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Season 2, Episode 5: Coming Back Home

Ooh, baby, the puck has dropped: The Habs went 1-1 in their first week, losing a squeaker in Toronto before pulling out a comeback in Pittsburgh. They were missing key players, including sniper extraordinaire Mike “Ferrari” Cammalleri, but there’s lots to be happy about, like the solid play of Carey Price. Eric, Pat and Tal experiment with a new and improved format for the latest podcast. We discuss our take on les Merveilleux’ play so far and give great nicknames to some of our favorites. We agree the team needs to score more goals but can’t agree on how. One thing’s for sure, we love the play of PK “Prime Time” Subban – no matter what Don Cherry says.

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Season 2, Episode 4: Let’s Drop the Puck!

It’s finally here, people! The first drop of the puck in the 2010-11 NHL season. Mike Cammalleri marked the occasion by getting suspended for the first game Thursday night in Toronto. It’s only one game, but the topic got plenty of mileage from the Three Habmigos (we’re working on the nicknames, we promise). Discussing everything from Cammy’s suspension to the Gionta captaincy to their season predictions, Pat, Eric, and Tal covered a range of topics and refused to hold back.

So take a listen and share your thoughts and opinions. At the very least, we’ll hopefully figure out the proper pronunciation of Lars Eller’s name.

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Season 2, Episode 3: The First Cut is the Deepest

 Ah training camp. The one time in the hockey season where the individual performances are actually more important than the final score. It’s in that spirit that we’ve come together once more to record another Habs podcast.

Just an hour before Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin made their first round of cuts, the three sages (Pat, Eric, and Tal) came together to discuss what they have seen so far and what they expect in the near future. In typical Tal fashion, Aaron Palushaj was cut by the Habs barely an hour after T. Pinch predicted he would push for a final roster spot. So you might want to ignore his advice the next time you play the stock market.

Nevertheless, this pre-season has already been ripe with intrigue. So just two weeks before opening night, les boys come together with plenty of discussion and a whole lot of booing. And not all of it for Carey Price.

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Habs Dominate Battle of the Blades

We never took the time to watch CBC’s Battle of the Blades (kind of a Dancing with the Stars for retired hockey players). But upon seeing the lineup for the upcoming second season, we’ve suddenly more curious, and not in a weird, morbid way.

After Craig Simpson won season one, the CBC has compiled a new roster of players that is conspicuously Habs heavy. The first name that obviously sticks out is Georges Laraque, whose moves were on display in his fantastic TekSavvy commercials.  The inclusion of Patrice Brisebois makes for a distinct bleu-blanc-rouge vibe. We’re particularly jealous of Brisebois’ upcoming partnership with Shae-Lynn Bourne, one of figure skating’s all-time hotties.

Throw in Russ Courtnall, who made our cut for among the best hairstyles in Habs history, and we’ll actually consider watching Battle of the Blades 2. No promises, but at least we’re thinking about it.

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Price is Pitch Perfect Pro

Youre Alright With Me

You're Alright With Me

It’s now been two days since Carey Price was booed off the ice of his home arena. Part of me believes that after the Halak trade, this had to happen. The fans wanted to vent some anger, as misdirected as it was, to Pierre Gauthier. Price was also bound to have some bad games, as all players are. Better to swallow the bitter pill now than later.

Ominously, I am also hearing people say that Carey Price will leave the Habs the minute he is able to. The relationship between him and the fans is fractured. Irreparable. Carey is fragile. He is finished here.

Bullshit.

(more…)

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Welcome to 2010-2011: The Make or Break Season

Pierre Gauthier’s press conference this week highlighted “team stability” and the “core strengths” of the Montreal Canadiens. Gauthier is telling the media that the current roster, which looks a lot like last year’s roster, will be the same roster for the foreseeable future. Yet there a number of players who, if they don’t play to expectations, will likely not return. It’s a long enough list that the entire organization may undergo a large overhaul in the summer of 2011. Perhaps not as big as the one the Canadiens underwent in 2009, but an overhaul nonetheless.

For instance, take Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouiliot, Ryan O’Byrne, Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Darche: It is IMPOSSIBLE to see how any of these players come back next year if they do not produce this year.

(more…)

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Season 2, Episode 2: Pre-Season Prognosticationism

It’s about that time, people. That post-Labor Day period when anyone with a pair of shinpads suddenly starts chiming in with their prediction for what will happen in the upcoming NHL season. And why should we be any different?

Predicting what the Habs would ultimately do last season was next to impossible. Especially with half a roster’s worth of new players coming into le Centre Bell. This year should be less difficult to predict, but no less intriguing. With wunderboy Carey Price now entrenched as the team’s number-one keeper, the season could hinge on the play of one of the most-hyped players in franchise history. Throw in the unknown intangibles surrounding young players like Lars Eller, PK Subban, and Dustin Boyd and the 2010-11 season has all kinds of intrigue.

