Who's Laughing Now?

I’m sure there are more than a few people out there who are a bit surprised or even a bit annoyed that the Habs are where they are.

Too bad! They’re for real, and everyone better think twice if they think the Canadiens will be easy pickings in round one.The presence of Bob Gainey has been the number one factor in the team’s turn around. On all levels management has improved its’ competence and depth of talent. Savard, Madden and Gauthier are top talent scouts, and Gordie Roberts has added another dimention to their crew. By having Melanson, Charron and Green as Juliens’ assistants is ideal. The young, but naturally skilled coach, is backed up by ex players and experienced coachs. The whole organisation has increased it’s level of effectiveness. This has transferred to the ice.

Going into the season there were numerous questions about certain players on the roster. Buyouts to McKay and Czerkawski started the ball rolling, and during the season Audette went the wayside as well. Dagenias and Damphousse (J.F.), were signed, Begin and Langdon joined by way of the waiver draft, and the HAbs went into 2003-2004 slightly more streamlined and a bit tougher.

During the season a number of positive developments helped the Habs become a real team. Souray joined the upper echelon of two way physical defensemen. Ryder came out of nowhere to be a top 30 scorer in the league and a near lock for Rookie of the Year. Ribeiro broke out to become a top 25 scorer, and a real NHL top two line center. Zednik and Koivu supplied good years, Bulis, Perrault and Deagenais did alright, and there’s way more to be said about every one of the team’s player’s .

The way I see it is that there is no way that the Habs don’t have a real shot at the big prize. Stranger things have happened…

Following is an evaluation of Montreal’s depth.

I welcome criticism and comment on my views and evaluation.

FORWARDS

CENTERS

Saku Koivu

Size does matter, however, with Montreal’s Mighty Mite it isn’t the primary factor. Heart, talent and determination are the calling cards of number 11.

Mike Ribeiro

Slick and sneaky, this is one slippery bugger. Finally has his maturity catching up to his talent. Not just a playmker, this guy’s got 20 goals to go with his 60 points.

Steve Begin

What did he cost Montreal? Nothing! Waiver wire pickup up from the Sabres. Made the Habs with a preseason performance in a Buffalo uniform. An agitator with speed, heart and no fear.

Yanic Perrault

What can you say about a guy that is the best faceoff man four years running? But even better, after being scratched often during a more than 20 game drpught he has since experienced a renaissance as a top line left winger.

Joe Juneau

The dean of Habs players, old Joe is a great checking line center and a valuable insurance policy. A leader and a steadying influence in the dressing room.

Jim Dowd

A new arrival who has become an integrsl part of the sucess of the team. The long sought after right handed center has brought it all to the table. Faceoffs, experience, defence and timely offence, this guy will be super valuable to the Canadiens come playoff time.

WINGERS

Jan Bulis

Bulis is a guy who can play in many different positions. Center, the wing, PP, PK, overtime, 2nd or 3rd line, he’s your man. Good support player who has the durability and talent to fill in where needed.

Darren Langdon

A real tough guy, none come more real than this man of the Rock.

Nicklas Sundstrom

He is a multitalented player, in the mold of Bulis. Either wing, Center in a pinch, two way, not little and a good team guy.

Pierre Dagenais

Dagenais, who is 6 foot 5 and 225 pounds, by the way, has scored 15 goals in 44 games with the Habs. Once was one of the best of his junior league on a line with Mike Ribeiro.

Richard Zednik

He is one of the best Slovakian players in the world.

As I hear silence around me I will say even louder that he is one of the really good players in THE WORLD. A world class winger, tough and dedicated, Richard rules.

Michael Ryder

Yes. The man himself, he is the real deal. We’re talking about a guy noone has the right to hate, he’s what’s good about hockey. Almost down and out, he made the team and is one of the top 40 scorers this year. If Raycroft doesn’t take it, he will.

Alexei Kovalev

Kovalev came in late, but has the potential to make a big impact. He is a top player in this league.

Jason Ward

He is a solid 3rd liner, and with the Habs’ depth he will end up being an effective 4th line force.

Andreas Dackell

Part of the support crew, but he is skilled, experienced and dedicated to the team cause. Not to be discounted.

There are also a few youngsters who merit mention in the Habs’ depth evaluation. Gratton, Hossa, Higgins, Perezhogin, Plekanec, plus Hainsey and the veteran defencemen Traverse and Dykhuis are capable of supporting the team in one way or another. The goaltending depth is actually better than almost any team in the league. Theodore and Garon make arguably the best one-two punch around. Add to this Fichaud, Damphousse (both 1st rounders) and Michaud, I ask anyone to dress a list of five goalies that compares to that.

DEFENCE

Another area where there is much hope to be found.

Sheldon Souray

He is the bionic man. His knee injury interfered with his career year. So what? He’ll still end up in the upper reaches of defencemen scoring. A physical force with two way ability to boot. Shop around, at 1.6 million you can’t beat the price…

Francis Bouillon

He is a tougher and less skilled Don Sweeney. Right now, I tell you I think Bouillon is a really good NHL defenceman for at least the next 3 years.

Andrei Markov

Markov is a two way defenceman who is neither small nor scared. A tribute to the good Russian D-Men of old, I’d take Markov in my top 6 any day.

Stephane Quintal

The quintessential veteran-tough D-man that every good team needs.

Patrice Brisebois

Has overcome unfair criticism to post a very good season. Not a premier offensive defenseman, but a solid two-way presence who provides veteran leadership.

Craig Rivet

A really good defenceman. He is very talented, and his two-way ability coupled with his physical play makes him a do-all d-man. Essential and underrated.

Mike Komisarek

For a fairly inexperienced guy, Komisarek has shown that he has what it takes to be a dominant defensive defenceman in the NHL. Wait and see, he will be the real deal.

The Habs are ready. Are the other teams?


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