Posted on 31 August 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens are saddened by the passing of former NHL defenseman Carol Vadnais at age 68. A 16-year NHL veteran, Carol Vadnais began his career in Montreal with the Canadiens in 1966. Two years later, in 1967-68 he helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup. Vadnais would also suit up with the California Seals, the Boston Bruins, the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. In 1,087 regular season NHL games, he tallied 587 points, including 169 goals. Vadnais also etched his name on the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 1972. Our deepest condolences to the Vadnais family.
Posted on 29 August 2014 | Comments OffIf he’s not on his skis hitting the slopes, then you can probably bet Mikaël Kingsbury is hitting up the Bell Centre instead, always managing to find the time in his busy schedule to cheer on his favorite team. The canadiens.com crew recently caught up with the Olympic silver medalist to get the inside scoop on his love for all things CH. When did you first become a Habs fan? MIKAËL KINGSBURY: I’ve been a fan since I was a kid. I would have even liked to play hockey but I was already skiing during the winter and playing baseball during the summer. I was actually a huge Expos fan back in the day -- I was even their bat boy once -- but once the Expos left, I shifted my focus to hockey. It’s probably my favorite sport now… after skiing of course! No matter where I am in the world these days, I’ll always follow the Habs, check the scores, manage a pool… I love hockey. How about these days? Do you ever hit the ice from time-to-time? MK: Yes, my freestyle ski team often plays together. I also play with my friends sometimes. A lot of them play in garage leagues, so sometimes I’m called in as a sub. Believe it or not, for a guy who never played hockey growing up, I can actually handle myself quite well on the ice. What’s your best Canadiens memory? MK: I went to so many games as a kid that it’s hard to pick just one memory in particular, although there was this one game against the Oilers. I remember it was during Guillaume Latendresse’s rookie season; the night he scored his first goal and also got into a fight. If I remember correctly, it was also the year the shootout was introduced, and the game ended in one as well. A big night of premieres! I also remember I was at home once, watching a game against the Rangers from my sofa. We were losing 5-1 but came back to win it at the end. I was with my brother and we were freaking out! I’ve got too many memories to pick from. I even had a glass of wine with P.K. Subban once in Sochi! Did you have a favorite player growing up? MK: When I was in elementary school -- so at around age 10 -- it was Mike Ribeiro, but these days I like the young guys. I’m really big on Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. I like the entire team, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Gallagher. Are you as fast on skates as you are on skis? MK: On the ice? I’m for sure a lot speedier on skis. I can get by on skates and I think I can skate fast enough, but skiing for me comes natural. I’ve been skiing since I was three or four years old, to the point that it’s become innate, although I do still play hockey often enough. When I get home, one of the first things I do is go to the rink, like a lot of people. I’m comfortable on skates. Hockey has a reputation as a physical sport, but what about freestyle skiing? MK: It’s different. I sometimes train with hockey players, like when Andrei Markov was rehabbing his knee with Scott Livingston at my gym. We knew each other, but still, it was Andrei Markov! (laughs) I’ve also trained with Maxim Lapierre in the past. Hockey is physical, it hurts, but skiing is different. Just like in hockey, you need to take hits if you want to win, but you take the hits in different places. When you’re skiing, it’s your back that takes the brunt of the impact when you hit the moguls at full speed before a jump. Although I’m sure getting hit by a 250-pound guy on skates is a lot worse than falling off your skis. Going from 50 km/h to zero on a mogul hurts, but hockey in general probably hurts more. How does your rivalry with Alexandre Bilodeau compare to Montreal-Boston? MK: It’s no Habs-Bruins! (laughs) Not at all! People think there’s a rivalry, but we’re really just two champions. Alexandre is a guy who always wants to win and we share the same objective, it’s gold or nothing for both of us. Whether competing professionally or in training, we always want to one-up each other, but we’re no Montreal-Boston and never will be. A better analogy would be Crosby and Malkin competing for the NHL scoring crown. At the end of the day of we’re friends. If it was someone from another country, then maybe there would be a rivalry. Interview conducted by Hugo Fontaine. Translated by Steven Nechay.
