roman Hamrlik and Patrice Brisebois take their places. Oh happy day.

There are questions about the holdovers, too. Markov has not proven he can be a true #1 defenceman over an entire season. Hamrlik must prove he’s worth his paycheque, plus you gotta be wary of a guy drafted 1st overall but on his 5th team – those other teams let him go for a reason. Bouillon may be tough, but he still has to use a stool to reach the top shelf. Oh, and Mathieu Dandenault – he’s all about the cellulite. Carbo seems to feel the same way, as he’s suggested that Dandy is fighting for a roster spot with Georges, Cote and O’Byrne.

The Habs also let go probably the most NHL ready prospect in the system, Dan Jancevski, who signed with Tampa. However, the Habs did sign Jamie Rivers for depth. Wait, Jamie who?

The armpit hair

Duh. Breezer.

Losing Souray. Yes, he was minus a billion last season, but he scored goals! Power play goals! And there is no indication his slack will be picked up by the remaining cast members. On the other end of the ice, despite letting Mr. -28 go, there is no guarantee the remaining Montreal defenceman will be any better than their predecessors. Plus FHF doesn’t see anyone stepping up to fill the leadership void he leaves behind – although we have high hopes for Komisarek.

In the VIP Room

This is the year Komisarek gets the recognition for being the steady, punishing shut-down defenseman he deserves. And by December Brisebois realizes that he should have retired two years ago. By February his body is discovered in a ditch.

Chez Parée bound?
They’re allowed in, but they’ll have to wait in line. Other predictions: Another long season for Habs goalies, and if Price’s confidence is shattered, we know who to lynch – that’s right, welcome back to Montreal, Patrice.

Number of lap dances (out of 10)

5 out of 10 – 6 if Brisebois gets mowed down outside the Bell Centre before Oct. 3.

CENTERS

The tits

The Habs enter the season with 3 guys who can play on the top two lines – Koivu, Pleks and Smolinski. Pleks upside is Zetterburg-ish based on the second half of last season. Koivu seems to have overcome the injury bug (oh wait, I think I just heard a tendon snap…)

After that, the Habs have a couple of solid role players like Begin and Lapierre. Plus chicks dig Lapierre’s hair, or so I’m told. They also have some intriguing prospects in Kyle (Chips) Chipchura, Mikhail Grabovski and Corey Locke.

The cellulite

None of the front line trio is a true #1 Center. Koivu is a solid #2, and Pleks and Smoliniski are better suited to the 3rd line. Begin, due to his style of play, is injury prone. Lapierre is a hard worker, but has limited offensive abilities. Although he wasn’t the most popular Hab, the Canadiens will miss Radek Bonk more than most fans realize.

The armpit hair

I called Smolinski a ‘journeyman’ before the UFA season started, and was convinced Gainey would not sign such a player. And he was our big ticket free agent forward signing. Ouch.

Playing center ice for the Hab means standing on your tippy-toes when they pull out the tape measure for your official height. We’re looking at you Koivu, Pleks, Grabby and Locke.

In the VIP Room

Smolinski may not be the offensive player he once was, but he’s an upgrade over the Bonk-inator – plus with Radek gone Pleks gets his favourite number back. He earned it. Grabovsky tore up the AHL and has the confidence to make the team this year.

Chez Parée bound?

Yes, but they’ll have to bribe the bouncer. Other predictions: Grabovsky grabs a roster spot and centers Kovalev’s line, and becomes a fan favourite for his speed and moves a la Russ Courtnall. To make room, Smolinski moves to the wing on the first line with Ryder and Koivu. Meanwhile Chips becomes this season’s Pleks.


Number of lap dances (out of 10)

No true #1 = 7.5

WINGERS

The tits

As for scoring wingers: Ryder is a goal scorer who doesn’t get the respect a 30-goal scorer should; Higgins has the most upside of any current player; Kovalev is one of the most talented players in the league. Gui Latendresse is big and has soft hands, and is still getting better; Andrei Kostitsyn has the skill and now has a taste of the NHL, and should stick.

As for the “role player” types: You know what to expect out of Garth Murray; Tom Kostopoulos was signed for depth.

