M. Gauthier … “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing …”

The only thing I knew about chemistry in high school was the fact that if a few things were mixed together – Pink Floyd ‘s music was much more compelling.

A True Hero

Chemistry was also the word that was repeated over and over when it came to sports commentators attempting to explain the recipe for a championship team. Growing up in the city of Montreal in the 1970’s , that word was delivered through many combinations on the baseball diamond , the football field and the historic ice of the Montreal Forum.

Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt , Gary Carter and Steve Rogers , Tony Proudfoot and Tony Proudfoot …

These were the players that led on and off their respective playing surfaces and played an integral part in their team’s success. ( Tony Proudfoot was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease and passed away recently. For the non – Montreal residents , Tony’s handling of the terrible disease and the courage he displayed – puts most of us in shame ).

Which brings us to Scott Gomez and his boss’ team – the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs

Following a one goal deficit from advancing to the second round of the 2010 – 11 playoffs , Pierre Gauthier had some decisions to make …

The team , led by the extraordinary exploits of Carey Price , surprised many by making it to the playoffs with the absence of their top two defencemen( Markov and Gorges) and the lack of goal scoring.

Led by the hairless one – Scott Gomez , he and fellow underachievers Benoit Pouliot and Andrei Kostisyn , managed to drag the normally consistent Gionta, Cammalleri and Plekanec to sub par seasons. If not for the band- aid solutions that Gauthier pulled of admirably – e.g adding  the Wiz and Sopel to shore up the defence , the Habs would have been outside the face-off circle looking in as the post – season puck dropped . Instead , the Montreal defence enabled the team to come within one goal of defeating the eventual (ugh) Stanley Cup Champion Bruins in the first round.

So …if it ain’t broke …

As the free agent frenzy began quicker than a chance to catch Kate and Will dodge the french – Quebecers on the Plains of Abraham , Pierre Gauthier began tampering with the defence.

Yemelin - Tough as Ice !

Add the highly touted Alexei Yemelin from Russia and Raphael Diaz , Gauthier has done his part in keeping the future bright on defence. The Habs’ boss also gave Markov and presumably the team’s doctors the benefit of the doubt and signed one of the league’s best defencemen to a new deal.They say things come in threes – it will be interesting to see ( after two major knee surgeries), if Markov can dispel that theory and continue to lead his team as the longest-serving member. (Markov’s  service will also be needed to teach the younger Yemelin how to say ‘ Leave me alone ‘ in English to the french media.)

The D – Men

As of right now – the Habs have one of the league’s brightest young stars on defence with P.K Subban. They also re-signed veteran Hal Gill to a one year deal to give P.K another much-needed year of babysitting . Jaroslav Spacek has one year left on his contract and unless Gauthier can package the Czech in a deal that would bring a big goal scorer to Montreal – the 39 year old is here to stay.

Subban,Yemelin, Gill , Spacek, Markov , Diaz and /or Weber / Picard along with the eventual signing of Josh Gorges leaves the Habs with a talented tandem of d -men. A bunch shrouded by questions ...

    • Will Subban suffer a sophomore jinx and more importantly – will he survive a trip to Haiti with Georges Laracque ? If Laracque doesn’t mess the poor kid up , let’s hope that some crazy political nutjob doesn’t either !
    • Yemelin is coming from a whole different league. Will he adapt to the silliness of the NHL or will he take his puck and go home – leaving the Habs a man short on defence ?
    • Hal Gill can’t skate yet thank God for his twenty – foot reach. Gill performed  great last season as he filled in for the injuries to his fallen comrades. Hal is – after all , another year older and he cannot afford to lose a step that he never had to begin with.
    • Spacek . Poor Spacek. Last season – for reasons known solely by the so-called fans in this city , took a lot of heat. Call it the Brisebois effect …Hab fans need someone to boo and last season they chose the Habs’ rearguard. Along with Hamrlik – Jaroslav was the most consistent defenceman on the roster last year. Game after game , he and fellow countryman Roman , did everything that was asked as the duo killed penalties and manned the point on powerplays. Spacek’s loss near the end of the season was a factor in the Habs facing the Bruins in the first round instead of someone else. Spacek is also another year older …
    • Markov …???????
    • Diaz is a kid. He will divide his time between the press box , the Habs and the Bulldogs.
    • Weber should be the seventh man on the team’s roster.Given his experience from last season and his performance when asked to play for the big club – a shoo-in for a spot. If he falters – Alexandre Picard , that noted Senator castaway will fill in.
    • Gorges will sign with Montreal because he loves it here and ‘ here ‘ loves him. As with any player that has reconstructive knee surgery – will the knee hold up ?

Play Nice Peter ...

    Given the uncertainties – Gauthier made a huge mistake by not giving Hamrlik the two year contract that Roman was asking for. Hamrlik was the most consistent defenceman last season , he loved Montreal and he was part of the team’s chemistry the last three years. Gauthier has stated over again that he wants to bring stability to Montreal’s ice hockey team. It was one of the reason’s that he the Canadiens’ G.M signed Peter Budaj to a two year deal and nixed Alex Auld – last season’s back-up goaltender .. He wants players to be on the team long term.

Stability with a Capital ‘ ? ‘

Price and Auld were one of the top tandems in hockey last season. They had ( there’s that word again ) –  chemistry. To fool around with a winning combination is a potential recipe for disaster. A disaster that Gauthier was so good at avoiding last season. It may come back to haunt him with the loss of Hamrlik and Auld.

They were bricks in the wall …

Please give me your input below – I’d love to hear from you !


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