Posted on 28 August 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL -- Coming off one of the city’s shortest summers since ‘93 thanks to a lengthy playoff run that ended just shy of June, we’ll forgive Habs fans if it feels like swimming pool season has turned into hockey pool season in a hurry. But with training camp now less than a month away, we’re already eager to trade-in our Speedos for stat sheets – just like we have every year over the last six seasons – to offer fans a quick look at what the ‘experts’ have been saying about the 2014-15 edition of the Canadiens. Armed with five magazines in total: Hockey Le Magazine, The Hockey News, Sportsnet NHL Pool Guide, The Sports Forecaster and Hockey Pool Pro, we gazed into the crystal ball for the upcoming year, and we started at the very end. But one year into the new divisional formats, final standings are still the murkiest to call, with only Hockey Le Magazine willing to get its feet wet in the post-playoff pool. The French-language publication gives this year’s Stanley Cup to last year’s runner-ups, forecasting Chicago to go all the way, while closer to home, Montreal is slotted for a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division. RDS commentator Pierre Houde, meanwhile, sees the Habs en route to an Eastern Final date with the Pittsburgh Penguins, while The Sports Forecaster predicts another third-place finish in the Atlantic – but that’s about as much as anyone is willing to tie their name to. Shifting focus to something a little more personal, don’t hesitate to save a first-round pick in your pool for the Habs’ leading scorer from 2013-14, as Max Pacioretty is prime for a 59 to 69-point campaign this year, depending on who you ask. Likewise among defensemen, P.K. Subban is expected to put up potential career numbers this year --anywhere from 57 to 62 points -- and The Sports Forecaster even predicts a team scoring crown for the newest long-term Hab. Pacioretty's usual partner in crime David Desharnais is likewise in the mix for a career year according to Hockey Le Magazine, which has penciled in the Laurier-Station, QC native for a 62-point season. And following a modest 31-point sophomore campaign for Alex Galchenyuk a season ago, all signs now suggest a breakout year is on the horizon for the Habs' 2012 NHL Draft pick, who pundits agree could rack up anywhere from 47 to 53 points in 2014-15. There's little variation in the blue paint however, as all of the magazines are unanimous in one respect: Carey Price will have another excellent season, winning 35 to 37 games bolstered by five to eight shutout performances. Hockey Le Magazine even sees the Olympic gold medalist hoisting at least one piece of hardware next June -- the Vezina Trophy at the annual NHL Awards in Las Vegas. Until then, sharpen your pencils and get ready. Hockey season is almost here! Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Steven Nechay.
Posted on 26 August 2014 | Comments OffNHL.com - When Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin traded defenseman Josh Gorges and allowed captain Brian Gionta to leave as a free agent, he made it clear that it was time for the team's young veterans to assume the duties the two team leaders would leave behind. That message has been received loud and clear by last season's leading scorer. Forward Max Pacioretty sees his role growing in the absence of Gorges and Gionta, both of whom will be playing in the Atlantic Division with the Buffalo Sabres this season. "Now that we're going in a different direction, I feel I'm going to have to play a much bigger role on this team," Pacioretty told Montreal radio station TSN 690 on Monday. "I'm really looking forward to doing that. At the end of the year last year I wore a letter, and it was definitely an honor. Obviously, I didn't see this coming, where both [Gionta] and Gorges would be gone, but it shows that the management is ready for some of these young guys to step up. That's when I've got to look in the mirror and help some people out, the guys that are even younger than me. I feel I'm going to be able to do that." Who will replace Gionta as captain of the Canadiens has become a hot topic in Montreal of late, with many people wondering if it will go to one of the holdover veterans of the team like defenseman Andrei Markov and center Tomas Plekanec, or if it will be one of the young veterans Bergevin mentioned. The two prime candidates from the latter group would be Pacioretty and defenseman P.K. Subban, both of whom are 25 and signed to long-term contracts. Pacioretty, who finished fourth in the NHL with 39 goals last season, is signed through the end of the 2018-19 season. Pacioretty told TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro on Monday that after Subban signed his contract on Aug. 2, the two young stars had a discussion about the leadership of the team. "Now it's our time to step up and be leaders," Pacioretty said he told Subban. "We don't have to worry about contracts now; we just have to worry about winning and helping the team win." Subban's big contract does not appear to be an issue for Pacioretty, who chose to focus more on the fact he should be in Montreal for the next eight seasons rather than the big average salary. "I'm really happy that P.K.'s going to be here for a while," Pacioretty said. "He's obviously a huge part of this team, a huge part of this city and organization. He and I have developed a good friendship as the years have gone on. It's no secret how important he is to our team. I think it's just a little bit more of a comfort thing knowing he's on board now for at least eight more years. I'm