vendredi 28 juin 2013

Habs : Bergevin faces extra heat going into second draft as Canadiens general manager

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 Holding the third overall draft pick made things relatively simple for Marc Bergevin a year ago at his first NHL draft as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

This time may be trickier, as Bergevin and his staff go into Sunday's draft holding the 25th overall pick. However, having six picks in the first three rounds could make it interesting.

"Last year we only had two picks before ours and we had a good idea of what we were going to do," said Bergevin, who selected forward Alex Galchenyuk. "This year, it's completely different."
And this time there is unexpected extra pressure on Bergevin in the form of centre Vincent Lecavalier.

Montreal fans are pushing hard for the Canadiens to sign Lecavalier, who entered the unrestricted free agent market on Thursday when the Tampa Bay Lightning announced they were buying out 33-year-old's hefty contract.

The Canadiens have not had a French-Canadian star in many years, and Lecavalier would fit that bill. They also want to get bigger up front, and Lecavalier is six-foot-four. And, with 20 players signed and $9 million in salary cap space open, they should be able to afford him.

Even Mathieu Darche, a former Canadien and Lightning, urged Bergevin on his blog for RDS to sign the slick centre who scored 52 goals in 2006-07.

The temptation to make a play for his former teammate in Tampa would have to be enormous, even if it seems to go against Bergevin's philosophy.

Only a week ago, Bergevin said he was leery of using free agency for anything but acquiring role players to fill gaps in the roster, as he did last summer with Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong.

"To me, free agency is a tool, but it's not a way to make your team a top team," he said. "It's overplayed. You have to be really careful with free agency."

He does not rule out making a deal to move up in the draft, however. The Canadiens have three second round picks, including the 34th and 36th overall from previous deals, as well as their own 55th pick. They also draft 71st and 86th overall in the third round.

"I can say we're always looking to improve our position, but there's a price to pay," he said.

"You don't build a team through free agency or trades, you build it through the draft. And you need to be patient with these guys. Look at the teams that have success, like Chicago. The core of their players, most of them came through the draft. And it took years for them to become the elite team they are now. It's not a secret recipe, how to build a hockey team."

He gave no indication on what sort of players he and scouting director Trevor Timmins are looking for.

After his smaller-than-average team was eliminated in the first round of playoffs by Ottawa, he said he would like more "balance" between big and small players. So they may look for some bigger bodies.

The organization is also thin on goalies, having not drafted one since they took Petteri Simla 211th overall in 2009. They have selected only two since they got Carey Price fifth overall in 2005.
So they may be tempted by Halifax Mooseheads goalie Zach Fucale.

There are a handful of other prospects from Quebec who may be available if that is a consideration, including defenceman Samuel Morin and forwards Laurent Dauphin, Anthony Mantha and perhaps Frederik Gauthier.

The flashy Jonathan Drouin, expected to go in the top five, is likely out of their reach. Bergevin said it would take more than offering a first and second round pick to move up that high.

"It's not just to draft the players available, but to draft the players you like," he said. "If you can move up and get that player, and it comes at a price you feel is not too steep, then I will do that."
What he has to offer is other draft picks.

"Especially in the early second (round)," he said. "The 34th and 36th. Those are really good picks.
They're appealing picks."

Montreal has its best collection of picks since it had five in the top 73 in 2007. That year, they got Ryan McDonagh (now a New York Ranger) 12th, Max Pacioretty 22nd, Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban 43rd and defenceman Yannick Weber 73rd.

Their off-season moves so far include buying out rearguard Tomas Kaberle and signing depth defenceman Davis Drewiske to a new deal.

Pittsburgh : Letang refuse 56 millions $

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Les Penguins de Pittsburgh auraient tenté de s'entendre dès cet été avec l'as défenseur Kristopher Letang, mais celui-ci aurait refusé leur lucrative offre de contrat de huit ans.

Selon, les Penguins auraient offert au finaliste à l'obtention du trophée Norris 54 millions $ (6,75 millions $ par saison) pour demeurer avec la formation de la Pennsylvanie, mais selon, ce sont plutôt 56 millions $ (7 millions $ par saison) que Letang aurait refusés.

Il reste un an au contrat de Letang, qui lui rapporte 3,5 millions $ annuellement. Quand celui-ci viendra à échéance, Letang pourra profiter de l'autonomie.

Toujours selon, le clan Letang aurait déposé une contre-offre qui lui aurait rapporté entre 7,5 et 8 millions $ pendant plusieurs saisons. Les Penguins auraient jugé cette somme trop onéreuse.

Ray Shero a souvent répété que de s'assurer des services de Letang à long terme est une priorité pour les Penguins, mais si aucune entente n'est conclue, les Penguins pourraient bien l'échanger.

La situation n'est pas sans rappeler celle de Jordan Staal. Incapables de s'entendre avec leur joueur de centre avant le repêchage en 2012, les Penguins l'ont échangé aux Hurricanes de la Caroline en retour de leur premier choix (le huitième) du dernier repêchage, du centre Brandon Sutter et d'un espoir, Brian Dumoulin.

Letang a terminé à égalité en tête des pointeurs chez les défenseurs du circuit l'an dernier avec 38 points, même s'il a raté 13 rencontres.

En 385 parties en carrière, le Montréalais de 26 ans a marqué 44 buts et ajouté 165 aides et affiche un différentiel de plus-42. En 80 matchs des séries, Letang a marqué 13 buts et récolté 47 points.

jeudi 27 juin 2013

Best pick at No. 5: Jaromir Jagr, Penguins

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first NHL Draft, assembled a 13-member panel to select the best first-round picks of all time, based on selection number. will feature one of the top first-round picks each day, beginning with the best No. 30 pick on June 1 and culminating with the all-time No. 1 pick on June 30, the day of the 2013 NHL Draft.

Today: The best No. 5 pick: Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1990

When the Philadelphia Flyers arrived at the 1990 NHL Draft, they had a skinny Czechoslovakian forward at the top of their board, and when their turn with the fourth pick came up, Jaromir Jagr was there waiting for them. Instead, Flyers general manager Russ Farwell got nervous about picking a European player so high and opted for Canadian center Mike Ricci.

With the next pick, the Pittsburgh Penguins were more than happy to select Jagr. Two Stanley Cups and a treasure trove of trophies later,'s Dream Draft panel voted Jagr the best No. 5 first-round pick.

