Monday, January 28, 2013

Honest toil pays off for Habs(and other Monday morning musings)

Add "resilient" to industrious, aggressive and opportunistic among the terms applicable to the Canadiens four games into the lockout-shortened NHL season. Despite blowing a pair of two goal leads at the Bell Center last night, the Habs stuck with what was working and were rewarded with an overtime win over last spring's Stanley Cup runners-up. Sure, it's early, but the Canadiens aren't playing over their heads - they're winning on effort and discipline, and that's worth getting giddy about...So where does this leave P.K. Subban? That's a question the Subban camp is expected to answer later today after the holdout defenceman meets with his agent, Don Meehan. The Canadiens already had the hammer in the negotiations with Subban and their hand has only been strengthened by the team's success...Meanwhile, can we please stop describing the club's reported offer to Subban as "insulting"? I'm good with "lowball", but to call five million dollars over two years an insult is an insult to the overwhelming majority of people who struggle to make ends meet...Rene Bourque would have had a hat trick last night if he could shoot straight. As it turned out, Bourque's glove side-wide slapshot from the slot in OT took a fortuitous bounds off the end boards right onto the stick of Andrei Markov, who buried it for the game winner. Bourque's still looking for his first goal but his work ethic has been beyond reproach and a welcome change from last season. As long as he continues to put in the work, things are going to break his way sooner rather than later...I don't have all the details surrounding Max Pacioretty's emergency appendectomy, but according to Dr. Recchi, the surgery was performed during a showing of Django Unchained at Cinema Guzzo...If Bryce Salvador's sister married the Dalai Lama, their kids would be Salvador Dalai Lamas, but you probably already knew that.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

P.K. wasting his own time

Not only is there is no "I" in team, neither is there a "P" nor a "K", which is why P.K. Subban is doing more damage to his own career than he is hurting the Canadiens by holding out.
The Subban contract impasse has reached the point where there's open speculation about a possible trade, but there's absolutely no pressure on general manager Marc Bergevin to consider anything other than an offer that he absolutely couldn't refuse. Even if another team tabled a qualifying offer to Subban as a restricted free agent, the Canadiens would have the option of matching the offer or accepting a king's ransom in draft choice compensation. They have all the leverage, and Bergevin is exercising sound business and hockey judgement by following standard negotiating procedure for a promising player coming out of an entry level contract.
With or without P.K., the Canadiens aren't going anywhere - in more ways than one. They're a marginal contender for a playoff spot whether or not Subban is in the lineup, and while his presence would considerably enhance their prospects for the post-season and the financial windfall it brings, they're not going to go out of business without him. The Canadiens are a century-old institution. As much as Subban is a modern day marketer's dream as the potential face of the franchise for the next decade or more, he can't outlast the franchise, either existentially or contractually. Subban might be larger than life, but no one is bigger than the team, especially THIS team - not even P.K.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Everything on the line, nothing to prove(and other Monday morning musings)

It's not a complete stretch to say that while both starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl 47 will be looking for their first ring, neither has anything to prove. Colin Kaepernick "only" had to get to the Super Bowl to justify his existence in his first season as a starter, and Joe Flacco verified his credentials as an elite quarterback by outduelling future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on back-to-back playoff weekends...Is there a more compelling Super Bowl scenario than Ray Lewis retiring as a champion or Kaepernick hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy fewer than three months removed from being an unheralded backup? Actually there is, and it goes like this: Kaepernick gets hurt and Alex Smith redeems himself with the most improbable MVP performance in Super Bowl history, causing San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh's head to blow clean off his shoulders the first time he's asked who his starting quarterback will be in 2013...Well, if you're going to pay full freight for an exhibition game, there might as well be something at stake, and that's what the belated NHL season opener at the Bell Center was: an exhibition game that counted. It wasn't coincidental that the three players who carried the mail in the win for the Leafs - Nazim Kadri, Ben Scrivens and Mike Kostka - are in mid-season form, even if it is mid-AHL season form. It's clear that the guys who didn't play during the lockout have some catching up to do, and the calibre of the product is going to suffer accordingly until everyone is up to speed...It's a measure of the lofty company he was keeping and not a slight against Vincent Damphousse that Damphousse almost seemed like an interloper among the pantheon of Canadiens greats who passed the torch at Saturday's opening ceremony...My two most memorable Montreal Forum and Bell Center press box encounters were with Richard Garneau, who passed away over the weekend, and the late Danny Gallivan. It was hugely gratifying for a lifelong fan that Gallivan was as warm and engaging in person as he was on his hockey broadcasts, and Garneau was every bit the elegant, cordial gentleman one-on-one that he was for a national TV audience. Some of the insincere blowhards who pollute the airwaves these days could have learned a lot from two legends of the broadcast industry who comported themselves with the same grace and humility whether the camera was on or off. If that's old school, we're worse off that it ever went out of style.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oprah and Lance deserve each other

