Monday, January 2, 2012

Your Canadiens for January 2, 2012

A busy off-day for the Habs in Brossard this morning. Here are your top stories:

- A day after signing his 6 year contract extension, Habs Josh Gorges had to play intermediary at practice this morning has tempers flared up. After Mike Cammalleri exchanged some unfriendly words with P.K. Subban, Subban and Tomas Plekanec swapped a few shoves, nearly coming to blows. Gorges got in the middle and broke things up, and as always when this sort of thing occurs, their teammates laughed it off after practice, explaining that everyone wants to win and this sort of thing occurs when a team is struggling. It's not the first time, however, that things have gotten heated between Subban and Cammalleri/Plekanec. It may simply be a case of Subban's #AlwaysOn personality/intensity and constant chirping being tolerable when the team is hot, but unbearable when things aren't going as well.

- Pierre Gauthier addressed the media today for his annual mid-season report. Some key highlights were the repetition that Andrei Markov won't be back before the All-Star break, that Gauthier hasn't given up on the season and will explore all options to improve performance on the ice, that he apologizes for offending some by naming a unilingual Anglophone as the interim Canadiens' head coach, and that Brian Gionta will return to the line-up before Scott Gomez. Some quotes from Mr. Gauthier:

On Josh Gorges: "We're happy he accepted our offer, and thanks to him. It was an extension of discussions we had this summer, but we wanted to wait to see how his knee would hold up. His case was different than Andrei Markov's, given that he was an RFA whereas Markov was a UFA, and Mr. Gorges needed multiple parts of his knee repaired vs. Markov's problem being a single ligament."

On other UFA/RFA: "Each case is different and evaluated over the course of the season. We have no rules about when we can speak to any of our own players. We have every intention of keeping Carey Price and P.K. Subban with the team for a long time."

On Andrei Markov's health: "He is doing well and his rehab is progressing. I wouldn't expect him to play before the All-Star break. His procedure in December was just an arthroscopic surgery to clean up debris from a previous surgery and remove some scar tissue."

On Randy Cunneyworth and the language issue: "I'm sorry for offending anyone by naming a unilingual interim head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. For the coach to be able to speak French is something that is important to us, but we felt we needed to make the best move and that we had the best candidate within the organization. As Geoff Molson said, language will be a strong consideration for us when we hire a permanent head coach at season's end (whether that means Mr. Cunneyworth taking French lessons or hiring a French-speaker). We handed Mr. Cunneyworth a very difficult schedule. We hoped for better results, but we are seeing changes in the way the team competes on-ice."

On the balance of the 2011-12 season: "Our objective is to start winning and to play better hockey. 11 of our next 15 games are at home, so we hope to use this stand to turn the direction of our season around. Our fans deserve better. Our team needs to find solutions to reward the great support and dedication of our fans. We always have to be trying to improve on every level, whether it's conditioning, prospect development, through trades, or anything else. Everyone has to look in the mirror: players, coaches, and administration. We're all motivated by daily competition and focus on what we can control."

On why the team is where it is: "You have to look at injuries in a certain way. Because of the players out of the line-up, we're playing well below the salary cap, in the bottom 10 teams in the league. But still, 6 of those 10 teams are in playoff positions, so we can't blame it only on injuries. There are other problems. Every game, we're missing key veterans, but we also have veterans playing who aren't performing well. There is a trickle down effect. Too much is being asked of young players. We can't put them in this situation where they're depended on to pick up the slack. It leads to individual breakdowns."

On solutions to the current situation: "3 main areas. One is that we need reinforcement now, which could be from injured players returning to the line-up. Two is that we need improvement in our play as a team. Everybody needs to be all-in. It's a team game and we have to find a certain cohesion to play effective hockey. And third is that, as coaches and managers, we need to do our share. We'll explore all avenues to improve."

On the big contracts and salary cap moving forward: "Cap constraints are things you manage in the off-season. Everything is planned. We'll have the resources available to keep good young players. Having good players signed for several years is a good thing."

That was the gist of it. Biggest concern to me? It focused mainly on what the team can do to fix things and win now, with no mentions of building for the future. We just need to hope that whatever band-aid deal the team looks at to improve the situation, it doesn't involve taking on lengthy contracts and won't require the trading of top prospects or draft picks.

- After taking a puck to the face against Team USA, Habs prospect Nathan Beaulieu was at practice with Team Canada today. The defenseman will wear a full face shield.

- A report indicates that the Montreal Canadiens lead the NHL in ticket revenues per game.
That, combined with the high percentages of salaries being paid by insurance this season, means the Molson family should be making a pretty penny, playoffs or not.

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