Faceoff is a regular feature featuring All Habs writers going head-to-head sharing their opinions on a variety of issues. This week, Chantal and Steve discuss the World Junior Championships, Andrei Markov, goalies and everyone’s favourite pastime, Twitter.
Do they agree? Do you agree with Chantal or Steve? Read, enjoy and don’t forget to leave your comments.
MONTREAL, QC — December is here! IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! Or so they say. Steve and I welcome the holiday season with as much enthusiasm as we would welcome a root canal. On a happier note, the countdown is on to puck drop at the World Junior Championships, my favourite hockey tournament of the year!
Might the countdown be on to the NHL season opener as well? Perhaps. Or not.
In the meantime, Steve and I cooked you up our last Faceoff in 2012. We wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season, and we will be back in January sharing our thoughts on Ed Snider’s offer sheet to P.K. Subban (HAHA CAN YOU IMAGINE?)
1. Lockout upside: Team Canada jacked up.
Chantal: On Monday afternoon, Hockey Canada released their roster of players invited to the World Junior camp. Finally some exciting hockey news (for me anyway.) Habs will be represented by one prospect, Chicoutimi’s Charles Hudon, who should be a lock to make the team. Final cuts will be made next week.
Six players will be returning after winning the bronze last year, and this lockout will finally have a purpose (pending that it’s still on): we’ll get to see Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in action starting Boxing Day. The upside isn’t limited to Canada, as Russia for example will have Nail Yakupov in their lineup. If you’re into that sort of thing, keep an eye on Jonathan Drouin, J.C. Lipon, Nathan MacKinnon and Sean Monahan who will all be eligible draft picks in 2013, pending that they make the final cut.
Malcolm Subban should be the starting goaltender, so we’ll have to technically cheer on a Bruin. Habs have other prospects in the tournament playing for their countries, starting with Alex Galchenyuk on Team USA. Because of the lack of NHL hockey so far this year, these kids will get an even bigger stage starting December 26, and I encourage you to watch the future of the game. It truly is the best hockey of the year.
Steve: For those of you who have been regularly reading the Faceoff series between Chantal and I, you know that we normally debate a specific topic. Hockey deprived and caught up in the excitement of the World Junior Championships, it appears Chantal decided that for the first topic, we were simply going to share our excitement for some quality hockey that’s finally on the way. Pompoms in hand and cartwheeling through my apartment, I share in that excitement.
I’ve always said that for me, only the Stanley Cup Playoffs beat out the excitement I experience when watching the World Junior Championships during the holidays. I can’t find the words to explain why, I guess it’s magical, just like the holiday season. (Those who know me will be overwhelmed by the sarcasm there.)
Canada, like it does every year will rally behind its team however I’m curious to see how fans of the Montreal Canadiens will react, with Alex Galchenyuk, the Habs’ first round pick, playing for the US squad. Will they continue to cheer for Canada, or will some soft spots develop and cause a few people to jump ship south of the border? We’ll find out soon! (No offence Hudon, we like you too.)
2. Markov: The new KHL goon.
Steve: For those who haven’t yet heard, Andrei Markov who is currently playing with Vityaz Chekhov of the KHL, was involved in a kerfuffle this week when he dropped the gloves against Max Spiridonov of Barys Astana.
The puck went into the corner with Markov taking a few hacks at Spiridonov. Apparently not amused, Spirodonov replied with his own two-hander to the hip and back of Markov. Markov returned the favour with a two-hander of his own, followed by a cross-check to the head area of Spirodonov. They pushed, they shoved and it was on.
In the NHL, Markov only has one fight to his record which was back on April 1st, 2008 against Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators. (This is not an April fools joke.) The fight involved three missed punches and both players falling. Moving on.
In this week’s fight, let’s just say that Spirodonov was a much tougher opponent for Markov than Spezza had turned out to be four years ago. If it wasn’t for Markov pulling his helmet back in place twice during the fight, it could have been disastrous for him. This didn’t appear to be Spirodonov’s first fight (I don’t know his fight record) and he tossed Markov around like a puppet. Fortunately for Markov, he appeared pretty unscathed at the end of it all.
