News for Monday, January 21st

The Edmonton Sun says that Alex Tanguay has not waived his no-trade clause, and has not asked for or been asked about a trade. But the article has Tanguay saying some interesting things: it sounds like he believes the Flames would like to trade him, and it also sounds like he wouldn't mind, if only because he'd like to return to filling a more offensive role. But apart from Tanguay's ethnic appeal, is he really the kind of player the Habs need? A smallish playmaker prone to scoring droughts? Tanguay is also overpaid for what he brings, which is around 25 goals and 7o points. We all know the Habs are dying for a French-Canadian superstar, but Tanguay only fits half of that bill, and unfortunately, it's not the superstar part. I'd rather resign Ryder.

Oh, and one more thing: "The media are so tough on the French guys here. If you think Toronto is bad, if you think Calgary is bad, for a French guy coming to Montreal? I don't think it gets any worse." Attention French Media, that's what Alex Tanguay thinks of you.

For years, Habs fans have cried that the team needs more muscle. Mike Komisarek has been doing as much as he can to provide it, and it's not premature now to say that the big guy has become one of the NHL's elite blueliners. An imposing physical presence, Komisarek hasn't been shy about throwing all that weight around, ranking second in the NHL in hits, first among defencemen. He also leads the league in blocked shots, a definite indicator of dedication and toughness. He fights too, if you care about that, and plays a solid defensive game; he's particularly adept at using his long reach to swat the puck away from streaking opponents, preventing breakaways and stopping two-on-ones. Bob Gainey is going to have to open the bank for this guy, and soon: he's a UFA after next season.

The story over in Liverpool has been getting odder. Turns out Gillett and Hicks aren't actively trying to sell their interest in the FC; Dubai International Capital (outbid by the owners of the Stars and the Habs last year) is planning a "rescue bid", as Hicks tries to refinance his share of the team. He's being crunched by the emerging credit-mess in the US economy.

La Presse has a story that suggests that, in the 11 games since Christmas or so, the Canadiens have found their true identity, which is as a defense-first club that capitalizes on mistakes with a balanced attack from four different lines. They've outscored and outshot their opponents in those games, and generally become better at playing the system Carbo has preached since taking over as coach, but only time will tell if the Canadiens have truly arrived, or if this is another step in the learning process. I'm not completely sold on their defensive abilities: Cristobal Huet had to make several miraculous saves to keep it close against the Pens the other day, facing far tougher scoring chances than Dany Sabourin, who technically was the busier goalie of the night. And the Habs were unable to shut the Crosby-less Pens down in the third, getting outshot 11-5 in the final frame. Expect growing pains to continue, but two years down the road, things look good, if the core of the team's youth - Komisarek, Plecanek, the Kostitsyns, Higgins, Chipchura, Lapierre, Latendresse, Price - stays together.

Another optimistic piece in La Presse says that the other NHL teams are passing the word: the Habs are for real, and if you want to beat them, you have to stop the Plecanek line and the power-play. It's a good read and an honest assessment of the Habs' current strengths ... and weaknesses: the Koivu line is dead in the water, as it notes. Still the #1 line on paper, it is obviously the #2 line in any meaningful sense - production, ice-time, power-play time - and could soon become the de facto 3rd line. In the past dozen games, the trio of Lapierre, Ryder, and Latendresse has outscored Koivu, Higgins, and Kostitsyn. That's not acceptable.

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