Tuesday, July 20, 2010

These are busy days for Habs Gauthier


There’s still 78 days until the puck is dropped on the 2010-11 NHL season, and the Montreal Canadiens have continued to fine tune their roster and staff in preparation.

I’m still catching up from vacation time, but over the past few days, there has been a whirlwind of activity surrounding the Bleu Blanc et Rouge.

Just before last weekend, the Canadiens resigned forward David Desharnais and also signed Alexander Avstin to an entry-level deal.

Desharnais brings consistent scoring to the Hamilton Bulldogs and the signing of Avstin is KHL fallout from the folding of legendary Russian club team Dynamo Moscow. In essence, the Bulldogs gained strength in the forward position real fast.

The next day, Habs VP of hockey operations Julien Brisebois jumped to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier quickly wasted no time, and replaced him with Larry Carrière.

Carrière might turn out to be a very nice steal, as he has spent the last six years as a scout for the Washington Capitals and has close to 20 years of management experience.

Plus, you gotta love a guy who wasn’t afraid to take on the Broad Steet Bullies, or battle Terry O’Reilly, as seen in these videos.


As HockeyBuzz.com’s Steven Hindle pointed out in his recent article, “A key element to Carrière being brought in is that he brings an immense wealth of scouting and management knowledge, something that neither Guy Boucher or Julien Brisebois ever possessed.”

Hindle goes on to add, “As this is a situation whereby the Habs have benefitted, they shouldn't be so disappointed about the departure of Julien Brisebois.”

In the meantime, Brisebois will be joining former Bulldogs assistant coaches Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond, who were announced as assistants, alongside head coach Guy Boucher, in Tampa on Tuesday. The hiring of Raymond and Lacroix comes as no surprise, as Boucher’s coaching decision back in June centered on him bringing his own staff to wherever he signed on with.

To fill the coaching void in Hamilton, the Canadiens announced the hiring of Randy Cunneyworth as Bulldogs head coach, and Randy Ladoceur as an assistant on Tuesday. We can now officially quell any rumours of Kirk Muller leaving Montreal, for now.


Cunneyworth brings a great background of AHL coaching experience, having served the Rochester Americans for seven seasons (a franchise record) and is second on the Rochester win list. The last two years, he served as an assistant of the Atlanta Thrashers under John Anderson.

For those keeping track, here’s the connection; Cunneyworth played two seasons under Canadiens coach Jacques Martin and Habs assistant coach Perry Pearn with the Ottawa Senators.

The Canadiens have also brought on Pierre Allard as the team’s strength and conditioning coach, replacing the fired Lorne Goldenberg.

Obviously it’s still too early to tell without a crystal ball, but so far the managerial moves by Gauthier seem to be in the right direction for the team.

At the player level, Cedrick Desjardins is signed on to a two-way deal for the 2010-11 season. No financials were given by the team, but Capgeek.com puts the deal at $550,000 if he plays in Montreal and $65,000 in Hamilton.


This gives Montreal solid depth, at a great deal, between the pipes in the event that Carey Price and/or Alex Auld should falter or run into injury problems. Don’t be surprised to see Desjardins put up a battle to stay with the big club during training camp.

Speaking of Carey Price, the Tri-City Herald caught up with him at Olaf Kolzig’s golf tournament. Price acknowledged that negotiations are still ongoing for a new contract, and that he is looking forward to meeting with his new counterpart in the pads.

Price also garnered support from teammate Michael Cammalleri on TSN’s “Off the Record.”

Gauthier continued to keep busy on Tuesday, also signing Ryan Russell to a one-year, two-way deal.

Russell came to the Canadiens in a trade with the New York Rangers for Montreal’s 7th pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Rangers pick, David Skokan, has yet to play in the NHL outside of three pre-season games, and is currently playing in Slovakia.


Russell comes off a pair of seasons in Hamilton, scoring 20 and 19 goals in each respectively.

His analysis from Hockey’s Future cites, “Russell, much like his brother in Medicine Hat, provides an excellent offensive game on the ice. With strong vision and passing, Russell is also an excellent skater and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, which he does with great accuracy.”

His downfall is his size where is is listed as 5’10” and 180lbs and will likely stay in Hamilton as the Canadiens have lots of skilled, small forwards.

Mike Keane’s career over?: On another front, it was sad to hear that the AHL’s Manitoba Moose will not bring their captain, Mike Keane, back for another season.

I did a piece on Keane last August, and there are few players as passionate for the game as he is.

Although the Winnipeg Free Press, mentions no official statement has come from the Moose or Keane, it is expected shortly. It wouldn’t be surprising to remain with the Moose in a management  or coaching position.


Keane played for eight seasons with the Canadiens and was on their last Stanley Cup winning team in 1993. He was named Habs captain in 1995, after Kirk Muller was traded to the New York Islanders. His tenure as captain was brief. After criticism form the press for his refusal to learn French (sound recently familiar??), he would be eventually be part of the Patrick Roy trade.

Two more Stanley Cups (Colorado in ‘96, Dallas in ‘99) and close to 2300 pro games later it seems that Keane’s playing career has wound down. Not a bad hockey resume for a guy who was not even drafted, though.

On the topic of Habs captains, Karmal Panesar offers his Top Ten list.

The question of who will be the next captain of the Canadiens was also brought to light in the past few days, around the same time defenseman Andrei Markov became a Canadian citizen.

Speculation is that coach Martin will name a new captain before the start of the season. Keep in mind though that a story broke before training camp even began last year, in which Markov was going to be named captain then.

Just a theory, but maybe the Canadiens organization just didn’t want a Russian wearing the “C”, and wanted to wait for his citizenship to be completed.

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