Jack Todd: Habs need to get bigger, tougher

One of the oddities of the league is how certain organizations can face the same endemic problems for decades without finding a solution. The Canadiens have been too small since John LeClair was traded away and Mario Tremblay put the Smurf Line together in Hartford, with Saku Koivu between Oleg Petrov and Valeri Bure. The Flyers have spent two decades trying to find a fix for a big, lumbering defence and porous goaltending. Neither team has found a real solution.

When the Canadiens made their remarkable playoff run in 2010, they did so thanks to 1) Jaro Halak; 2) industrial-strength shot-blocking from Josh Gorges, Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek; and 3) Michael Cammalleri’s timely scoring.

That served them well against the skill teams from Washington and Pittsburgh, but when the Habs had to get down and dirty against the Flyers, they were swept aside like so many pesky gnats.

Anyone trying to chart a course to the Stanley Cup final will note that the conference is dotted with big, menacing lineups: the Bruins, the Flyers, the Leafs, the Rangers. (The New Jersey Devils, it should be noted, always manage to get it done with overall team toughness, without needing to resort to the garbage that now rules in Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto.)

I would agree with Ken Campbell, who wrote in The Hockey News this week that Don Cherry’s contention that the fighters have turned the Leafs around is simply not true. Campbell traced the number of fights the Leafs have engaged in during their years of futility to reach an irrefutable conclusion: there is no connection between the number of fights and success on the ice.