HabsWorld.net -- 

The Mailbag is a little late, but as mom always said, better late than never. This week in the Bag: questions about Sundstrom, Ryder, the Habs defence, and the Fan responds to negative commentary. During the week that was, the Habs lost badly against the Rangers and the resultant marks given out by yours truly really generated some interesting responses.

Interesting to note that a good number of the comments and questions were based on the long-term viability of this team, and not the game-to-game aspects that we generally see. That just goes to show that the Montreal fans really are an intelligent lot, looking to the future as well as the present.

Do you think Crosby and Lecavalier will be in habs uniforms when their current contracts expire?

There’s no doubt that Lecavalier thought about it. After signing his long-term deal with the Bolts, he came out and discussed some of his thought process. He was quite emphatic when he stated that the Canadiens were a very real possibility and that he seriously considered a one-year deal so he could sign with Les Habitants next season as an unrestricted free agent. No doubt Habs fans everywhere jumped with jubiliation at this thought.

Now, however, he’s signed a long-term deal and is locked in with the Bolts for quite a while. That means that, while he’s scheduled to play hockey in Tampa for the forseeable future, he’s also going to set even more permanent roots and probably start a family in the sunny American state. I won’t say that he’ll never consider the Canadiens again, but consider the implications. Will he want to come to the spotlight after having it relatively easy in Tampa? Will he want to displace family?

If you think the answer is yes, then consider one final and very real aspect: does Lecavalier coming to Montreal in four years make economic sense? Now, we can’t speak to the future, but here’s a kid that’s making elite money and not putting up elite numbers – or at the very least, he hasn’t proven he can do so yet. Assuming Gainey is still the GM here, one wonders whether he’ll see the economic sense in bringing in a guy who might very well be an overpaid commodity.

Crosby makes the more interesting scenario, in my opinion. Consider that, at the draft, he openly admitted that, when Montreal continued to be in the running for so long, he was holding his breath and getting extremely excited. That’s a great sign for Habs fans, since if the decision were given to him tomorrow, you get the feeling he’d jump at it and be in Montreal in no time.

That said, the decision is not tomorrow, it’s in seven years. A lot of things can happen in that time. Does anyone remember a certain Mario Lemieux not wanting to play for the Penguins at all? Now he’s the franchise – so much so that he actually owns it. In seven years, Crosby might very well want to be the next owner of the Pens, and his dreams of playing in Montreal will be long gone.

I’ll never say never for either of them coming to Montreal, however I think the odds are somewhat lower than many might hope. Sure, they both would love the chance to play for the Canadiens, but there’s far more to it than just a simple love of the CH. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I don’t know how you could include this, but how do you think the Habs will do as their schedule gets pretty intense with 5 games in 8 days?
-Lee, Montreal

That’s a very interesting question, actually, Lee. So far we’ve seen this team with a fairly generous schedule and I have to wonder myself about how well they’ll do when things get tight. The one thing that looks good for us is that we have a young team. Unlike, say, the Leafs, who may need oxygen and canes for that kind of packed schedule, the Canadiens will at least be able to compete all the way through.

However it’s not the physical conditioning that worries me so much, it’s the mental game that I believe will suffer. As this is a young team, many have had little experience in dealing with constant play like a five-in-eight would offer. I think it quite likely that mental mistakes would creep into the game, and it’s up to the coaching staff to ensure that, as the games wear on, those who are having a hard time dealing with the mental stresses are told to keep their games relatively simple.

How do you reconcile Ryder being drafted 216th , passed over
again & again, yet rookie of year Runner up???????

There will be surprises in all draft years, players who come out of nowhere to be something that no one ever expected. How do these players, who don’t look like much on draft day, rise above the masses? It’s actually very simple: work ethic.

If you’re willing to work hard, no matter what you do, you’re going to rise above a great many ahead of you. In fact, this is something that I’ve stated many times in the past: I’d rather have a team of 20 incredibly hard working players rather than 20 superstars. Anyday. I think the Ranger team of recent years should be evidence enough of that.

Im just wondering who you are that writes these articles.

Do you even watch the games? Ive pretty much never seen your player profiles be correct. In fact your pretty much just a typical blind Koivu fan who is scared that Ribeiro will take his spot as our first center.