As usual, each of the three gentlemen behind the latest HabsRadio podcast have divergent opinions on where les Habitants will end up this season. Listen to their thoughts on the season and be sure to chime in with your own thoughts on how les boys in bleu, blanc, et rouge do this season.

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Why We Like The Carey Price Deal…

Carey Price signed a two-year deal with the Habs today, for an annual cap hit of $2.75 million dollars.This deal is more than fair to both parties and I like it a lot.

1. It keeps Price hungry.

The message in this deal is clear: Price needs to perform at a higher level if he wants to earn that big multi-year contract. That’s a good thing.

True, signing Price to a short-term deal now may cost the Habs more in the long run. If Price performs well in the next two years, he will be asking for HUGE money. So yes, by comparison, Price would have been cheaper on the 3rd and 4th years of a long-term contract if he had signed for them now.

BUT – if the Habs HAD signed Price to a 4 or 5-year deal, like Eric suggested on last week’s podcast, who is to say that Price would have found the right motivation to perform at his very top level? All professional athletes, young goalies especially, are susceptible to a performance drop-off after signing a big deal in the same way that most athletes perform better in a contract year. It’s human nature.

No, in my mind, Carey Price develops into a better goalie if he stays sharp and hungry now and over the next two years. He has something to prove and that’s a good position for a young athlete to be in.

In two years time, if Price does well, I am sure the Habs will find the money and cap space to pay him accordingly. It will be tough, but they will do it.

As an aside: this deal signs Price at a full $1million LESS than the deal Halak signed with the St.Louis Blues. Athletes are competitive by nature. Don’t think for a second that Price won’t be checking Halak’s stats throughout the year and comparing them to his own. For that matter, every Habs fan will be keeping running tabs on the two goalies throughout the year. Price is aware of that, too.

2. It protects the Habs if Price fails.

Carey Price is only 23 years old and has only played in the NHL for three seasons. He may turn out to be a great goalie. But if he doesn’t, the Habs can wash their hands of him and move on.

This also reveals something else. If the Habs were 100% sure that Price will pan out they way they hope, they would have signed him to a longer deal now. But they do not have that certainty. Better to play it safe than be stuck with a bad 4-year deal with little wiggle room.

3. It’s reasonable on the cap

Before today, the Habs had just over $4.1 million in extra salary cap space. Price’s deal is extremely reasonable, as it still leaves them with about $1.38 million dollars in cap space . That leaves plenty of room for a late season trade at the deadline, when the Habs would only be responsible for the REMAINDER of that player’s contract.

My math may be a little off, but if Gauthier feels the need, he could trade for a pending UFA forward who is earning about $5million a year. Pending UFA’s happen to include Brad Richards and Alex Semin, among others.

It also insulates Gauthier a little bit in case he has to compensate for injuries (like last year when Gainey traded for MAB after Markov went down).

That’s a nice chip to have.

But on the other hand…..

One thing that still gnaws at me: Dominic Moore was signed by Tampa Bay at $1.1 million dollars. He wasn’t signed by the Habs, according to Pierre Gauthier, because of “salary cap reasons”. Jaroslav Halak was traded away, according to Pierre Gauthier, also because of “salary cap reasons”.

Well, unless Gauthier has something else up his sleeve, and he might, I think its safe to say the Habs could have kept Halak instead of Price if they had wanted to. Sure, the cap squeeze would have been tighter, but it was possible. If the Habs opted to stick with Price, which they did, they could also have kept Moore if they wanted to.

The real reason players like Halak and Moore were not signed: Dollar for dollar, Pierre Gauthier thinks Price will be a better goalie than Halak. And Gauthier did not want to re-sign Moore because he wants the younger kids to have a shot to perform this year (re: Lars Eller).

This just says to me that Gauthier used the cap as a bit of an easy excuse to explain his player personnel decisions, another reminder to never fully believe what a General Manager says to the media.

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Tough Stretch: The Most Difficult Parts of the Habs 2010-2011 Schedule

Since our feelings about the Habs this year are well-documented, we’ve taken a moment to put the Montreal Canadiens’ schedule for 2010-11 under the microscope. Really, we wore labcoats and protective goggles and everything. The results of our research show four particularly tough stretches for les Habitants. How they perform in these portions of their schedule could ultimately dictate how their season goes.

Nov. 9-Nov. 22, 2010
vs Van, @ Bos, vs Car, vs Phi, vs NSH, vs TOR, @ Phi

Barely a month into the season, the Canadiens will confront their first substantial scheduling challenge. The seven-game stretch only includes two road games, but the competition the Habs face in that span could be considerable. It starts with a formidable Canucks team before going into Boston to face the improved Bruins. The rest of the stretch includes two games against Philly, the team that knocked the Canadiens out of the playoffs last year. Single games against Carolina and Nashville, two teams that had their way with the Habs last year, don’t make things easier. Throw in a potentially-tough division match-up with the Leafs and this should be the first substantial challenge of the season.