Jaromir Jagr
Jaromir Jagr
G: 681 | A: 1,007 | P: 1,688
SOG: 4,881 | +/-: 278
Jagr made an immediate impact in Pittsburgh on and off the ice. He played a key role in the team winning the Stanley Cup in his first two seasons, and his productivity -- along with his iconic, thick, black mullet -- made him one of the most popular players in team history.
Jagr moved from complementary piece to a starring role in 1992-93 with the first of back-to-back 90-point seasons. In the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, he won his first of five Art Ross trophies with 70 points in 48 games.

Jagr was even better in 1995-96, setting career-highs with 62 goals and 149 points, each second to teammate Mario Lemieux among League leaders.

With Lemieux retiring after that season, Jagr became the Penguins' top star. He hit the 100-point mark again in 1997-98, with his 102 leading the League and winning the first of four straight Art Ross trophies. His best season in that span was 1998-99, when he had 127 points and was second with 44 goals. He won the Hart Trophy as League MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the League's most outstanding player as voted by the players.

He won the Pearson/Ross duo in 1999-2000, and in 2000-01 won his fifth Art Ross with 121 points, to go with 52 goals. But with the Penguins unable to meet Jagr's contract demands, he was traded to the Washington Capitals in the summer of 2001, ending an 11-season run in Pittsburgh that saw him total 439 goals, 640 assists and 1,079 points in 806 games, numbers that rank second to Lemieux in each category.

Jagr signed a seven-year, $77 million contract, then led the Capitals in scoring in each of his two full seasons in Washington. However, he never scored more than 80 points, got the team into the playoffs once, and with the Capitals looking to cut costs, was traded to the New York Rangers on Jan. 23, 2004.

After playing in Europe during the 2004-05 lockout, Jagr returned to New York re-energized and
finished second in the League with 54 goals and 126 points, each a single-season Rangers record. He finished second in voting for the Hart Trophy and won the Pearson for the third time.

Named captain prior to the 2006-07 season, he responded by scoring a goal on his first shift, 29 seconds into a season-opening 5-2 win against the Capitals at Madison Square Garden. He went on to have his 10th 90-point season and led the team with 30 goals, 66 assists and 96 points, eighth-highest in the League.

Along the way he scored his 600th goal and 1,500th point, and tied Mike Gartner's NHL record with his 15th straight 30-goal season.

Jagr left the Rangers after the 2007-08 season and spent the next three playing in Russia. He returned to the NHL at age 39 with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011-12 and had 54 points in 73 games while serving as a respected leader. He signed with the Dallas Stars in the summer of 2012 and was leading the team with 14 goals and 26 points when he was traded to the Boston Bruins. Four months past his 41st birthday, Jagr remains a vital contributor to the Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Jagr ranks 10th in NHL history in goals (681) and eighth in points (1,688), and is one of 12 players with more than 1,000 assists. He's the leading scorer among non-Canadian players.

Those marks made him a convincing choice by's Dream Draft panel, ahead of Hall of Fame member Scott Stevens and Jagr teammate Tom Barrasso.

"Happily, for various reasons, the perception of Jaromir Jagr the person has now evolved to match the reality: that he is a hard worker who deeply cares about the game and his teammates," NHL Vice President of Public Relations and former Rangers beat writer John Dellapina said. "The talent never has been in question, an extremely rare combination of dazzling skill and overwhelming strength. And anybody with access to an NHL Guide and Record Book must acknowledge that there have been only a handful of players in League history who have been more relentlessly productive.
"There were some brilliant players chosen fifth overall. Jagr is a cut above. Jagr is special."

Lightning : La fin d'une époque

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Le Lightning de Tampa Bay a l'intention de racheter le contrat de Vincent Lecavalier, selon ce qu'a appris notre informateur hockey Renaud Lavoie.

L'organisation a ensuite confirmé la nouvelle par voie de communiqué.
« Vinny est l'un des grands responsables des succès que nous avons connus, dont lors de la conquête de la coupe Stanley en 2004, et son implication dans la communauté est remarquable, a déclaré le directeur général de l’équipe Steve Yzerman, qui affirme par ailleurs que la structure de la nouvelle convention collective a aussi influencé cette décision. L’organisation du Lightning est redevable envers Vinny. Nous le remercions pour tout ce qu’il a fait ici et lui souhaitons le meilleur pour l’avenir.

L'attaquant québécois avait signé une entente de 11 ans et 85 millions de dollars avec l'équipe en juillet 2008. C'est donc dire que le Lightning devra débourser 32,67 millions, soit 8 M$ en bonus et 24,67 M$ en salaire.

mercredi 26 juin 2013

Habs : Déjà vu

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The way Brian Gionta’s 2012-13 campaign finished was all too familiar for the Habs captain.

He knew exactly what was wrong as soon as he heard the pop. After spending the final four months of 2011-12 recovering from season-ending surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon in his right arm, Gionta didn’t need to wait for the doctor to give him the diagnosis when he felt a similar snap in his left arm this May.

“I knew right away. It was just a fluke play in the neutral zone. My arm got caught behind me with a guy and it got twisted the wrong way,” explained the 34-year-old, who injured his left biceps tendon in Game 1 against the Senators this spring. “It’s discouraging. The fact that not too many people have had it and it happened to me in back-to-back years is definitely hard to deal with. We’re hopeful [I’ll be back] for the start of camp next season. It’s a long road but I’ve been there and I’ve done it, so I obviously know what’s ahead.”

The silver lining in Gionta’s experience level when it comes to recovering from biceps surgery is he already knows how to bounce back stronger than ever. Coming off the longest injury of his career last year, the Rochester, NY native was one of just six Canadiens players to suit up for all 48 games in the truncated season. The 11-year NHL veteran also finished tied for second on the team with 14 goals, including three game winners, and improved from a minus-7 differential in 2011-12 to a plus-3 in 2012-13.

“The earlier they do [the surgery], the easier it is because if you wait too long with the muscle all balled up, it starts to build scar tissue and attach itself up there,” described Gionta of the procedure he’s since learned inside-out. “Basically once it was pain-free and the tendon had stretched back, it was mid-summer [last year] when I got really comfortable pushing it and not being worried. When I put on an elbow pad last year after about three months, I could feel it but I don’t even question it at all anymore. I’m hoping this one is the same.”

Entering the final year of his five-year deal with the Canadiens, the captain is planning on arriving for camp in September with a pair of healthy arms and a big chip on his shoulder. Having experienced everything from the team’s Centennial celebrations in 2009 and an incredible run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010 to a disappointing last-place finish in 2012 followed by a complete overhaul behind the bench and in the front office that summer, Gionta is ready to lead the Habs to another place the 2003 Stanley Cup champ is familiar with: the top.