As for prospects: Andrei’s bro Sergei may get a taste of NHL action after dominating with London of the OHL last year. There’s also European rookie Janne Lahti who supposedly plays a “North-American style” game – which I guess means he’d break a couple of eggs going into a corner. There is also Duncan Milroy, who took a step towards reaching the NHL last year after spinning his wheels for a while. I have to mention Matt D’Agostini cause he’s Italian. Let’s hope his family makes as good a sub as Montreal’s last Italian hero, Sergio Mommesso. And if anyone is heading to Calgary in the near future, pick up something from Mommesso’s for me, will you?

The cellulite

Ryder runs hot and cold, and when he’s cold he’s useless; Higgins had a scorching start and then wasn’t the same after his injury; Kovalev is the most inconsistent player in the league; Latendresse will not be a true power forward cause he doesn’t like to get his nose dirty like Brendan Shanahan; Kostitsyn hasn’t locked up a position on the team and hasn’t blown anyone away in his previous pre-season appearances.

You know what to expect from Garth Murray; not much depth in terms of experiences wingers apart from Kostopoulos (oh Mike Johnson how we miss thee). Lahti and Milroy have proven zero at the NHL level.

The armpit hair

Let’s see: no true sniper, no true heavyweight (or even a reasonable facsimile). Not much experienced depth.

In the VIP Room

Much will depend on the progress of youngsters such as Higgins, Latendresse and Kostitsyn, as well as other young centers who will likely get moved to the wing such as Lapierre and Chips. Plus, you know, if Kovalev feels like playing, that would be helpful.

Chez Parée bound?

We hope so, and we’re even offering free drinks to Kovalev to see if that’ll motivate him. Other predictions: Higgins turns into a two-way force; Kostitsyn not only locks up a roster spot but plays on the top two lines all year. Kovalev is run out of town on the Patrice Brisebois express.


Number of lap dances (out of 10)

Let’s say 7 – but this is probably the biggest guess of all our “rating”: it can go to a 9 if Kovalev is a player again, Ryder is consistent, and Higgins and Kostitsyn continue to improve. If not, and Garth Murray is playing on the top line, a 2.

MANAGEMENT

The tits
Gainey’s has years of experience and is impervious to pressure. Carbonneau’s not a rookie anymore and had to have learned something from last year – right?

The cellulite

Gainey has no visible emotions and maybe is too conservative as a result. Carbo’s coaching resume isn’t exactly remarkable. Former center Kirk Muller is still coaching the defencemen – where’s Jacques Laperriere when you need him; I though he had a lifetime contract??

The armpit hair

We acquired WHO in the UFA sweepstakes? At least there is little likelihood of a Samsonov repeat this year.

In the VIP Room

Trevor Timmins is the most underrated person in the organization, turning around 20 Wickenheiser-esque years of drafting, and the team is just starting to see the fruits of his labours. If Timmins leaves, they might as well just pass on all their draft picks next year.

Chez Parée bound?

They’ll have to take the Métro until they prove they can make some better decisions (why Breezer? Why???). No one’s getting fired, but no one is carving out a Hall-of-Fame career either.


Number of lap dances (out of 10)

Again a solid 7. Despite the FHF motto – Trust in Gainey - his re-signing of Breezer seriously undermines his credibility. Carbo’s not great, but at least he’s not Mario Tremblay. We’ll se if he learned anything from last year.

THE BIG FINISH – THE 4 AM SMOKED MEAT SANDWICH FROM THE REST OF THE FHF

HabsFan10 – IF everyone plays to their potential, and IF some of the other teams in the East a) have their team plane go down or b) trade for the ebola virus or c) get managed by John Ferguson Jr ... oh, wait ... or d) remain "The Florida Panthers", the Habs may have a shot at a low seed in the playoffs. Miracles along the lines of St. Patrick's 1993 post-season could result in a top-four spot. Not gonna happen. Just beat the goddamn Leafs out, okay? I have to live in Toronto.

HabsFan29 – I don’t know about a 4 am smoked meat sandwich. I don’t trust this to be the best way to come to the aid of ailing entrails incurred by the many defeats Habs fans will be ill at ease digesting. Instead of numbers on jerseys, this year the players should don the shoe that really fits – A BIG FUCKING QUESTION MARK. I can’t help it, I’ve always been an optimist.

HabsFan33 – And I’ve always been a pessimist. 11th place in the East, crippling injuries all year (giving the French media an excuse), Carbo gets fired, and Kovy, Pleks and Huet are all gone by the deadline. Worst. Season. Ever.




1 comments:

Vern said...

as a hershey bears fan, I watched carey price completely dominate the calder cup finals. He WILL be the tits

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