Hello there. It’s the opening day of NHL free agency, so kindly bear that in mind when you read the answers to this week’s crop of mailbag questions. Things change in the blink of an eye in the hockey business and on a day when time can be of the essence, a blink of an eye may be too slow. Anyhow, enjoy the festivities and thanks again for your inquiries.
Marc Bergevin has stated may times that the Canadiens need balance in their lineup, which is a way to acknowledge that the team needs to get bigger. They seemed to sacrifice skill for size during the draft, and now they just signed Danny Briere, a small and fragile player, for two years and $8-million. I'm not thrilled at all by this signing. What do you think of this signing, and what kind of move would you expect Bergevin to make this summer? There are some rumors around Tomas Plekanec, but I would rather see David Desharnais, Brian Gionta, or Andrei Markov traded before the Habs' best two-way forward.
Shawn Lavoie, Boucherville, Que.
I don’t see Briere as being the final piece of the puzzle in Montreal, but I also don’t think bringing him in is a bad move. Sure, it doesn’t address the Habs’ undeniable size issue, but Briere understands what it means for a French-Canadian player to pull on that famous jersey and is embracing it. That’s the type of team pride and character Bergevin and his management team told me they wanted to restore when they took over last summer.
I can’t see them moving Plekanec, a very useful and valuable player. Desharnais is coming off a disappointing year and he’d be my best guess as to who would be traded, but that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Montreal make relatively few changes from this point on. After all, this was a team that performed admirably during the regular season and had playoff troubles in large part due to Carey Price’s struggles.
I’m not saying I think the Habs are a true Stanley Cup frontrunner yet. I am saying that management is going to demonstrate patience with their group before embarking on some serious roster reshaping.
Adam: my husband and I were wondering how the Stanley Cup gets transported from one player to another when each person on the winning team gets to keep it for a few days. (My husband thinks the person who handles it with white gloves probably is responsible for taking it overseas or wherever.) Best wishes,
Billie Ann Ryan, Eureka, Ca.
Yes, your husband is correct. There are two senior Hockey Hall of Fame employees (Phil Pritchard and Mike Bolt) who are tasked with safeguarding the Cup and delivering it to members of the championship-winning team in the off-season.
Given the skill level and commitment of young players today, do you think the NHL and Canadian Hockey League need to come up with a framework that would allow players too good for junior to have their rights purchased from their current CHL team? This would allow teams to transition their young stars better and provide more opportunity for players stuck behind CHL stars on the depth chart.
Adrian Goodburn, Edmonton
I understand your point, but I’m not a big fan of this suggestion. By and large, young players come into the NHL more prepared than ever, but that doesn’t mean they’re physically or mentally prepared to do battle with grown men on a nightly basis. As well, entrusting teenagers with huge piles of cash the professional game delivers to talented youngsters could be a recipe for disaster.
Yes, there is the odd teen who plays in the CHL despite his skills having outgrown the league, but I’d rather have a few of those types of players than an abundance of prospects called into the pro game too soon.
Hi Adam, My question is about the Islanders and players that seem to get sent there with what seems to be no initial desire to actually play there (I'm thinking of Lubomir Visnovsky and Evgeni Nabokov, amongst others) – yet they end up playing and contributing. Is it a case of them being professional and having a desire to play to the best of their ability, or is it management convincing them that “the island” a good place to play? Thanks.
Adam Kuypers, Elmvale, Ont.
It’s tough to speak for individual players, but here’s what I’ve been told by agents: because of the Islanders’ terrible facilities and status as a budget (read: non-spending-to-the-cap-ceiling) team, players are averse to joining the franchise when they first arrive.
However, once they settle into the community and realize what an incredible lifestyle they and their families can enjoy in the greater New York City area, those same players go from disgruntled to gruntled in relatively short order. With the team moving to Brooklyn in the next couple years, the recruiting/keeping processes should get much easier.
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