“I believe whole-heartedly in this team and what we can do. Those guys battled hard all year,” explained Gionta, whose team skyrocketed to second in the East just one year after their 15th-place finish. “What I’m most proud of is how we bounced back from games. When we had a tough loss or a subpar effort, it didn’t last long. Earlier in the year, when we had three games where we couldn’t get a win and we weren’t playing our best hockey, we continued to stick with it and continued believing in ourselves. That showed a lot of character in this room and that’s what it takes to win.”

LNH : Début d'un nouveau régime

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Embauché par les Canucks de Vancouver lors d'une partie de chaise musicale avec Alain Vigneault, John Tortorella a indiqué mardi qu'il avait toujours rêvé de diriger une équipe canadienne dans la LNH.

« D'être impliqué dans ce genre de contexte, je ne pourrais être plus fébrile, a commenté l'Américain de 55 ans au cours d'une conférence de presse où les Canucks ont présenté le successeur de Vigneault et le 17e entraîneur-chef de leur histoire. J'y ai souvent pensé et j'étais à la recherche d'une telle opportunité. »

Remercié récemment par les Rangers de New York, qui ont embauché Vigneault la semaine dernière pour le remplacer chez les Blue Shirts, Tortorella a 24 ans d'expérience comme entraîneur. Il a notamment remporté la coupe Stanley avec le Lightning de Tampa Bay en 2004.

L'homme originaire de Boston a participé aux séries de la LNH à huit reprises et il a remporté le trophée Jack-Adams, remis à l'entraîneur par excellence de la ligue, en 2004. Reconnu pour son tempérament bouillant et sa personnalité abrasive, il a été congédié quatre jours après que les Rangers eurent été éliminés par les Bruins de Boston au deuxième tour des séries.

Tortorella était un adjoint chez les Rangers en 1999-2000 quand il a remplacé John Muckler à titre d'entraîneur-chef lors des quatre derniers matchs. Il a ensuite passé sept saisons à la barre du Lightning avant de revenir à New York en février 2009.

Mais Tortorella est également reconnu pour sa relation tumultueuse avec les journalistes. Il a promis, mardi, d'améliorer son approche à ce titre avec les représentants des médias de Vancouver.

« Je sais à quel point cette partie-là du travail est importante ici, a dit Tortorella. Quand tu perds ton emploi, tu te caches dans un trou, tu te rééavalues, tu essaies d'apprendre. Et je suis certainement passé par ce processus.

« Ai-je commis des erreurs? Absolument. J'ai moi-même créé ce genre de situation et alimenté la perception qu'on avait de moi dans les médias. Mais je sais à quel point c'est un élément important qui vient avec le rôle d'entraîneur ici, surtout dans cette ville et cette province. »

Toutefois, l'entraîneur restera aussi exigeant à l'endroit de ses joueurs, alors qu'il continuera de s'attendre à ce qu'ils rendent des comptes pour leur jeu sur la glace. Tortorella a affirmé que les attentes seront élevées à l'endroit de tous les joueurs, y compris les attaquants vedettes Henrik et Daniel Sedin.

« Nous avons un bon groupe de meneurs... mais nous n'avons pas remporté la coupe Stanley, a noté le meneur de tous les temps au chapitre des victoires en carrière signées par un entraîneur américain. On va en demander plus aux joueurs, à commencer par les jumeaux, et cette exigence va s'étendre au reste de l'équipe. »

Vigneault a été congédié quand les Canucks ont été éliminés au premier tour des séries pour la deuxième année d'affilée, après qu'il eut mené l'équipe à la finale de la Coupe Stanley en 2011.

mardi 25 juin 2013

Habs : Forward thinking

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Often, the best thing a player can do to put a season in their rearview mirror is to start looking ahead to the next one.

Despite the Canadiens’ 2012-13 march to a northeast division title, not every player on the team’s roster had an easy time finding their rhythm after the NHL lockout came to an end in January. On pace for a career-year production-wise in his previous campaign, Travis Moen was instead forced to miss 34 games in the latter half of the season with an upper-body injury. While Moen returned this year as much a physical presence as ever for the Habs, he never managed to recapture the scoring touch that saw him log nine goals and seven assists in 48 games in 2011-12.

 After being signed to a four-year contract extension by new GM Marc Bergevin before the start of the season, Moen wound up relegated to a fourth-line role on Michel Therrien’s team, playing the majority of his shifts alongside Ryan White and Colby Armstrong. With three years remaining on his current deal with the bleu-blanc-rouge, Moen’s goal will be to ramp his physical game up to another level in 2013-14, while continuing to pitch in points whenever possible.

“I think I need to be playing with a little more of an edge,” admitted the gritty 31-year-old forward, who finished the season with two goals and six points. “I spoke with the coach and he wants me to be more intense, so that’s something that I’m aiming to do moving on forward.

“I try to play a physical game; to go out there every shift and play my style,” he added. “Obviously the coach feels like I can do more and that’s what I’m going to do.”

 While Moen will be looking to raise his compete level when the puck drops on the Canadiens’ upcoming season, he’ll be doing so with a solid base to build on. With 82 hits in 45 games this year, the Stewart Valley, SK native eclipsed his output of 75 in 48 games the year before. Logging 101:11 of shorthanded ice time, Moen also led all Habs forwards in penalty kill minutes, and his four fighting majors ranked second on the team behind only Brandon Prust.

“Whatever situation I’m in, I try to go out there and play my hardest. That’s what I try to focus on,” said Moen, who dropped the gloves with Chris Thornburn, B.J. Crombeen, Gregory Campbell and Wayne Simmonds this season. “Fighting is always a part of my game. It’s what got me into the league and it’s not something I shy away from.”

With his season behind him and an ever-evolving Montreal squad ready to elevate their game even higher next year, Moen already has his sights set squarely on his future with the team, ready to make the most of the remainder of his contract.

“I want to be playing and helping the team win,” he concluded. “But I’ve got to be better so that I can prove myself again.”

Canadiens : Le contrat de Kaberle racheté

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Le Canadien de Montréal a informé le défenseur Tomas Kaberle que son contrat sera racheté, selon ce qu'a rapporté Bob McKenzie du réseau TSN, dimanche soir.

En rachetant le contrat du défenseur, le Tricolore libérera 4,25 millions $ de sa masse salariale. Il ne restait qu'une saison à l'entente du Tchèque qui lui aurait rapporté 4,5 millions $ US.

Il s'agit du deuxième et dernier rachat accéléré mis en place à la fin du lock-out en janvier 2013 qui permet à une équipe de racheter deux contrats sans que ceux-ci comptent sur la masse salariale. Marc Bergevin avait racheté le contrat de Scott Gomez avant le début de la dernière saison.

