On the face of it, it’s just kind of goofy, with gusts up to surreal. Why would Mike Babcock, one of the most respected coaches in hockey, go to the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the least respected organizations in hockey?

Is the guy a masochist? Does he like losing? Maybe he didn’t notice that the Loafs finished fourth from the bottom in the National Hockey League this past season?

Oh yeah he’s gonna make $50 million over eight years. There is that. This is one significant detail. So as the great Grandmaster Flash said – ‘It’s all about money/ain’t a damn thing funny.’

Cos make no mistake. This is all about money. NHL coaches make at best $2 million a year and now Babcock is going to be hauling home over $6 million on average a year. So yeah I get why he’s going to T-Dot. Many are attracted by the dough. Not me but weaker men and women. (I’m kidding, by the way. I live by the old rock-star adage – I would’ve sold out years ago, but no one was buying.) So Babcock went for the bucks.

But he is a fellow who said, just a couple of days ago – ‘I think about the opportunity to win….I’m an immediate gratification guy because I like winning.’

Huh? Wha’ happened? Reminds me of two other songs. One is Barrett Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) – ‘The best things in life are free/But you can give them to the birds and bees/give me money.’ The Beatles version is one of the greatest rock’n’roll records ever recorded, by the way.

The other is Tom Gray’s Money Changes Everything. For more on both songs, check out Greil Marcus’s fabulous book, The History of Rock’n’Roll in Ten Songs.

Any hoo, you get the idea. The McGill grad followed the money. And so much for that talk of him coming back to the town where he went to university (which was never going to happen in any case).

I don’t really blame him. I do blame the Leafs though for absurdly inflating the wage rates for coaches. It’s like some idiotic
GM coming and paying some fourth-line plumber $7 million a year. Yeah Babcock’s no plumber but he ain’t the Messiah either and he’s been grossly overpaid.

And of course he will not win any time soon with the Leafs because they have a terrible team with a bunch of obscenely over-paid ‘stars’ who don’t deliver and not nearly enough prospects coming up through their farm system. Best line comes in a tweet quoted in the Toronto Star: ‘Now that Toronto hired Mike Babcock as head coach, all we need to do is trade for Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, and put Gretzky on the 1st line.’ Exactly.

And Oh My God can you imagine the next few years of hockey coverage coming out of the Centre of the Universe known as Toronto – it’s going to be all Babcock all the time and the T.O. broadcast guys will be falling over themselves waxing what passes for poetic on Hockey Night in Canada about the great things he’ll be doing with the team. Oh the horror, the horror.

I don’t really want to talk about tonight’s game. The Canadiens were completely out-played by the Lightning. Simple as that. Many of the top players – Pacioretty, Desharnais, Galchenyuk – simply weren’t that good. And guess what? Montreal couldn’t score, just as they haven’t been able to score all year.

But my real beef tonight is with all of you who refuse to allow any criticism of the Habs. Like what the hell is up with that? Fans are allowed to be upset. Fans are allowed to want it all. To want to win the Cup. Fans are allowed to be upset that the greatest goalie in the world might not win that trophy he wants so badly because he doesn’t have enough talent in front of him.

Real fans feel like crap right now. Yeah of course it was never that likely that the Good Guys would go the distance this playoff but you should be disappointed when your team loses. This team has for far too long aimed for mediocrity and no more. This was a mind-set where Saku Koivu would start a season by saying he didn’t expect to win the Cup. And the good news is that I firmly believe that the current managers have finally chucked that idiotic philosophy in the garbage bin and are determined to try to Think Big Sti!

And it’s okay to say the coach is maybe not the man to get the job done. Just as it’s okay for you to disagree and say you love the kindly ol’ coach. We are allowed to debate these things. That’s what fans do.

Elliotte Friedman raised a good point after the game on Hockey Night in Canada – how big of a window do you have with Carey Price playing at this level to go all the way? Price wants to drink from that chalice bad. So if in two years from now, the team still doesn’t have anyone scoring, does he do what Ken Dryden suggested could’ve happened a few years back and walk into Marc Bergevin’s office and ask for a trade?

All I’m saying is we’re allowed to argue about these things in a civilized fashion. We’re fighting over these things because we are passionate about our team. The Canadiens staff are all-too-good at snuffing out all critical discussion. There’s no reason for Habs boosters to be just as intolerant.

