As our fellow BR member Dennis said in his latest article, "It's that time of the year", it's great to be back to hockey. Feels like Christmas.
Veterans, rookies, and the ones in between hit the ice today at the Bell Centre. Feels great indeed.
Here is the complete listing of all the Montreal Canadiens players supposed to report to this year's training camp.
Giving a look at the rookies first, Max Pacioretty is on everyone's lips nowadays. Drafted in the first round (22nd overall) by the organization in 2007, the 20-year-old player had a 39-point season with the University of Michigan—in just 37 games.
After the young man signed his first contract, the Connecticut native received some words of praise from Canadiens GM Bob Gainey. "We are confident that he is ready to make the jump with the pros, and we make sure to provide him the best resources for a long term development."
Frankly, I do not see Pacioretty burning the steps and coming to Montreal this year—even at the mid-season, or with the eventual injuries to the rest of the Habs squad. He is good—really good, indeed. But with the lineup in front of the Bell Centre for a roster spot, he will need to bide his time with the 'Dogs.
But I said that about Carey Price before—and look where we are now!
Matt Carle, Kyle Chipchura, and Greg Stewart are also among the players who want to generate some positive reactions this year. For these newest Canadiens' acquisitions, it will be harder than predicted with the off-season signatures. However, we should not forget that the season is long and made of injuries, so calls and recalls might be on the menu for some of these Hamilton players.
Personally, I'd like to see Pavel Valentenko make his debut with the pro team. But like the many other ones, please get a ticket and get in the line, and we will call your name.
Robert Lang gave his first "Live from Montreal"-type of interview today. As Bob Gainey waived a final goodbye to Mats Sundin, Lang is all smiles about his new team. "I am happy to be here. Montreal is a big organization and I always loved playing here. The Canadiens was already a great team, there will be more depth. We should have a long ride."
Georges Laraque was reported missing today. He should report in Montreal on Tuesday.
Among the less new Habs, new father Guillaume Latendresse sees this season as a fresh opportunity to make things right and clinch a regular spot somewhere in this crowded bench. It seems Carey Price hasn't been the only one dropping some weight and working on his mobility during the summer. I bet waking up in the middle of the night and fixing the baby car seat have something to do with it!
"I corrected a few things. My skating is a bit different now. I have a better balance," said the Sainte Catherine native. Well, thank God you do. It was about time before you drop this piano you seem to carry every time you get on the ice.
Brisebois has also been all smiles today. Should we remember that in the case that Mats Sundin had signed with the organization, there would not have been anything left for the veteran defenseman in the salary cap. Gainey hasn't been the only one waiving au revoir to the Swede. Great to be home, eh?
Coach Carbonneau is certainly glad to see his former teammate back in the lineup, even as a seventh defenseman. "Last year, he did a wonderful job with us, and I am certain he will do the same this season."
Seventh defenseman, indeed. Just as last year, there are already six players well established on the blue line. Even Dandenault is supposed to report as a forward, for the second year in a row. If only he could develop a little slap-shot...
He actually tried to, last year, starting the season when questions arose about Sheldon Souray's replacement. But the furthest that it could go were the right and the left corners—everywhere but in the net. Well, at least he tried.
On the forward side, the coach does not feel like switching the attacking lines to bring Kovalev and Lang together, despite the amazing season the two had back in Pittsburgh. Taking a look at the sparkles Kovalev and his two mates created on the ice last year, we do understand.
Lang does not see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, in regards to the role he will play with the team. Here is the issue—Plekanec is great with Kostitsyn and Kovalev, while Koivu is always set to be on the top two. Yes, always set to be on the top two. There, I said it. We shall see how coach Carbo manages all that.
The offseason has been great. In the end. Smolinski, Ryder, and Streit are gone, while Laraque, Lang, and Tanguay are in. Looks like Gainey did well in filling the blanks. Only time will tell, as we say. Only time will tell.