Whitby - Aug. 22, 2011 - With only 23 days to go until the opening day of NHL training camp for the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, fans of the most historic franchise are salivating for any and all rumours, gossip, news or opinion on the organization and its players.
August 15 - Defenseman, Jeff Woywitka Signs One-Year, Two-Way Deal
Jeff Woywitka was originally drafted in the first round, 27th overall
in the 2001 NHL entry draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Woywitka stands 6’3” and weighs in at 227 lbs. Woywitka has
played in 251 NHL games with both Dallas and St. Louis.
Woywitka is a depth defenseman for Montreal as this signing is an insurance policy for the club should they be faced once again with multiple defenseman injuries as they did last year with Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov but to name a few of the notables.
Down On the Farm
August 17 - Hamilton Bulldogs Announce 2011/12 Regular Schedule
Montreal’s AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, recently announced their 2011/12 regular schedule.
On Saturday, October 8th, the Bulldogs will open their season at home versus the Rochester Americans (BUF). The Bulldogs will play two games at the Bell Centre in Montreal this season: on November 18th versus the Binghamton Senators (OTT) and on February 24th versus the St. John’s Ice Caps (WPG).
On August 17th, the Bulldogs organization also announced
that two pre-season games would be played in the Province of Quebec. The Binghamton Senators (OTT) will face the Bulldogs on September 30th at the Colisee Desjardins in Victoriaville and on October 1st at the Centre Marcel-Dionne in Drummondville.
On the Fly
ALEXEI YEMELIN, Signs with Montreal, May 2011
Alexei Yemelin (Emelin) was born on April 25, 1986 and hails from
Togliatti, Russia. Yemelin was drafted by Montreal in the third
round, 84th pick of the 2004 NHL entry draft. Yemelin is a 6’2”, 223lb offensively sound, hard hitting defenseman. Yemelin is also a left-handed shot.
The big question facing Yemelin is he “NHL Ready”?
He has honed his hockey playing skills in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the top level in Russian hockey, for the past four seasons playing with Ak-Bars Kazan. The KHL is considered to be one level higher than that of the AHL. Last season, Yemelin had his best season, totaling 11 goals and 16 assists in 52 games, meanwhile amassing 117 minutes in penalties.
This past May, Yemelin signed a one year, two-way contract with Montreal. Habs fans will love seeing his physicality and nasty streak against opposing NHL’ers, but he may take some time adjusting to the smaller NHL ice surface than what he has been used to playing in the KHL. Yemelin is also considered to be a very strong skater.
The Habs did not finally manage (after seven years) to sign this kid to see him play for an extended period of time in the AHL. Be prepared to see Alexei Yemelin begin the season in Montreal as one of the club’s bottom six defensemen. If he is sent to the AHL for an extended period of time, be prepared to see him return across the pond to the KHL.
Dump and Chase
Bigger Has Got to be Better, Right?
If there is one NHL statistic that irks me, it’s the fact that les Bleu-Blanc-Rouge forwards are the shortest in the NHL. In fact in 2010/11, Montreal forwards measured in at a whopping average of 71.85”, or just falling ‘short’ of 6’ in height.
While I will always root for the underdog in most cases, I hate to continue seeing my team getting pushed around on a regular basis by their opponents. Watching the Habs in last season’s first round playoff match against Boston, the team just could not endure the punishing physicality being dealt by Milan Lucic and the rest of the Beantown Bad Boys.
For as long as I can remember, or at least since Jacques Martin has been in charge behind the bench, les Habs have always iced a fast skating, defensive minded club. Watching Coach Jacques Martin navigate his teams for years behind not only the bench of the Canadiens, but also with the Ottawa Senators and our own former Cornwall Aces of the AHL, his style of coaching has remained brutally consistent and does not sit well with my own views of what a team should look or play like - I guess that is why I am writing this column and he is not.
How is Montreal expected to respond to several of its own inter-division rivals from an intimidation standpoint or from a physicality perspective? Boston continues to have its own way with the Habs, not to mention this NHL off-season now sees the Ottawa Senators showcasing four pugilistic pundits in Zack Smith, Chris Neil, Matt Carkner and newly acquired, Zenon Konopka. Montreal needs to get bigger and tougher.
Yes, General Manager Pierre Gauthier acquired an excellent asset in Erik Cole, but one power forward, an intimidating NHL team does not make. Essentially, Montreal will dress three proto-typical power forwards in Erik Cole, Max Pacioretty and Ryan White, but of the three, our only sandpaper-type sizeable power forward is White.
I honestly don’t expect Montreal to change its philosophy to become the present day ‘Broadstreet Bullies’, I am just looking for our team to stand up for itself whenever needed and come out on the winning end.
I simply want to see the Canadiens compete night in and night out, whether they are facing the Flyers, the Bruins or even Winnipeg. I am tired of seeing Montreal pushed around by bigger teams and being embarrassed by less than stellar fight efforts.
Understand one thing, fighters don’t win hockey games and I am not proposing Montreal run out to spend their remaining $5.2 million cap space on an enforcer. Without sacrificing skill or speed, Montreal has to continue to get bigger and more physical.
This is the only way Montreal becomes a true Stanley Cup contender for years to come.
Thank you for your emails and comments following last week’s first column. I have begun to compile your suggestions on various topics and will put ‘your voice’ to good use in future columns leading up to the start of the 2011/12 NHL Season.
Until next time, play every game as if it is your last one…