Le Canadien avait acquis les services de Kaberle des Hurricanes de la Caroline en retour de Jaroslav Spacek en décembre 2011.

Kaberle n'a disputé que 10 parties en saison régulière en 2013 et il a récolté trois aides. En 53 matchs en deux saisons avec le Canadien, le défenseur de 35 ans a obtenu 25 points (3 buts, 22 aides).

Il a commencé sa carrière avec les Maple Leafs de Toronto avant d'être échangé aux Bruins en 2010-2011, où il a gagné la coupe Stanley. Il s'est joint aux Hurricanes en tant que joueur autonome en 2011. Il avait signé une entente de trois ans d'une valeur de 12 750 000 $.

samedi 22 juin 2013

Habs : A good soldier

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Yannick Weber may have seen limited action for the Canadiens in 2012-13, but at 24 years of age, the Swiss star isn’t prepared to write it off as a lost season.

Having suited up for just six games during the lockout-shortened campaign, the smooth-skating rearguard believes that taking a glass-half full approach to his situation will be beneficial for his career in the long-run.

“It’s not [an] ideal [scenario]. Definitely not,” stated Weber, who has played 115 games since making his NHL debut with the Habs in 2008-09. “I’m still young. I’ve still got a lot to learn, so this past season was more mentally [tough] than it was on the ice. Maybe in a few years I’ll see that it was good to go through a season like this; that it might have been mentally beneficial for me.”

Making 54 fewer appearances this year than he did in 2011-12, however, was at times frustrating for the 2010 Olympian, who spent the better part of the 48-game schedule watching from the pressbox. After finishing with the third-highest point total among Canadiens defensemen a year ago, Weber registered two assists and a minus-1 differential while logging 13:45 of ice time per game in just a half-dozen appearances for Michel Therrien’s squad.

“It certainly wasn’t easy. It was a bit of a bizarre season, too, with the lockout,” confided Weber, who missed eight games after suffering a knee injury on March 7 in Carolina. “We had eight defensemen on the team who were healthy [for the better part of the year]. We had a ton of wins to start the season, so it was really hard at the start to have a chance to play. We didn’t have a chance to have a real training camp and there were no exhibition games, so it was hard to have a real opportunity to be in the top six. For me, it was all about having a lot of patience, waiting for my chance, working hard and staying positive.”

That was easier said than done for Weber, who saw the likes of rookies Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu called up from Hamilton and given breaks ahead of him on the Canadiens’ back end. Nevertheless, the young veteran is quick to point out that being passed over for less-seasoned defensemen shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of faith in his abilities.

“I’ve had good discussions with Marc [Bergevin] and Michel [Therrien]. They both said that they were proud of me, that I’ve worked hard and was a professional during the season,” shared Weber, who Therrien inserted in the lineup on four occasions down the stretch in late April. “They said that they know I’m capable of playing here and that I’m an NHL defenseman. They said they still have a lot of confidence in me. It was good to have a discussion like that. Now, I’ll go into the summer and work hard for next season.

“Being a healthy scratch again and again isn’t easy,” continued the former AHL standout, who considered the possibility of heading to Hamilton for conditioning purposes, but ultimately decided against it. “But all season long, the coaches and my teammates all supported me and they were good with me. It’s good to know they’re happy to have me here.”

Already focusing on the start of a full-length NHL season next fall, the pending restricted free agent is hoping not to be a casualty of the numbers game once again. Looking to force his coach and general manager’s hands when camp rolls around this year, Weber has all the motivation he needs to make the most of his offseason workouts and return to Montreal in fine form.

“For everyone, it’s the same thing. It’s summertime and no one will be playing for four months. In September, when training camp starts, it’s the same thing for everyone,” affirmed Weber on the subject of having an opportunity to compete for a spot on the Habs blue line on an even playing field.

“I’ll come here ready, and it will be a little different than [this year] because we’ll have exhibition games and a proper training camp. I will have a different opportunity than this past season.”

LNH : « L'endroit idéal pour gagner la Coupe! »

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Alain Vigneault est officiellement le 35e entraîneur-chef de l’histoire des Rangers de New York.
 « Un honneur et un privilège »

L’ancien pilote des Canucks de Vancouver a été présenté aux médias new-yorkais lors d’une conférence de presse, vendredi, au Radio City Music Hall. Il devient ainsi le premier Québécois à diriger les Blue Shirts depuis Michel Bergeron, en 1989.

« Il n’y avait aucune chance que je passe à côté de cette occasion. C’est un honneur et un privilège que de diriger l’une des six équipes originales, a déclaré Vigneault. En regardant les photos de la conquête de 1994 au site d’entraînement de l’équipe, il n’y a aucun doute que New York est la place idéale pour gagner la Coupe Stanley. »

« AV est l’un des meilleurs entraîneurs de la Ligue nationale et on peut se compter chanceux de l’avoir parmi nous, se félicite le directeur général de l’équipe, Glen Sather. Alain connaît le système que nous désirons adopter à New York. Il est un entraîneur articulé, intelligent et organisé. »
Sather a précisé qu’il y avait 13 candidats au poste d’entraîneur-chef et que ce n’était pas une lutte entre Vigneault et Mark Messier, ce dernier visiblement déçu de ne pas avoir eu la faveur du directeur général.

 « Les attentes sont élevées à NY » - Biron

« J’ai tenu deux entrevues en personne et quatre via téléphone. Non, ce n’était pas seulement entre Vigneault et Messier, précise Sather, qui fournira des explications à l’ancien capitaine des Rangers, la semaine prochaine.

« Quand j’ai parlé avec Alain, il était très intéressé à joindre l’équipe. Je sentais qu’il était très ambitieux et qu’il voulait gagner. Il l’a déjà prouvé. Il remplissait chaque aspect que l’on cherchait chez un entraîneur. »

Sur papier, Vigneault se retrouvera dans une situation qu’il a comparée à celle des Canucks. « Il y a plusieurs bons vétérans dans cette équipe qui nous aideront à développer nos jeunes talents. C’est de cette façon que nous avons progressé à Vancouver. En plus, nous avons l’un des meilleurs gardiens au monde (Henrik Lundqvist) et une bonne défense bien balancée. J’ai hâte de rencontrer les joueurs et de travailler avec eux. »

Vigneault succède à John Tortorella, qui a guidé les rênes des Rangers de 2009 à 2013. Il a paraphé une entente de cinq ans d’une valeur totale de 10 millions de dollars.

