I've been watching the Canadiens play since the beginning of the season and I can't help but see the Quebec Nordiques of the early 1990s.
The Habs embarked on a youthful shift and named its young leader, Nick Suzuki, as captain, rather than picking a late-career veteran like Brendan Gallagher, for example.
The Nordiques did the same with Joe Sakic in 1992 and that was the beginning of what led to the dynasty that moved to Colorado a few years later, winning the Stanley Cup twice, in 1996 and 2001. After Sakc, the team got Peter Forsberg in the Eric Lindros trade, then drafted Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan. At that time, it was the young people who had taken control of the team.
This is exactly what we are currently seeing in Montreal. Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky, Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj, Jordan Harris and others are already establishing themselves as the present and the future of the organization. You can feel their enthusiasm every time they hit the rink and it's downright refreshing.
All of this, in my opinion, stems from the decision to name Suzuki captain. In doing so, they confirmed that they were looking forward and that, despite the status of some veterans, it was the young people who were going to lead this team back to respectability.
The Leafs mistake
The Canadiens could have continued to live in the past and please a veteran who has achieved a certain status in the NHL because of his experience. But it didn't, and leaders didn't have to look far to realize it wouldn't work.
In Toronto, the Maple Leafs erred completely by signing John Tavares to a lucrative contract before naming him team captain, to the detriment of younger players in the organization like Auston Matthews.
C' is funny, but every time the Leafs lose, we point the finger at Matthews or Mitch Marner. Everyone seems to leave Tavares alone despite the fact that he is on $11 million, captains the team, and doesn't advance.
I have this debate with my colleagues at TVA Sports and I know that I am not unanimous, but I maintain my point: John Tavares is a drag for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The press leaves him alone because he is a good person, a good father. As far as I'm concerned, good for him, but he's not a good family man I want to see on the ice when you're making that much money and captaining your team.
Rival in sight
The other Ontario team got it. The Ottawa Senators used a strategy similar to the Canadiens by giving the reins of the team to young people and appointing Brady Tkachuk as captain.
Besides, I wonder if this season could not be the one where we will see the birth of an intense and long rivalry between the Canadian and the Sens. Imagine, these two young formations which will progress at the same time over the years, and which will face each other many times each year.
And imagine, two seconds, the confrontations between Brady Tkachuk and Arber Xhekaj…
I'm not saying I want to, but admit that it's impossible not to think about it.
– Interview by Kevin Dubé
Echoes of Bergie
Arber Xhekaj is impressive. Let's tell the real things: it's a volley he served to Zack Kassian Thursday night against the Arizona Coyotes. Clearly, the young defenseman wants to make a name for himself in the NHL and he even mentioned it in his post-game press briefing. He doesn't have to expose himself and become the target of all the NHL bullies, though. With what he inflicted on Kassian, the entire league knows what wood he's gotten himself into. Now he has to choose his moments. The coaching staff will have an important role to play in this. On the one hand, you must not distort the young person, but, on the other, they will have to make sure to supervise him well so as not to expose him each time he touches the ice.
For the first time since the beginning of his reign, Martin St-Louis referred to victories and collective results. Finally ! “We are very focused on the process as an organization. The results are important for the confidence of the group and the victory must be part of the process” were his exact words. I love that ! He knows his team more and more and he knows that victory is close. The day is not far when he too will be evaluated according to victories and defeats and we feel that he is beginning to take a liking to it, as when he was a player.
Congratulations to the fans
Montreal hockey fans have a long memory, and we saw it last week during the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins when they profusely booed Jeff Petry every time he touched the puck. Honestly, I was happy to see this reaction from the crowd, just like when he took the penalty that led to the winning goal in overtime for the Canadian. What Petry did last year is inexcusable. He simply abandoned his team and his teammates and the fans made it clear to him that they still hadn't digested it. One thing for sure, Petry better not try to do that in Pittsburgh because he'll soon have a visit from Sidney Crosby…
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7128