News for Saturday, February 23rd

Do you feel lucky, punk? You probably do if you're name is Tom Kostopoulous, and that's because you just found out that the police have dropped the charges against you. As everyone will recall, Tommy K got in the faces of some of Tampa's Finest a couple of weeks back. He thought he was coming to the defence of teammate Ryan O'Byrne, but it turns out he was aiding and abetting the rookie in an act of Grand Theft. Tommy gets off scott-free now, perhaps as a result of a nice letter of apology he wrote to the officers in question. Maybe he should write one for O'Byrne, who has yet to hear what his fate will be, and - having committed a felony - faces much stiffer possible consequences, such as the effective end of his NHL career.

The Habs have scored so many goals this season they may be forgetting their defensive roots. Though most famous for the "firewagon" dynasties of the 40s, 50s, and 70s, the true hallmark of the great Canadiens teams has always been excellent team D, bolstered by sharp goaltending. For the first time in a decade, the Habs have a team that can put the puck in the net: they currently stand third overall in offense, and have more 40 point players than both the Red Wings and Senators. But in the last few games, all that offense has been at the expense of attention to detail in their own end: they've allowed ten goals in their last two, and thirteen in their last three, with neither goalie playing what you would call well. Cristobal Huet has been especially un-good: 1-3-0, 4.50, and .859 in his last four games (OUCH!).

As the Canadiens prepare to honour the great Bob Gainey by retiring his number 23 tonight, the Gazette runs this great retrospective of Gainey's career, by Red Fisher. Vivid anecdotes of Gainey playing through pain and driving his oppnents nuts, laced with modest quotes from the man of the hour himself, combine to make this article a fitting and informative tribute.

James Duthie, a funny guy, talks about his hatred of the Habs growing up, and how the present crew of Canadiens have turned that around with their determination, flair, and sheer likability. So they really are a lovable bunch of guys - Komisarek, Koivu, Price, Ryder - I thought it was just me.

According to The Hockey News, a trade of Koivu for Jokinen is a logical possibile swap that would benefit most teams. Well, clearly Ken Campbell, the author, is no Habs fan: if he were, he'd never suggest trading Captain Koivu, a player most of us have come to love with the ferocious loyalty that can only be inspired by watching the captain of your favourite team nearly die or get blinded while trying to win the cup for you (it feels like it's for you, anyhow). That said, he makes a persuasive case that Jokinen, a big centre able to take more of a beating, is more the kind of player the Habs need up front, whereas Koivu might make a better fit in Florida, which is in need of leadership and playmaking and where there is significant friction between Jokinen and head coach Jacques Martin. Campbell has it all figured out: after they trade Koivu, Halak, and a prospect/pick for Jokinen, they swap Ryder to Calgary for Tanguay, and all of a sudden the Habs have two top lines that match up with any other top two lines in the East. Well, that's great in theory. But here's the thing: the Habs already have two top lines that match up with any others in the East. In fact, the Habs have the most balanced offense in the NHL and the third best offense overall. I don't think Jokinen and Tanguay would exactly be a downgrade, but it's hard to see how they would improve anything, either. And besides, I can't imagine the Habs trading Koivu ... if they want to swap centers, I'd even rather see them trade Plekanec for Jokinen (and I think Florida would jump at that one).

Here's the preview of tonight's match against the Jackets. Look carefully at the "Who's Hot" list for the Habs, and try not to fall off your chair when you see the name Michael Ryder. Just in time for the playoffs! Call off those trade talks, Bob, and sharpen your contract pencil! The Habs will want to watch out for Rick Nash, who has five points in his last four, but luckily it seems that Columbus's goalies have been just as bad as the Canadiens of late.

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