« C’est plus facile de négocier un bon contrat quand deux équipes te pourchassent en même temps », a-t-il lancé à la blague devant Sather.

À lire également

Vigneault en sera à sa quatrième équipe dans la Ligue nationale, sa troisième comme entraîneur-chef. Après avoir dirigé le Canadien de 1997 à 2000, il a passé sept saisons à Vancouver, menant son équipe à une victoire de la Coupe Stanley, en 2011. Vigneault a également occupé le rôle d’adjoint avec les Sénateurs d’Ottawa, de 1992 à 1996.

Brassard s'en frotte les mains

Derick Brassard en sera à sa première saison complète avec les Rangers l'an prochain. Quand le congédiement de John Tortorella a été annoncé, il voyait bien Alain Vigneault prendre la relève.

« C’est certain qu’Alain était mon choix. Par contre, ce sont des choses comme joueur que tu ne contrôles pas vraiment », a affirmé le Québécois.

Pour Brassard, la réputation de Vigneault à travers la ligue a sûrement fait pencher la balance.

« Il est demeuré sept ans à Vancouver. Il a eu des saisons avec beaucoup de victoires et il est passé très près de remporter la coupe Stanley », a souligné le joueur de centre.

Une nouvelle étape pour Alain Vigneault

La nomination de celui qui provient de l'Outaouais, tout comme l’attaquant de 25 ans, est une bonne nouvelle pour les Blue Shirts, selon Brassard.

« On va avoir le même noyau que l’an passé. D’amener Alain, c’est un gros plus pour l’organisation et les joueurs. J’ai juste hâte d’arriver au camp et de jouer devant lui », a lancé celui qui deviendra joueur autonome avec compensation à l’été 2014.

De son côté, Martin Biron retrouve un entraîneur qui l’a déjà dirigé avec les Harfangs de Beauport dans la LHJMQ, lors des saisons 1995-96 et 1996-97.

« L’arrivée d’Alain est bonne pour l’équipe. Nous sommes bien contents. Lorsque j’avais 18 ans avec les Harfangs, j’avais terminé la saison avec lui. On avait perdu en finale de la Coupe du Président.  Je me rappelle qu’il était dur et je ne comprenais pas vraiment ses tactiques. Mais avec du recul, je constate que c’était déjà un très bon entraineur », admet le gardien, conscient que les attentes envers Vigneault seront élevées pour ramener la Coupe Stanley à New York pour la première fois en 20 ans.

vendredi 21 juin 2013

Chicago : Bickell chose chasing Cup instead of World Series

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Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell has become a prominent figure during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, taking on a key offensive role for a team seeking to win its second championship in four seasons.

Bickell, 27, scored eight goals over the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- one fewer than he had in 48 regular-season games. In the Western Conference Final, Bickell scored goals in three consecutive games, then added a pair of assists in the clinching Game 5 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

Bickell was shut out through the first three games in the Stanley Cup Final, but he came through with two assists in Game 4 on Wednesday as the Blackhawks beat the Boston Bruins 6-5 to tie the best-of-7 series at 2-2.

He has been gracious enough to agree to keep a player blog that will appear on throughout the series against Boston.
In his latest entry, Bickell writes about how he got his start in hockey:

CHICAGO -- With the extra day off in between Games 4 and 5, I figured it would be a good time to actually introduce myself to all the readers in the proper way by giving my backstory for how I got into hockey and how I got to the National Hockey League.

I grew up in Orono, Ontario, and like most kids I wanted to learn how to play hockey. But when I was 4 years old my parents said they wanted me to learn how to skate first. They got me into doing what we call CanSkate, which is a learn-to-skate program.
It was almost like a carnival. We'd dress up in costumes and they'd teach us how to do certain circles and stop in certain places. The older kids in it were figure skaters and they did their thing, but I did it for a few years so I could learn how to skate. My parents wanted me to learn before I played hockey. 
It's probably the smart way to go about it.

It was about two years later when I first started playing the game. I was six now and I suited up in a recreation league in Orono. I had a blast and I played there for a couple of years before my parents were like, 'Oh, he's actually pretty good.' That's when we went up to Lindsay, Ontario, so I could play at the Triple-A level and see how it would work out.

Well, it worked out. I was around 12 at this point and I played there for another couple of years before I decided I needed to go play at a higher level, play with some better players and have some better competition. The only way to do it was to go to Toronto, so that's what we did.

When I was 14 years old, I moved in with a family in Ajax, Ontario, which is about a 45-minute drive from Orono, my hometown. I would live in Orono with my parents on the weekends and with one of my teammate's families during the week so I could go to school there.

I ran into Dave Bolland when I was in Ajax. We played for the Toronto Red Wings starting at 14 years old. I remember we went up to play in a Pee-Wee Tournament in Quebec, and that's where we first got to play against Alex Ovechkin. He beat us in a shootout. He was good then and he's good now.

I went back to Lindsay the following year to play at the Bantam level. I needed to do it to build my skill, etc. But then I went back to Toronto and played with Bolland on the Red Wings again. It was a real roller-coaster. We were 15 years old at the time and just starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, we could make a career out of this.

When you're playing hockey as a kid you just want to play because it's fun and you enjoy it with your friends -- but right around this time is when I could tell hockey could be more than just a game for me. My parents were behind me 110 percent and did whatever they had to do to get me on my long road trips to the next game. They would get me there and leave it up to me how I wanted to carry on.

We ended up winning the Bantam Cup with the Toronto Red Wings, and soon after I got drafted by the Ottawa 67s in the second round of the Ontario Hockey League draft. I played for the legendary Brian Kilrea for 3 1/2 years before he traded me to Windsor for the second half of my final year in the OHL.

The funny thing is I would also play baseball in the summer because my parents wanted me to shift my focus away from hockey for at least a little while. They didn't want me to be thinking about hockey all the time. I got pretty good at baseball, so much so that when I was 15 the New York 
Yankees came to scout me.

I tried out for Team Ontario at 15 even though most of the players on the team were going to be 16. They liked me but told me they were going with the 16 year olds and that I should try again next year, when I was 16. Well, next year came, but I went to the OHL Finals with the 67s so during the prime baseball and scouting time I was still playing hockey.

That's when I realized I needed to choose, and it was not really a choice. Growing up Canadian, you dream of becoming a hockey player, not a baseball player. If I didn't play hockey, maybe if the 67s didn't go to the OHL Finals that year, I'm not sure if I would have had a chance to make it as a baseball player. I was a pretty good centerfielder, though.

Baseball will come back for me after the Cup Final is over because the Cubs have invited me to throw out the first pitch and take batting practice.

