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Monday, 15 September 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

Talk radio gold.

The Montreal Canadiens made the most obvious and best decision regarding the captaincy for the upcoming season. Four assistants: Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and PK Subban. 

All four would make good but not great captains. And each one has a large question mark looming over their head. 

On the surface, it sure looks like the captaincy isn't something Markov would embrace. Perhaps a great leader in the room, the dealings with the media on a daily basis would be something that Markov would loathe. 

Plekanec is one of coach Michel Therrien's favorite. Quiet, respected in the room and has worn the "C" for his country. But with the logjam the team currently has at the centre position... how long will he remain in Montreal? 

Pacioretty has said all the right things regarding the captaincy. But we've also seen him fall into deep slumps and get distracted by scrutiny. One day, Pacioretty could be a great captain however there's still a ton of room for maturity. 

Subban candidacy is the most interesting. He's the most popular Habs' player in recent memory. His contract dictates that he's the most important player on the roster. The maturity and poise he showed during the playoffs last year was remarkable (and probably lead to his nomination as an assistant.) And I can't think of a player that would embrace everything that is being the captain of this team, more than Subban. But he's not ready. How would the room react to Subban as the captain at this point in time, with the big money deal. And imagine one of those Therrien/Subban battles from a year ago, if Subban was wearing the "C." The Canadiens like to "play it safe," at all times, and naming Subban the captain would be the exact opposite. 

It was a nice gesture for the Habs to give the assistant tag to those four players... They'll all be assisting the captain of the team, Carey Price this season. 

Today, is a great day. The players have arrived, pre season is around the corner and it feels like hockey is back. Monday morning's with Mitchy is officially back as well. Enjoy! 

Slick Awards: 

Leadership Award: Carey Price
Stupid Rule Award: No spin-o-rama
Gong Show Award: the NFL
Jealous Ex Boyfriend Award: Tim Leiweke 
Too tired award: The Alouettes defense 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

Sure, you're a little disappointed that the post season run for the Montreal Canadiens is done. But if you look at the big picture, the team progressed considerably from last season and the future is bright.

Heading into the offseason, question marks loom surrounding an extensive group of veteran players. And the locker cleanups offered us no clear answer to what the future holds.

Brian Gionta is headed for free agency. For someone who has spent the last five years in Montreal, and is the team captain, I wouldn't be surprised for him to resign at a discount. Sure, options exist for him to head to Buffalo or back to New Jersey. But for a competitor like Gionta, does playing in one of those two cities at this point in time make sense...? Probably not. If you can get him for 3 million or less, bring him back.

Andrei Markov's future will be tough to predict. He has spent his entire career in Montreal and loves the city. What's more important to him? The comfort and stability of a long term deal or the comfort of staying in the market where he knows he can continue to have a great amount of success. Whatever the case, if the Canadiens lose this guy, he's irreplaceable. Nobody on the current roster or on the farm or in free agency can replace this player.

Thomas Vanek... SEEYAH! The final meeting with the media provided us with a brief glance into the world of Vanek. What a vicious cycle it must of been in the post season. "I'm not playing well because I'm not playing with the top line, and I'm not playing with the top line because I'm not playing well." And around, and around we go. As skilled as Vanek is, you don't win with guys like him. Marc Bergevin has preached "character," and Michel Therrien has preached "Team Concept," Vanek provides neither.

Peter Budaj is a great teammate... That's good and all, but this is the NHL. Who gives you a better chance to win. At this point after the playoff run, clearly Dustin Tokarski gives you a better chance to win in the games where Carey Price needs a night off. Bye bye, Budaj.

Dale Weise and Mike Weaver were tremendous acquisitions for the Habs. Talk about character guys who can fill a roll and have an impact on a contending team. It will be easy to bring back Weise, but will Weaver's post season play as a member of the Habs drive up his value? Either way, I'd take both on my team any day.

Francis Bouillon is still capable of playing in the NHL. But for the Habs, with Greg Patteryn, Jared Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu salivating for NHL ice time, you simply can't bring Bouillon back.

Douglas Murray can no longer play in the NHL.

On a side note, of Gionta isn't brought back, I fully expect the next captain of the Canadiens to be Daniel Briere. And that has nothing to do with politics. His pull, the amount of respect he garners and with his overall track record I think he'd win a vote amongst his teammates for the honor.
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Everyone I speak to says "Kings in four."