Oddly enough, having said all that, I’m not really in the mood to kick M. Therrien when he’s down. Right at this moment, I’m just feeling that maybe the team in front of Carey simply isn’t good enough to take us to the next level.

Does the headline give you some sense of how i feel this morning? Yeah I’m upset and you should be too. Our beloved Habs soiled the bed last night. Laid an egg. Mucked up. Effed up.

They weren’t prepared for the biggest game of their season. You explain that crap to me. No really. Michel Therrien can give the journalists the evil eye but fact is that for the second straight series against the Senators, he’s losing the war of attrition with the coach from the nation’s capital.

What exactly is Therrien’s strategy here? Keep throwing the same thing out on the ice and hope things suddenly get better? It  ain’t working. The power play is beyond bad. But the real reason we’re in such deep muck is that our best players have not been our best players.

Max Pacioretty? He had a shite playoff last year and he’s looking to repeat this spring. Is he still feeling the after-effect of the injury? That’s the only decent excuse for his poor play. He’s just been invisible. He has one goal and it’s a goal the long-forgotten Hamburglar should’ve stopped.

Tomas Plekanek? I know journos love to go on about how he’s THE complete player but year-in/year-out he disappears when the playoff heat gets turned up. He’s just not big enough to compete with the Big Boys.

Gallagher? He has his energy but eventually he has to put the puck in the net. Desharnais? See my comment about Plek. His heart is in it but he simply is not a first-line centre on any normal team.

Andrei Markov? You need to ask after that boneheaded pass to Erik Condra in the third. My man P.K. Subban? He’s shown flashes but that’s not enough. He is our superstar and needs to take games like this by the throat and throttle them.

Carey Price? The What Me Worry Kid sure picked an unfortunate moment to have a mediocre game. Sure there was traffic in front of him for the goals but he needs to stop a couple of those. And let’s be honest – he’s had a just-okay series and that’s not good enough. You all laughed at me for criticizing Price a couple of years ago but I’ll say it again this morning just to p— you off – he can have a dozen Vezina trophies in the back of his pick-up truck, fact is he doesn’t get to be called The Great One till he wins big in the post-season.

The guys who’ve been holding this thing together are Dale Weise, Torrey Mitchell, Lars Eller, all three of whom played their hearts out Friday. Meanwhile the high-priced talent stood and watched. Not acceptable.

Look I’m keeping the faith. Like the great Feargal Sharkey said, It’s Going to Happen. But if they treat Sunday like another meaningless Tuesday night game in November – as they’ve treated the past two games – we’ll all be glued to the tube for game seven Tuesday.

Wake the F up!


It ain’t over yet

Posted: April 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

Simple message this morning. It’s 2-zip for the Habs and there is plenty to celebrate on this beautiful Saturday morning. As first tipped in David Winch’s now-famous column on Alex Galchenyuk, there’s the Galchenyuk moment to fête – his stunning overtime goal, a spin-round-then-shoot-as-fast-as-you-can move that made the Hamburglar look like he’d never robbed anyone in his life. Then there’s Élise Béliveau’s boyfriend P.K. Subban who came back after messing his bed in the first game and delivered a monster game, as we all knew he would. He rocketed one of his patented Howitzer slapshots over Andrew Hammond’s shoulder, nearly taking off the Sens’ goalie’s head in the process. 140 kmh that one was. Did I mention P.K. is my main man? I know, I know, take a number.

But here’s the message. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Two-nothing is exactly where you want to be after two games in Montreal but Subban got it right in the post-game scrum when he reminded the ink-stained wretches – not that any journos see any ink these days – that you can still lose a series after being up two-zero. He reminded us that that’s exactly what happened in 2011. The Habs won the first pair in Beantown and then our least favourite team came back to win in seven (with the Bruins going on to win the Cup). That was the infamous Horton-hears-a-Who moment.

It also happened with the Hurricanes in 2006, the infamous series where the Habs stormed out in Raleigh, winning the first two, chasing starting goalie Martin Gerber and, sadly for us, forcing Canes coach Peter Laviolette to unleash 22-year-old rookie backup netminder Cam Ward. You know the rest – Ward turned in a Dryden-like performance that spring, Saku Koivu was lost for the season with a dangerous eye injury in game three, and the Hurricanes won in OT in game seven at the Bell Centre on a weak tipped shot from Corey Stillman that Cristobal Huet most certainly should’ve stopped. (Most believe that was the moment management secretly game up all hope of having any kind of future with the French goalie.)