Sad that you know so little about hockey but insist on sharing this with others.

Ah, the mythical Koivu versus Ribeiro rebate surfaces and shows its ugly head once more. In fact, as I was perusing some of the discussion boards after reading this comment, I came across people calling Ribeiro “The Franchise,” so I had to ask myself some very hard question.

Is this team better off with Ribeiro leading the way? Would we be a true Stanley Cup contender if Saku were traded in favour of a larger 2nd centre who could back up Ribeiro? Do I really buy into this whole controversy thing?

I can answer the last question first: not in the least. There is no controvercy here, at least not in the minds of the people running the team. I think that’s quite evident by the way the players are used. Koivu is placed in all the critical situations, is on the first line with the “superstar” Kovalev, plays the first wave of the power play, and even plays a regular shift on the penalty kill. If that doesn’t tell you who the coaches value more, then I don’t know what does.

Am I scared that Koivu will take Ribeiro’s spot? Absolutely not! If he does, it means we suddenly have a player who is better than Koivu – and that’s saying something. Is it likely to happen? Very doubtfully, I think. There will come a day, sure, when Koivu starts showing his age more and is relegated to lower lines, but until then, Ribeiro does not have the work ethic to make it as a number one guy. Add to that the fact that a hard breeze knocks him off the puck many nights, and it’s hard to fathom him every being a true number one guy.

However, if fans have other thoughts about this “debate” I’d be happy to hear them and discuss them. Perhaps at some later point I’ll put together a real Koivu versus Ribeiro article, and we’ll see the two hack away at each other some more.

Love your game reviews. bang on accurate. Do you think Souray can adapt to the new NHL?

Thank you!

Souray is having some real problems for sure. I do think he can adapt, though, but it will take him becoming a far simpler defender. Right now, he’s still trying to do way too much, and as such is making silly mistakes that need to be avoided.

Consider the last game against the Rangers when he tried to hit everything that moved – and always missed. In doing so he throws himself badly out of position and allows the other team to attack with more of a presence. That kind of nonsense has to stop before we get killed.

What Souray needs to do, in my opinion, is be more active with his stick, use his size to angle opponents off the puck and, where appropriate into the boards, and move the puck with accuracy and efficiency. Physical doesn’t have to mean bashing someone into next Tuesday with a massive hit, it means using your size effectively to win the puck and intimidate the opposition. Missing every hit doesn’t intimidate them at all.

What happens when Sunny comes back next week? Do the Habs take Begin off line 3? I certainly wouldn’t. They have great synergy: When they play on the same line, Begin seems more dangerous offensively, and Bulis seems more physical. I think they could be our version of Draper/Maltby for years to come. – Guy Caballero, Toronto

Now that is a difficult question indeed. As it stands now, the three kids have been put together on the fourth line and Dags has found his way back to the second, with Zednik back on the first. That leaves me to believe that, should Sundstrom regain the lineup, he’s going to be displacing a rookie – at least until Dags decides to go back to his regular brand of hockey.

I wouldn’t mind him going back to the third line, however. I realize that Begin is going a great job, but he was also a serious spark on the fourth line with Higgins and Plekanec and gave us the opportunity to have all four lines rolling against the opposition. Over the course of an 82-game season, that’s huge.

Do you see a problem in the Habs defencemen backing into the neutral zone when we have possession of the puck near the opponent’s net?

Yes and no. There are times when we need to be prudent, and I think a few of those time have seen us burned when we could have maintained pressure. However, I do think that, especially when we have control of the puck, we need to try and lock down the zone. It’s a tough balance, especially against a team that has a lot of speed, like the Rangers.

Now, in parallel to your question, I’d like to note that I believe the Habs defenders need to jump into the attack far more than they’re currently doing. In the early third when they did, we created a bevy of chances against the Rangers. In particular, I’d love to see Markov, Dandenault, and Bouillon jumping in, because they have the instincts as well as a good bit of speed should things go bad and they have to get back.

Well, that’s it for this week and as always I appreciate all the emails – good and bad. Please try and sign your work and let me know where you’re from; it’s always more interesting both for me, and the readers.

A Concerned Fan