excited about it. He obviously deserves it; he's one of the best defensemen in the world." The Canadiens are coming off their deepest playoff run since their last Stanley Cup victory in 1993, losing in six games in the Eastern Conference Final to the New York Rangers. In spite of that success, a fair amount of change came in the offseason, with Daniel Briere, Thomas Vanek, Douglas Murray and George Parros joining Gionta and Gorges as departed veterans. But Pacioretty is not overly concerned because he feels some of the young players on the team are ready to spread their wings and fly this season, particularly forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. "I think it's tough for people just looking on paper to realize that our team should be better this year," Pacioretty said. "Guys like Galchenyuk and Gallagher, they're going into their third year, and this is the year I think they'll really start to feel comfortable around the team and in their game. The first year, you're playing on emotion. The second year, people always worry about that sophomore slump, but they did a great job of avoiding that. But I think the third year is really a good year for these guys. I think they're going to be young leaders on the team." "Young leaders" used to be a term that applied to players like Pacioretty, but with the changes made in the offseason the word "young" might need to be removed from his label, even if he is all of 25. When asked if he would be interested in being named captain, Pacioretty didn't hesitate to say yes. "Of course. I think if you ask every person on our team they'd have the same answer," he said. "It would be an absolute honor. But at the end of the day you want what's best for the team, so if the coaches and the players feel that someone else is a better candidate, I'm all on board for that as well." NHL.com SEE ALSO Highlights: Max Pacioretty
Posted on 26 August 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL – In the midst of wrapping up the shortest summer of his NHL career, Dale Weise is chomping at the bit to start his first full season in bleu-blanc-rouge. Three months removed from a postseason run that saw the 26-year-old play a key role in the Canadiens’ push to within two wins of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, Weise is doing everything in his power to ready himself for the inevitable grind that awaits when the regular season opens on Oct. 8 in Toronto. “I think it’s been the quickest summer of my whole life. I’ve never played that late in the playoffs. Things happened pretty fast,” shared Weise, who spent his summer back home in Winnipeg with his new wife, Lauren, and 11-month-old son, Hunter. “Any time you have a chance to play that deep in the playoffs and summer just flies by, it’s a good thing. It was a credit to just how well our team did, and it shows great signs for us moving forward. “Looking back on it, that was the best time I had playing hockey,” added the three-year NHL veteran, who racked up three goals – including two game winners – and seven points in 16 playoff games in 2013-14. “I’ve said it a million times, being part of the Canadiens is a dream come true for me. That run just fed my training and my motivation this summer. I think we’ve got some unfinished business to take care of.” Despite being forced to delay the start of his offseason workout regimen after sustaining a concussion in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 27, Weise wasted little time getting back on track. After taking a couple of weeks off to relax and recuperate, the gritty winger got right back in the swing of things with a fitness program designed to take his game to the next level. “Taking some time off kind of compounded my program a little bit. I’ve been working extremely hard. I’m probably as lean as I’ve ever been, and I think that’s a key for me. I was playing at about 200 pounds in the playoffs. It’s the lightest I’ve ever been in the NHL, but it was also the best I’ve ever felt. Most offseasons, I could bulk up to 212 or 215 pounds. The summer is more about shedding excess weight, growing stronger and gaining speed,” offered Weise, who admits to currently tipping the scales at 207 pounds. “I want to stay fast and play fast. That’s my focus when it comes to training.” With that in mind, Weise sought out the help of renowned Winnipeg-based skills coach, Dave Cameron, to complement his workouts in the weight room. “Dave is unbelievable. We work over at The Rink Training Centre. I’ve never really worked with a skills coach before. I’ve done a lot of work with him, and I think I’ve made huge strides with my hands when it comes to making in-tight scoring plays. I’ve been doing a lot of work on that area in particular, and I hope I’ll be reaping the benefits,” confided Weise, who has been hitting the ice four to five times a week at Highlander Ice Sports Centre for about three weeks, skating alongside the likes of NHLers Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt, pros Cam Barker and James Martin, and Predators prospect, Brendan Leipsic. “I’ll do a 45-60 minute skills session, then get on the ice with the pros in town. We do drills, and speed and band work. We also scrimmage a little bit. I think I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in.” With a new two-year deal in tow, Weise is also more comfortable in his surroundings than he’s ever been, too. “I’ve been a guy that last couple of years in Vancouver where my deals didn’t get signed until the end of July or beginning of August. To get that type of faith from the organization is huge for a guy who’s been living off one-year