John Chidley A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.


What’s the French for “I was wrong”?

Every morning I try to come up with a new idea to blog about. Sometimes I’ve already been turning an idea over in my head for a day or two, other times I have to spend hours scouring websites and watching various sports channels to try to come up with a good idea.

The challenge is coming up with an original angle, something to give my readers that is new and different. Often this means avoiding topics that the mainstream media is all over.

But how can I avoid talking about the Montreal Canadiens' incredible 2-1 Game Seven victory over the Washington Capitals last night?

I’m glad that I didn’t commit any kind of National Hockey League post-season because I would have never picked the Habs to better the Capitals. In fact, if anything, I would’ve picked top-seeded Washington to sweep Montreal right out of the playoffs.

I had figured that although the combination of Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov has been a shaky goalie-by-committee for the Caps all season, they were no worse than the netminder hydra of Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak.

Surely, Montreal’s pop-gun offence would’ve been no match for the Washington juggernaut. The Canadiens had no corresponding Mike Green. No Nicklas Backstrom or Alexander Semin. And Alex Ovechkin? He was several tiers above any forward the Habs have on their payroll.

Heck, months ago I claimed that general manager Bob Gainey’s sudden departure from the Habs would prove to be a distraction for the seemingly playoff-bound franchise.

Well, I’m not too proud to admit that I was wrong on all counts.

Halak, of course, was money for Montreal in the final games of the series. He stopped just about everything that came his way and stymied the league’s best offence.

Speaking of stopping shots – Hal Gill, Josh Gorges and especially Jaroslav Spacek put their bodies on the line shift after shift, cutting down passing lanes and blocking half of Washington’s chances.

All that defensive effort created tons of opportunities for Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. Although all three are often maligned for being relatively short (Gionta is the shortest at 5’7”) they stood tall for the Canadiens and provided a crucial spark for the Habs.

Now Montreal is taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, and again they’re big underdogs. I want to count them out again, say that there’s no way that their sound defensive system can create back-to-back upset.

But hey, I’ve been wrong before.


Gainey’s departure hurts the Habs more than it helps

Bob Gainey resigned from his position as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens Monday afternoon, making way for interim GM Pierre Gauthier.

Say what you will about Gainey’s tenure as the boss in Montreal - and many people have - I think we can all agree that the timing could not be worse.

The Canadiens are currently in sixth place, at the top of the Eastern Conference’s playoff log jam. They’re one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning, and, incredibly, just 13 points ahead of the last place Toronto Maple Leafs.

With 22 games left in their season, anyone could overtake Montreal. The East is wide open. As unlikely as it seems, even Toronto could wind up in the postseason.

Between now and the playoffs there is also a little event called the trade deadline, where the Habs will undoubtedly be looking to move one of either Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak. Also, prized centre Tomas Plekanec is entering into negotiations to sort out his contract for next season. Otherwise he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with the highest bidder.

This is the time for a strong leader, one who can represent the franchise and present themselves as a powerful figure who has the support of ownership. Gauthier may be a canny negotiator, but the word “interim” in front of his title will be a handicap.

GMs from other teams will try to fleece the Canadiens for Price and Halak, knowing that Gauthier must move one of them and that he is only in charge by default. Don’t believe me? Ask John Ferguson Jr. what it’s like to try and work deals without the full, vocal support of your ownership. Ask Cliff Fletcher what it’s like trying to swing a trade when you’re just an interim GM.

Further, Plekanec’s agent will have a hard time taking Gauthier seriously. There’s more than just money at stake when you sign a free agent. They also want to be on a winner. Since Gauthier will probably be relieved of his duties in the off-season, he can’t make any kind of guarantee of what the team will look like in the 2010-11 season. He stinks of lame duck.

That cannot be appealing to the Plekanec camp.

During Monday’s press conference Gainey said he had to leave because he couldn’t take the day-to-day grind of being a GM any longer.

That may be so, but he’s left his team in the lurch. If he could have bucked up until the off-season, he would have broken ties with the Canadiens at an optimal time. Instead, his departure might distract the Habs during their playoff run and will undoubtedly hinder personnel negotiations.