Author Archives: Connie Frank

About Connie Frank

I like to whittle. I eat US grade A Angus beef. I believe in the right to bear arms and defend myself. I am an American first, a Canadiens fan second. God bless.

Take Two: School’s Out

Asleep at the wheel.

Now where were we…

Mercifully, the season has ended.  Forgive me for nodding off during the last month.

There’s no point in rehashing the season that wasn’t: Mitch Melnick’s blog nails it right on the head.

Let’s focus on the future.  Tuesday night’s almost farcical NHL lottery gave the Habs their closest shot at a franchise forward since Lafleur.

Habs never should've let this happen.

The Oilers will definitely pick Nail Yakupov.  But then it gets interesting.

Scenario 1:

Look at the Oilers’ Top Six:

– Hall

– Eberle

– Nugent-Hopkins

– Hemsky

– Gagner

– Paajarvi

Edmonton could draft a defenceman or #2 centre (Pretty thin after Nugent-Hopkins) and use Yakupov to gain another asset.

Given the Oilers’ plethora of high scoring forwards, the new Habs GM should package their first and Tinordi for Yakupov. That’s probably not enough, but it would get Tambellini’s attention.

– If you’re an Oilers fan, just imagine Ryan Murray and Tinordi as your top 2.  Or Grigorenko as a # 2 or # 3 centre.

– If you’re a Habs fan, you get the skill and flamboyance not seen since Kovalev flew his plane away.

Yakupov fits right in with Montreal’s theatrical personality.

The Electric Company

Scenario 2: 

In all liklihood however, the Oilers will greedily retain Yakupov’s services and sacrifice one of their current Top Six.  My guess is Sam Gagner.

Again, the Habs need to be aggressive.  If they are serious about finding a possible replacement winger for Plekanecs/Eller, Magnus Paajarvi would be worth the risk.

A Forsberg, Grigorenko, or Galchenyuk Habs pick would mean the end of Tomas Plekanec.

With Desharnais installed as top C and Eller a Pleks-in-the-waiting, Montreal could procure the services of a rugged scoring winger.  Jarome Iginla would fit quite nicely.

Until then, here’s a reminder of why we follow their every move:

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Take Two: Habs must draft Grigorenko

Prospect Roulette

The Fail for Nail, Blow for Grigorenko, and the Suck for Galchenyuk.

Even before the Habs playoffs hopes were flushed down the toilet, fans were clamoring for a Habs meltdown for a shot at a top 5 pick.  The last time they picked so high, they plucked their current franchise goaltender from unsuspecting loser teams.

(Is there a player besides Crosby from the 2005 draft as valuable as Price?)

Will it be Galchenyuk? Forsberg? Grigorenko? Or maybe the top dog, Nail Yakupov?

Habs fans would love to draft one of the aforementioned players, especially an imposing centreman like the 6′ 3″, 200 lbs. Mikhail Grigorenko.

Malkin in the Making?

Everybody and their pet monkey is an armchair GM: fan boards are espousing their “educated” guesses on who they feel the Habs should draft:

–        We need more size at centre a la Beliveau;

–        We need to draft the best available player a la Gainey/Timmins;

–        We should build from the goalie out and draft a big hulking D man like the Predators model.

So-called experts such as Bob MacKenzie, Craig Button, McKeen’s Hockey, and Central Scouting scramble to one-up each other on the latest player rankings.   Every waking moment of these teenager’s lives is analyzed.  Professional scouts show up in the dozens to minor league hockey games amid the throngs of aggressive parents and crazed groupies hoping to glimpse at the next big thing in the NHL (“hey, I knew Crosby from his Rimouski days”, blah, blah).

Save for a couple of blue chippers, it’s impossible to predict how an adolescent will mature as a hockey player.  But it’s clear the Habs need to hit a home run with this year’s pick come hell or high water.  Now is not the time to play it safe, so if they need to trade up to get an elite prospect, then do it.

Although talent can be broken down into measurable components (shot, pass, defense, etc.), the one intangible is the player’s mental toughness.  For every world-class talent like Crosby drafted in the first round, there are two dozen Benoit Pouliots.

This is a prerequisite for playing in Montreal.  If we’re top 10 in drafting, I target Galchenyuk, who recently returned from a serious knee injury, so he’s a wild card worth the risk.  If we do reach inside the top 5 however, I would ignore common sense about drafting a Russian and grab Grigorenko at all costs.