deals,” confessed Weise, who signed on the dotted line on June 17, less than a month before he and Lauren tied the knot at The Gates on Roblin, a riverfront property located about 30 minutes outside of the Manitoban capital. “I’m excited to get back to training camp and to see the guys. I love the city, I love the people, I love the fans. There’s no better feeling than playing in the Bell Centre. I can’t wait to see how far our team can go.” While he’s not setting any specific performance goals for 2014-15, Weise does believe solidifying a spot among Michel Therrien’s top-nine forwards isn’t out of the question. “Honestly, I had a lot of success in the playoffs offensively where I haven’t in the past, but I’m really not a numbers guy because so many things can happen throughout the year,” offered Weise, whose family will call the South Shore home during the season. “I just expect to be in good shape when I arrive and have a good training camp. Some things might already be penciled in on paper, but I’d love to earn a job on our third line. I’m going to work hard. That’s all I can say.” Based on what Weise has shown so far, there’s no doubting that. Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Posted on 25 August 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL – It should come as no surprise that Habs players are among the fittest in the NHL. It’s not often, after all, that a team can count on an Iron Man in its ranks. Since becoming the Canadiens’ strength and conditioning coach in 2010, Pierre Allard has worked tirelessly at getting players into peak physical condition for the moment they jump onto the ice. A coach who takes the idea of practicing what he preaches to heart, the 42-year-old athlete is a prime example of both strength and conditioning, setting aside time in his jam-packed schedule to prepare for the North American Ironman Championship. “It’s a competition that I’ve always wanted to partake in,” explained Allard, who completed the second edition of the Mont-Tremblant trial in August. “I remember seeing it on TV for the first time when I was 12 or 13, and I knew right away that it was something I wanted to try at least once. “So when my playing career came to an end, I needed a new challenge and the choice was an easy one,” revealed the Université de Montréal grad. “One of my objectives going into the race was coming out of it intact. I wanted to be functional in the days that followed and not be confined to a bed from exhaustion. Being able to do that is something that I take a lot of pride in.” True to its name, the Ironman Triathlon is a competition which is generally completed by real-life iron men and women. Case in point, by the time participants cross the finish line, they’ll typically have racked up 2.4 miles (3.8 km) of swimming, 112 miles (180 km) of biking and 26.2 miles (42.2 km) of running. Allard himself can be counted among those iron athletes, whose 15 hours per week of training and disciplined lifestyle even enabled him to improve on his inaugural time from a year ago. “I was able to shed close to an hour from my previous best thanks to the experience I gained from the event last year,” admitted Allard, who completed the grueling triathlon with a time of 13:22:05 in 2014. “It was my first time ever covering such a long distance, so this year I was able to better manage my stamina. I was very careful because I wanted to be sure to finish, and it paid off.” With years of strength and conditioning experience to bank on – including a professional playing career in both England and France – Allard knows all too well that each of his athletic experiences have shared a common denominator: preparation. That’s exactly the tenet the fifth-year Canadiens coach teaches to his trainees, whether fresh-faced rookies or grizzled vets. “What I like about the Ironman experience – and it’s something that I passed on to the players at our development camp this summer – is that we live in a fast-paced world today where everyone wants instant gratification. People want to see results now,” underlined Allard. “But the Ironman, just like the real world, is counter to that. It’s not the kind of thing you can prepare for overnight. It takes years and years of preparation and perfecting, just like a successful NHL career. And just like any goal in life, achieving it takes the focus and foresight to make the right decisions.” Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Steven Nechay.
Posted on 22 August 2014 | Comments OffWhenever we think of Jean-Marc Généreux, three things immediately come to mind: energy, dancing, and more dancing. But when he’s not busy shaking a leg, the feather-footed judge of So You Think You Can Dance Canada is also a diehard Canadiens fan, always finding the time in his jam-packed schedule to follow his team from any of the four corners of the globe. So when the canadiens.com crew caught up with the cavorting choreographer, it was only natural that he didn’t dance around our tough questions, giving us instead the inside scoop on his love for all things Habs. When did you first become a Habs fan? By 1986, I was already hooked. Habs fans have really seen it all. I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but there were a couple of difficult seasons over the years leading up to what I like to call ‘the renaissance’. Pierre Boivin really did a great job of grabbing the bull by the horns and bringing fans back to the Bell Centre. The Forum ghosts have kind of been buried, I think. I remember I was at the Forum once back in the day and we had bought our tickets last-minute, so we ended up standing somewhere between the Reds and the