Monday, April 9, 2012

Your Canadiens for April 9, 2012

News from around the world of Habs for today.


While the story has thus far been dismissed as simply speculation by the Montreal Canadiens organization, a story broke yesterday that the Habs were to announce the official appointment of Serge Savard as the team's Vice-President of Hockey Operations - a new position in the club's hierarchy.  The idea was said to be that the new General Manager to-be-hired would report to Savard, who in turn would report to President Geoff Molson.

Savard, 66, was retained as an advisor to Geoff Molson for the selection process of the new GM following the firing of Pierre Gauthier.  While Savard hasn't been an active manager in the league for quite some time, he has a strong pedigree, helping the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup conquest in 1993, and able to provide Molson with an experienced viewpoint in picking the right guy.

If he is in fact confirmed as a Senior Vice-President, there will be many questions to answer.  Will this new "boss" scare away some potential General Manager candidates, worried that their freedom to act might be limited?  Will Savard's role be limited to more of a co-President along with Molson, being the hockey guy while Molson is the business guy (what I expect/hope)?  Will having the French-speaking Savard nearby open a door for the hiring of a unilingual GM if such a person is deemed the best candidate (e.g. Jim Nill, Paul Fenton)?

Regardless, I would view this move as a step in the right direction.  While it may be blasphemous to make such a statement, I would fully endorse moving towards a model like that of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a strong GM at the helm, but a team of qualified individuals around him who could be GMs in other markets.  Brian Burke is supported by Dave Nonis and Claude Loiselle, guys certain to get consideration for openings league-wide if they are willing to leave.  Especially given that it appears the Canadiens will be hiring someone without experience as a General Manager proper, having a team of individuals to work with him and support each other with different strengths seems like the best recipe for success.


According to CBC's hot stove panel Saturday night, despite being honoured to be considered, Pat Brisson would have turned down any opportunity to become Montreal Canadiens General Manager.  The CBC panelists indicated that Brisson is happy where he is at with his player agency CAA (which he co-heads), and certainly the Canadiens would have a hard time matching his current salary representing the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Daniel & Henrik Sedin, Daniel Briere, Daniel Alfredsson, Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux, Patrick Kane, Shane Doan, Dany Heatley, and more!

While only Vincent Damphousse has officially pulled out of the process, the loss of Brisson would remove one of the team's top candidates.  Best remaining fits include Marc Bergevin, Julien Brisebois, and Claude Loiselle.


Four teams of interest remain for Canadiens fans in the CHL's second round, and this round is proving much more difficult than the first for most.

In the WHL, regular season champions Tri-City split the opening two games with fifth seed Spokane.  Patrick Holland collected an assist in each game, improving to 6 points in 5 post-season contests.

In the OHL, top contender London also split the two first games with fifth place Saginaw.  Captain Jarred Tinordi scored his first OHL playoff goal and was a +3, being named second star, in the series opener, but was then a -1 in a 5-2 loss in the second game.  Game three goes tonight.

In the QMJHL, Shawinigan has also had its struggles this round, dropping the opener 7-6 in overtime to Chicoutimi before rebounding with a 7-2 win.  A little worrisome perhaps for Habs fans is that despite the club's 13 goals, captain Michael Bournival has registered just 1 assist this round.  His 6 points in 6 games ranks just 7th on his squad.  Teammate defenseman Morgan Ellis is faring quite a bit better, with 9 points over the 6 playoff games and a team-high +10 rating.

Finally, defending Memorial Cup champions Saint John are the team that has been most dominant thus far, up 2 games to none on Baie Comeau by 9-3 and 10-2 scores.  Nathan Beaulieu has 3 assists and a +4 rating in the second round, totaling 8 points in 6 playoff games.  His +13 rating ranks fourth in the QMJHL, behind three of his teammates.

The Hamilton Bulldogs have been eliminated from any possibility of qualifying for the post-season, though the team has three games remaining even after yesterday's 3-1 loss to the Toronto Marlies.  After Montreal's final game on Saturday, the club sent down Louis Leblanc, Aaron Palushaj, Blake Geoffrion, Frederic St-Denis, Robert Mayer, and Gabriel Dumont, but the tired additions weren't enough to help the 'Dogs earn a win.


Both Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec have confirmed they will participate in the upcoming World Championships for Team USA and the Czech Republic respectively.  Both Carey Price and Erik Cole indicated they will decline invitations to the event, preferring to rest up and heal bangs and bruises following the Canadiens' failure to qualify for the post-season.  Similarly, Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber, both of whom would have been locks to make Team Switzerland, will have to withdraw due to their injuries.  As Habs players meet with the media for the final time in Montreal today, we may get more confirmations on other players who could be invited to participate in the event (e.g. Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov, David Desharnais, P.K. Subban, Josh Gorges...).


Normally, clubs are represented by their General Manager at the NHL's draft lottery (tomorrow at 8 PM EST, TSN), and thus it makes sense that interim GM Larry Carriere will be attending for the Canadiens.  Montreal finished 28th overall this season, meaning, as outlined last Friday, they currently hold the third overall pick and have a 56.1% chance of remaining in that spot.  They have a 14.2% chance of winning the lottery and moving up to #1, and finally a 29.7% chance that a team in the four spots below them wins it, thus dropping the Habs to the fourth overall selection.

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