Pre-Season Update on the Montreal Canadiens

By pbadmin

Sep 24/97

Jose Theodore has indeed been sent down to Fredricton, along with Matt
Higgins and Brad Brown. Jason Ward has been returned to his junior club,
the OHL Erie Otters.

Sep 23/97

Saku Koivu, Mark Recchi, Benoit Brunet, and Sebastien Bordeleau have all
been very impressive this pre-season. I gotta tell you, I love Benoit
Brunet. He leads the team in scoring while being a sparkplug for the
Canadiens every night. He is so good. He doesn’t get top billing like
Koivu, Recchi, or Damphousse, but he’s at least as important as they are to
the team. Kinda like Martin Gelinas in Vancouver, except he’s a little less
blue-collar and grinding. Too bad he always gets injured! (He’s played only
65 games the past two years) Sebastien Bordeleau has been very impressive
this pre-season. He played 28 games last year, scoring 11 points. He was
pretty good last year for a rookie, but this year he has really come into
his own. He really looks like he belongs in the NHL. He could be the 2nd
line center if the Habs didn’t have so many of them. If and when Damphousse
leaves, Bordeleau would fit in nicely on that 2nd line playing with Benoit
Brunet, his current linemate. If Bordeleau gets sent down to the “A”, there
will be outrage here in Montreal because the fans just love him!

As for prospects that don’t have a roster spot locked down… Darcy
Tucker was Mario Tremblay’s pet last year, but Alain Vigneault is behind
the bench this year. Tucker has been okay, but Bordeleau has definitely
upstaged him for the 4th line center job. Eric Houde has been somewhat
impressive and could stick while Savage is injured. Terry Ryan will
probably get sent down despite having a couple good fights. David Ling is
as good as gone. Arron Asham, see you later. Jason Ward will definitely get
returned to juniors this year, although he has looked pretty good. Note:
Jassen Cullimore will undergo exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his
shoulder and will miss at least a month. Francois Groleau could take his
place as the 7th defenseman.

By the way, Dave Manson continues to be brutal out there. He was playing
the point on a Montreal power-play Sunday night against Boston. Jean-Yves
Roy just stood there and Manson shot it into his pads. Roy just took off on
a breakaway and put the move on Moog. Manson was so slow he was still at
the blueline turning around. Scott Thornton continues to impress, scoring
more than one would expect. David Wilkie has been pretty good as an
offensive threat from the blueline, too. Thibault and Theodore are fighting
it out for the starting goaltending spot. Moog has the backup role all to
himself. Thibault might get traded if the right offer comes along, but
there’s no way he’ll agree to get sent down to Fredricton and give Theodore
the starting job here.

Potential lines:

Savage (injured –> Houde) Koivu Recchi

Rucinsky Damphousse Bure

Thornton Bureau Stevenson

Brunet Bordeleau Richer

Defnsemen: Malakhov, Manson, Brisebois, Wilkie, Popovic, Cullimore
(injured), Rivet, Groleau

Sep 15/97

Well, it’s the first week of the pre-season, and the Canadiens have
injuries already! Last year, Montreal missed a record 360 man-games due to
injury with the likes of Marc Bureau, Saku Koivu, Patrice Brisebois,
Vladimir Malakhov, Stephane Quintal, Martin Rucinsky, Valeri Bure, Scott
Thornton, Benoit Brunet, Shayne Corson, Stephane Richer, and Turner
Stevenson out at some point in the season. In the Rangers game on Sunday,
Brian Savage was slashed on the hand by Jeff Beukeboom and is out for 3-4
wks. Marc Bureau was also rammed into the boards face first by Ranger
rookie winger Johan Lindbom. He might not miss more than a game.

As you may know, Vinny Damphousse was holding out during training camp
and just got a new $3.3 M deal. As such, he didn’t play the first two
pre-season games because he’s not ready. He will be later on this week.

How are the prospects playing, you say? Well, a few people have impressed
me so far: Valeri Bure, Sebastien Bordeleau, and Jason Ward. In the first
pre-season game against Toronto, Valeri Bure was intimidating with his
speed and stickhandling, scoring a goal. It looks like he might stay on the
Canadiens this year. Sebastien Bordeleau has been a terrific player
all-around, adding 2 goals in his first 2 games. Jason Ward, straight out
of junior, sure didn’t look it when he beat the defenseman and deked out
Mike Richter on his first shift. He looks like quite a steal getting picked
11th overall when he was rated at 4th overall by CSB.

Who else, you say? Well, defenseman Miloslav Guren had 2 points against
Toronto, and wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. They say he has a lot to
learn about defense, but so does Patrice Brisebois. At least Guren got 2
points in the process. Terry Ryan was a force in the first game, but not
offensively. He got into two big-time scraps with Toronto’s rookie D-man
Jeff Ware. In the first one, he kicked Jeff’s ass big time. In the rematch,
it was a win for Ware, but not nearly as convincingly as Ryan’s win was.
What’s the big deal, you say? Terry Ryan had a concussion last year and
showed a bit of those Pat Lafontaine post-concussion effects. Luckily, he’s
recovered, but it shows you a lot about Ryan’s character that he’s not
afraid to get hurt again (well, some would say he’s foolish, but he seems
okay after the two scraps for now). Goalie Mathieu Garon played pretty well
for the Canadiens. He let in 3 goals in the last half of the game, but he
really couldn’t do too much to stop them, and let’s remember that he’s
straight out of junior.

As for the veterans, Rucinsky and Koivu were both pretty good, and Recchi
was his usual team leader self. Scott Thornton was pretty impressive,
getting the first star in the first game for his 3 point effort. (I think
he was afraid his cousin Joe was going to be proclaimed as “the better
Thornton”, so he made a case for himself!) Thibault was not bad in net,
either. Again, blame the Montreal D, but remember that his infamous fat
rebounds don’t help either. Jose Theodore, on the other hand, played very
well in the second game, making a few spectacular saves. He’s a fan
favourite here in Montreal, especially since the playoffs last year where
he had something like a .934 save percentage. Too bad he doesn’t have an
opportunity to start with Moog and Thibault being the set goaltending
tandem going into the regular season. They may be trying to protect him
from the expansion draft, but he’s gotta play sooner or later — he’s just
too good.

Who stunk up the joint? Well, I didn’t really make a point of looking for
the bad players, but Dave Manson couldn’t go unnoticed with his inadequate
play. He was a liability out there with his poor mobility and poor play
selection.

A few number changes have taken place this season: Valeri Bure has
changed from his #18 to #20. Turner Stevenson has switched from #30 to #23.
Jason Ward has Turner’s #30. I can’t remember, but Manson might have
changed from #37 to #22. It doesn’t matter, he’s bad no matter what.

Prediction: Bordeleau has been impressive and should be given a fourth line
spot. Ward might go back to juniors this winter, but he could actually make
the team if he keeps scoring like that.