Blues, leaning on each other to stay upright. It was crazy! It’s been a long time. When we think of Jean-Marc Généreux, we think dancing, not hockey. Have you ever laced up the skates? Yes! Although unfortunately my hockey career ended at the Bantam level once I met my girlfriend France Rousseau – who I’ve been married to now for 26 years – at age 9. When I turned 10 I started dancing and could no longer do both since dance school and hockey practice were both reserved for weekends. I still played with my friends outdoors for fun, but could no longer be part of an organized team because of the amount of time I was dedicating to dancing. Are dancing and hockey on the same playing field in terms of being sports? Obviously it varies, and can be anything from a simple social activity at a club, to totally a sport just like figure skating on the international stage. In fact, I’ve actually trained for years alongside the likes of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue, Victor Kraatz and Shae-Lynn Bourne, as well as Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrick Lauzon. I did the choreography for Moir and Virtue’s routines in Sochi and had a blast, even if I didn’t end up making the trip to Russia because I was tied up with a shoot in France. Sports have always been a big part of my life via dancing. The dancing techniques I teach are very similar to the motor concepts of any sport, really, so I’ve always had both an artistic side and an athletic side – you know, two sides – kind of like Shredded Wheats. How often do you catch a game live at the Bell Centre? Whenever I can! Being at the Bell Centre is the Holy Grail for any Habs fan! Good on RDS and TVA Sports for continuing to raise the bar in terms of coverage. With a big screen at home, you can really feel as if you’re there at the game. But it still doesn’t compare to actually being there. The smell of the ice, the energy… you’re sitting next to a 400-pound guy and you don’t even care. Even as a small guy, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. Have there been any especially memorable games for you over the years? Yes, let me tell you about the one I almost saw! I was at the Bell Centre with my son and I let doubt get the better of me in a game against the Rangers. It went a bit like this: 1-0 New York. 2-0. 3-0. 4-0. 5-0. So I told Jean-Françis, “Come on, let’s go. We might as well beat the traffic.“ We weren’t even out of the building yet before it was 5-1. Still I thought, “5-1, there’s no chance.“ Then we get to the car and it’s 5-2. We’re approaching the bridge and it’s 5-3. We’re crossing the bridge and it’s 5-4. We were freaking out! By the time we got home, the Habs had won 6-5 and we were looking at each other thinking, “We could have been there. We were there!“ I guess you could call it the one that got away. Another fun one was Lars Eller’s four-goal outing. That game was electric. I remember telling myself that night, “Wow, that guy’s got talent.“ We saw it last season, too, when things started getting tough for him and he was able to bounce back. And even the year before that, when he came back from a concussion better than ever just in time for the playoffs. Another memorable one was Carey’s 48-save performance against Boston during the 2014 playoffs. I’ll never forget that one. Have you ever had a hockey player among your dance students? No, but mostly because I’m never here in Quebec. I need to work on being around more, but it would be really cool to teach a hockey player some basic moves. There was a college quarterback a couple of years ago who had won two NCAA championships but had finished his schooling. He needed to take at least one course in order to stick around and ended up picking a dance class to improve his speed and mobility. Cross training, as it were. That’s what I’d like to be doing one day, getting top athletes out of their comfort zones to help them achieve new heights. The longer you stay in your comfort zone, the scarier the unknown becomes. But learning new things arms you with new weapons to tackle the unknown. I think it would be really neat to have a couple of sessions with a handful of Habs players. Plus, it would probably make for a hilarious episode of 24CH. “Wait, Coach Therrien, we’re doing what?“ “Dancing, and I’m in too!“ You’d see that it wouldn’t take long for me to convince them. They would love it! From what you’ve seen, which Habs player has the right moves to be the next Ren McCormack / Danny Zuko? That’s easy! P.K. Subban, for sure. P.K. “The Great” would be his stage name. It’s rare to see natural talent like that, just like with Guy Lafleur and some of the other Habs greats, so I’m almost certain he has dancing in his blood. It would also be funny to see other guys like Plekanec dance, even if I had to teach him in Czech. Price too, just because of how unbelievably calm he is at all times. I imagine he’d miss a beat or two if I tried making him dance a jive, but put him in suit and bowtie and he’d still look good doing it! As a dance judge, how would you rate Marc Bergevin’s jig from the 2014 Playoffs? I think that was the first time I saw a GM show his human side publicly. I remember thinking to myself, “Finally, we’ve got a real fan in our ranks!“ He and I must have more than a little in common because I actually did that exact same dance at that very same moment. I guess it’s Bergevin who’s actually the best dancer on the team, but P.K.’s still a close second. There was no stopping that dance. It was bred out of pure joy. It was refreshing to see a GM not hide his feelings and I hope to see even more new moves from Marc this year.
