Jersperi Kotkaniemi (Photo by TVA Sports)

by Chris G, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

LAVAL, QC. — The Canadiens completed their first week of pre-season action with three wins in their four games. Three wins is already more wins than they had last year during pre-season play and we all know how last season turned out. This week, the Habs play the Leafs twice and the Senators on Saturday before the season opener against the Leafs.

This weekend was the first episode of the Canadiens Connection podcast, the newest addition of the Rocket Sports Radio family. I joined the hosts, Joseph Whalen and Rick Stephens, to discuss Habs. You can listen to the entire episode by clicking here.

Here are my top 5 takes of the week:

      1. Domi mistake – NHL Department of Player Safety (DOPS) suspended Max Domi for five preseason games for giving a sucker punch to Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers. I don’t think anyone is arguing whether Domi should have been suspended or not, but there’s mixed feelings whether the length of the suspension was adequate. I think that if this incident would have happened during the regular season, Domi would have received a three-game suspension, and DOPS extended the suspension to five-games knowing that he wouldn’t have played all of the remaining pre-season games. I heard some fans saying that the suspension should be deferred and have it served at the start of the regular season, but as much as I agree with that principle, NHL rules don’t allow it. Domi genuinely seemed to regret his actions when he spoke to the media, while Roberto Luongo and Ekblad sounded like WWE wrestlers cutting a promo. From a hockey perspective, the suspension won’t allow Domi to get comfortable at the centre position, a position that he has never played in the NHL. I hope that Domi actually learned from his mistake and it doesn’t repeat itself.
      2. Fighting in hockey  – Nicolas Deslauriers is out indefinitely due to a facial fracture that he suffered on Monday night during a fight against Brandon Baddock of the New Jersey Devils. The injury sparked a lot of discussion in the media whether the NHL should ban fighting from the game, especially considering all the information that is known on head injuries. I don’t think fighting is required in the game, but I don’t agree that all the responsibility on this issue falls on the NHL. The league doesn’t force the players to drop the gloves. The players make that decision and they fight amongst each other. If the players want to get fighting out of the game, they can easily do it by stopping to drop the gloves. If the players don’t care about head injuries, why should the league, fans, or media care?
      3. Montreal or Finland or Laval?  – Jesperi Kotkaniemi was probably the biggest winner of the Domi suspension as Claude Julien gave the Canadiens 2018 third-overall draft pick increased responsibility by playing him on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Joel Armia as wingers on Saturday against the Senators. Kotkaniemi hit the post three times and was named the first star of the game. Prior the game, I told Joseph and Rick on the Canadiens Connection podcast, that I was expecting Kotkaniemi to play in Finland this season. His performance against the Senators on Saturday made me want to see more of him in this camp before a decision is taken.
      4. Ward as 13th forward? – In last week’s interview on TSN 690, Marc Bergevin said that the plan was to make the team younger and faster. That makes you wonder why 37-year old Joel Ward was invited on a professional tryout, as this goes against the GM’s plan. That being said, Ward has played well in both games that he has played so far. Based on recent history, I expect Ward to be offered a contract and have him around as a veteran that can be used as an insurance policy and to mentor younger players. I also think it’s better to have a veteran like Ward sitting in the press box versus a younger player. Ward understands his role while a younger player may not be happy with watching games from the press box.
      5. Final chances – A year ago on the Habs360 podcast, I asked Louis Jean from TVA Sports, his thoughts on Michael McCarron and Nikita Scherbak because they both weren’t having good camps. A year later, the same question can be asked on both those players. I don’t think it’s a good sign that we keep asking the same questions over and over. This is McCarron’s fifth camp and Scherbak’s fourth. For the first time, both players would need to clear waivers if the team decides to send them to Laval. I think that Scherbak has a bigger chance of making the roster as he seems to be a player that Julien sees helping on the powerplay. Even though McCarron played a good game against the Senators on Saturday, I don’t see him having a future with the organization. Another hint is that he signed his new contract hours before the Canadiens golf tournament. If he ends up on waivers, I expect a team to give him a chance, therefore I wouldn’t be surprised if Bergevin trades him to a team for a draft pick before the regular season roster needs to be finalized.

Leave your comments below. I am looking forward to interacting with all of you.