Adam Proteau will return Jan. 9. In his absence, the The Hockey News.com will feature several guest bloggers. Up today is THN Copy Editor and Pro Tips and Backchecking author Ryan Dixon:
Â• There's some serious symmetry between the situation the Montreal Canadiens are currently facing and the one fouled up by their Original Six rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, last season.
The Habs face the prospect of having three key defensemen Â– Andrei Markov, Sheldon Souray and Craig Rivet Â– flee as unrestricted free agents this summer. Last winter, with Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe on the verge of UFA status, the Leafs gave Kaberle an extension worth $4.25 million a season and inked McCabe to a deal that averages $5.7 million per year.
Halfway through this season, no objective observer could deny Kaberle's worth to Toronto is infinitely higher than the one-dimensional McCabe.
If the Habs want to avoid a similar blueline blunder, they must put their efforts into locking up Markov. Like Kaberle, Markov is a slick puck-mover, strong skater, power play quarterback and, though not overly physical, is adept at keeping good body position on opponents.
There's no denying Souray's ability to fire bombs from the point on the power play. But he, like McCabe, can't bring the same range of skills to the table as his talented teammate. Souray himself has even been quoted as saying GM Bob Gainey's top priority should be signing Markov, who is two years his junior.
It's entirely possible Souray's career year, coupled with the McCabe precedent, will land him a contract in the $6 million range. Wouldn't Gainey be better off seeing if Rivet, a longtime Hab, will take a hometown discount and throwing the rest of his money at pending UFAs Daniel Briere or Scott Gomez to shore up the Canadiens' hole at center?
Â• The New Jersey Devils should bring back the old tradition of NHL teams not putting player names on the backs of jerseys. Really, what does it matter what the name across the back says; if it's a Devils logo on the front you know the player is likely fast, a little undersized, extremely disciplined and incredibly adept at choking off every inch of ice an opponent tries to take.
Personality is not Devils' bag; an unwavering team commitment to winning is.
Â• There's an obvious difference between what happened on Saturday in San Jose with referees Brad Watson and Craig Spada and the normal type of officiating blunders fans and players gripe about.
It was a shocking lack of rule knowledge that led Watson and Spada to let the wrong Columbus player out of the penalty box after San Jose scored on a 4-on-3 power play.
The mistake led to another Sharks power play goal that should have never happened. It's one thing for a referee to make an error in judgment. Players and coaches (and all people for that matter) do it all the time and should remember that before teeing off on a zebra.
But two referees botching a black and white rule is like a player going off-side on a 2-on-1 rush and, in response to his coach berating him, explaining he simply didn't know the lay of the land.