Bob the Bhodisatva

Did you hear the one about the Zen master who went up to the Belll Centre hot dog stand and said: "Make me one with everything."

He wasn’t sitting under a banyan tree pumping out enlightnment vibes, but Canadiens’ general manager Bob Gainey projected serenity at his end-of-season/beginning-of-playoffs press conference today. Fresh from a conference call during which the 16 playoff GMs talked to NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell and director of officiating Steven Walkom, Gainey strolled into the Bell Centre press room wearing a crisp white shirt and the facial expression of a faintly bemused basset hound.

After deadpan joking about stragglers – "last guy in does two laps" – Gainey offered his assessment of the team and its prospects in the playoffs. You can hear the GM on the main Habs Inside/out site, but what impressed me was Gainey’s quiet confidence.

Pointing out that "’you don’t win the Cup on April 10", Gainey said Canadiens will focus on one step at a time. The goal, however, is clear:

"We’re in the playoffs," Gainey said, "to win the Stanley Cup."

Gainey has been to the playoffs: 182 games as a player, another 50 as a head coach. He won five Stanley Cups in a Canadiens uniform and another as general manager of the Dallas Stars.

Guy Carbonneau won two Cups while playing 231 playoff games (161 with Canadiens). Doug Jarvis was on four Stanley Cup winners and Roland Melanson on three. Kirk Muller won one with the 1992-’93 Canadiens.

That’s a lot of postseason experience in the front office and behind the bench. And the playing roster includes three players whose names are on the Cup: Alex Kovalev, Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu Dandenault.

They, along with the other vets, will be able to steady the nerves of the playoff virgins: Carey Price, Jaroslav Halak, Josh Gorges, Ryan O’Byrne, the Brothers Kostitsyn, Tom Kostopoulos, Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse, Mikhail Grabovski and Gregory Stewart.


Highlights of the GM’s remarks:

• Gainey said he was always confident and optimistic that changes
to the Canadiens would create "openings for young players with

• He was less surprised than most by the success of
Carey Price, having seen the young goalie a dozen times in the AHL late
last season.

• Gainey praised his veterans – listing Alex
Kovalev, Bryan Smolinski, Roman Hamrlik, Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu
Dandenault – for keying the team’s late-season push. For the team’s
kiddie corps, "Playoff Experience 101" begins Thursday.

• Like everyone who saw the Leafs game, Gainey was impressed by Gregory Stewart. "One guy stood out and got our attention," the GM said, "and if he keeps on doing it, he’ll be pushing someone else for a spot."
• Parity in the league, Gainey said, is real. The gap between first place and eighth place was a difference of five wins – "one per month , not very much."
• Gainey’s most pleasant surprises were the play of his veterans (led by Kovalev), the depth on defence (he singled out my man Josh Gorges for praise) and team discipline (more power plays this season, fewer penalties).

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