I say, are you crazy?!

By no means do I expect the underdog Rangers to beat the favored Kings in the cup final. But to think it will be easy, is ridiculous. New York deserves full credit for what they've accomplished. A team with leaders like Martin St Louis and Brad Richards, a Norris Trophy Calibre defender in Ryan Mcdonagh and one of the best goalies in the league with Henrik Lundqvist will NOT be swept. But when it comes to elimination games, hard to bet against the LA Kings.
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SLICK AWARDS

Show me the money!!: Thomas Vanek
Mr Game Seven: Justin Williams
Elevation: Patrick Kane
The ball's in my court: Andre Markov



Monday, 19 May 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

The Bruins are done, and the Habs are clearly dealing with another animal.

The New York Rangers, for some reason, much like the Canadiens when they took on the Bruins, don't garner a lot of respect.

I'm not sure why heading into the series, fans thought it would be a cakewalk to the Stanley Cup Finals for Montreal.

The Rangers possess a balanced attack with a ton of speed. They have last year's Art Ross Trophy Winner. They have a former Rocket Richard Trophy Winner. They have a former Conn Smythe Trophy Winner. Their defense can go up against the very best. And their goaltender is a future Hall Famer... Sounds like a walk in the park to me.

The Habs seemed unprepared, not emotionally involved and were basically chasing the puck all
afternoon in their 7-2 game one loss.

I don't think that's how the whole series will be played. Actually, a wake up call like that early in the series might have been the best thing possible for the Canadiens. The Canadiens and Rangers played very tightly contested one-goal games during the regular season and that's the trend that should continue here... as long as Price is 100 per cent healthy and ready to go. If Peter Budaj has to take the crease, or Price is playing hurt, the Habs are in deep, deep trouble.
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It's hard to say Chris Kreider knocked Price out of the game intentionally. The circumstances leading up to the injury certainly help his cause in that regard. But if you ask anyone who has played the game at virtually any level, they'll tell you how easy it is to make that exact collision with the goalie look very accidental. And this guy has a track record. He's already ran into Marc Andre Fleury and Craig Anderson. Also accidental.

"I wasn't trying to run into him obviously but I felt like somehow I lost my footing...um, if you noticed a lot of times that happens to me, so I don't know," said Kreider post game.

Yes, we noticed.
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Finally, the biggest concern for the series aside from the health status of Carey Price, is the tandem on defense of Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin. This is something that could be straightened out, but they look awful in game one. The worst part of their game, the way they looked incredibly slow as the Rangers speedy forwards on both sides of the ice exploited them wide time and time again. If they don't start playing a little more on their toes early in game two, I think coach Michel Therrien will have to seriously consider breaking up what has been a solid defensive pairing for the first two rounds, because so far it looks as though they simply can't keep up.....
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The SLICK AWARDS!  

I'm going to haunt you forever: Ryan Mcdonagh
Inspirational Leader (repeat winner): Martin St Louis
Not So Soff Afterall: Henrik Lundqvist
Get in there kid: Alex Galchenyuck

Monday, 12 May 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

The NHL playoffs has degenerated to a school yard environment where anything goes a long as you can pull a fast one when the teachers and principal are looking the other way.

It's not just in the series between the Bruins and Habs, and a lot of the garbage occurring during the course of the games takes away from the great performances that we're witnessing. 

Shawn Thornton's childlike behavior should be an embarrassment to league and more specifically the logo of the Boston Bruins. Getting caught up in the moment is no excuse and spraying PK Subban with water is only acceptable if they're 12-year-old kids running around on a hot summer's day with super soakers. Certainly it has no place in a professional hockey game. 

And Thornton isn't the only guy acting like a clown. Milan Lucic's banging on the chest like a caveman or his flexing of the biceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the 1980 Mr Olympia is juvenile. 

Obviously this isn't the reason the Canadiens aren't winning. But rest assured, even though Subban told us post game on Saturday that this stuff doesn't serve as "bulletin board material," if Game Six in front of the Bell Centre fans isn't enough of a motivator, the antics of Thornton and Lucic will be talked about before the puck drops. 

"You back any animal into a corner and it's going to be desperate," said Carey Price.
_____

So why are the Canadiens no longer winning.

