Montreal Canadiens: Top 5 Habs Crushing It Overseas During the NHL Lockout
On Friday, Montreal Canadiens forward David Desharnais became the latest Hab to acknowledge the National Hockey League lockout of its players could very well last longer than first anticipated.
Now, he’s off to Europe, presumably to visit the Louvre, eat the finest chocolate known to man (potentially in the form of the greatest brownies known to man) and, maybe, just maybe, if he’s up to the challenge, conquer Mount Everest.
Granted, it might take the 5’7” center a little more time than most, but, God knows, he’ll likely have all the time he can handle.
Faced with the reality of the situation at hand, he joins, of course, eight other Habs (including Max Pacioretty and Tomas Kaberle, who have returned to North America), over 160 total fellow NHLers and just about every hockey fan who was around eight years ago to witness firsthand NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners he represents trying to fit a round puck into a square peg.
Desharnais has yet to play a game for HC Fribourg-Gotteron in Switzerland, but other Habs have actually had a chance to establish themselves, making some fans wonder if it’s actually simpler to move there to get their hockey fix.
It might amount to a five-to-eight-year wait each time, but, considering North American hockey’s track record, it’s at least guaranteed.
Here are the top five Habs absolutely crushing it overseas during the NHL lockout:
5) Tomas Kaberle
As mentioned earlier, defenseman Tomas Kaberle is no longer in Europe, but for the one month he was playing in the Czech Republic, he performed pretty well.
Playing for Rytiri Kladno alongside Jiri Tlusty, Marek Zidlicky, Jaromir Jagr and Montreal teammate Tomas Plekanec, Kaberle had two goals and four assists in 10 games with an even plus/minus.
With his one-month contract expired, Kaberle returned home to Toronto, which, in a weird kind of way, puts him playing in Europe in perspective. Not that there’s anything wrong with Toronto, of course. It’s just no Kladno, clearly, which, it just so happens, is located in the Bohemia of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Okay, no real idea why it’s called “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it’s easy to assume Bohemia had at least a little something to do with it. Bottom line: Would you rather have Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “King of Spain” by Moxy Früvous? I thought so.
4) Alexei Emelin
Granted, defenseman Alexei Emelin has a lone assist in nine games played for AK Bars Kazan in the Kontinental Hockey League, but anyone who’s watched him play knows he doesn’t lace up his skates to put the puck in the net. He laces them up so he can better fight the impulse to take them off and beat opposing players with them during games.
Coming off a successful debut season in Montreal in 2011-12 in which he established himself as the one of the NHL’s harder-hitting blue-liners, Emelin’s strength lies in, well, his strength…and his defense.
His plus-three rating is a good indication everything’s on the up and up as far as his game overseas is concerned, which is more that can be said for his opponents in North America, who, more often than not, got flipped upside down by the man with a metal plate in his head.
At the very least, he’s performed better than teammate Andrei Markov of Vityaz Chekhov, who also has just one assist in nine games (but unlike Emelin is paid to put up points). That’s saying something. Whether that’s a positive about Emelin or a negative about Markov, you decide.
3) Yannick Weber
Perhaps a surprise entry at the No. 3 spot, Yannick Weber has rediscovered his game playing for Genève-Servette HC in Switzerland’s National League A.
He has three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 15 games and that’s playing in a relatively high-level league, for your information, but admittedly for the best team in the league led by the likes of Logan Couture and of course former Hab Tony Salmelainen (remember him?).
For those who didn’t keep track, in 60 games last year (four times the amount he’s played this season in his native Switzerland), he had just four goals and 18 points. So, obviously, to get Weber to reach his full potential, Montreal either has to become a powerhouse overnight or reacquire Salmelainen.
Perhaps not the two most sound plans out there, but the only alternative would be suffering through a lockout every year. Really, though, that would just mean only Swiss fans would bear witness to Weber playing to his actual capabilities.
Of course, on the unfortunate flip side, nothing in his game as a Hab suggests Montrealers will anytime soon anyway.
2) Raphael Diaz
Staying in Switzerland, Raphael Diaz, playing for EV Zug, currently has more points than a certain teammate by the name of Henrik Zetterberg.
Of course, Zetterberg has played 10 fewer games (and has just four fewer points, 12 to Diaz’s 16 scored in 16 games), but that shouldn’t take away from the Swiss defenseman’s accomplishment.
What arguably should, however, is recent Detroit Red Wings signee (and relative unknown) Damien Brunner leads the team, league and all locked-out players with 27 points (11 goals) in just 16 games.
Here’s hoping Brunner doesn’t become the next Brunnstrom and Diaz, who had 39 points in 45 games with Zug in 2010-11 and continues to build on his success in Switzerland in a Habs uniform.
1) Tomas Plekanec
Prior to this season, Habs forward Tomas Plekanec was never a point-per-game player. Not as a Montreal Canadien. Not as a Hamilton Bulldog. Not even when he played for Kladno, his hometown team, the first time around, from 1998-2002.
However, this year, he has 20 points through November 2, including nine goals, in 15 games. Tied with teammate (and team owner) Jagr, and playing on a line with him and Tlusty, Plekanec is finally blossoming into the offensive dynamo indicative of his vast skill set.
Of course, he just turned 30, meaning by the time the lockout eventually ends, he’ll be well out of his prime, but at least Habs fans can then look back to this point in time and fondly wonder what if. Okay…maybe not so fondly.
At least they can argue and find solace in the fact that his production right now is forever tainted. It’s not like there was ever a scenario in which he would have found himself on the same line as the living legend that is Jagr in the NHL...
Well, definitely not with this lockout, that’s for sure.