19 Montreal Canadiens

Oct. 12, 1998
Oct. 12, 1998

Table of Contents
Oct. 12, 1998

NHL 98

19 Montreal Canadiens

The sorry economic state of Canada's NHL teams is exemplified by
the bottom line of its most hallowed franchise, Montreal. They
made a meager $2 million profit last year despite playing in a
sold-out 21,273-seat arena with 130 luxury suites leased to the
max. If that's the best the Canadiens can do, no team in the
land of the 66-cent dollar (a.k.a. the Northern peso) is safe.

This is an article from the Oct. 12, 1998 issue Original Layout

Montreal general manager Rejean Houle was ordered to hold
salaries down, which has forced him to shed some higher-priced
veterans and rush young defensemen Brad Brown and Brett Clark
into regular roles this year. The cost-cutting has also
precipitated contract squabbles with wingers Martin Rucinsky and
Brian Savage and defenseman Vladimir Malakhov, none of whom had
reported to camp as of Sunday.

Despite having a sub-.500 record at Molson Centre last season,
Montreal did ease into the playoffs, upsetting Pittsburgh before
suffering a spectacular goalie meltdown while being swept by
Buffalo. The Canadiens used three netminders in four games,
which isn't exactly how you draw it up on the chalkboard.
First-string goalie Andy Moog has retired, leaving the position
to Jocelyn Thibault and Jose Theodore. Thibault had a
respectable 2.47 goals-against average last season, but his
second straight playoff disaster--he gave up four goals on just
13 shots in Game 3 against the Sabres--battered his confidence.
Theodore filled in admirably last spring but has appeared in
just 22 regular-season and playoff games, and nobody thinks he's
ready to be a frontline goalie.

The Canadiens should have two gifted scoring lines once their
holdouts report. Still, they lack toughness and a quality
checking line to neutralize big conference rivals like
Philadelphia, and they could use a power-play quarterback.

Montreal shouldn't cry in its Molson Golden--it could make the
playoffs for the 48th time in 50 years--but it won't be sipping
any beer out of an engraved silver cup this year.


COLOR PHOTO: B. BENNETT/B. BENNETT STUDIOS Can Thibault be Montreal's saving grace? [Jocelyn Thibault in game]COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN TAMANIO [Drawing of golden hockey puck]


Montreal finished fourth in the Northeast Division for the
second consecutive year in 1997-98. The last Canadiens to end up
as low as fourth two seasons in a row were the 1941-42 and
1942-43 teams.


--The fate of Montreal's season may rest on the shoulders of
young goaltenders Jocelyn Thibault, 23, and Jose Theodore, 22.
Neither has shown he can carry a team.

--The Canadiens, who finished 14th in the league in face-offs,
must improve in that crucial area.