Don’t get me wrong. I think we will win this series. But it won’t be a cakewalk. That’s all I’m saying. The Habs have won the first two games by one goal each time and now Les Boys are headed to their barn. (Luckily the sad-sack Sens can barely even fill the aforementioned barn with their own fans.) So let’s save the real celebration for the end of the series.


P.K. Subban is right. In his media scrum Thursday, he said attention should be focused on the Canadiens’ inspirational 4-3 win in game one of their best-of-seven against the Senators and the great work from Brian Flynn – in superstar form, with three points – and hometown hero Torrey Mitchell, who scored the Habs’ first goal of the series.

But all of the talk since the final buzzer has been about The Slash. If somehow you’ve been in solitary confinement since Wednesday at 7, here’s the video.

Subban savagely whacked Sens’ scoring sensation Mark Stone right on the wrist in the front of the Habs net, landing Subban a five-minute major and a game misconduct. At the time, I was saying the refs over-reacted and it should’ve just been a two-minute penalty.

But a day later, I’m thinking the refs got it just right. It was a vicious slash, the type of play that’s simply unacceptable under any circumstances and it could’ve caused an even more serious injury than it did. The Sens said Thursday Stone has a fractured wrist and, according to Sens GM Brian Murray, it is “very questionable” that Stone will make it back on the ice in the series.

There has been a bunch of talk about Senator coach Dave Cameron’s comments after the game, where he appeared to be almost saying his team would retaliate for the slash. Said Cameron: “You either do one of two things. I think it’s an easy solution — you either suspend him, or when one of their best players gets slashed just give us five.”

Cameron was wrong to make a threat like that and, in fact, the League should’ve fine him for the comments.

But what’s lost in all of the media chatter is that Subban was way out of line delivering the slash in the first place. You know how much I love the Subbanator but I have to say it was an incredibly bone-headed move. What was the point of doing that? Lars Eller was already in the penalty box and so Subban’s penalty gave the Sens a 5-on-3, which resulted in two Ottawa goals against the Habs. (Yes Eller scored that beautiful short-handed goal but that’s no thanks to P.K.)

Subban is one of the team leaders and he let his emotions get the better of him. The team had to dig deep to win in spite of the absence of their two best skaters in P.K. and Max Pacioretty. Bottomline is it was a major-league dumb move.

In his scrum, Subban said as much, saying “I can’t point fingers…it’s on me. I got the penalty and it hurt my team.”

So yeah we should be celebrating the all-heart fourth line of Flynn, Mitchell and Brandon ‘I Live For the Playoffs’ Prust. But instead we’re talking about P.K. cos P.K. mucked up. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.

Now can we just focus on that extraordinary victory that managed to puncture the Senators’ dream run in 60 lively minutes.

– Brendan Kelly

Jay Baruchel, Marc-Andre Grondin and the Stanley Cup. That's a shaved head under that toque if you're wondering! Top Shelf photo by Brendan Kelly.

Jay Baruchel, Marc-Andre Grondin and the Stanley Cup. That’s a shaved head under that toque if you’re wondering! Top Shelf photo by Brendan Kelly.

I posted on the usual social-media soapboxes after Thursday night’s dramatic 4-3 OT victory over the Red Wings, joining in the celebration of Carey Price’s record-breaking 43rd win this season. I said, and I quote: “That was one of the great moments in recent Habs history. Carey Price sets the record for most wins in a season for a Canadiens goalie and it was beautiful to see his team-mates just going nuts around him, celebrating. Then the Bell Centre crowd gave him the big love. Price looked so moved in the post-game interview. Magic.”

Then we got into a fun discussion of Price getting “pied” right after the game, by that party-animal – NOT! – Emelin, with Andie Bennett getting the real scoop as usual, saying that Markov was the brains behind that operation. In short, we were all busy whooping it up for our man Price.

Most were happy to retweet and like – that’s how we roll these days – but my old friend Marc-André Grondin – who also happens to be one of our finer thespians – wasn’t about the let me off scott free.

“No mention of Halak, Brendan??? ;” tweeted Marc-André.