Posted on 22 August 2014 | Comments OffPerhaps the best way to get to know someone is to take a road trip with him. Some conversation, a little music and a long stretch of asphalt can form an enduring bond between travel companions. Settle in and buckle up; we’re hitting the road with Mike Weaver. Leaving from Montreal, what would be your destination for a road trip? It would have to be Florida. My family is based down there. I went to Disney World 13 times before I was 12 years old. My parents and I were always on the road. We were always going to see Mickey Mouse at least twice a year. I remember it just being a fun experience growing up. Where would you stop between Montreal and Florida? I’ve made a lot of stops along the way over the years. I’ve stopped at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel in Nashville. I also like the small little diners and all of the hole-in-the-wall type places. From the outside it doesn’t look like there’s anything good to eat, but once you get in there it’s kind of like a hidden gem. Would who your co-pilot be? I don’t know if my two young kids would be ideal passengers just yet, so I’d probably take my dad along with me. We’ve driven that route a couple of times. We take turns driving. He’s always been a pretty good companion. What vehicle would you use? Ford F-150. I love my F-150. Even though it doesn’t have good gas mileage, I still love it. What would the theme song on your road trip? Honestly, I’m more of an MSNBC type of guy. I like stocks. That’s pretty much what I listen to most of the time. Country music would be the other thing I’d put on. What kind of car games would you play? Stay awake. What kind of restaurant would you stop at? I’d stop at small places, those non-traditional spots that aren’t brand names. I’d stop at places along the side of the road.
Posted on 21 August 2014 | Comments OffMONTREAL -- In each of the two seasons since Marc Bergevin took over as general manager and Michel Therrien as coach of the Montreal Canadiens, they have made a significant leap forward. Two years ago, the Canadiens went from last place in the Eastern Conference to winning their division before bowing out in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, the Canadiens finished third in the Atlantic Division, but reached the Eastern Conference Final before being knocked out in six games by the New York Rangers. The next step will be a difficult one for the Canadiens, but the answers to these five questions may determine whether they are ready for it. 1. Who will fill the leadership void? -- The departure of captain Brian Gionta as an unrestricted free agent to the Buffalo Sabres was hardly a surprise, but the trade of his long-assumed successor Josh Gorges to the same team most definitely was. With two of the three Canadiens players who wore a letter on their jersey now gone, the identity of their next captain has been a topic of debate in Montreal ever since defenseman P.K. Subban signed his eight-year, $72 million contract Aug. 2. Many have suggested that the length of the contract and his status as arguably the Canadiens' best player, and definitely their best skater, makes Subban an ideal candidate to take over for Gionta. A counter-argument would be that Subban doesn't need the added burden the captaincy brings. Subban's occasional recklessness might be one of his strongest attributes, and maybe he would feel inclined to dial that back if he were captain. "I think the interesting thing about our team is that we have a lot of guys who are leaders, and guys that are growing into leaders," Subban said. "At the end of the day that's management's decision, they'll make the decision as to who they feel fits the best mold as a captain." Therrien said the question has yet to be addressed and that it will be tackled once training camp starts next month. But considering how both Therrien and Bergevin value loyalty, character and work ethic, it would not be the least bit surprising to see the job handed to defenseman Andrei Markov, freshly signed to a three-year, $17.25 million contract. Markov has played his entire 14-year career in Montreal and is universally respected by his teammates. The one thing that might prevent Markov, a private person who has always shunned the spotlight, from being named the next captain is if he doesn't want the job. 2. Who will grab the available spot among the top nine forwards? -- Gionta's departure also creates a hole at right wing on one of Montreal's top three lines. Bergevin acquired right wing Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau from the Colorado Avalanche in a trade for Daniel Briere, and Brendan Gallagher fills another right wing spot on a scoring line. But Therrien generally likes to have three offensive lines, and it is unclear who the third right wing will be among his top nine forwards. The candidates are led by Czech free agent signing Jiri Sekac, 22, who played the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Sekac was pursued by about a dozen NHL teams and should get an opportunity to grab that spot, even though he prefers playing left wing. Second-year forward Michael Bournival could be given a chance to play a more significant role, while prospects Sven Andrighetto and Jacob De La Rose may also get a look in camp. 3. What will be the impact of Markov and Subban playing together full time? -- Part of the reason Gorges was traded to Buffalo was to create room to move Alexei Emelin to his natural left side. That means Emelin can no longer play with his regular defense partner Markov, who also plays on the left. Markov was, by far, Subban's best defense partner last season. According to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, Markov was the only one of Subban's three most frequent partners last season who had a positive impact on Subban's possession numbers. Yet Subban played 41.7 percent of his even-strength minutes alongside Markov. That should change this season, meaning the Canadiens will benefit from the increased offensive zone time that pairing has shown an ability to manufacture against top opposition on a more regular basis. 