[Every weekend, Canucks Hockey Blog goes out of town as Tom Wakefield (@tomwakefield88) posts his thoughts on what's happening around the NHL.]
It’s hard to imagine Bob Gainey laughing.
A Google image search confirms even smiles are hard-fought, often-lost battles in the corners of his mouth.
Yet Bob Gainey has a lot to smile and laugh about.
This Montreal Canadiens team – a team he essentially re-built in the summer of 2009, then handed off to current GM Pierre Gauthier – is a pretty good one.
Making things all-the-more sweet is that Gainey essentially built this team in the face of constant criticism. Critics said his team was too small; that it wasn’t French enough; that Jacques Martin couldn’t coach offense; and that Carey Price could never find permanent success. Gainey said thank you very much, weathered the media storm and built a quick, counter-attack team full of character.
Today, this is a team that believes in each other, its system, and its coaching staff. They honour the great teams of Montreal’s past through their sacrifice, resilience and tempo of play. Mike Cammalleri’s Cup contender assertion is simply another indication that there’s a confidence amongst Habs players that hasn’t existed in some time.
Whether Cammy’s right or not remains to be seen. The team could use another game-breaker, and the loss of Andrei Markov is a significant one.
But there are some championship qualities to be found here if one looks closely enough.
And those are qualities Bob Gainey brought to the team before he stepped away.
THOUGHTS ON THE FLY
- You would think the return of Mario Lemieux to the ice, even if it’s for an alumni game, would be exciting. But does anyone else remember how boring the Oilers-Habs alumni game was in the original Heritage Classic? After the initial player introductions and the magic of playing outdoors subsided, all we were left with was rusty retirees scrimmaging duly. Anyways, the Penguins and Capitals alumni are squaring off the day before the 2011 NHL Winter Classic. With Paul Coffey, Bill Guerin, Ron Francis and Bryan Trottier all playing, put your money on the Pittsburgh home team.
- Puck Daddy reports 23 busloads of “Nordiques Nation” fans are making the trip from Quebec to New York to see the Islanders host the Atlanta Thrashers.
- It will be interesting to see how losing Mark Stuart for 4-6 weeks will impact the Boston Bruins. He’s an underrated blueliner.
- Yet another reason why the Leafs are struggling. Tomas Kaberle’s next goal will be his first of the year. If he’s not contributing offense, he’s not contributing anything.
- The Buffalo Sabres are alive and well after a slow start to the year. One reason: Thomas Vanek’s found his A-game.
- Speaking of the Sabres, Shaone Morrisonn is out for awhile with concussion symptoms. This is another opportunity for Chris Butler to show he belongs.
- Word in Chicago is that injured players Marian Hossa, Fernando Pisani and Patrick Kane could all be back sooner than expected. To possibly fill the void until they return, the Blackhawks have signed former Canuck Ryan Johnson to a tryout contract.
- Speaking of the ‘Hawks, why did they sign Marty Turco again? Corey Crawford is two wins away from tying the team record for most consecutive wins by a goaltender.
- Slowly but surely, David Booth is coming around for the Florida Panthers. The thing is, for a team dedicated to rebuilding, is it smart to make a player with a history of concussions a franchise centerpiece?
- No surprises here: the oft-injured Kari Lehtonen is having back trouble in Dallas. Good thing for them Andrew Raycroft has played pretty well this year.
- Matt Duchene has created a Twitter account to generate interest in the team. Not to be cynical, but there’s a 50% chance that’s code for “meeting girls on road trips.”
- Quietly, Jeff Woywitka has been a solid, defensive presence for the Dallas Stars.
- If ever there was a time for Edmonton’s Sam Gagner to take the next step forward and demonstrate he can be an elite player in the NHL, it’s now, with Shawn Horcoff out for an extended period.
- Excuse me, Part 1: What type of goal was that again, Craig Laughlin?
- Excuse me, Part 2: Remember, you can’t actually buy waffles at the Air Canada Centre. You have to smuggle them in. Please let this become a tradition.
- In honour of CBC’s 3D coverage this weekend, Down Goes Brown provides a technology guide for hockey fans.
- Why the Ottawa Senators are a mess, reason #346: Tough to move under-performing, over-priced veterans in today’s salary cap era. Even if the team can find a buyer for Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Gonchar isn’t going anywhere soon.
- The loss of Andy McDonald (concussion) probably kills the St. Louis Blues chances of making the playoffs. Reports suggest the team is looking to salvage the season through a trade, with Travis Zajac, Stephen Weiss and Matt Moulson the potential targets.