Thursday, January 8, 2009

Leafs/Habs - Guest preview

In anticipation of tonight's renewal of the Leafs/Habs rivalry, I received an invite to participate in in a Q+A session with fellow Score Network bloggers Lions in Winter. Both sides would send a half-dozen questions of their choosing, and post the answers they received.

You can see his answers below. My answers answers to his questions can be found here.

Is the Leafs/Habs rivalry still meaningful to you? How does it compare to, say, the Bruins these days?

I didn't grow up in the 60s, so aside from a few years when my University friends were enjoying playoff hockey and I wasn't, I've always hated the Bruins more. I'm finding it hard to hate anyone as much as smirky Lucic and his smug- (and at the same time blank-) looked coach Claude Julien. Adding Brian Burke should help stoke the fires...

What are Habs fans doing to keep busy these days, now that they've finished shoveling the last few clumps of dirt on whatever credibility the all-star game had left? Will you feel a special sense of pride when the NHL is forced to scrap fan voting next year?

You give too much credit to the Habs fans here. The credibility is as long gone as Leafs first round picks under Pat Quinn. The thing that upsets me is that the management saw it fit to make the game the centerpiece of our "100th" season. It was as shrewd a choice as choosing Tremblay over Roy in '95. It is akin to taking your wife to Tijuana for your 25th anniversary. It was tacky and wrong.

That said, I am glad the league might rethink the voting where people can vote for a bloc of players. Maybe they'll also give some thought to nominating duds in the first place...

While you were obviously happy to roll over the Kings in 1993, isn't there at least a small part of you that feels ripped off that you didn't get to play the Leafs that year? What would a Leafs/Habs Cup final have been like? Would the entire country have shut down for two weeks?

If I'm honest, the Leafs didn't become an object of obsession or rivalry until they were put into the East. Once Pittsburgh was eliminated by the weak weak Islanders, we were all thinking Cup no matter who here. It could have been Toronto, I suppose. had it been Toronto, I think I would have learned a thing or two about hockey history and this country. As it was, I had to wait for that lesson.

Knowing what I know now, I think it would have been mayhem, especially in Montreal and Toronto. There probably would have had to be some shutdowns had there been a game 6 or 7. Kinda like a European town during a WC elimination match. The fallout for you guys watching us parade the cup would have been worse than any high-sticking affair...

It's been widely reported that Mats Sundin would have been dealt to the Canadiens if he had agreed to waive his no-trade clause. The Habs went on to finish as the top seed, then lose to a #6 seed underdog in the second round. Could Sundin have made a difference? Does it bother you that a deal couldn't get done?

Had we traded for Sundin and still traded Huet, it would have been clear a two-headed monster was in charge. It nearly happened that way too. Carey Price was shaky long before the playoffs and for most of the season before his call-up from the AHL in late January. Huet was no saviour, but wouldn't let in every high wrist shot on offer. Sundin would have watched those goals go in all night like the rest of the Habs, and then he'd have left in the summer. With a contingency plan in goal like Huet, Sundin could have made a difference. He couldn't have scored less than Plekanec say in that series.

I am bothered though that a deal couldn't get done, because Gainey seems to be full of rumored deals and ends up coming up with the Robert Langs in the end - lots of consolation prizes. Some of us feel he needs to take a few risks. Trade a few of the "prospects" before they either leave or turn into "once-prospects". If this playoff team is to become a contender, the feeling is Gainey will have to go beyond his comfort zone at some point.

This season, the Canadiens are celebrating their centennial by retiring numbers, hosting the all-star game, hosting the draft, and holding about a lengthy ceremony before every second game. Do you have anything planned for next season, when the team's 100 anniversary will actually occur?

It may come as a surprise to you guys in TO, because this may be the first season the CBC has shown the Habs in three decades, but Montreal has a lengthy ceremony before most games, centennial, 92 years, whatever. And the sweater retirements have been going on for three seasons straight now too. The special events are the all-star game (see above) and the draft (yippee).

Yet for all their failings, they have still done a lot of good things - reconciled with Roy, put some statues up (Morenz finally), etc. The best for me has been their history website, which if you've ever tried to write much about hockey history, is a true pleasure to look at and navigate.

As for next year, they haven't announced. A lot of people want an outdoor game (vs. Leafs at Big O?) probably on the anniversary. Who knows what else.

Mikhail Grabovski has had decent numbers for the Leafs this year, and occasionally shows some incredible moves out there. Is he the real deal? The Habs couldn't find a spot for him, what do they know that Leaf fans don't (yet)?

Grabovski is a good player, and like Ribeiro he'll put up decent numbers over his career. Also like Ribeiro, he had bad habits like fighting with teammates, showing total disregard for them and the feeling is he would be about as successful in the playoffs. But you see we (that's you guys and us over here), we don't like the same players. Grabovski might be right up your alley so long as he keeps it up with the talent.

Thanks again to Lions in Winter for participating. Be sure to bookmark them for all your Habs-taunting needs.

1 comment:

  1. Not looking good so far for the Leafs, being down 4-1 already in the 2nd and Vesa having given up the 4 on only 15 shots. Lets hope Mikhail G at least pots one before the night is done so that we can have something to throw back at Hab fans :)

    In all seriousness, any win we get against a rival team like that this year is a bonus.