……The NHL Safety Committee finally caught up with P.K. Subban and his nasty habit of slew footing opponents. He used his skates to dangerously kick the feet out from under the Penguins Chris Kunitz Friday night and was given a 25-hundred dollar fine. This was the third time in a year that Subban been involved in what is considered one of hockey’s ‘dirtiest’ offences. How he got away with the others is beyond me, but the red flag is now on his file. The next incident will make him a serial offender and suspensions will follow. Back in the dark ages, when there was no Safety Committee, Tomas Plekanec, a first offender, was suspended two games for a slew foot on the Oilers Denis Grebeskov. Grebeshkov was hurt on the play which probably triggered the suspension.
…..There are rumours that Subban is being offered up on the trade market. Hard to believe. Offer me Claude Giroux I’d talk. Anything less? Forget about it!
……The most difficult off-season decision Pierre Gauthier (or whoever sits in his chair), will face will be whether to re-sign Andrei Kostitsyn, (if in fact he’s part of the team past the trade deadline). Kostitsyn is earning 3.5 million dollars in the final year of a three year contracct. He’s reportedly indicated that he’s prepared to take a hometown discount to stay in Montreal which is nice to hear. If you were to look for an NHL equivalant of Kostitsyn, look no further than Rene Bourque. Both players have reputations for inconsistancy, have similar size and goalscoring ability. Bourque signed a six year contract with Calgary in 2010 with an annual cap hit of 3.3 million dollars. That’s about what the Canadiens will be offering Kostitsyn, hometown discount notwithstanding.
…..Which brings us to Carey Price who will be a restricted free agent in July. I don’t know whether to believe this or not, but rumours have it Price and his people are looking for a ten year 70 million dollar contract. Talk is cheap. So are rumours. I’m sure Price and company are basing their demands on the Pekka Rinne/Nashvillle 7 year/7 million dollar annual contract. I’m sorry, but Carey Price at this stage in his career is not Pekka Rinne or, for that matter, Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick or two or three others I could name. There are some obvious extenuating circumstances, but the fact is Price has a losing record and his save percentage is good, but below what one should expect from a member of the goaltending elite. Price still has some things to prove and a two year contract between four and five million seems like a good plan with another review set for 2014 when he’ll be on the verge of unrestricted free agency.
…..Assuming that Randy Cunneyworth is only a hockey version of a coaching ‘rental’, will the Tampa Bay Lightning do the Canadiens a favour and fire head coach Guy Boucher? The collapse of the Lightning has been as spectacular as that of the Canadiens and Boucher could pay the same price as Jacques Martin. Things haven’t been the same in St. Petersburg since the Philadelphia Flyers ridiculed Boucher’s passive 1-3-1 defence early this season. Will he communicate better with the Canadiens? Who knows? But he can speak French.
……Broadcasters during the Pittsburgh home telecast Friday night speculated that the Penguin might entertain the possiblity of reacquiring Hal Gill. Gill was a big part of their Stanley Cup win in 2009. Five-on-five, Gill’s game has deteriorated but he’s still a formidable part of the NHL’s number one penalty killing unit and the Canadiens won’t think of trading him until their playoff fate is decided. It should be noted, penalty killing is not one of Pittsburgh’s weaknesses. Their unit ranks fourth in the league.
……If Canadiens fans are frustrated with the slow fits-and-starts recovery of Andrei Markov, Pierre Gauthier feels their pain. Last Sunday Gauthier told me that Markov had been designated to make his first start of the season in Anaheim November 30th. The Canadiens practiced the day before in Anaheim and Markov showed up on the limp with the knee again swollen. The Canadiens played the Anaheim game without him, left him behind in Los Angeles for medical assessment in as the team went off for their game in San Jose. A week laterhe underwent arthroscopic surgery. Will Markov ever return? Gauthier thinks he’s not far off. We’ll see about that.
…..In the same conversation and on the subject of injuries, Gauthier mentioned the unbelievable string of injuries the Canadiens organization suffered this year. At one point in December, between the Canadiens and the Bulldogs seventeen players were unavailable. It got to be so bad, due to callups to the Canadiens, the Bulldogs were borrowing players from other organizations and playing games below the roster limit. For the record, the Canadiens have now lost 224 man-games. Last year’s season total was 236.
…..From a pure hockey standpoint, I’m one of those who thinks the swap of Michael Cammalleri for Rene Bourque helped the Canadiens. But Cammalleri did not deserve to leave Montreal under the cloud of the misplaced emphasis that resulted from that January 11th dressing room interview he gave La Presse columnist Francois Gagnon and NHL.com’s Arpon Basu. Basu, who tapes his interviews, wrote for NHL.com that Cammalleri discussed the differences between a team that has a “winning mentality” and one with a “losing mentality” and it’s overall relationship to team confidence. Perhaps missing something in translation, Gagnon’s take on the conversation was that Cammalleri was fed up and his teammates had “une attitude de perdants“, in effect they were “losers”. (Here’s Gagnon’s La Presse column) Obviously calling teammates “losers” is a quick way out of town and two days after the interview he was off to Calgary. Fans believe, perhaps rightly so, that the La Presse story forced the Canadiens to trade Cammalleri. If true, it’s a shame. Cammalleri did not deserve to leave Montreal under these circumstances.