Well the answer is pretty simple. The Bruins have awoken and become the team that manhandled everyone in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. They can score in bunches and when momentum is on their side, they can come at you with many different looks and they're hard to stop. 

But the Canadiens have gotten some pitiful performances out of too many guys. 

Tomas Plekanec played his worse game since he claimed that he was "playing like a little girl," a few years back. 

Max Pacioretty's scoring slide is unacceptable, there's no defending it. If your job is to score and you can't get it done when games matter the most, you're going to be called out. 

David Desharnais, many people have said that when the games get difficult in the playoffs that he wouldn't be able to compete. He's currently proving those people right and might be single-handedly the one to blame for Pacioretty's slump.

Thomas Vanek has shifts where it looks like he's not even trying. Those back-check efforts are enough to have any coach pull out his hair. And we can see why there are so many question marks in regards to giving this guy a long term deal. 

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The Slick Awards:

Inspiring performer: Martin St Louis
Goaltending God: Henrik Lundqvist
Meathead: Shawn Thornton
Disappearance act: Max Pacioretty
Rally around me: PK Subban
Crazy Comeback: Aroldis Chapman



Monday, 5 May 2014

Monday Morning with Mitchy

Mission accomplished?

Sure, before the series began the Canadiens would have been content with a split in Boston and the series coming back to Montreal. And they'll attempt to continue to spin that positive narrative.

But it could have been so much more.

The opportunity was there and the Habs didn't learn the valuable lesson from game one, that Boston is pretty, pretty, pretty good in the third period of hockey games.

If they didn't know it before, they know it now.

"Unless you play a full 60, you're not going to be able to do it," said PK Subban post game. "Is there positives, yeah we played better than last game but we didn't play a full 60."

There was one small lineup change made by coach Michel Therrien in game two. Michael Bournival came in for Travis Moen, and didn't provide much.

But the guy who's hampered out there right now is Brandon Prust. He's not right and he's hurting the team. I'm sure the decision to take him out of the lineup isn't an easy one to make. The guy is as hard nosed and as passionate as it gets. But great leaders sometimes have to make decisions that may not be popular. Until Prust can get the puck off the ice when taking a shot, he's got to watch from the press box.
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After a real rough start to the post season, LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick looks good. In fact, no goaltender looks like he's more locked in. The last time Quick's game was where it is now, is when they won the Stanley Cup. There's no reason to think they can't at least, get there again. But it would be some kind of showdown to see a rematch between the Hawks and Kings in the Conference finals.
_____

The New York Rangers have what it takes to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. But last night, the Penguins best players gave outstanding performances. Kristopher Letang looks like he's returned to top form, especially with the puck. And although Sidney Crosby didn't score, he was the best player on the ice.

The Rangers have home ice for the next pair of games. All they have to do is exploit the Penguins number one weakness. And we all know what that is...
_____

The Raptors were a good story. The team that nobody thought could... did. But they were in over their heads taking on a Brooklyn team that had way more experience.

In the offseason, Masai Ujiri has to acquire star power. They have some nice pieces but every contending team has three legit superstars. Rumblings of a player like Rajon Rondo had been put out their earlier this season, but I'm talking about a player even more impactful than that.
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The Slick Awards

Slickest hands: Patrick Kane
Public Enemy: PK Subban
Needs to give more: Max Pacioretty
Must watch: Jose Abreu


Monday, 28 April 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

In a season that has been unpredictable, the predictable has happened.

They have been on a collision course all season and now the Bruins and Canadiens will meet in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The regular season meetings haven't produced the animosity that we've seen in years past but a playoff series will definite ignite the best in everyone. Both teams are relatively healthy, both teams are coming off easy first round series and both teams desperately want to get at each others throats.

The positives: 
- The Habs beat the Bruins 3/4 this season, including twice in Boston.
- Montreal is getting balanced scoring from all four lines, every forward who dressed in the first round scored with the exceptions of Brandon Prust and Micheal Bournival.
- The Canadiens best players weren't their best in round one. Expect more from: Carey Price, PK Subban, Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek
- Tuukka Rask is mentally soft when it comes to playing against Montreal.

The concerns: 
- Boston has the physical edge.
- Bruins have home ice advantage
- Bruins have the better PP(3rd)
- If the game was played on paper, Boston is the better team.