Unnecessary and ridiculous of Markov to fight, you might say? Probably, yet, I’m happy he did. I’m happy that he has the confidence (or stupidity) to drop his gloves and fight it out after all the injuries he’s been through. If Markov is going to return to the Canadiens and finish out his contract, I want a Markov who’s confident and has no fear, not a Markov who’s frail and scared of a Maple Leaf.
Chantal: I’m having trouble deciding if I agree or not with this. I’m not a fan of fighting in hockey in general. I’m even less of a fan of elite, talented players fighting, mostly because they have no clue what they’re doing (*cough* P.K. Subban *cough*.)
I saw Markov’s fight, and the word fight needs to be used loosely here. It wasn’t as bad as a Semin fight, but Markov clearly relied on instincts more than anything else and tried to ride it out. I do like the fact that there’s a fire burning in there, that he’s intense on the ice. After all he’s been through, if he can go out and put himself in any game situation without fear, all the better. So I agree that if he had enough confidence (or stupidity) to do this, good.
But please, Andrei, don’t do this again.
3. Players/Owners meeting: Ploy, tactic, or solution?
Chantal: After unsuccessful meetings between the NHL, NHLPA and mediators last week, the league had a new proposal for the players: a player-owner only meeting, leadership from both sides stepping aside for the next bargaining session. My first reaction to this news was “Whaaaaaat?”
I was against this from the start, thinking it was a not-so-subtle way for league brass to try to undermine the ‘PA’s leadership. I also thought the players would find themselves at a disadvantage. Owners are businessmen, this is what they do all day, every day. Although the ‘PA has in its ranks many well educated, bright young men, this isn’t their field of expertise, and the reason Don Fehr was hired to negotiate for them.
In addition, the league sent in their “Yes Men” in Daly and Jacobs. The players had Steve Fehr on their side of the table. But as I write these lines, it seems these meetings might actually lead to something. The players have presented an offer, and the league has countered with their own. Although not much information has leaked from these sessions (a good sign, I would think), everyone agrees we should be cautiously optimistic.
That all said, and no matter what comes out of it, I can’t shake off the feeling that this was all planned out, and that the ultimate goal is to take down Donald Fehr. But when the league puts its spin on it, keep in mind that Bettman wasn’t there either.
Steve: I’m not quite sure what to make of these meetings going on in New York. My initial thought was that it makes no difference, because nothing will get decided without the approval of both Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. Although this is obviously still the case, I just didn’t anticipate that these meetings would produce so much optimism.
Now, I’m starting to think this might have all been calculated. Sure, they want to resolve this conflict, but also, they want to minimize any possible short and long-term damage on the game. What better way to do this than by giving the illusion that Bettman and Fehr had to be “moved” out of the way to get a deal done. Fake scapegoats.
Okay, sure, I’m making this theory up as I go along, granted, but hear me out. If the NHL knows it’s ready or just about ready to get a deal done with the players, and you can at the same time make the players (and owners) look hero-like in all of this, it can only help. You give the illusion that they both needed to be moved out of the way to get a deal done, when in essence, they are normally simply there to represent both groups. It’s not about what Bettman and Fehr want, they simply represent both sides.
Okay, this is just my own personal theory, not a scoop of any sort, but I can’t imagine that the progress is a result of both Bettman and Fehr not being in the room, but hey, I could be wrong. That said, I can’t agree that the NHL is doing this in an attempt to discredit Fehr, I’d like to think the more pressing issue is to get a deal done and save the season.
4. The Canadiens need to add depth at the goaltender position.
Steve: In my eyes, Robert Mayer was either going to develop into Carey Price’s backup goaltender in Montreal, or be dominant enough to attract attention from other teams looking for a great young goalie. So far in Mayer’s professional career, he hasn’t demonstrated that he can do either of those.
