Tag Archives: Kirk Muller

Game Day – Canes In Town

Like so many other teams, and there’s about six of them, the Carolina Hurricanes are hovering around the eighth and final playoff spot. So they’re going to want to win the game tonight at the Bell Centre.

Of course, wanting, and actually doing, are two different things.

Carolina has won just one game in their past seven, although the win happened on Saturday against the Jets, which means they’re on a one-game winning streak. This team is missing two goalies, Cam Ward and Dan Ellis, due to injuries, so we might expect coach Kirk Muller to possibly don the pads the way Lester Patrick, coach and general manager of the N.Y. Rangers, did in 1928 against the Montreal Maroons at the Forum.

Montreal also has injuries. Rene Bourque and Raphael Diaz have concussions, and Henri Richard and Dickie Moore have arthritis.

Random Notes:

And how did the 44-year old Lester Patrick do against the Maroons? He allowed one goal in regulation time and his team won 2-1 in overtime. This was game two of the Stanley Cup Finals and the Rangers would go on to win it all in the five-game series.

Mind-blowing side note:

Lester Patrick, along with his brother Frank, lived for a while in the Slocan Valley, near Nelson B.C., where they played hockey and helped out at their dad’s sawmill. My daughter lives in the Slocan Valley, and I knew you’d be amazed by this incredible coincidence. And not only that, I once worked in a sawmill which was only about 700 miles from the Slocan Valley. Truly eerie stuff.

Lester

Habs And Leafs

Just like the old days. Habs and Leafs on a Wednesday night. I grew up with this type of thing. But back then, the Leafs were almost good.

Toronto’s in 7th place in the East with 24 points, which is ridiculous. It’s almost March and they’re sort of still in it. Must have something to do with the short season.

Starting tonight, the Leafs begin their annual spring collapse. It’s the way of the world.

Random Notes;

Michael Ryder’s number will be 73, which means Brendan Gallagher, because he’s a snot-nosed rookie, forfeits it and takes on number 11. Previous Habs number 11 guys include, of course, the legendary Scott Gomez, along with Saku Koivu, Kirk Muller, Ryan Walter, Yvon Lambert, Marc Tardif, Rejean Houle and so on, all the way down to Clayton Frechette during the 1912-13 season.

Approximately 73 Habs in all have owned number 11, which is more than any other.

Number 11′s a nice low number and I feel Gally’s lucky to have it. Same with Brandon Prust with number 8. Considering numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 12 are all hanging from the rafters.

 

 

New Kid On The Block

The Canadiens have hired former player Gerard Gallant as assistant coach Gallant Joins Habs, and another piece falls into place. Whether or not it’s a good piece remains to be seen.

But it’s another in an important line of change, a restructuring of vast proportions. New GM, new assistant GM, new director of player personnel, new coach, new assistant coach, hopefully a new stick boy. With more to come. Pretty soon we won’t recognize anybody. Is Gomez gone yet?

The hiring of Michel Therrien as head coach seems to be the one area where folks are blowing their tops. The majority hate the idea. A guy I work with said to me the other day that surely I can’t be happy with Therrien coming back, that he’s an incompetent hothead. 66% of voters at the Hockey Inside/Out poll said it was a terrible move. Marc Bergevin, who hired Therrien, has been slammed as a guy we first liked and respected and were thrilled to have, and now we see he’s a bum. I don’t think like this though. I’m waiting at least four games before I bitch about anybody.

Of course, if the Canadiens look great and jump out of the gate when the season kicks off, things will be fine and there will be an urgent need to find someone else to kick in the gonads. But if the team falters and slumps, that’s not thunder you hear, it’s a chorus of 66% of poll voters yelling “I told you so,” who knew all along and proved one thing – that Toe Blake was wrong when he said predictions are for gypsies.

Gerard Gallant doesn’t speak French and that might be slammed around for awhile. I’m sure the French media have their guns cocked, ready to aim and fire. Kirk Muller didn’t speak the language either as an assistant coach and was tabbed as the second coming, and most everyone it seemed, wanted Muller to move up to the head job.

He’s still talked about as what could could have been, as the the most brilliant bench boss material to come down the pipes since Scotty Bowman. But the Carolina Hurricanes, with Muller behind the bench, finished 12th of 15 teams in the east, just four points ahead of the Canadiens, and we’ll see if good old Kirk has the magic touch next season. I hope he does. I hope his team ends up just below the Habs.