Sometimes you draft Doug Wickenheiser, when you should’ve drafted Denis Savard.  But Grigorenko’s talent is exceptional and at 18 years of age, will mature into a great hockey player.


Take Two: A Tale of 2 GMs

Not much different from Cherry and Burke...

Last weekend, Hockey Night in Canada’s resident odd couple – Ron and Don – criticized Burke’s shortcomings as a GM, including some ridiculous notion that the Leafs should have more Ontario born players, although it appears Grapes has accidentally hit the mark.

(CBC’s contract with the NHL is up in 2 years.  I get the feeling the Canadian crown corporation won’t have the buckazoids to compete with media giants such as Bell and Rogers – who also own the Leafs – to renew Hockey Night in Canada, so they are content with slamming the league and its owners when given the opportunity.)

Habs fans will certainly be familiar with this argument regarding the lack of Francophone players. There are exactly two Quebec-born players on the Habs roster today.  Just like the Leafs, perhaps the ridiculous media-frenzy that feeds off the team is exactly why home-grown players avoid their hometown in the first place.

Shortly thereafter the CBC debacle, Burke hangs up on radio host John Moore when asked about his own job security.  (Newstalk Radio 2010 Toronto is owned by Astral Media – let the non-news blitz commence!)

As of today, the media is still crying bloody murder over Burke’s alleged hatchet job on Cherry. (Now it’s Sun Media’s turn.)

Others are suggesting that Don should retire. (Wouldn’t be complete without you, Postmedia Network Inc.)

...Not much different from Statler and Waldorf.

Don Cherry is many a thing, but a journalist he is not.  But he is entitled to his opinion so long as CBC continues to milk cash out of his shrivelled udders.  His criticism of Burke magnifies the real issue: that the GM’s Leafs are sinking badly and that it will most likely cost Burke his job at season’s end.

Burke’s ego keeps getting in the way of the Leaf’s success.  This is the very same reason Gauthier is alone on his sinking ship.

Much like the Gainey/Gauthier era in Montreal, neither team’s 5, 7, or even 9 year plans seem to have paid off.  In fact, both teams may be worse off than they were before. In spite of a coaching change, both team’s problems lie deeper than defensive zone coverage or goaltending strategies.  The two extremes of the GM styles have lead these two franchises astray.

Burke’s stubbornness in shaping the Leafs team in his own image has seriously jeopardized their future.  Sure, the Leafs are nowhere as bad as the last few years of the Mat Sundin era, but they haven’t improved any more than a team like the Florida Panthers.  Signing Grabovski will do little to quell the anti-Burke uprising (how is he worth more than Phil Kessel?), nor will his suspect draft choices (Luke Schenn chosen over  Tyler Myers? Alex Pietrangelo? Erik Karlsson???).

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. - Revelation 22:13

Mr. Burke, on behalf of the blogsophere of hockey enthusiasts – your number is up.  You cannot bully your way out of the hole you have dug for the team and yourself.  Roger and Bell, your new parents, are most definitely evaluating the situation until season’s end before putting you up for adoption.

For my money, Rosie DiManno’s piece is bang on.

Both Brian Burke and Pierre Gauthier have underestimated the power of the media.  One tries to bully; the other tries to hide.  These are two extremes that must be avoided by the future GMs of these teams.  A younger, more social media-friendly skipper will significantly improve how the Leafs’ and Habs’ perform on and off the ice.


Take Two: Road to the Lottery

After the high drama of the NHL Trade Deadline, I like to unwind by shooting 12 gauge buck shots at the firing range near my ranch.

Grandpa Frank used to take me to the range as a kid. He used to say:

“Nothin’ like the feel of cold metal between your fingers.  Grows hair on your chest, boy.”

I never understood as a frightened young child.  But the more I went with Gramps, the easier it became to handle Moses (the nickname for his shotgun).

This season, your Montreal Canadiens have acted like a whiny, scared little child. So many mistakes, so many raw recruits.  The more they lose, the more the media bemoans management for their f#@k you love letter to the fans.

Sad as it has been, these are professional athletes, trained to endure misery and hardship.  They will learn from veteran leadership and from their own rotten experiences. It’ll get easier.

Next year, hopefully no more than two, the Habs will have shed their cocoon of ineptitude and transformed into a top tier NHL team.

