TSN carries the CP story that runs in many papers today, focusing on the close, personal connections between Dallas and Montreal, which have helped develop an unlikely cross-conference rivalry between the two teams. First of all, the teams' respective owners, George Gillet and Tom Hicks, are close friends and business partners. Furthermore, all three current Montreal bench coaches - Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller, and Doug Jarvis - spent a significant amount of time with Dallas after their Montreal playing days. Doug Jarvis was an assistant coach there for 14 years, while Kirk Muller won his second Cup with the Stars, playing alongside Guy Carbonneau, whose daughter is married to team captain Brendan Morrow. Bob Gainey, Habs GM, filled the same role with Dallas in days gone by, and still has close connections in the city. More recently, Gainey helped out his Texas hockey pals by trading them Mike Ribeiro - for Janne Niinimaa, ouch - who has blossomed like the proverbial yellow rose into a star: his 19 goals and 39 points have him heading for a career year. Niinimaa is also having a good season. In Europe. That's an unusual amount of history for teams from different parts of the continent to share.
In the Gazette (and on AP), Pat Hickey takes the "Revenge of Ribeiro" angle, quoting the one-time Hab as saying "I had this game circled (on the calendar) for a long time". Well, it will be a Merry Christmas for him, after picking up three points against the team that drafted him, lost patience with him, gave up on him, and traded him for a bag of pucks. It will be a less Merry Christmas for coach Carbo, who will be spending the holidays being mocked at son-in-law Brendan Morrow's house. Carbo wasn't happy with what he saw, particularly Ribeiro's goal, on which, as he notes, "we just gave it away." It's nice of him to use the collective pronoun there, since only one guy actually gave the puck away, but since Carbo doesn't name names, neither will I. But he's tall, European, and his name in English means "he who licks hammers".
For a different perspective, see the Fort Worth Star Telegram, whose Tracey Myers gives us the view from Texas, which is that Mike Ribeiro was looking to send a message to the Habs, and did (he put a little too much postage on it for my liking). Myers notes that "it wasn't a bad night for anyone in black", and that the Stars "controlled the tempo throughout". She quotes Turco as saying that Ribeiro "had the puck on a string" all night, and says the Canadiens sealed their own fate by failing to score on five power plays. All true. She also has a stat that isn't mentioned elsewhere: in his last 8 games, Mike Ribeiro has 15 points. Ouch.
For La Presse, Francois Gagnon talks about the game with Mathieu Dandeneault, who says Ribeiro's big night was "écrit dans le ciel" (written in the stars). Dandeneault praises Ribeiro , calling him "very intelligent" and a "very good player", but he says the Habs are to blame for the loss: "On a fait l’erreur de lui donner de l’espace et du temps. C’est sûr qu’il allait en profiter" ("We made the mistake of giving them too much space and time. They were certain to take advantage"). Gagnon also quotes a disgusted Guy Carbonneau, who says essentially that he can accept a loss if the team works hard and plays well, but that last night the Habs gave nothing ("Je peux accepter la défaite. Je peux vivre avec tant qu’on se défonce sur la patinoire. Et ce soir, on n’a rien donné. Rien!"). When it was suggested that the Habs were tired, playing their third game in four nights, Carbo admitted fatigue was a factor, but that a team always needs to give everything it has left, and that last night, "we didn't do that" ("On ne l’a pas fait ce soir ").
Also in La Presse, Rejean Tremblay has a blustery column that touches a few bases. He quotes Yvon Lambert at length on the Canadiens' lack of size, which in the opinion of both, it seems, is the biggest problem the Habs have. Lambert feels sorriest for Saku Koivu, "the poor guy", who is forced to do battle every night with guys a half-foot taller and 50 pounds heavier, and is criticized for not being able to do more against them. This angers Lambert. At some point, he says, it's only natural that Koivu has nothing left to give ("Le pauvre gars mesure cinq pieds et dix pouces et il passe les soirées à affronter des gars de six pieds et trois pouces, quand c’est pas plus. C’est normal qu’à un moment donné, il ne soit plus capable d’en donner plus"). I'm with Yvon about Koivu, who is as heart-and-soul as they come, but I think Koivu would be better off with a winger who can finish his plays than he would be with some extra bulk. And in generas, I feel the Habs clearly want less for size than for scoring. I'd gladly take a Daniel Briere or Marc Savard over a Dustin Penner or a Scott Hartnell right about now.
Tremblay has some kind words for Guy Carbonneau, who he says is "infinitely more solid in his decisions" ("Carbo est infiniment plus solide dans ses décisions"). Tremblay says he's making a difference this season, that the Habs record this year is not deceptive, as last year's was. Tremblay gives Carbo the gears a bit for benching Guillaume Latendresse, whom he points out has two more even-strength goals than the "great" Alex Kovalev, and more than any other Hab except for Tomas Plecanek, all while playing on the third or fourth line. Well, it's a fair point, but we know that Tremblay wouldn't be defending Latendresse if his name were Jones. Latendresse has been inconsistent: when he's working, he's effective, and when he's not, he's a liability. Carbo is trying to keep him on track, and letting him know that his spot in the line-up is not guaranteed is not at all a bad thing.
Tremblay (it's a long column!) blasts Bob Gainey for ever trading Mike Ribeiro (he's not a Frenchman, Rejean!), whom he says had "du talent et du chien." Okay, to me that says Ribeiro had the talent and the dog, but I can't figure out what his dog has to do with it. I assume it's an idiom of some sort, and I apologize for being at a loss with the translation, but Rejean's French is rather challenging at times. Anyway, he eye-rollingly suggests that Bob must have traded Mike for wearing his hat gangsta-style ("portait sa casquette avec la palette sur le côté"), and says it's infuriating that Gainey gave such a gift to the Dallas Stars. Fair enough, but I'm with those who say that Ribeiro was a lousy fit in Montreal.
Finally (!) Tremblay says some nice things about Jack Todd, whom he says is leaving the Gazette this January. What?! Say it ain't so, Jack!
See here for a nice piece on Habs prospect PK Subban, he now of the Canadian World Junior team. A great read, don't miss it.
In the blogosphere: Mike Boone feels our pain at HIO, pointing out that Roman Hamrlik went -4, and that Carey Price wasn't exactly Price-o-licious last night. Lions in Winter does a bang-up job of finding positives in last night's game (Markov has snapped out of his funk, Sergei Kostitsyn showed that his junior numbers weren't all linemate-related, the play of Chipchura and Streit, etc). Hey, who says Habs fans are always negative? Eyes on the Prize has a fun Christmas Wish List for the Habs; I liked it so much I might post my own later. And I think Four Habs Fans have coined a brilliant/depressing term for what happened to the Habs last night when they say that the Habs got "Leclaired in Dallas".
Hoping for better things on Thursday.