I’ll be on the front lines in calling for Therrien to be fired if the team blows a tire and becomes as sad or almost as sad as last year’s edition. But for now I’m content with the decision to bring this guy back, and any other moves the team makes. I was at the point where anybody could have been brought in, a peewee coach from Chicoutimi or Rene Levesque’s illegitimate love child, it wouldn’t have mattered, because what we had wasn’t exactly working, which is an understatement, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Canadiens Pay A Visit To Kirk’s Place

The Habs are in Raleigh tonight to face a team run by the bench boss we all know and love, Kirk Muller. The Canadiens let this guy go, it’s too bad, and although he’s not bilingual, he’s only a six month course away from being so.

Oh well. It’s not the first time our Habs have blundered. And we certainly can’t blame the guy for moving on and landing the head role somewhere else.

I hope Kirk enjoys a long and successful career as a big league head coach, (although his first year at the helm sees him out of the playoffs), and if he wins tonight, good for him. We don’t want the two points anyway, but regardless.

Today, in Raleigh’s NewsObserver.com, there’s a little feature on the Man Who Got Away - Canes Hockey Fans Winning Over Muller

2011 – The Year Of Gomez’s Promise And Other Fine Moments

Another year older and deeper in debt. Etc.

2011 had some fine moments for Habs fans, and unfortunately, some not-so-fine moments. So let’s have a glimpse at what happened in this Year of the Rabbit. And please keep in mind, things aren’t in order here. That would be way too normal.

Carey Price posed with his arms crossed after a win, which upset some and I don’t know why. I thought it was quite creative. Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury mimicked Price a week later but alas, it all ended there.

Saku Koivu returned for the first time after being traded to Anaheim, and that was nice. Unfortunately, Saku’s new team won 4-3 in a shootout.

P.K. Subban was selected for the All-Rookie team at the All-Star game in Raleigh. PK’s smile made us smile, and when he put on Jeff Skinner’s jersey in the shootout competition he made us smile even more. At least I smiled. I don’t know about you.

I held half a dozen or so contests in 2011, with people far and wide winning some good shit.

James Wisniewski took a puck in the face in Edmonton, looked like we’d lose him for months, but he was back for the Heritage Classic in Calgary just a few days later. We would eventually lose Wiz anyways when Columbus gave him a zillion dollars. And speaking of the Heritage Classic, Carey Price put on his new facemask that was so weird that little kids were put to bed early so they wouldn’t see it and have nightmares.

Rearguard Brent Sopel played one year with the Habs, and when he was cut loose at the end and not picked up, ended up going to the KHL and is probably slurping borscht as we speak.

My grandson Adam entered the world on February 3rd and will almost certainly play for the Habs in twenty years.

Also in February, Luci and I went to Vancouver to see the Habs beat the Canucks in a terrific game where we had great seats and a wonderful time. And speaking of Vancouver, Gilbert Brule of the Edmonton Oilers was driving in his car with his girlfriend, near the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay, and stopped to pick up a hitchhiker who happened to be Bono from the band U2. I just find that as weird as can be.

Boston won the Cup, as you know, and thousands rioted in the Vancouver downtown area. Several dozen are just now on the verge of having their big court appearances and most say they feel bad. I feel bad too. Because the Bruins won the Cup.

We lost assistant coach Kirk Muller to Nashville affiliate Milwaukee Admirals, Boston Pizza changed their name to Montreal Pizza during the playoffs, Bruin Andrew Ference gave the finger to the Bell Centre crowd after scoring a goal, a tortoise named Gerry La Tortue tried to predict games in the Habs-Bruins series and often failed miserably, and Hal Gill signed a one year, 2.25 million dollar contract.

A woman in Vancouver flashed her boobs at San Jose’s Ben Eager while he sat in the penalty box, Winnipeg got an NHL team again – the ex-Atlanta Thrashers, and Luci and I went to Ontario where we hooked up with some great new and old friends and co-workers in both Ottawa and Orillia, enjoyed a luncheon with NHL oldtimers in Toronto, visited my dad in his new old folks home, stayed with my brother, and went to see the old arena in Orillia where the doors were locked.

2011 was the year of the big Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty, which fractured Max’s neck which in turn caused many Bruins fans to laugh and jump with glee. It also allowed Mark Recchi to use his medical knowledge to diagnose the situation and conclude it wasn’t as bad as we were led to believe.

Jean Beliveau turned 80 in 2011, Wayne Gretzky 50, Carey Price 24, and Don Cherry 119.