It’s a long and perilous road to recovery however:

– Let the rookie forwards play – evaluate young talent. Up front, let youngsters like Leblanc, Geoffrion, and Palushaj audition for a spot on next year’s roster.

– Allow the young defensemen to make mistakes, as many as required.  Let them develop chemistry with their partner. Sit Kaberle and Campoli at all costs.

– Desharnais and Eller should be given all the ice time possible.  The less to Gomez, the better.

– Start transitioning Gionta out of the captaincy and Gorges in.  This team needs more vocal leaders, not leaders by example.

– Besides the inevitable GM and coach axe that will happen off-season, it’s time to clean house in the scouting department.  The Habs philosophy of choosing the best available athlete has grown stale.  They need to move out of Minnesota high schools and start searching the backwoods of those European countries where the Red Wings seemingly pluck their 8th round gems.

– Time to evaluate the talent pool in the AHL – the cupboards are bare, but the reinforcements are on their way: Gallagher, Tinordi, Bournival, Beaulieu, Kristo.  The kids not only need to learn at a pro level, they need to WIN before getting the call in Montreal.  This is called player development, a mysterious concept foreign to Habs’ management for the better part of a decade (exceptions: Pacioretty, Price, Subban).

– The draft: This is the time to roll the dice.  If you can get two lower first round picks, then do it.  If you can trade up to get a potential star, then do it. Just don’t stand pat. Just stay away from Russians. Mathew Dumba looks like a force on the back-end, but Forsberg is where my money is at.  Galchenyuk is the darkhorse.

Whether the Habs use this laundry list or not is irrelevant; but if management doesn’t prove to its paying fans that it’s willing to rebuild from within, then they better find someone else to buy their overpriced beer.


Take Two: Pre-Pre Trade Analyses

GMs keep fishing, but no bites yet.

BREAKING NEWS!

During the chilly winter months, nothing entertains me more than ice fishing.

You start with drilling the hole in the ground, set up an ice shanty, and find a seat next to the hole. Bait your line and fish. And fish.

And fish.

Upon return from such a thrilling weekend, I expected to find a plethora of new trades, juicy gossip, and the usual hyperbole to write about for this column.

Well..there have been no bites, just a bunch of fishermen dangling their poles.

A warm applause for goalie Ben Bishop! Ben Bishop folks!

Wolski was shipped to the Panthers. Whoopee.  Sens receive a Yeti for a goalie (6’7″!).  Yawn.

Come on! This is supposed to be the Super Bowl of professional sports trade deadlines. Where’s the pizzazz, where’s the showmanship?

NHL GMs should learn from the Montreal media on how to hype a non-event.

In less than 48 hours, Canadiens management has had to deny two rumors: GM Gauthier’s sacking and Plekanec waiving his no-trade clause:

– Geoff Molson refuted Tony Marinaro’s scoop for Bob Mac – one of his own co-workers at Ma Bell;

– Meanwhile, Postmedia Network’s Hockey InsideOut was shot down by everyone, including Plekanec’s own agent.

(It’s all a smokescreen to draw attention away from the mediocre on-ice product. I forgot they even played.)

While Jack Todd  overstates the obvious, I thought I’d stoke the coals and get that transaction fire going again.

Gauthier's trade tool for tomorrow

After an intense, data-crunching of player stats, GM behavorial patterns, Red Bull, and a Ouija board consultation:

BREAKING NEWS!

Puck Bandit’s Pre-Pre-Trade Twitter Analyses!

Harding and a 2nd to Leafs for Schenn: Wild replace Zidlicky, get tougher on back-end; Leafs pay dearly for unproven #1

Nash to Rangers for Del Zotto, Dubinsky, and a 1st: Nash is -23, unproven in playoffs; Blue Jackets win 2nd trade in a row

Visknovsky for Jordan Caron: Bruins desperate to avoid PP shortage like last year

Mason Raymond for Steve Ott: Canucks pest combo of Ott and Lapierre enough to annoy any team

Moen for Bickell: Good luck warrior, we’ll sign you during the off-season, but Bickell’s a monster forward with some skill

Kostitsyn, 3rd for Blum, Tootoo: Amazing return for 1st round draft pick bust.

Plekanec, Bourque for Stastny, Jones:  Garbage in, Garbage out.

Unlike the Oscars, I enjoy knowing the winners beforehand.


