Many say I’m a half-empty guy when it comes to the Habs and maybe they’re right. I put it down to my dark troubled Irish character. Or maybe it’s just the Guinness.

So to keep my critics happy I’m going to keep on my rose-coloured glasses on today and concede that we will all wait until this fall to see how Alexander Semin fits in with our beloved Habs. Yes he is a former 40-goal scorer but that was in 2009-2010 – in other words, you’d be just as well saying Jaro Halak is a Cup-worthy goalie since he looked that way that same season. (Eds. note: You have been saying exactly that for years!)

Things get significantly more dire when you look at his modern-day stats. Six goals and a minus-ten rating last season. I know, I know, he was playing for a beyond-crap team but – like Gomez, like Briere – the trend is pretty clear. His goal production is on the down-and-down.

Upside? It’s only costing Marc Bergevin $1.1 million to pick him up and any added scoring is a plus on a team that can’t buy goals.

Here’s one mystery for ya. The Canadiens snare an aging sagging scorer in Semin yet have spent years snubbing a much more useful aging sagging scorer named Jaromir Jagr. Explain that to me? Jaggs’ Westmount agent Petr Sloboda has been trying to sell Jagr to the team for years and management has said privately they won’t touch him with a ten-foot-pole. Genuinely curious about this one.

The other thing that worries me here is how the kindly ol’ coach is going to take to Semin. Michel Therrien benched the last two high-profile scoring acquisitions – Briere and Parenteau – and we all know he has limited to no patience with any skater who doesn’t bring the proverbial lunch bucket to the rink every night. Is he really going to get on with this enigmatic Russian?

But hey this is the new more optimistic Top Shelf scribe here. So yeah I’m waiting til the fall on this one. And if he tears it up, all the better.

– Brendan Kelly

Brandon Prust.

Brandon Prust.

I’m not sure I’m getting the Prusty trade. I agree he’s not nearly the player he was when he arrived three years back but is Zack Kassian really that much of an upgrade? First thing he says today is that he’s inconsistent. And it doesn’t seem there’s that much of a salary difference. Maybe half a million? In other words, chump change by NHL standards. So what gives? Why get rid of a Montreal fan favourite in that case? Was it really cos he mouthed off to a ref in the playoffs? Are we a better team following this six-of-one/half-a-dozen-of-another trade?

I guess Kassian puts a few more points up on the board. So he’s a gritty player with better point totals. The former Vancouver Canucks right winger has 35 goals, 31 assists, and 66 points in 198 NHL games. Brandon Prust has 39 goals, 69 assists, and 108 points in 451 games. So Kassian is doing a bit better in that department. Hmmm I might actually be semi-convincing myself this is a decent trade.

So then you come to the whole intangible heart-and-soul thing. By all accounts, Prusty’s team-mates loved his spirit. But Les Boys do need some more goals. Hmmmm. I guess it’s a jury’s-out situation for the moment.

But on the showbiz front, it’s definitely a losing trade. Quebec might lose local TV host and reporter Maripier Morin, who is Prust’s fiancé. Forget L’affaire Julie Snyder. This is a real scandal.

– Brendan Kelly

Admit it. You'd love to see Milan Lucic in a Habs jersey.

Admit it. You’d love to see Milan Lucic in a Habs jersey.

I mean, really. What a drag. Every team – heck every person – needs a villain, a bad guy, a bogeyman, and for us long-suffering fans in the Habs Nations, the designated baddie for the past years has been Milan Lucic. And now he’s gone.

Traded by the suddenly-not-so-big, suddenly-not-so-bad Bruins to the Los Angeles Kings, in return for a bag of pucks (okay actually netminder Martin Jones, D prospect Colin Miller and the 13th pick in this year’s draft, but you get the idea). Worse, for the Bs and their fans, the Bruins are still paying part of Lucic’s salary.

And we’ve lost the guy who had dibs on the title of the most hated man in Montreal (as a good pal told Milan’s mother one day, but that’s a long story). Who we gonna hate now? Lucic was it. Now the Canadiens are going to see him at best twice a year unless that much-anticipated Habs-Kings final turns into a reality real soon.