I had an interview in Puck Daddy and Bruins fans accused me of sounding like a Hab fan.

Andrei Kostitsyn slammed Jacques Martin for playing him improperly, Josh Gorges signed for one year, 2.5 million, Erik Cole also inked for 4 years, 18 million, and Roman Hamrlik went to Washington.

Assistant coach Perry Pearn was let go, and the two Randy’s - Cunneyworth and Ladouceur, joined Martin behind the bench.

Vancouver Giant sensation Brendan Gallagher had a great camp and almost made the Habs, Chris Campoli was added to the blueline corps, and Scott Gomez told us he was embarrassed by his previous season, was sorry, and things would be different this year.

Longtime Canadiens trainer and equipment guy Eddie Palchak passed away, Andrei Markov almost played on the Habs’ California trip but didn’t, Jacques Martin was out and Cunneyworth in, Rocket’s star was stolen from the sidewalk at the Forum, the bilingual coach issue has raised it’s ugly head, and I mistakingly ate some toxic maple syrup and lived to tell about it.

So there you have it. I know I’ve missed a lot, but enough’s enough.

And of course, I wish you all a very splendid New Year. May it be your best year ever.

 

 

 

The Two On The Bread Lines

Would you want either of the recently canned coaches, Paul Maurice or Bruce Boudreau, coaching the Habs?

Because when you look at them, it’s not exactly like bringing in Scotty Bowman or Jacques Lemaire.

Boudreau can’t even be considered an experienced NHL bench boss. Four and a half years behind the bench for the Washington Capitals. Before that, it was 15 years riding buses in the minors and eating Teenburgers, which probably helped make him the round ball of jelly he is today.

He also can’t be considered a winner, although his regular season record is excellent. It’s in the playoffs where he falls short. Four years with the Caps, losing twice in round one and twice in round two. Not spectacular showings considering he had a team many felt to be the best in the east and maybe in all of hockey.

Boudreau of course is a world-class swearer, as we witnessed on HBO’s 24/7. I haven’t heard cursing like that since the days when I would wander into Orillia’s Top Hat billiard room as a young teenager and mingle among some of Central Ontario’s finest thugs and future convicts. But swearing is a non-issue. Toe Blake was banned from the Forum pool hall for his salty language. So if Toe could let loose with expletives, then Bruce can too. (Although maybe some of those scenes on 24/7 could have been sliced for the younger viewing audience).

Anyway, I’m pretty sure there aren’t many coaches out there slated for future sainthood.

Boudreau’s problem, which Montreal doesn’t have, was Alex Ovechkin, who became, like the big star on a peewee team, a sulking child when the coach decided not to play him at certain times, like 60 minutes a game, every game. Ovechkin stopped playing, stopped being one of the two best in the world, felt hard done by and persecuted, and hopefully he still lives with his mom so she can whip up some borscht and dumplings and make him feel better.

The end came fast when Boudreau lost Ovechkin.

It’s also interesting to note that I saw it explained yesterday that it was Kirk Muller, as assistant coach of the Montreal Canadiens at the time, who figured out how to stop this flashy Russian by mostly keeping him to the outside, and other teams quickly followed suit. He became predictable and remains predictable now. Ovechkin’s star is fading while Sidney Crosby’s is glistening.

Oh, and maybe I should mention - this Russian, so hard done by, is in the middle of a 13 year, 124 million dollar contract.

Paul Maurice is a much more experienced coach than Boudreau, with 14 plus years under his belt in Hartford, Toronto, and Carolina. He sniffed success just once, taking Carolina to the Cup finals in 2002 before losing 4 games to 1 to Detroit. But again, like Boudreau, there hasn’t been a lot of glorious moments in this coaching career.

He’s a likeable enough fellow, it seems, but his players, like Boudreau’s, stopped playing, even though these guys are paid a king’s ransom for half a year’s work, plus all the free meals they can eat in their home city. It’s a good job. I don’t know about yours but it’s better than mine.

My feeling is the Habs don’t need either of these guys. Get rid of Jacques Martin and promote one of the Randy’s. Or entice a winning coach from elsewhere, using Scott Gomez-like money. We know Molsons has lots of cash. My friends and I have spent a vast fortune on their beer over the years.

And maybe old and retired Sovietski Viktor Tikhonov should go to Washington to help Dale Hunter. Put the fear of the gulag in Ovechkin.

