François Gagnon has a great story today on the Christmas present that is not to be.
As has been the case since 1999, the Canadiens will play road games during the holiday period. After a road trip to Washington on Dec. 20, Carolina on the 22nd and Dallas on the 23rd, the team will come home for a three-day Christmas break before hitting the road again for games against Tampa Bay on the 27th, Florida on the 28th and the Rangers on the 30th.
To make the holidays more pleasant, Canadiens management had planned to invite wives, partners and children to accompany the team when it travels to Florida on the 26th.
Great idea and, needless to day, a big hit with the players.
Until the NHL nixed it. Canadiens picking up the tab for family vacations would constitute a bonus payment that is not permitted under the salary cap. Contravening the regulation could result in a fine and/or the loss of draft choices.
So no Sunshine State for the Canadiens’ families.
How this will affect morale remains to be seen, but Gagnon notes that in the seven years since they last played at home between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, the Canadiens record is four wins, 10 losses, five losses in OT or shootout and one tie.
Gagnon also reports the Detroit Red Wings are being accompanied by their wives for this rare visit to Montreal. The NHL permits one guest on one trip per season.
This league is all heart.
Maybe Gary Bettman will be visited by the ghosts of Clarence Campbell, John Ziegler and Gil Stein, with the result that Colin Cratchet … err, Campbell can leave a little early on Christmas Day.
Biggest laugh in the paper today has to be Mats Sundin’s assertion that he wants to "be a Leaf for the rest of my career."
Sundin denies a report that fellow Swedes have made back-channel suggestions that a trade to Detroit would be a good idea. The addition of Sundin would make the Red Wings prohibitive favourites to win the Stanley Cup this spring.
But he says he wants to stay in Toronto, where "my only goal, my only wish is that we make the playoffs."
Sundin is 36 years old. He has never won a Stanley Cup. Sundin has, however, captained an Olympic gold medal and world championship Swedish team with Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmström.
But he’d rather fight for eighth place with Chad Kilger and Bryan McCabe?
What’s the Swedish word for bovine excrement?
• • •
I don’t usually engage in the sort of wackozoid trade speculation that fuels radio hotline shows, but it warms the heart, on a snowy day, to think about Alexander Ovechkin in a Canadiens’ uniform.
Ovechkin supposedly likes Montreal. And why not? The weather is cold, the babes are hot and everyone drinks. Montreal is like Moscow … with more Marxists.
Ovechkin is supposedly good friends with Andrei Markov – so much so there was speculation that Markov would jump to the Capitals.
Hey, he’s as good as signed.
As best I can fathom Restricted Free Agency rules, the Canadiens would have to give Washington four first-round draft choices.
The precedents that spring to mind are the draft choices surrendered by the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints to acquire Herschel Walker and Ricky Williams, respectively.
The 1989 Walker deal netted the Cowboys five players and six draft picks, laying the groundwork for Dallas’s Super Bowl dynasty.
Ten years later, Mike Ditka traded all of the Saints’ picks plus a first and third the following year to get Williams – and the rest is drug-haze history.
Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t have dreadlocks. Barring injury, he is going to light up the NHL for the next 10 years, minimum. The Bell Centre cognoscenti have been yearning for a player of Ovechkin’s calibre since Guy Lafleur departed.
He would become part of a Slavic contingent that includes Markov, Alex Kovalev, the brothers Kostitsyn, Mikhail Grabovski and Pavel Valentenko. Bring back Alexander Perezhogin, sign Alexei Emelin, add some Czechs for balance, a few francos to keep the media happy and you’ve got a nice bleu-blanc-Red Army.
It didn’t work in Hungary.
It didn’t work in Czechslovakie.
It didn’t work in Poland or East Germany.
But Russian occupation of the Bell Centre?
Bring it on.