Anyway, back to hockey: The Blackhawks drafted me and Bolland in the second round of the 2004 NHL Draft. They had four picks in that round. They were not a very good team at the time, but we knew it was a good opportunity to get started.

I started my pro hockey career in Norfolk of the American Hockey League, but after a year there the Blackhawks wanted to have their minor-league team closer so we moved to Rockford, Ill. I was up and down for a while before I became a full-time player here three seasons ago -- and now I'm trying to fulfill the dream of winning the Stanley Cup.

Daniel Brière comprend la réalité

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Daniel Brière avait entendu les rumeurs à son sujet donc il s’attendait à ce que les Flyers de Philadelphie rachètent son contrat ce qui a été confirmé jeudi par le directeur général Paul Holmgren.

« C’est plate d’en arriver à ce point, mais c’est la réalité de la nouvelle convention collective. Les Flyers ont agi avec beaucoup de classe dans ce processus et ils m’ont gardé au courant des développements », a commenté Brière à RDS.

« C’est triste, mais ça me donne peut-être la chance d’ouvrir de nouvelles portes que je n’imaginais pas. »

Pour le moment, Brière et son agent ne peuvent pas encore discuter avec les formations intéressées, mais ils ont déjà commencé à évaluer les possibilités.

« On commence à travailler sur un plan de match en identifiant les équipes qui auraient un besoin pour un joueur de ma trempe », a confié Brière.

Chose certaine, le Québécois de 35 ans réfléchira attentivement avant de trancher puisque ses trois garçons vont demeurer à Philadelphie.

« On aimerait trouver une équipe proche de Philadelphie pour cette raison donc peut-être plus une équipe de l’Association Est. Bien sûr, ce serait agréable que ce soit une formation qui peut aspirer aux grands honneurs ou bien une équipe ayant besoin d’un joueur comme moi », a-t-il expliqué en entrevue téléphonique.

« Les enfants auront un grand mot à dire dans la décision », a ajouté le sympathique athlète.

Avant d’accepter le lucratif contrat des Flyers, Brière avait étudié en profondeur une proposition du Canadien et la machine à rumeurs s’était emballée. Ce n’est donc guère surprenant qu’il se montre plus discret à ce sujet quelques années plus tard.

« Avec ce qui s’est passé la dernière fois, je préfère ne pas commenter », a-t-il précisé avec gentillesse au sujet d’une possibilité de se retrouver à Montréal.
(D’après une entrevue effectuée par Nicolas-Étienne Côté)
Le contexte du rachat

« J'ai rencontré Daniel la semaine dernière et je l'ai informé de notre décision de racheter son contrat, a dit le DG. La décision a été difficile à prendre parce qu'il a été un très bon joueur pour nous au cours des six dernières années», a raconté Holmgren.

« Daniel s'est joint à notre équipe comme joueur autonome en 2007 et il a été un excellent atout et une excellente personne pour notre formation et un modèle sur tous les aspects. On veut l'en remercier et nous lui souhaitons bonne chance au sein d'une autre organisation. »

Les Flyers, comme bien des équipes de la LNH, sont dans l'obligation de laisser partir certains joueurs compte tenu des nouvelles règles qui prévoient une diminution du plafond salarial de six millions l'an prochain. Les termes de la nouvelle convention collective prévoient que les clubs puissent racheter deux contrats pour les aider à satisfaire les exigences du plafond.

À l'origine, Brière avait accepté un contrat de huit ans d'une valeur de 52 millions de dollars. Il devait toucher trois millions la saison prochaine et deux millions lors de la suivante. Il recevra 75 % de la valeur de ces sommes, soit 3,75 millions pour le libérer. Cette somme lui sera payée au cours des quatre prochaines années à raison de 937 500 dollars.

En 364 parties de saison régulière à Philadelphie, Brière a marqué 124 buts et obtenu 159 passes en six saisons. Il se retrouve au sixième rang de l'histoire de l'équipe dans la colonne des pointeurs.

En 15 saisons dans la LNH à Phoenix, Buffalo et Philadelphie, Brière a amassé 659 points, dont 286 buts en 847 rencontres.

jeudi 20 juin 2013

Charges against former Hab withdrawn

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Assault charges laid more than two years ago against former Canadiens captain Vincent Damphousse were withdrawn Tuesday in Quebec Court.

Damphousse, 45, was subsequently acquitted.

The prosecution re-evaluated all of its evidence and decided to withdraw the charges, Crown prosecutor Sylvie Dulude told the court.

Damphousse had pleaded not guilty in 2011 to six charges alleging he assaulted his estranged wife, Allana Henderson, at different times between Jan. 1, 2008, and March 29, 2011.

Henderson was also charged in April 2011 with assaulting Damphousse. She faces charges alleging she stole an accordion file folder from Damphousse as well as assault with a weapon while driving a vehicle. (The alleged weapon being the vehicle)

She also pleaded not guilty.

The two charges against Henderson are still pending. A trial date for Henderson’s case was set on Tuesday for January 2015.

Damphousse, who appears as a panellist on the popular sports talk show L’antichambre on RDS, declined to speak to journalists following his acquittal after he left the Montreal courtroom.

 Carolyne Paquin, the crown prosecutor in Henderson’s case, said outside the courtroom the two cases have always been evaluated separately by prosecutors despite the fact that the two events intersected. For their part, Paquin said, they’ve never considered withdrawing the charges against Henderson.

Henderson’s lawyer Vincent Rose told reporters outside the courtroom that his client was very disappointed with the prosecution’s decision. Rose objected to the withdrawal of the charges against Damphousse, wanting Judge Sylvie Durand to postpone her decision to acquit.

I suggested that in this case the decision to withdraw (the charges) is reviewable and unfounded,” he said.

Rose said he is looking at the recourse that might be available to his client for possibly challenging the judge’s decision.

He also noted the Crown prosecutor decided in Henderson’s case to submit it to a judge to allow him or her to decide on innocence or guilt. “And we’re asking but why wasn’t the same thing done” with 
Damphousse, he said.

Damphousse played 18 seasons in the NHL. He was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round — 6th overall — of the 1986 NHL draft. Damphousse spent five seasons with the Leafs before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers, where he played for one season. He was with the Habs for seven seasons starting in 1992-93 when he put up 97 points and was part of the Canadiens’ last Stanley Cup victory. His final season in the NHL was in 2003-04 with the San Jose Sharks.

Canadiens : Nouvelle source de motivation

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David Desharnais n'a jamais été à court de sources de motivation au cours de sa carrière. Le joueur de centre du Canadien en aura une toute nouvelle, la saison prochaine: il voudra prouver qu'il mérite pleinement le contrat de 14 millions$ pour quatre ans que l'équipe lui a accordé en mars dernier.