Good, Bad, And Ugly – Habs’ October

October was quite a month, eh?

It began on the 1st when the boys schmucked Tampa Bay 5-1 in preseason play in Quebec. We liked that.

On the 6th, it was a miserable 2-0 loss in Toronto in the first game of the regular season, but three days later, the gang rebounded by ruining Winnipeg’s party with another 5-1 win.

So October began with two wins (one in preseason) and a loss, and I suppose we were okay with that. Maybe slightly concerned with the loss in Toronto and the dismal six and two record in preseason, but we clobbered Winnipeg, didn’t we? 

Unfortunately, the heart of the month became a gnashing of teeth and the call from far and wide to send Jacques Martin to Pinkslipsville. Six straight losses. Andrei Markov still missing in action with no end in sight, and Jaroslav Spacek injured. Mike Cammalleri too. Erik Cole looked like a huge mistake, and assistant coach Perry Pearn got the dreaded word and not Martin.

The power play and penalty kill stunk. Guys like Mr. Reliable, Josh Gorges, were making weird mistakes. Fans were leaving early from the Bell Centre, and we longed for Kirk Muller to come back somehow.

And Scott Gomez? He was there sometimes in the month and sometimes not. It’s not important.

Would they ever look good again? We weren’t sure. What about Subban? His road to superstardom had gone from pavement to gravel. Carey Price was good but it wasn’t enough. Not when you’re a stud like him.

It was a lousy time and a great excuse to drink beer.

But however, October did end nicely.

It began with Yannick Weber tying the game with three seconds left in the first period that got the ball rolling as the Canadiens first downed the Flyers, then struck twice against the Bruins. And October, which is the birthday month of my dad, my brother, my son, myself, my best friend, and several people at work, was salvaged. (Please note – if my math is correct, nine months before October is right around New Year’s Eve. A lot of moms and dads were in a frisky, champagne-soaked mood, don’t you think)?

Erik Cole is getting it together and has become one of our best players. Travis Moen has been a nice surprise, as has David Desharnais. Raphael Diaz should be thanked for his yeoman’s service. Carey Price was voted NHL 1st star of the week. Guys paid to score are starting to score. PK Subban is finding his mojo and as a bonus, became engaged in battle with the Nose That Skates.

And through it all, Max Pacioretty, and then Lars Eller after returning from injury, have played like guys ready to don All-Star jerseys.

The team went from worst in the east to two points out of a playoff spot in a nanosecond. And we heard that Andrei Markov is indeed still alive and could return in November, a month when parents get frisky because there’s nothing else to do except write early Christmas cards.

Now it’s almost a six-day rest. It’s been years since Saturday when the Habs last played, and players’ babies will be toilet-trained by the time the team plays again, in Ottawa on Friday. Then it averages out to a game almost every second day after that, including one next Tuesday when the red-hot Edmonton Oilers, with all those young guns, come to town.

But until Friday, may the practices be sharp, may the bruises heal, and may the team not forget how they won their last three games. We want no more of the misery that so much of October gave us. It wasn’t a great month, even though it’s the anniversary of moms and dads everywhere getting frisky on New Year’s Eve. 

 

Kirk Muller Makes His Move

After five years as assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens, Kirk Muller is no longer in the fold. This nice guy, whom my wife has a crush on, has become the new head coach of the American Hockey League Milwaukee Admirals, an affiliate of the Nashville Predators.

I don’t suppose anyone’s surprised. Rumours and speculation flew around for months about the possibility of Muller making some sort of move, although the recent word was that he was on his way to the Chicago Wolves, the new Vancouver affiliate, which of course didn’t happen.

So long, Kirk, and good luck. We know you’ll do well, and we know we’ll see you sooner than later as an NHL bench boss. Just wish it was as Montreal’s bench boss.

Canadiens End Things The Right Way

It only took 82 games but now we know exactly who the Habs will meet in the opening round of the playoffs. The team we figured all along. Sort of.

Bring on the Bruins, as the Canadiens finished off their regular season in fine fashion, taking out the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at the ACC, and doing it front of some people with deeper pockets than me (but maybe not you), shelling out a thousand bucks a lower-bowl seat to see an age-old rivalry going at it in their final games of the regular season.

Ryan White opened the scoring for the Canadiens and got in a nice little fight with some gorilla (names aren’t important) that left White battered and bruised but looking good anyway. Except for the swollen cheeks and forehead.

But he got his licks in and he’s become an important foot soldier for Les Habs.

