Hard to look away

I swore to myself I would not pay attention to this NHL season, as a form of protest against the bullshit that was the lockout.

But, with how well the Montreal Canadiens are doing, I’m finding it hard not to pay attention.

You see, it’s been quite a long time since I have seen the Habs performing this well. I cannot remember the last time the team had started a season with 14 wins in only 24 games (14-5-4 as of March 6), nor can I recall the team going 11 straight games without losing in regulation (8-0-3, before a March 5 loss to the New York Islanders).

More to the point, I don’t think I had ever witnessed a 14-5-4 run at any point in a season.

What makes ignoring the run even harder is that it’s put the Habs in first place in the Eastern Conference, somewhere they haven’t been this late in the season since posting 104 points in 2007-2008.

Then there’s the fact I follow a lot of NHL reporters and Habs bloggers on Twitter, so every time I’m checking my feed I see lots of news about the season I am trying to ignore.

Although, I must say this is likely all my fault.

I’m actively reading what I should be avoiding, and checking the NHL website regularly, when I should be going elsewhere.

OK.

It’s time to buck up and use some willpower. The rest of the season, or at least until the playoffs start, I must abstain from following the Habs.

Besides. I’ve got the Toronto Blue Jays and all the hype they’ve built to keep me company and engaged.

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Hockey’s back

Well, you would think that I would be excited that the lockout ended a while ago, and that today was/is the first day of the new (2012-)2013 NHL season.

And if you were aware I am a huge Habs fan, it would make sense for you to believe that.

Alas, I don’t particularly care.

With this being the second lockout/strike in my life (that I remember), and that the last one was only eight seasons ago, I have managed to lose my love of the game for the time being.

Of course, the Toronto Blue Jays’ off-season moves have had a part to play in how much I care about hockey right now. I am more stoked for the 2013 MLB season than I have been for a baseball season in a long while.

How long until Spring Training, again?

But back to hockey. Living in Canada, hockey is huge, which is going to make boycotting the sport until at least the playoffs quite difficult.

But, damn it, I’m going to try. It’s going to be hard, what with being in the media biz and a Twitter user, but I’m going to do my best to ignore what happens on the ice.

And now, time to make me some tea or hot chocolate and curl up with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Captain Gionta

Well, perhaps the worst-kept secret of the past few days is out: Brian Gionta is the new captain of the Montréal Canadiens.

My first thought is this: It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Captain Koivu did.

My second thought: I’m kinda disappointed because I thought Mike Cammalleri would have made an excellent captain.

But, all that being said, I think this is an absolutely exceptional choice. From what I saw of Brian this past season, and how he handled the media, I have nothing against this appointment. Brian never seemed to shy away from the media, which in Montréal I am sure many players would love to do.

Now, I don’t think this will be Brian’s team in the same way other captains on other teams seem to monopolize and embody the team. We saw last year when the team had no captain, that it was leadership by committee. I think that will continue here. Brian will be more or less a figurehead, the person to talk to the media on behalf of the team. In the dressing room, the status quo from last year will continue. At least that’s my opinion.

Now, Brian, you better make a token effort to learn French. You don’t need to be fluent, but you had better learn enough so you can talk to kids when you meet them in the street. Things like ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’. That’s all I ask of you relating to language.

“Relax, chill out”

So said Carey Price. And you know what? I agree with him.

I am a huge Habs fan, as you likely know. And I absolutely hate it when the Habs lose.

But that being said, I pretty much ignore the preseason. Preseason results are completely irrelevant. The purpose of the preseason is to sort out who can play and who can’t. Wins and losses don’t matter. What does matter is how well Player A and Player B mesh on the ice.

What matters is how well any changes to the system the coach wants to make actually work on the ice. It matters not that a player (e.g. Carey) might (will?) have a bad game or two.

Now, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Carey had a bad game. Four goals on nine shots? That’s an absolutely atrocious .556 save percentage. It is unacceptable. It gives him a 8.00 GAA (he only played 30 minutes).

But I say this to all those who want to throw Carey away like yesterday’s lunch: Tell me such legends as Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden, Terry Sawchuk or Jaro Halak did not have a game where they put up similar numbers. I dare you. In fact, I would say at least one of these seven goalies had one of these games in the playoffs. Or in the middle of a playoff drive. Goalies are human and will have bad games. Goalies will be pulled.

It is more important that Carey bounce back than it is that he had a bad game.

And please remember, this is Carey’s first game action since May 16, 2010, when he surrendered two goals on 11 shots (2-11, .818, 3.98, 30:07). In relief of Jaro (4-14, .714, 8.03, 29:53).

FYI

I hope the Price is Right

Ok, I truly hate making that pun. But it does write itself.

So, Carey “The Franchise” Price has signed a 2-year, $5.5 million contract with the Habs. I think it’s a fair value and term. It gives the Habs two years to continue to evaluate Price, all the while keeping the cap hit reasonable. So, I like the deal.

I still believe Price is the goalie of the future, and I want him to succeed. But at the same time he does have to prove he is the future. He still needs to improve, both on the ice and mentally. And it’s the mental side of his game I worry about.

Will Price have a strong, >25-win season? I hope so. Is 30+ wins a possibility? Maybe. The kid has the raw talent to make it happen. I won’t go into his track record in the WJHC and AHL, as I think at this point it’s a case of ‘what have you done for me lately?’. But it can’t be forgotten what he has done.

I think in the end, it’s going to be a rough season regardless. I am not going to put too much stock into Price’s win-loss record this year as I am his GAA and save percentage. The lower and higher those are, respectively, will tell me what kind of goalie he is. The win-loss record is dependent in large part on the goal support he receives.

Let’s go Habs.

Alex Auld

On the face of this, I like this signing (one year, $1 M). It’s a cheap backup to Carey Price. And Auld is a veteran goalie, one who has been around the horn a few times and has served as a starter before.

However, we mustn’t forget that Auld’s time as Ottawa’s starter did not quite end well, as he lost his spot to, it appears, Brian Elliott. And seeing as Auld has only 83 wins in 207 games, it’s not like he was playing like gangbusters in his previous stops around the NHL.

In terms of negative thoughts on this signing, I don’t know that much about Auld to be able to say much. It would run counter to my attempts to be rational to speak about that which I do not know too much. So, with that in mind, allow me to link to some people who have a better take on the topic.

Freelance journalist Arpon Basu

J.T., who runs The H Does NOT Stand For Habs

Montréal Gazette reporter Pat Hickey

For the record, as if anyone really cares, I just hope when Auld is called on to play his 20-30 games this season, he pitches at least a .550 winning percentage. What would that record be? Whatever equals 1.1 points per game played. Anything less and the Habs are in trouble.