À lire également

« Je vais arriver au camp d'entraînement prêt comme jamais », a-t-il affirmé en entrevue à La Presse Canadienne, en fin de semaine dernière.

Desharnais veut faire oublier la saison régulière en dents de scie et les séries éliminatoires difficiles qu'il a connues.

Des observateurs ont établi un lien entre les problèmes qu'il a éprouvés et la signature de la lucrative entente, qui entrera en vigueur en octobre.

« Ce sera un nouveau défi pour moi, a-t-il repris, en évoquant la pression qui sera plus forte. J'avais peut-être besoin de ça finalement. Parfois, on a le sentiment d'être rendu à destination et de ne plus avoir rien à prouver. C'est toujours positif d'avoir de nouveaux objectifs et de devoir lutter afin de les atteindre. »

Avec le recul, Desharnais maintient que l'obtention, pour la première fois depuis le début de sa carrière, d'une bonne sécurité d'emploi n'a absolument rien à voir avec la baisse de rendement qu'il a eue sur la glace.

« Ça n'a aucun rapport, c'est sûr, a-t-il réitéré. Au contraire, ce nouveau contrat ne peut que m'être bénéfique. Sur le coup, tu peux connaître une légère baisse, mais ça ne dure que quelques jours. Après, c'est le retour à la normale. »

Le hockeyeur de Laurier-Station met plutôt sur le compte de la saison écourtée les difficultés qu'il a connues - 28 points en 48 matchs en saison régulière, en plus d'une passe en cinq rencontres des séries.

Fin de saison décevante pour Desharnais

« Ça arrive que ça aille moins bien, a noté l'athlète de 26 ans. C'était une saison écourtée, ç'a joué contre moi. Sur une saison de 82 matchs, tu vas connaître des périodes léthargiques. Mais tu as plus de temps pour t'en sortir et ça finit par s'équilibrer à la fin de la saison.

« Je ne suis pas inquiet sur une saison de 82 matchs, tout va rentrer dans l'ordre », a-t-il ajouté, sachant qu'on s'attend davantage de lui ainsi que de Max Pacioretty.

« On parle de Max, mais il a tout de même fini au premier rang des marqueurs de l'équipe. Cela dit, on doit redoubler d'ardeur, être meilleur et plus constant, il n'y a aucun doute là-dessus. »

L'encre de sa signature au bas du nouveau contrat n'était pas sèche que déjà des observateurs soutenaient que Desharnais serait éventuellement le joueur de centre de l'équipe le plus susceptible d'être échangé, quand le jeune Alex Galchenyuk sera muté à la position de centre.

Desharnais, qui ne modifiera rien à sa routine d'entraînement estivale, a dit n'avoir guère prêté attention à cette analyse.

« J'étais plus facile à échanger avant de signer, a-t-il relevé. Si les dirigeants m'ont offert un contrat de quatre ans, c'est parce qu'ils pensent que je peux aider l'équipe, pas une autre équipe.

« Les échanges font partie du sport et c'est hors de mon contrôle, a-t-il poursuivi. Je suis un Québécois qui veut jouer avec le Canadien. Ce sera une autre source de motivation pour moi. Je transforme toujours les défis en motivation. »

 «Je veux tourner la page»

Desharnais participait, samedi, au tournoi de golf caritatif de l'ancien hockeyeur Philippe Boucher, qu'il parraine en compagnie d'un autre joueur du comté de Lotbinière, Antoine Vermette des Coyotes de Phoenix.

mercredi 19 juin 2013

Habs : A dream becomes reality

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Colby Armstrong impacted the Canadiens in his own unique way this past season.

Slowed down by several injuries over the course of the last few years, the veteran forward had an opportunity to start anew in 2012-13. Having been given the opportunity to do it in Montreal with the team he admired most as a child, Armstrong was the character-type player the Habs sought out to instill a new culture within the locker room. He is the first one to admit, however, that he didn’t manage to have as big an impact on the ice as he had hoped for.

“After the way that things finished up for me last year in Toronto, I really wanted to get myself back on track here,” explained Armstrong, who finished the season with two goals and five points in 37 games. “It’s unfortunate that I hurt my knee at the end of the year. I was able to come back a little bit early to try and salvage a small part of the shortened season. I had some highs and lows, but I believe that I still managed to do a good job fulfilling my role.”

If there was one person who knew exactly what Armstrong could bring to his team this past season, it was Michel Therrien. The veteran coach knew that the Saskatchewan native could offer up a measure of physicality and toughness on the ice, elements that the Canadiens lacked the last several years. 

They may have only been together for a few months because of the lockout, but Armstrong was happy to have another opportunity to play for Therrien.

“I’ve known Michel for a long time. He coached me since I got going in the American Hockey League at 20 years old and I’ve always been comfortable with him,” recalled Armstrong on the subject of the 49-year-old bench-boss. “He taught me how to become a professional when I was younger and he used the same style he had in the past with the guys here this year. I really enjoyed playing for him.”

He may not have produced the results he had hoped for on the ice, but Armstrong left his mark in the Canadiens dressing room nonetheless. Appreciated by all of his teammates for his sense of humor and love for life, the 30-year-old veteran proved to be an excellent resource to help the younger players on the team. Fulfilling that role helped Armstrong become more accustomed to the new, primarily francophone environment in which he lived over the past several months.

“I managed to improve my French a little bit. It was one of the things that I wanted to do when I got here,” explained Armstrong, who made more than a few people laugh when he put his French-speaking skills on display on 24CH. “I was lucky to sit next to Davey [David Desharnais] for the whole season. It was different to live amongst a different culture, but I really enjoyed living here.”

When the Habs’ season wrapped up a few weeks ago, Armstrong’s contract also expired at the same time making him an unrestricted free agent come July. Conscious of the fact that a return to the Canadiens in 2013-14 is not a guarantee, he greatly appreciated his stint in Quebec and hopes to pursue his career here to continue building on a season in which the team took a giant leap forward.

“I loved Montreal. There’s a great group of guys here,” Armstrong said. “My family and I loved this city. Being a part of this team was an incredible experience.”

LNH à Québec: la Merveille y croit

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La Merveille croit fermement que la LNH effectuera un retour à Québec.

La capitale nationale est dépourvue d'une équipe du circuit Bettman depuis que les Nordiques ont déménagé à Denver en 1995, où ils ont été baptisés l'Avalanche du Colorado. De sucroît, elle a remporté la coupe Stanley dès sa première campagne là-bas.