During the 2010-11 season, Mayer played 21 games, finishing the season with a goals against average (GAA) of 3.06 and a save percentage (Sv%) of 0.890 per cent.
There was a slight improvement in the 2011-12 season, where he played 39 games and finished with a GAA of 2.94 and a Sv% of 0.909 per cent. Slight improvement yes, but nothing exceptional.
With Cedrick Desjardins out with an injury at the start of this season, Mayer had a golden opportunity to turn the tide in his favour. He was essentially given the net, but unfortunately, he failed to grab the opportunity. So far this season, in 13 games played, he has a record of 4-7-1, a GAA of 3.49 and a Sv% of 0.865 per cent.
In his defence, the Bulldogs haven’t been very good in front of him, for the most part, however with Desjardins back from injury, the Bulldogs have a record of 3-1, while Desjardins has a GAA of 2.28 and a Sv% of 0.915 per cent.
If you consider that Desjardins has all but received his “career AHL’er” gold card, you can’t help but to feel that there’s just not that much behind Carey Price right now.
Chantal: This is really a topic tailored for you, not me. Unless they are named Carey Price or Jonathan Quick, I don’t know much about goalies -aside from the fact that they are very peculiar creatures- and I’m not even gonna pretend.
I will however tell you that even I noticed that there isn’t much depth at that position in the Mecca. So what’s the solution? Free agency for AHL’ers that can ride it out in Hamilton while the organization tries to develop the position through the draft? In the meantime, the Peter Budajs of this world will have to back up Price in Montreal. I’m writing this and thinking “this is a horrible plan”. This is basically how we got here, right?
Now I’m also thinking that if the league ends up playing a shortened season, we’ll probably see many back-to-back games, which would mean more work for Budaj. And possibly more injuries for everyone, including the goalies. This might be the perfect setting for the Habs to realise they do need depth at that position.
I’m gonna leave this one to Bergevin and friends. Maybe new blood can come from the outside. But you can’t help but think.. If Carey Price is injured for a long period of time, the Habs and ‘Dogs might find themselves in very deep doodoo.
5. Twitter, friend or foe?
Chantal: The Montreal Canadiens have been doing a feature on their website in the last few weeks called Twitterstar, in which they talk to prospects about their respective Twitter accounts. Twitter can be a great tool to share, promote, get informed and just have fun. It can also be a place where people, especially those in the spotlight, can be judged and shamed for a controversial tweet. In some cases, it’s false indignation, but still.
Some athletes use their account as a media or promotion tool, and they tend to be excessively boring. But others, mostly the younger guys, can be a fun follow. If you’re a Habs fan, you can follow many current players and prospects here. What I find interesting about the prospects is that for the most part, they haven’t been molded into a clichépalooza yet. They have personality! My favorite happens to be Patrick Holland (@Pattyshwayz). He is witty and quite sarcastic, and he keeps it clean.
As long as the guys use their accounts properly, I think it’s a fantastic way to connect with fans, especially the younger crowd who absolutely has to get a birthday retweet! Thrilling.
I believe athletes, at the professional level more particularly, have a responsibility to use a certain level of judgement when using social media tools such as Twitter. They are employees; they represent an employer that remunerates them for their work, and I believe they have a responsibility to properly represent that employer.
I also believe it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide clear guidelines to their employees (In this case, the players) so that they can properly understand what’s expected of them.
Obviously, I would never want these guidelines to impede on the player’s ability to be genuine and honest in their use of social media, but at the same time, for a team to ask of its players to never speak against the team and its players (as an example) makes a whole lot of sense to me. There are other examples out there, such as #DanEllisProblems. Need I say more?
That being said, this is 2012 and social media is here to stay, teams and players both have to get on board intelligently, and if properly used, it can definitely be a great positive, especially for young children to have a chance to connect with their idols.
Faceoff: Chantal vs. Steve