Dec. 19-Dec. 31, 2010
@Col, @ Dal, @ Car, @NYI, @Was, @TB, @Fla

Every season, the Canadiens eventually run into that one ridiculous road trip that could potentially make or break the season. Fortunately, the Habs will find theirs just before the half-way point of the season, meaning the mammoth road trip will be in their rearview by the time they brace for the big playoff run. With seven games in two weeks, the competition isn’t necessarily that daunting, particularly the games against Dallas, the Islanders, and Florida (which will most-likely turn into a quasi-home game anyway). But it is still a long road trip against some competitive teams that could be the crossroads that ultimately dictates where the Habs end up in the standings.

Feb. 15-Feb. 22, 2011
Vs. Buf, @ Edm, @Cgy, @Van

For the past two seasons, the annual west-coast Canadian road trip for the Habs has been disastrous. Starting with a tough division match-up against Buffalo, the Canadiens will then go marching into western Canada to face half of Canada’s six NHL teams. On paper, it’s not a terrible match-up, but last year the Canadiens went 0-3 on their west coast Canada swing, including an embarrassing 7-1 loss in Vancouver. The year before, they went 0-3 against the same three teams by a combined score of 17-6, essentially destroying their season. This is a tough trend that this year’s Habs will certainly want to turn around.

Apr. 2-Apr. 9, 2011
@NJ, vs Chi, @ Ott, @ Tor

The Canadiens will hopefully be vying for playoff seeding in the last week of the season. But a tough final week could complicate things. It starts with a game in Jersey, a state that has been inhospitable towards the Canadiens for over a decade. From there, the team hosts the defending Stanley Cup champs before two division match-ups on the road. The Canadiens will ideally want to finish strong if they hope to make any sort of playoff run.

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The Best Hair in Canadiens History

With 100 years of cherished hockey history behind them, les Canadiens have seen plenty of interesting choices when it comes to personal style. Despite a league-wide mandate forcing players to wear helmets, plenty of Canadiens’ players have continued a storied tradition of maintaining a fabulous head of hair. Combing through the annals of Habs history, here is a selection of the players whose contributions to grooming go far beyond the mullet and may be just as profound as their work on the ice. Ok, maybe not, but what a classy-looking bunch.

Maurice Richard

Those intense eyes, that jutting jaw, the unflagging willingness to run over anyone in his way. As a hockey player, Maurice “Rocket” Richard had a variety of assets at his disposal. As a patron of 1950s style, he also made his share of contributions. Perhaps none more than his jet-black slick of hair. With a generous dollop of pomade, Richard always looked the part of the greatest Canadian sports icon of his era. Still one of the most-popular French-Canadian athletes of all time, Richard’s approach to grooming was consistent with his general approach to the ice: some style, all business.

Guy Lafleur

His hairline may have eroded over time alongside some of his skills, but the most-dominant forward of his time may not have been as iconic had he not had that flowing mane following him down the wing. That hair proved so iconic that it played a supporting role in the release of the Flower’s 1979 disco record. As a disco singer, Lafleur was an excellent hockey player. But those flying follicles certainly helped. So much so that the Flower got a hair transplant in the 1990s. That’s how much he needed the hair.

Larry Robinson

Guy Lafleur’s hair may have garnered more headlines, but Larry Robinson was more than just one of the best defensemen of his generation. Before he adopted the buttoned-down closely-cropped look later in his career, the man known as Big Bird had a lot of fun with his appearance. That fantastic bushy hairdo partnered with one of the finest staches in sports history, culminating in an image on the blue line that was equal parts suave and toughness. The short-lived fu-manchu may have been the single-boldest grooming decision in Habs history.

Russ Courtnall

Courtnall became an instant fan favorite in Montreal after being dealt to the Habs in 1988 for enforcer John Kordic. His blazing speed and on-ice charisma endeared him to the Flying Frenchmen lineage. A gorgeous head of hair certainly didn’t hurt. While the styles tended to change over the years, Courtnall generally tended to keep it long and let it flow. Not surprisingly, the player with the leading-man look eventually relocated to California with his family after finishing up his career in 1999 with the Kings.

Jose Theodore

Back in the earlier part of the 2000s, Jose Theodore was the unofficial mayor of Montreal. An MVP backstop for a fledgling Canadiens team, Theo quickly became the most iconic Habs player since St. Patrick. But let’s be honest, folks. The man’s head of hair was superb, which only further contributed to his superstar status in the city. And it wasn’t by accident. A 2006 positive test for a banned substance was blamed by Theodore on his use of Propecia. So the man appreciates how important a good head of hair can be.

The Kostitsyn Brothers

They may have caused some Habs fans to pull out their own hair, but despite their inconsistencies, the flying Kostitsyn brothers never wavered in their grooming. Sergei may not have possessed big brother Andrei’s on-ice skill or size, but his shaggy head scored him some points at barber shops all over Quebec. Andrei had a similar shaggy style early in his career, but his transition into a shorter style may indicate the emergence of a refined, mature Andrei. Either way, style seems to run in the family.

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