Take Two: Anti-Trade Deadline Edition

What can you say about February Madness that hasn’t already been said?  High on bluster, low on drama, less action than Granny on Bingo night.

(Michael Farber’s recent SI article perfectly deconstructs this non-event.)

Last night, one of the “big guns” – Jeff Carter – was jettisoned by the Jackets after becoming fed up of his tantrums.

Jack Johnson (a #2 defenceman, good term, good cap hit) AND a first rounder?

Poor Kings.  Never good to trade in a position of desperation.  It won’t save GM Lombardi’s job anyway.

Carter has ten years remaining and several years of partying ahead of him with Mikey Richards in the City of Angels.

Bosom Buddies: Chateau Marmont, here we come!

Big deadline trades seldom  pan out.  See: Forsberg, Hossa, Penner, Campbell, etc.

That’s why I doubt that Rick Nash will be going to the Rangers given the asking price. It’s too risky that it will destroy the team’s chemistry.

Sather can’t be that crazy, can he?

The Madness of King Sather

The Sharks are getting nervous in the standings – are they ever going to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals? –  so maybe they’ll pull the trigger. But at what cost?

Good teams seldom make knee-jerk reaction deals.  They add complimentary players to support the core.  The Bruins, Canucks, Red Wings are model franchises in this regard.

You need time to mesh with a new coach and new teammates, to learn a new system, and get comfortable in a new city.  Time is a luxury that rental players don’t have.

But who are we to complain?  This is the entertainment business.  Hundreds of normal Joe’s will be taking next Monday off to watch a bunch of middle-aged hockey “insiders” tweet.  Sigh.

After careful consultation with my dog Jesse and my seven year old son Harper (hmm, I may be confusing the two names), here are a couple of trade deadline predictions you can bank on:

1) Flyers will make a huge trade to acquire a goalie. Bryzgalov will end up in Arkham Asylum.

2) Canucks will recycle two more ex Habs onto their roster: welcome back Pierre Dagenais and Jan Bulis.

3) Bruins will find a grizzled veteran to replace Recchi – Cam Neely unretires to park himself in front of the net.

4) Hawks will add a second line centre – quick Pleks, pack your bags and head outta Dodge before they pitch fork Gauthier!

5) The Blue Jackets and Habs will swap all American born and French-Canadian born players in the first geographically-based player trade in league history.  The trade is so successful that both sides agree to the first wife swap in league history.

Not so famous.


Take Two: Spring Break with Boom Boom Jr.

Skillsy, now who's gonna shuck all them oysters?

I once bumped into Hall Gill at Joe Beef.

The Habs had the night off, so I decided to take advantage of Montreal’s best-in-town steak.

Oysters, Foie gras, and a bottle of Chardonnay:  dazed, I barely acknowledged the gentle giant as he left the joint.

The guy that you could bring home to your Mother.

I regret not stopping Hal, more so now that he has been traded.

But this trade spells the beginning of a massive house cleaning chez nous, and a promising start.

Similar to the Rivet trade in 2007, the Habs received signicant assets in return for a defenceman that wouldn’t have fetched a 7th rounder a few years back.

The 2nd rounder shows you how much of a seller’s market it is slowly becoming.  It will be interesting to see how many more picks Gauthier can get.  The Habs are in desperate need of restocking their prospects.

The other important asset is Blake Geoffrion.

We’re all familiar with Geoffrion’s pedigree; but the Hobey Baker Award winner may prove to be a winner next year.

He’s a big player, American, and has a tremendous work ethic.  A superstar in the US college circuit, Geoffrion attended all four years to obtain his bachelor’s degree in consumer affairs.

Boom Boom Jr. must forget his family's legacy...well except his Father. He sucked.

Whatever you want to say about Gauthier, he’s consistently brought intelligent players into the organization: drafting Louis Leblanc, signing Desharnais, obtaining Lars Eller, and yes, assisting in signing Hal Gill.

Gill was one of the most influential players I have ever seen play with the Habs.  A true leader on and off the ice, he helped mentor the likes of Gorges and Subban and will be sorely missed.

Yet I can’t help thinking the Habs fleeced the Preds (I guess the law of averages was bound to catch up) in this deal. Only time will tell, yet let’s hope Gauthier has a couple more tricks up his sleeve – say hello to Jeff Carter? How rumors spread…