Brian Gionta notched two power play goals, and Tomas Plekanec scored a shorthanded goal late in the game to salt it away. And in all fairness, it appeared that Phil Kessel’s puck crossed the line but was ruled no-goal, and yes, maybe it wasn’t conclusive in two different camera angles, but it sure looked to be with a third angle.

With the contoversial Chicago goal the other night and now this one tonight, can we be sure the guys upstairs were actually upstairs? And I say this while being extremely happy that Toronto’s goal was ruled not in. I’m just wondering if these guys have beer in their war room or something.

Nice to see Montreal end things on a winning note. How much would it have sucked if Toronto had taken it to the Canadiens and made the good guys look bad? Instead, we go into the postseason ready to rock and roll.

Now we have to hit Boston where it hurts – and that’s on the scoreboard. Jump out to early leads and when Shawn Thornton or Nathan Horton or Milan Lucic or the slimy Brad Marchand start getting greasy, just point up to the scoreboard. It’s the perfect age-old jab.

Random Notes:

They were saying on Hockey Night in Canada that Kirk Muller is a much-desired man for the Sens coaching position. It would be a shame to lose him, but he needs to do what he thinks is best for his career. Of course.  But if he ends up in Ottawa my wife might not think he’s handsome anymore.

One other thing to be addressed. I didn’t see the clip of Scott Gomez laughing like crazy during the Ottawa game the other night, but HNIC showed it tonight, and both Mike Milbury and Kelly Hrudey couldn’t quite understand this attitude given that Gomez hasn’t scored since Georges Vezina was playing.

I’m in complete agreement with these two fellows. It upsets me to see a guy, with one of the league’s highest salaries and just 7 goals, who floats much of the time and avoids heavy traffic almost all the time, laughing like that. They say he not prepared to play, and laughing, as Hrudey mentioned, is completely unacceptable.

Rarely if ever in my years as a Habs fan have I disliked the play of a player the way I dislike Gomez’s efforts. If he wants to finally earn some of that big money and have Habs fans on his side at all, he needs to help his team dismantle the Bruins beginning on Thursday. Anything less and he’s a bum and won’t be forgiven.

Carey Price was, as usual, just excellent. He’s the guy who stirs the drink, the guy who’s going to lead his team, and us, to the promised land.

I thought the sign a kid in a Leafs’ jersey held up was hilarious. It read, “Nobody Likes The Habs.”

Jacques Martin recorded his 600th win as an NHL coach. And I’m serious when I say he smiled after game .

Habs Take Down Tampa

It took a shootout, but the Canadiens edge Tampa 3-2 in a great game, and in my opinion, the bleu, blance et rouge played far better than they did against Washington two nights ago.

This was a night of fast skating, scoring chances from both sides, stellar goaltending from Carey Price and his counterpart Dwayne Roloson, and finally, after a see-saw affair, newcomer Nigel Dawes and then Mike Cammalleri solved Roloson in the shootout to cap off a night when we see once again that regardless of injuries and lack of scorers in the big picture, this team is for real.

Hamilton call-ups Dawes and Aaron Palushaj looked just fine in their Montreal debut, and Palushaj especially had several great chances to score. Seeing these guys step in and do the job when players go down, like Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern, is another fine example of the Canadiens surprising depth, and the team just keeps rolling along.

Is it smoke and mirrors? Is Jacque Martin a coaching genius? Is it Kirk Muller and Perry Pearn? Are the players better than so many think? How can this no-name team, which is far too small, with problems scoring, with three regular defenceman sidelined and three forwards also in civvies, continue to be one of the best teams in the east?

I think the naysayers owe a retraction.

I’m very proud of Montreal.

Random Notes:

Vincent Lecavalier got kicked out of the game in the first period for trying to chop PK Subban in half with his stick.

Andrei Kostitsyn finished off a nice David Desharnais pass in the first, and in the second, Brian Gionta scored a beautiful shorthanded goal when he skated in alone on a breakaway.

Scott Gomez drove a puck into Roloson’s upper neck or lower face mask to come close to notching a big one, (and almost putting Roloson’s lights out in the process). But the goalie was just fine, and four inches to the left or right and Gomez would have had his eighth goal of the season. That’s eight.

Gionta’s goal was his 25th which is a fine total. Better than eight.

Next up – tonight (Friday) when the boys are in Manhattan to tackle the Rangers.

Shots on goal – 37-29 Tampa.