Fair enough pal. For years, I have been giving Price a hard time and portraying myself as one of the last of the Halakians. I was, like thousands of others, devastated by the Halak trade, and, being old-school Irish, it took me years to recover (and following the Irish thematic, I do of course still hold a psychotic grudge against Bob Gainey). But when Price turned the corner in the past two seasons, I was a big enough man to admit he was looking more and more like The Man. The Man Who Would Bring the Cup Back to Montreal that is. If you don’t believe me, please have a read of my post from Feb. 7 titled, what else?, Carey Price is The Man.

Price rules the goalie roost in the NHL this season. He’s No. 1, period, end of discussion, which is why he will win the Vezina Trophy and maybe the Hart (though Ovie is giving him a run for the money right now). He has a GAA of 1.95, a save percentage of .934, and the aforementioned 43 wins.

And keep in mind he has done all this with a good, not great, defense corps in front of him. Last night, as usual, he said it was all about his team-mates but he’s just saying that cos he’s such a class act. Fact is that it’s all Price. Without The What Me Worry Kid, this Canadiens’ squad would be fighting with Boston, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Detroit for that last playoff spot in the East.

And his team-mates know he’s their fearless leader. Did you see the way they celebrated with him last night? Such joy. They love this guy and they know exactly what he means to the team.

Night after night, he’s astonishing, and if not astonishing, he’s at the very least very, very good. I think he has had maybe two mediocre nights all season and that’s two games out of 65. Is he better than Jacques Plante and/or Ken Dryden, the two guys who held the 42-wins record for the Habs? Only time will tell. But he’s certainly right up with them.

My pal (and occasional Top Shelf contributor) David Winch quoted some web chatter arguing over this and I think the key point that comes out of that is that Plante and Dryden had much better teams in front of them. Price is doing this with a team that is NOT the 1976-1977 Canadiens.

So yeah I’m right on the effin bandwagon.

One more thing though Marc-André – did you notice that great season of Jaro Halak’s over on The Island? Haha.

– Brendan Kelly


Michel Therrien at the wheel. Courtesy of RDS.

Michel Therrien at the wheel. Courtesy of RDS.

As a Canadiens fan, I am not in the least impressed by the fact that the team refuses to provide any details about Max Pacioretty’s injury. But I’m not particularly surprised.

The Habs are the ultimate control freaks when it comes to massaging the information that leaks out of the Bell Centre and this is only the latest example of the team’s mania for making sure every piece of news is officially sanctioned by the Canadiens’ PR machine.

So Patch has an upper-body injury. That’s pretty well all kindly ol’ coach Michel Therrien was willing to say on Wednesday. Now I know there are other NHL teams that would be just as secretive but what gets me here is the near complete lack of criticism of this Soviet-style communications strategy.

The one exception is Réjean Tremblay who had a great column in Le Journal de Montréal Wednesday blasting the Habs “big propaganda machine”. So why is no one else in the media grumbling? Because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. If you dare to throw a few darts in the direction of Canadiens management, you kiss goodbye to the paltry access you have right now – that access being carefully controlled interviews with carefully selected players on carefully chosen topics.

Tremblay – who I usually disagree with – is right. The fans have a right to know if Pacioretty has a concussion or not following a hit from Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on Sunday. (It was a non-event of a hit, shouldn’t have even resulted in a penalty. The problem was that Patch fell awkwardly.) He left the game and the Canadiens announced that he will not be playing the final two games of the regular season. Therrien wouldn’t say whether he would be ready for the start of the playoffs next week.

“We know exactly what he has,” Therrien said. Then nada. As in – we know but we’re not telling.

Apparently Therrien and his cronies are hiding the truth from the public to protect Pacioretty.

“We have to protect the players, that’s the most important thing for us,” he said, as reported in Dave Stubbs’ column. “There are things we can’t tell. We’re a week away from the playoffs.”

Translation – Therrien thinks we’re idiots who are happy to live in a world that’s a cross between 1984 and Brave New World. As in – war is peace, Big Brother knows best. He’s protecting Patch? So if other players know he has had a concussion, they’ll go after his head in the playoffs? Well they already know he has a concussion. No this is all about controlling the flow of information to the fans and it’s an insult to everyone who pays the hefty ticket prices, beer prices and cable subscriptions that help keep the Habs in business.