Tuesday was one of those days that the trip to Canadiens practice in Brossard is well worth the trip across the bridge. I noticed Alex Kovalev wasn't on the ice almost as soon as I arrived, shortly after being informed of Sergei Kostitsyn's demotion to Hamilton to try and regain his form and if Jean Perron is right, to get him away from the party atmosphere he, Carey Price and Chris Higgins have been enjoying a bit too much of in Montreal.
Canadiens communications director Donald Beauchamp then came over and informed us that Bob Gainey would be addressing some player personnel moves he'd made earlier in the day personally. It was when Bob began to speak that the magnitude of actions began to take shape.
Kovalev has been asked to stay in Montreal to "rest" and Bob Gainey wants him to "stay away from the team" for a while, at least until he can re-evaluate where the team stands after two games without the Artist on Saturday.
This comes on the heels of the acquisition of 39 year-old Mathieu Schneider, the good-natured veteran defenceman who is returning to the team that drafted him 44th overall in 1987. Schneider, for his part, seems genuinely happy to be back in Montreal. He's wearing Chris Chelios' number 24, a fact he reminded his former teammate of in an early morning phone call prior to his first practice with the Canadiens. After practice, Schneider recounted that Chelios told him,
"You stole my job 15 years ago, you may as well take my number too."
Kovalev may be four years younger than Schneider but he's either being taught a lesson by Habs management or a deal for him is imminent. It's hard to believe the Habs would get more from him than a a 2nd round pick at this point and you'd have to think his trade value decreases as he sits out games by managements decree.
The Canadiens as an organization were unhappy about Perron's comments but Guy Carbonneau didn't back off of them completely either,
"I trust it's not just that," said the coach following yesterday's practice.
Price meanwhile patiently answered the charges in the locker after the skate,
"I don't think we go out any more than any other team in the league. We're young athletes and we go out every once in a while, but I don't think it's affected us at all," Price added. "I don't really care what [Perron] said."
Yale alum Chris Higgins also weighed in,
"I think it's pretty predictable, to be honest, when things go bad it seems like these stories come out, especially in this city. … I'd like to say more but I should stop there,"
Meanwhile, Guy Carbonneau continues to be plagued by claims that he's lost this team. It's a point that's hard to argue against. Since being given a midseason vote of confidence by Gainey, the Habs have sunk to new depths and are chipping away at rock bottom's sub-basement these days.
All the player movement has deflected attention away from such claims for now but losses in the next two games would certainly put them right back on centre stage. In the meantime, it's a one game at a time ritual to be a Montreal Canadien.
Kostitsyn's demotion is good news for Gregory Stewart, the hard working winger who will take his spot on the big team. Stewart has stood out in every game he's played at the NHL level and is one guy who Guy Carbonneau won't have to worry about motivating.