23 Montreal Canadiens Will off-the-ice distractions keep goaltender Jose Theodore from returning to MVP form?

October 12, 2003

After the tribulations of recent years, including one playoff
appearance in the last five seasons, the NHL's most storied
franchise now must deal with a trial. Following their arrest on
June 18, goalie Jose Theodore's father, uncle and four
half-brothers face charges of conspiracy in a loan-sharking ring
for their alleged involvement in an operation run out of Casino
de Montreal. Though Montreal police say Theodore is not part of
their investigation, the 27-year-old netminder has been drawn
into the case by the blanket media coverage. Le Journal de
Montreal reported that police had seized $63,000 from a safety
deposit box to which Theodore and his father had access. Theodore
has refused to comment on the safety deposit box. For the
Canadiens, the big question is, How will Theodore, whose play
fell off dramatically last season after winning the league MVP in
2001-02, handle this distraction leading up to and throughout the
trial, which begins on Dec. 2?

Usually, the first whiff of controversy is a sure ticket out of
this stodgy organization, but the Canadiens have a new general
manager in repatriated Bob Gainey. A former Canadiens captain
during his 16 years as a left wing with the team, Gainey will be
a steadying influence and is unlikely to do anything as rash as
exiling his best player.

As for the rest of the lineup, Montreal appears to have the
nucleus for a promising young defense if rookie Mike Komisarek,
21, can make the jump from the AHL and join Andrei Markov, a
24-year-old who had a breakout season with 13 goals and a
team-high +13 rating. But the attack is oatmeal soft and the
special teams rank in the bottom third of the league.

Montreal was just as unprepossessing in 2001-02 when Theodore
carried the team into the second round of the playoffs. Last
season his play fell off, with some observers saying he had an
MVP hangover. This time the Canadiens need him not only to regain
his Hart Trophy form, but also to stay focused on the action on
the ice, not in the courtroom. --M.F.

COLOR PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: DAVE SANDFORD/GETTY IMAGES/NHLI (THEODORE) JOSE THEODORE

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )

OFFENSE 25
DEFENSE 21
GOALTENDING 8
POWER PLAY 23
PENALTY KILLING 28
G.M. AND COACH 23

INSIDER

This may be a long season for Canadiens fans, but things will get
better in a hurry with new G.M. Bob Gainey. He's got some nice
building blocks in rookies Mike Komisarek, a defenseman, and
Christopher Higgins, a two-way center.... This is a make-or-break
year for talented 23-year-old C Mike Ribeiro. Will he finally
come to play night-in and night-out?... Expect 25-year-old backup
G Mathieu Garon, who reminds observers of a young Patrick Roy, to
flourish this season.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)