"Bless me, Oprah, for I have sinned."
Those might not be his exact words, but reports say in an interview recorded yesterday for broadcast this Thursday on the Oprah Winfrey Network, disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong finally owned up to using performance enhancing drugs. Many questions persist, not least of which is "Why Oprah?" Well, aside from the fact that she's the self-appointed High Confessor for maudlin public displays of celebrity self-flagellation, Oprah is presiding over a struggling television enterprise that needs a boost. A Lance Armstrong mea culpa is the ultimate performance-enhancing interview for a network that's riding near the back of the ratings peloton. And don't think for a minute that leaked details of the interview didn't come from Oprah's people. Everything Oprah does is calculated to benefit Oprah, and the leaks represent a deliberate strategy aimed at capitalizing on a three day promotional window and making sure as many people as possible tune in for the spectacle. What's in it for Armstrong? That's hard to say. He could have a financial agreement with Oprah - Lord knows, she can afford it - or he might just be cutting his losses in the face of overwhelming public pressure by coming clean in a controlled environment with a kindred self-seeking spirit.
The Church of Oprah meets the Cult of Lance - two megalomaniacs who were meant for each other, although calling it a match made in Heaven wouldn't be giving the Devil his due.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gomer, we knew ye all too well(and other Monday morning musings)

Well, that wasn't the thank-you Habs Nation was expecting for tolerating another lockout, but for the overwhelming majority of Canadiens fans, the de facto release of Scott Gomez is the surprise Christmas gift that got lost in the mail. Even if it's strictly business, there's enormous symbolism in unloading the player who singularly personified the folly of the Gainey-Gauthier era. Marc Bergevin can't unravel the mess he inherited in one move, but making a bold - if expensive - decision to undo the biggest mistake of them all is a good start for the new regime and sends the right message to an unfailingly loyal fan base...Speaking of sending messages, that whole fan boycott thing is off to a bit of a rocky start, judging from the full house at yesterday's free practice at the Canadiens training facility in Brossard, and they'll undoubtedly fill the Bell Center for Thursday night's open scrimmage/exhibition game. The first one is free - where have I heard that before?...In his first public appearance since being fired as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke was his usual blunt, uncensored self except for one fundamental contradiction: Burke said his dismissal was handled with class and dignity, but admitted he didn't get a satisfactory explanation for the timing. Anything less than a full accounting to an accomplished professional of Burke's stature falls short of classy and dignified...You would think San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has nothing left to prove after Saturday's historic playoff performance against Green Bay, and you'd be wrong. The second-guessers won't be completely placated until Kaepernick takes the 49ers farther than Alex Smith took them, and that means all the way to the Super Bowl...File this one under "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is." The headline this weekend read "Cole considers retirement," but the story was about Erik, not Bob. A guy can still dream, though.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lockout relief, tacky tattoos and other Monday morning musings

The most telling numbers in the aftermath of the NHL lockout won't have anything to do with salary caps, revenue sharing or wins and losses. The ultimate measure of whether the third work stoppage in 18 years was worth the risk will be taken in gate receipts, merchandise sales and corporate sponsorship. If jilted fans are going to deliver a message that resonates, it'll be by staying home from games and boycotting NHL-licensed products, and as slaves to the bottom line, corporate sponsors will react accordingly...Now that it's overshadowed by the end of the lockout, how about we stop trying to rationalize Canada's also-ran showing at the world juniors, and just give credit where credit is due: to the Americans, Swedes and Russians? Hockey is the one area where good, old-fashioned Canadian humility is out of practice, and of late we have much to be humble about...It wasn't a flat-out guarantee a la Joe Namath or Mark Messier, but posterity will note that American defenceman Seth Jones' pre-tournament expectation of a US gold medal was more testicular fortitude than it was empty bravado...If wild card weekend was as good as it gets in this year's NFL playoffs, I might finally make some time to watch that Honey Boo Boo marathon I've been saving on the PVR. All four games looked like pre-season fare more than they resembled do-or-die scenarios in the home stretch on the road to the Super Bowl...Not sure what the big deal is about New York Jets coach Rex Ryan's tattoo of his wife in a Mark Sanchez jersey. Show me Ryan with a tattoo of Sanchez in the coach's wife's lingerie and you'll have my attention.