Le légendaire Wayne Gretzky a déclaré mardi que Québec aura de nouveau une équipe de hockey professionnelle qui connaîtra autant de succès que les Jets de Winnipeg.

«Je crois que ce n'est qu'une question de temps avant que Québec n'obtienne une concession», a dit Gretzky aux journalistes présents au tournoi de golf classique Joe Carter. «Écoutez, je crois que nous reconnaissons tous que c'est une belle ville et qu'elle peut accueillir une équipe de la LNH, particulièrement en ce moment avec l'instauration du plafond salarial et la parité entre les équipes du circuit.

«Quand ça se produira - on ignore quand, mais quand (l'équipe) arrivera là-bas -, ce sera une concession forte et solide, tout comme celle des Jets actuellement, et elle connaîtra autant de succès.»

La LNH a effectué un retour au Manitoba en 2011, après que les Thrashers d'Atlanta eurent été déplacés à Winnipeg et rabaptisés.

Les Jets de Winnipeg ont d'abord séjourné pendant 15 saisons - de 1979 à 1996 - dans la ligue avant d'être déménagés à Phoenix, pour y devenir les Coyotes.

Les rumeurs qui circulent dans les coulisses de la LNH indiquent que si l'entente entre Renaissance Sports & Entertainment et la Ville de Glendale échoue afin de conserver les Coyotes à Phoenix, alors ils pourraient jouer ailleurs la saison prochaine.

Gretzky, qui est âgé de 52 ans, est devenu propriétaire minoritaire et entraîneur-chef des Coyotes (2005 à 2006 et 2008 à 2009) après avoir conclu sa carrière de joueur, mais il n'a pu fournir des détails supplémentaires sur l'avenir du club.

«Honnêtement, je ne suis plus ça», a-t-il dit sans détour. «Je ne vis plus en Arizona et vous en savez probablement plus que moi sur ce sujet.

«Je ne ferais que prendre une chance si je disais quelque chose... et ce serait aussi votre cas sans doute.»

En dépit des ennuis des Coyotes à Phoenix, Gretzky estime qu'il existe encore du potentiel pour qu'une équipe du circuit Bettman connaisse du succès dans le désert.

«C'est une belle ville et c'est une merveilleuse ville de sports», a-t-il assuré. «Quand vous regardez leurs concessions... Columbus est un autre bel exemple: Ils ont complètement changé l'allure de leur saison, ils se sont mis à gagner, ils ont généré de l'effervescence, ils ont commencé à connaître du succès, ils ont recommencé à vendre des billets.

«Phoenix est une très bonne ville de sports et j'espère qu'elle trouvera le bon propriétaire qui pourra prendre cette équipe et la conserver là-bas.»

mardi 18 juin 2013

Habs : Sophomore surge

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In only 23 games, Raphael Diaz made the most of the time available to him in 2012-13. If only he’d had more of it.

Forget second-year slumps. When the Swiss blue-liner checked in for his post-lockout, post-Gauthier sophomore season as a Hab, he did so brimming with quiet confidence, fresh off an impressive stint with EV Zug of the Swiss Elite League. While NHL arenas around North America were kept dark as the league and NHLPA struggled to come to terms on a new CBA, Diaz was hard at work lighting up rinks overseas with seven goals, 29 points and a plus-19 rating in 32 games with his hometown squad in Switzerland.

Grasping that momentum and riding it into the beginning of the Canadiens’ most recent campaign, Diaz showcased a potent offensive punch to go along with his already steady defensive game. With P.K. Subban held out of the lineup due to ongoing contract negotiations, Diaz proved he was up to the task of bolstering the Habs’ power play, picking up eight points in the first six games of the season to match frequent defensive partner, Andrei Markov, in production.

“I felt like I got off to a good year – the whole team had a good start,” expressed Diaz on the subject of the Habs’ 12-4-3 record over the first 19 games of their campaign, before transitioning into the second leg of his season – one he’d likely be happy to forget. “Then, I got that concussion and I was out for two months and couldn’t do anything.”

With a promising start in the books, Diaz’s season was derailed on Feb. 25 when during a game in Ottawa, he suffered a concussion after being struck in the head by the boot of a Senators’ skate.
“I had a one-on-one battle and I was falling down, but I didn’t expect that the leg or the skate was going to come up and hit me in the jaw,” said the Swiss rearguard, who still managed to finish the game despite the incident. “I remember I was protecting myself from hitting the ground by trying to fall on my hands. I knew right away that something wasn’t right.”

The concussion sidelined Diaz for the next 25 games – more than 50 percent of the already truncated regular-season calendar – the symptoms handcuffing him from partaking in even the simplest of low-impact activities.

“It was a lot of headaches, pressure in the head and dizziness as well,” explained Diaz, referencing one of the most frustrating segments of his young NHL career. “You’re at home and you can’t do anything. You just want to move your body, and I was trying something to keep myself in shape, but then you feel the pressure, you feel more headaches and your head tells you that it’s too much. So you stop and wait, and wait and wait and then try again. It was a process with a lot of ups and downs.

“All I could do was wait until it got better,” he added. “It wasn’t that easy to come back in the same shape that I was before. I only had a few games before the playoffs to get readjusted.”

Diaz rejoined the Canadiens for the final four games of the season, stuck using those remaining match-ups not to fine-tune his game, but rather to re-establish it altogether after the lengthy absence. Picking up one assist in that time to finish the season with 14 points in 23 games, the Swiss blue-liner came up just two points shy of his tally of 16 from 2011-12, gathered over 59 contests.

While his first NHL postseason may not have yielded the results he hoped for, the ever-optimistic Diaz is content to chalk it up as another piece of vital experience now under his belt.

“It was a great first experience, and I think I learned a lot of things. It was awesome in the Bell Centre and the crowd was so loud. [The intensity level] went up two steps more and everyone was going at 120 percent as they try to fight for the Cup,” expressed Diaz, already eager to put that experience to good use. “I was expecting the physical play and I knew there was going to be a lot of hitting. It was my first time in the playoffs, but next year, now I’m going to know what’s coming. I’ll be ready for it and I can’t wait for that.”

Luckily for Diaz, he didn’t have to wait that long to lace up his skates again. Passing his medical tests shortly after the Habs cleared out their lockers in Brossard, Diaz jumped on a plane to join the Swiss national team at the World Championships in Sweden.

“I want to go over there, show my best hockey and support my teammates from Switzerland,” he said, before going on to do exactly that as he helped the Swiss claim a silver medal at the tournament
– his country’s first podium finish since 1953.