Sometimes things are going on in Habsville that aren't worth a blog on their own, but are still worth a passing thought. Today the hodgepodge includes:
-Playoffs versus tank. I don't know about you, but this balancing on the ledge between post-season and the abyss is nervewracking. One minute nothing matters except making the playoffs because any playoffs is better than none. I think finishing outside the top-ten draft picks really won't make a difference in the quality of the team's pick anyway, so better go for whatever playoffs we can get. The next minute I realize the team is currently sixth-worst in the league by actual point percentage and the draft lottery is tantalizingly within reach. Landing in that lottery could mean acquiring a player who, when added to the team's current assets as early as next season, could make the difference between being a decent team and a competitive one. It could mean no more bubble for a few seasons. What's a Habs fan to root for? Temporary joy in playoff hockey, or long-term joy in adding a real franchise corner stone to the roster?
-Christopher Higgins. Remember when Higgins was such a prized first-round asset that Gainey would never consider trading him? A year and a half ago, I heard Gainey himself say Higgins was a shining example of the kind of player the Habs were really proud of having developed as a cornerstone of young leadership for the future. In the meantime, I was among the many Canadiens fans who found it incredibly frustrating to see Higgins muff countless great setups from Saku Koivu. I also thought he'd finally found his niche as a really good third-line speedy forechecker at the end of last season. Now it seems Higgins' stock has dropped drastically. Traded away twice in just over six months and about to become an unrestricted free agent, his numbers are less than impressive. Thirty-seven points in his last hundred and twelve games between two teams isn't anywhere close to the twenty-plus goals a year he put up in his first three NHL seasons. He's not exactly lining himself up for a great payday. On the other hand, the Canadiens need a third-line upgrade desperately. They need players who can forecheck hard, kill penalties and skate well among their bottom-six players. Higgins didn't work out in Montreal because he was expected to produce like a top-six forward. I'm now wondering if getting dumped twice in the last year might have jolted him out of whatever issues are preventing him from performing on the ice? Because if he's worried enough about the future of his hockey career to want to get back to hard work, maybe it's worth giving him another chance. The Habs drafted him, he claims he liked Montreal when he was there and he grew up cheering for the team. He can probably be had for a pretty low price this summer, and he offers the speed and tenacity on the third line the Habs really need. He can also jump up onto a top line in a pinch, which is something the team doesn't have now. I'd do it, if only to redeem a former first-rounder.
-Goalie equipment. The NHL is bringing in new rules about the size of goalie equipment next season. Now, rather than having general set parameters, equipment will be tailored to the size of the goalie. This change could make a big difference to some goaltenders who rely on oversized equipment to help them have an extra inch or two advantage over the shooter. Until we see how goalies perform next year, though, we won't know who's affected by the gear adjustment and who's not. That's another reason why Gainey should try to re-sign both Price and Halak for another contract. They might not suffer with smaller equipment, but they might. There's no sense in trading one of them before we find out how they both perform in the "new" world of goalie gear.
-Long shifts. I heard Ken Dryden on CBC Radio's "The Current" today. He and the host were talking about the prevalence of head shots in the NHL now, compared to when he played. He had an interesting theory. He believes part of the reason for the number of all injuries, not just head injuries, is shorter shifts. He says in his day, players would be out on the ice for a minute or more at a time, so they'd pace themselves. Now they're out there for thirty or forty seconds, so they're sprinting at top speed the whole time. The increased speed in the game because of the sprinting has turned players into missiles in a way much different than was the case thirty years ago. I thought his idea has some merit. It's food for thought, at the least.
-The snitch. So, Carey Price didn't deny that he and Andrei Markov might have had a verbal confrontation in the room immediately after the loss to St.Louis two weeks ago. His primary concern, however, wasn't hurt feelings, but rather that someone on the team spilled the conversation to an outside source. Considering Tony Marinaro was the one who gleefully announced the news of the "incident" and he has a publicly acknowledged friendship with Georges Laraque, I'm thinking there's a good chance Laraque was the snitch in this case. I think his departure from the team was connected to this incident too. I think either Gainey let Laraque go and he, in his anger, told team secrets to his buddy who then reported them. Or alternatively, Laraque was indiscreet with his friend, Gainey got wind of it and turfed him. If there's one thing I can't see Bob Gainey standing for, it's disloyalty. Laraque seems the most likely culprit to me. Any other ideas?