Anyways, here's to just being excited that the circus is coming to town. And even with the other great match-ups that the second round will have to offer and the tremendous hockey that we've seen so far this playoff, it will be Boston against Montreal that will draw the most attention from hockey fans everywhere.
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Upsets are never easy to pick. And I was wrong.

I thought the Ducks would be in tough against the Stars. And surprising to some, Dallas actually pushed the series to six games. But you have to impressed with the way Anaheim was able to overcome a two-goal third period deficit on the road in game six.

Maybe, they truly did learn a lesson in their loss a year ago to the Red Wings.

That said, I don't know what Bruce Boudreau is going to do with his goaltending. No confidence in Jonas Hiller and Frederik Anderson simply isn't good enough. Put in the kid, it's time for John Gibson to sink or swim.

_____

It amazes me how so many ignorant people have the mental capacities to become wealthy.

Caught on tape making a slew of racist comments, Clippers owner Donald Sterling is an utter embarrassment to the NBA.

Saying things so ridiculous that one would think they were listening to a new Dave Chappelle satire sketch, these are the real life views of one of the powerful voices in the NBA.

Good luck signing free agents.

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The Slick Awards:

American Idiot: Donald Sterling
Veins of Ice: Jonathan Toews
Deserving of more credit: Corey Crawford
Media Master: Darryl Sutter
Must watch: Nathan Mackinnon


Monday, 14 April 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

Sometimes the season concludes with a storybook ending.

On the night that captain of the Canadiens Brian Gionta was presented with the Jacques Beauchamps Trophy awarded to the "Unsung Hero" hero of the team, Gionta played hero.

A penalty shot in overtime, beating Cam Talbot of the Rangers with a backhand move to win the final regular season game of 2013-2014.

"We can't finish a regular season on a better note than Brian did," said Canadiens' coach Michel Therrien. "Same for his teammates and the fans as well."

Having voted on the award, I was quite content with the outcome. Media members are given a ballot with three selections and Gionta was my first. The other two players I voted for were Alexei Emelin and Francis Bouillon (who also showed his worth for the award in the game, dropping the mitts with Derek Dorsett who went knee-on-knee with David Desharnais)


Final break down for trophy: 
Brian Gionta: 66 
Brendan Gallagher: 64 
Tomas Plekanec: 51 
Josh Gorges: 45 
David Desharnais: 33 


Nobody is going to suggest that Gionta should come back next season at the same cap number. But 18-goals is nothing to snicker at and the Canadiens should undoubtedly bring back their captain. There's no weakness to his game and he still remains a rock-steady player. If  he's willing to take a small pay cut to move forward as this team continues to grow, Gionta will be back next season. 

It's character guys like Gionta that are the difference between finishing the season like this, or like the Leafs did. 

And when the moment is big and you haven't really noticed the Canadiens captain, he'll step up and deliver. 

Expect at least one more storybook ending from this guy. 
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The hires of Brendan Shanahan by the Leafs and Trevor Linden of the Canucks leaves me dumbfounded. I realize that nobody in the mainstream media will throw either under the bus. But please, just tell me what qualifies these guys to be good front office personnel. 

It's one think to jump into a city like Tampa Bay and make good hockey decisions. It's another to be the head figure of a Canadian franchise where expectations are sky-high and the margin for error is razor thin. 

Maybe the Leafs make a few acquisitions on defense, change the coach and add a couple character guys. And maybe that's enough to get them into the playoffs. The Canucks meanwhile are in no man's land and are going to be bad for a very long time. 

But eventually, hires are going to work out as well as Wayne Gretzky as the head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. Oh yeah... didn't the Leafs want to bring in The Great One at one point? 
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Who's not looking forward to the playoffs. Especially the first round. It looks like it's shaping up to be a tremendous post season, where almost every series seems like a pickem'. 

I'm most excited however for the LA Kings vs. the San Jose Sharks. But unfortunately for San Jose, they might empty the tank and have nothing left once the seven games are over. 

SLICK AWARDS

Unsung Hero: Brian Gionta
Doomed to fail: Brendan Shanahan,Trevor Linden
Jack Adams: Patrick Roy, Mike Babcock, Jon Cooper
On the hot seat: Randy Carlyle, Barry Trotz, Adam Oates, Paul Maclean, Kirk Muller,