4. Who will claim the sixth defense spot? -- The departure of Douglas Murray and the strong possibility of veteran Francis Bouillon also not returning leaves a hole to the left of Mike Weaver on Montreal's third defense pairing. The two principle candidates to fill it are Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi, but Beaulieu has the clear inside track. Beaulieu played well during Montreal's run to the conference final last spring, and his ability to move the puck makes him a better fit with the defensive-minded Weaver. Beaulieu and free agent signing Tom Gilbert can also provide Therrien with a good pairing for the second power-play unit, something he has not had in his two seasons as Canadiens coach. 5. Will the power play improve? -- It will have to, and the potential of having Gilbert and Beaulieu could be a game-changer. Last season, the Canadiens were 19th on the power play, but they were one of the worst in the League over the second half. Of the 946:02 of combined power play ice time available for the two Canadiens defensemen on the ice last season, Subban and Markov took up 78 percent of it. Subban and Markov were also on the ice for 42 and 41 power-play goals scored, respectively. The next highest number for a Canadiens defenseman was four. A strong second defense pair should help the Canadiens' power play immensely. NHL.com
Posted on 21 August 2014 | Comments OffNEW YORK -- There may come a time when the Montreal Canadiens will look back on the 2013 NHL Draft with great pride, knowing the organization hit the jackpot. Five of the eight players picked that weekend are considered high-end prospects expected to have an impact with the big club in very short order. Canadiens director of player development Martin Lapointe singled out two players from that 2013 draft class that made quite an impression during the team's recent development camp, forwards Jacob De La Rose and Michael McCarron. "They are both power forwards and they bring the element of toughness, but they also bring a good skill base," Canadiens director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins said. "McCarron has a mean streak in him, but he's also a good hockey player with hands and hockey sense. When we're drafting we're always looking for talent, hockey sense, character and competitiveness in a player." It's possible the Canadiens also landed their goalie of the future in 2013 with the second-round (No. 36) selection of Zachary Fucale. "Zach is a winner," Timmins said. "His record in the Canadian Hockey League is impeccable. He's the type of player where even if he lets in four or five goals in a game he fights to the bitter end. The last guy I saw like that was Jaroslav Halak. There's no rush on our part to push Zach into the NHL; the player usually dictates when he's ready." Here's a look at the Canadiens' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com: 1. Jacob De La Rose, LW How acquired: 2nd round (No. 34), 2013 draft Last season: 49 GP, 7-6-13, Leksand, SWE The 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward, who likely will start the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal's American Hockey League, had three goals, six points and a plus-3 rating to help Sweden win the silver medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. The 19-year-old forward will challenge for an NHL spot at training camp but likely will need some time in the AHL as he makes the adjustment to life in in North America. "I've been playing against men for a few years now [in Sweden] and I played about 15 minutes a game last season," De La Rose said. "It's my choice, and I think that Hamilton is closer to the NHL and that's my goal." Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16 2. Nikita Scherbak, RW How acquired: 1st round (No. 26), 2014 draft Last season: 65 GP, 28-50-78, Saskatoon, WHL The 6-1, 174-pound 18-year-old Russian-born forward considers himself the ultimate playmaker, and he proved that at Montreal's development camp in July when he continually was setting up teammates and breaking up plays in the defensive zone. He led all Western Hockey League rookies in scoring last season on the way to being named most valuable player and rookie of the year. "He's a player with tremendous skill and hockey sense, and we see him as a top-two line projection," Timmins said. "We tried to hit a home run there; Nikita is a player with a lot of talent but also has a lot of character and personality. We like the way he plays because he plays more of a North American style." Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17 3. Jiri Sekac, LW How acquired: Signed as a free agent, July 1, 2014 Last season: 47 GP, 11-17-28, Lev Prague, RUS The 6-2, 195-pound Czech Republic native was second on his team last season in assists and points, and tied for second in goals. He also had a goal and seven assists in 21 Kontinental Hockey League playoff games to help Prague reach Game 7 of the Gagarin Cup Finals, where they lost to Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He also had two goals in 10 games for the Czech Republic at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus. Sekac, 22, played for the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League in 2009-10 and the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League from 2009-11, but was passed over in the 2010 and 2011 NHL drafts. According to Lapointe, Sekac was the most impressive player at development camp. "Sekac was a player that was very much in demand recently," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said. "He's a young player with some talent and upside. You try to project when you have young players like this, and he has a chance to play on the top three lines. I always say that players make decisions for us but we have a young player with talent that can help us at that position. So we decided to take a chance on him." Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15 4. Michael McCarron, RW How acquired: 1st round (No. 25), 2013 draft Last season: 66 GP, 14-20-34, London, OHL The 19-year-old power-forward opted for the Ontario Hockey League instead of the NCAA at Western Michigan University and had a relatively productive rookie season with the Knights in 2013-14, capped with three goals and five points in nine OHL playoff games. He eventually will fit anywhere in the lineup because of his solid work ethic, character and hockey sense. The 6-5, 237-pound forward enjoys the physical side of the game and will drop the gloves to defend teammates; he had totaled 310 penalty minutes in two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program, and 120 penalty minutes with London last season. Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17 5. Zachary Fucale, G How acquired: 2nd round (No. 36), 2013 draft Last season: 50 GP, 36-9-6, 2.26 GAA, .907 save percentage, 6 SO The 6-1, 176-pound goalie has averaged 54 games and 38 wins in three seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 19-year-old already ranks third on the league's all-time wins list with 113 (the record of 142 is held by Jacques Cloutier) and he'll return to Halifax for one more season in 2014-15. He also owns a 2.61 goals-against average, .902 save percentage and 10 shutouts in 163 career games for the Mooseheads. He is 35-12 with three shutouts, a 2.54 GAA and .903 save percentage in 49 QMJHL playoff games. Timmins said Fucale's fierce competitive drive is what set him apart from other players at his position in the 2013 draft. Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18 6. Charles Hudon, C How acquired: 5th round (No. 133), 2012 draft Last season: 57 GP, 26-50-76, Chicoutimi/Baie-Comeau, QMJHL The 5-10, 174-pound left-shot forward, who was moved from left wing to center by the Montreal coaches working at the team's development camp, is an explosive offensive producer. He's also become an effective two-way player as evidenced by his plus-78 rating in 235 QMJHL games spanning four seasons. Hudon, 20, also had a goal, two points and a plus-5 rating in seven games for Canada at the 2014 WJC. Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16 7. Sven Andrighetto, RW How acquired: 3rd round (No. 86), 2013 draft Last season: 64 GP, 17-27-44, Hamilton, AHL Many of those observing felt the 5-10, 181-pound left-shot forward was the finest skater at the team's development camp. The native of Zurich, Switzerland had spent most of his time playing in Europe before he had 67 goals and 172 points in 115 games in two seasons with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL. The 21-year-old has a good shot at making the NHL team with a solid training camp, particularly since there is a shortage on right wing following the departures of Thomas Vanek, Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere. Andrighetto, passed over in two NHL drafts before being selected by the Canadiens in 2013, finished second in points on the Bulldogs last season. Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16 8. Tim Bozon, LW How acquired: 3rd round (No. 64), 2012 draft Last season: 63 GP, 33-36-69, Kamloops/Kootenay, WHL Six months removed from contracting Neisseria meningitidis and spending nearly a month in the hospital recovering, the 6-1, 193-pound left-shot forward is determined to impress at Canadiens training camp. The 20-year-old played his first competitive hockey game since the meningitis scare July 31, when he played for France's Under-23 national team in a six-team tournament in the Czech Republic. He's expected to spend 2014-15 with Hamilton in the AHL after he had 105 goals, 231 points and a plus-73 rating in 203 games in the WHL. "I'm feeling really good. I'm really close to being 100 percent like I was before," Bozon told NHL.com last month. "The most important thing for me was to be happy and to make sure I have a good mentality. It's coming back slowly. Every time I go on the ice I see the progress and that makes me happy." Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16 9. Artturi Lehkonen, LW How acquired: 2nd round (No. 55), 2013 draft Last season: 33 GP, 7-13-20, KalPa, FIN Lehkonen (5-10, 163) put up numbers similar to Chicago Blackhawks top prospect Teuvo Teravainen in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, leading his team in scoring as an 18-year-old despite missing almost half the season with an ankle injury sustained during his first game at the 2014 WJC. He had five goals and one assist in five games to help his native Finland to a gold medal. The 19-year-old signed a two-year contract with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League in March and will play there in 2014-15. Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17 10. Dalton Thrower, D How acquired: 2nd round (No. 51), 2012 draft Last season: 42 GP, 12-27-39, Vancouver, WHL The 6-foot, 196-pound right-shot defenseman had surgery to fix ligament damage in his left ankle in May and has every intention of attending Canadiens training camp next month. The 20-year-old led the Giants last season with a plus-9 rating and led all defensemen on the team with eight power-play goals while serving as team captain. He had 42 goals and 147 points in 285 games since his junior debut with the Saskatoon Blades in 2009-10. He also had 414 penalty minutes and a plus-39 rating. He's set to begin his pro career in Hamilton in 2014-15. Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16 NHL.COM