Friday, July 3, 2009

Breaking the Silence

A Montreal Friday is upon us and I'm feeling inspired for the first time in months. It's been a crazy week around the NHL and virtually all the big names have found new homes or stuck around where they were.

The Canadiens have changed the guard. It's looking very likely that the Artist has played his last game for the Habs and the same goes for Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Chris Higgins, Mike Komisarek and several key components of Bob Gainey's so-called "five year plan".

It's the dawn of a new era with Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez getting into the mix along with two new blueliners in Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill.

Reaction has been mixed but largely negative to this new look team. They're being called small and the speculation is they will be pushed around by the opposition, even more so than in years past (if that's possible).

I like what Bob Gainey did because if this team proved anything last year, it was that the current formula wasn't working. Gone are the familiar faces who spouted cliches after every game, replaced by guys with big skill and Stanley Cup rings.

We're all aware of the crazy stories and rumours that flew around this team throughout their centennial season and something had to be done. Clearly things weren't working for the guys wearing the letters on their jerseys and now they're all gone.

Chris Higgins and Mike Komisarek were good teammates and worked hard for the team that drafted them in consecutive first rounds. I wish them the best in their respective careers and I have a feeling Higgins may burn the Habs for years to come and Komisarek will probably make their forwards pay along the perimeter too, but they had to go. They were the young core of the team's leadership which often resulted in their teammates being led into wild party nights in Montreal.

Hockey players have been partying hard for decades but it seems that this group just couldn't find the balance that effective teams have. They left young players to fend for themselves in a city more than willing to cater to their youthful whims.

It's hard to figure out Kovalev, who seems to be the guy most fans want back but Kovy turned down a two-year deal worth a reported $9 million. That's a lot of money for a 36 year-old power play specialist with a tendency to take nights off. Maybe he didn't want to play second fiddle to the new wave. Maybe his agent led him astray.

Regardless, I think his departure bodes well for the younger players who will be more driven to work hard and give their all under Jacques Martin's new regime.

The one that hits home with me is Saku Koivu. I don't think the team could have started anew with him in place so he had to go but he was a warrior for this team who grinded and played his heart out every night. He raised the bar for a captain`s role in Montreal and changed the meaning of `giving back to the community`. I will never forget his return from cancer, his playoff magic and continued humility when dealing with a vicious media and fan base with unrealistic expectations for a guy who never had a decent set of linemates and never once complained. His lasting image may be the night he capped of the greatest comeback in Montreal Canadiens history with his trademark shootout goal against the New York Rangers.

We`ll see how it plays out and tributes will start to pour in eventually. I like this one, courtesy of the great Aislin.