The Lucic hate-a-thon goes back years. Think back to all the battles between Mike Komisarek and Lussik – as his best bud Grapes likes to call him. Many believe the last time Lucic destroyed Komisarek, the D-man really was never the same again on the ice. The only guys who didn’t know that were the Leafs execs who thought giving him a wad of money was a good idea.

Then there’s that Lucic Alexei Emelin running bout last year, with Public Enemy No. 1 speering the Habs D-man right in the nuts while the ref wasn’t looking and then jabbing him with his stick in the stomach a couple of months later.

Last but not least there were the infamous handshake-line death threats after the Canadiens’ epic game-seven win over the Bruins in the 2014 playoffs – or as we call it in Montreal, the night we won the Stanley Cup.

Yeah it’s true Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand still wear the black-and-yellow but let’s face, neither is the foe they once were. Chara can still put Gally in a head-lock and carry him around the ice on occasion but the Big Man has slowed down significantly and I honestly don’t think he’s as bat-shit crazy as he once was. Marchand’s just a pest. He doesn’t even rate villain status.

The crazy thing is it kind of looks like we won’t even have the Bruins to kick around any more. When they changed the playoff format, we were all thinking we’d be battling the Bruins most every spring in the post-season – which is exactly what we love in both cities – but Chara’s squad didn’t make the playoffs this year and many figure they might not be back there any time soon. Did you read that Boston Herald column? Headline kind of says it all: ‘Bruins blueline takes giant step backward’. The focus there is almost giving Dougie Hamilton away to Calgary. The Herald’s Stephen Harris underlines that Hamilton joins quite the list of discarded Bruins talent – Phil Kessel, Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin.

So maybe I need to re-write my own headline: We won’t have the Bruins to kick round any more.

You’d think us Habs fans would be happy. But we’re not. We lives for that rivalry. (Forget that bogus Leafs-Habs “rivalry”. That’s just hogwash made up by Hockey Night in Canada to sell advertising. You can’t be rivals with a cellar-dwelling team.)

We need to face the Bruins in the post-season and we loved to hate the ultimate Big Bad Bruin that was Milan Lucic. Milan, we’re gonna miss ya.

– Brendan Kelly

Bono and Celtic F.C.

Posted: June 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


It’s a great story. In his brilliant look at the social history of Celtic F.C., We Are Celtic Supporters, author Richard Purden has an entire chapter on Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr and his long-standing love for the Glasgow soccer team.

And Kerr tells this tale of bringing U2 singer Bono to an Old Firm derby – a game between cross-town rivals Celtic and Rangers. ‘Heated’ does not even begin to describe the animosity between these two clubs. It’s a rivalry that has as much to do with cultural, religious, ethnic roots as it does with kicking a soccer ball. Celtic grew out of the city’s Irish Catholic minority community so, historically, the divide was at least partly drawn along Catholic-Protestant lines and Ireland-vs.-England/Scotland lines and it could get ugly.

Presumably this was sometime in the ’80s that Kerr took Bono to see the Celtic-Rangers match-up at Ibrox, the Rangers’ stadium.

Says Kerr: “I don’t think he was ready for that kind of intensity, this was before the seats came in so it was more of the old pack mentality and pretty mental. I remember we were about to leave when Charlie (Nicholas) popped in an amazing goal which he thoroughly enjoyed. He said to me it was like ancient Rome and he wasn’t far wrong.”

In any case, Kerr ends the Bono section by saying the Irish rock star eventually drifted away from Celtic and the Simple Minds singer suggests it may have been because U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. was concerned about Bono being linked to a team that created controversy because some of its fans would openly show their support for the Irish nationalist cause and even the I.R.A.

Says Kerr: “I think Larry put the kybosh on the Celtic thing. He was a football man but not a Celtic fan and he was worried about certain connotations with the band but Bono was certainly into Celtic.”

Pretty funny no? Basically suggesting Larry was afraid they might be dragged into a controversy simply because Bono liked a Glasgow soccer team.

With U2 set to hold high mass for a fourth time at the Bell Centre Wednesday night, I thought it was as good a time as any to pull out this slice of soccer/pop culture history.

– Brendan Kelly


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!