With the days slowly counting down towards
training camp, there is no shortage of topics to be discussed for Canadiens
fans. Whether it is the daily debate of what Mats Sundin will do as well
as other free agents, or to what expectations of the upcoming season should be,
there is always a conversation to be had. The following is my take on some
of the hot button topics.
Mats Sundin: The daily discussions of whether the former Maple Leaf
will join the Habs or not is about to hit its second month, but my question is
why? Almost everyone is sick of the situation, so why is this a story
still? One day, he will make his decision on whether he wants to play;
there’s only so much that can be speculated on until then. As for whether I think
he’ll join the team or not, my pick is the latter and here’s why. He’s
been sitting on an offer from Montreal for nearly 2 months now and it
hasn’t excited him enough to come back yet, what’s another day or week going to do?
The same goes for the Vancouver offer for that matter. In my opinion, he’s
searching for a reason to come back and not for one to retire. Here we are
towards the end of August, and he’s still searching. Unless something
changes soon, the day is going to come where he faces the facts and realizes it
may very well be time to call it quits.
Hamilton Bulldogs: Coming off a Calder Cup season, last year’s
expectations for the Bulldogs were somewhat high, even with losing some of their
core players. Instead, it was a colossal nightmare, as they missed the
playoffs by a country mile. Despite this, the majority of the players the
Habs wouldn’t have dared to bring back somehow wound up somewhere else.
Addition by subtraction I suppose. This year’s edition is intriguing if
nothing else, as some of the up and coming youngsters in the organization will
actually have some quality veterans around them. I’m a little skeptical
about how much better the team will do, since the core of the team will
essentially be making their pro debuts this season. Win or lose though,
the Bulldogs will be an interesting team to follow during the season.
High expectations, Part 1: The saying "The glass is either half
full or half empty" couldn’t be applied better to any team but the 08-09 Habs.
They did finish first in the conference last year, and they have improved the
roster in the offseason. But what about the question marks: Can Carey
Price bounce back and build upon his regular season success? Which Kovalev
will we see this year? Can the young core improve any further? Will
the fact that it’s the Habs’ 100th anniversary play a major impact? For
every statement about how much better the team can be this year, there seems to
be a corresponding question or two that could go either way. I can’t say
which way I view the glass, but I can say this: Let’s not plan the parade route
just yet folks.
To save or to spend: Assuming Mats Sundin opts not to sign with
Montreal, the Habs will be sitting on a nice chunk of change that can be used to
bring in another impact player (roughly $6.5 million). But how many free
agents remaining can actually make an impact? Or, is the trade route a
better way to go? The Habs do have some decent mid-level prospects to
dangle to teams looking to drop under the cap, but are the players being shopped
by those over the cap going to be that good? The other option is to save
the money and ensure there’s plenty of space to make a run at the trade
deadline. My gut tells me that there’s a move left in the Habs should
Sundin go elsewhere, one that will be somewhat of an impact player but at the
same time leaving enough cap space to make a potential addition during the
High expectations, Part 2: Tying in with the question of the team’s
youth, a pair of players come to mind. Sergei Kostitsyn, who made me look
brutal last year when I proclaimed him overrated, (we all make mistakes
sometime) had a strong rookie campaign. Reading what some of the
expectations are for him, I worry that people are expecting too much too fast
from the younger of the brothers. He had a strong playoff, but who knows
what impact a full 82-game campaign may have on him.
The other player is the recently signed
Max Pacioretty. Yes, he certainly looks like a steal, especially since the
Habs got him out of college after just 1 year. But to expect him to make
an impact already seems a little too demanding. It’s not often that a
player gets signed out of college after 1 year, and quite rare that the player
has an impact at the NHL level the next season. It’s times like this we
need to remember that he’s just 19 and set appropriate expectations, no matter
how much we may want to see him lacing the skates up at the Bell Centre in the
Training camp battles: Even with the majority of the roster set,
there should be a handful of battles for roster spots with the big club.
Can Marc Denis unseat one of the incumbent young goalies? Who is going to
be the 7th defenceman, Mathieu Dandenault, or one of the players that either
played for the Bulldogs or was brought in to help Hamilton? How secure is
Kyle Chipchura’s spot in the lineup if the roster stays as is?
One thing is for sure, the time is nearing where we will no longer have to speak
of hypothetical scenarios, as training camp is just a month away. The wait
is almost over, and soon the talk can turn to on ice play rather than the off
ice stuff we’re all but sick of. Brighter days are ahead Habs fans.