Goose - The Habs and the Hab-Nots

Paul Gaustad hasn’t been having the best season in the world. In fact, he could easily submit his worst regular-season performance barring some sort of turnaround – a turnaround that seems to have started at the hands of the weakest team in hockey…

Photo courtesy US PRESSWIRE via Jean-Yves Ahern

On January 31, The Goose seemed to remember how much fun it is to play like a madman. He looked like the Gaustad that I swooned for from 2005 to 2008. Posting a 3 point night and playing a downright nasty physical game, the rest of the team fed off of his energy, complete with him assisting on goals from the also-under-producing Patrick Kaleta and Ville Leino. He continued that strong play last night against the Rangers, playing important minutes on the penalty kill slaughter which included an extended period of time where he and Kaleta kept the puck behind the Rangers goal.

Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News interviewed Kaleta on Gaustad’s recent play, which shed some light on what the team as a whole may be drawing from it:

“That’s what you call leadership,” Kaleta said. “We’ve got to have that from everybody where they want to put their body on the line, whether it’s taking a hit, blocking a shot. You can go down the line. That’s someone you look up to, someone who I think is a top penalty killer in the league. I look up to him and try to learn from him.”

Finally, an assistant captain not named Vanek is starting to lead by example.

However, Sabres fans really ought to be thanking the Montreal Canadiens. If it wasn’t for them, Goose might not have found his way from the brink of irrelevancy. It just so happened that the Blue & Gold wanted to come in strong after the All-Star Break, and what team was waiting for them? The absolute biggest joke in the Eastern Conference.

I want to clarify. Fans of the Montreal Canadiens aren’t the target here. Habs fans catch a lot of flak. But so do Sabres fans, and so do Leafs fans, and so do fans of just about every market. As unruly mobs, we are all far from perfect. And when a fan of Les Habitants brags about their team, they have a lot to fall back on…22 NHL Stanley Cup wins is 22 more than the Buffalo Sabres.

No. It’s the team and the organization that deserves to wear the Dunce hat this year. It came to light when this bunch of hooey actually got brought to media attention. WGR’s Paul Hamilton hit the nail on the head with why their reaction was embarassing:

Now the city’s fans are tougher than their hockey team because Chara is still waiting to be challenged by a Canadien. Many talk about how soft the Sabres are, but they can’t hold a candle to this bunch … Right after the game guys who weren’t involved and in Erik Cole’s case didn’t even hear it went to the Montreal media.

If I may, here’s a quick blow-by-blow that racks up why Habs fans should be calling for a complete top-to-bottom firesale of that organization:

  • Hey Sabres fans, are you disappointed by the Ville Leino signing or the Brad Boyes trade?
    Scott. Gomez.
    The New York Rangers spent big money on Gomez and after two seasons of mediocre play, they determined he wasn’t living up to his cap hit of $7,357,143 (also known as “more than Tim Connolly”) (all numbers from The Habs said, “Oh we have GOT to have him on our team!” and executed a mind-boggling trade that brought Gomez to Montreal.
    Lo and behold, Scott Gomez has under-produced just a little. As of this article he hasn’t scored a goal in 361 days. Kind of puts Cody McCormick’s goalless season in perspective, doesn’t it?
  • I keep saying that the Sabres shouldn’t consider trading Leino or Ehrhoff because they’re in their first year with the team. It’s incredibly bad form for a GM to back out of a deal that he signed just because the player has a bad first season. So when the Carolina Hurricanes decided to trade Tomas Kaberle in the first of a three year deal, I thought it was in incredibly bad taste.
    No. The Hurricanes committed a faux pax. But at least they didn’t trade for a player that Carolina wanted to move in the first year of a three year deal. Carolina signed Kaberle for a cap hit of $4.25 million. After 29 games he only had 9 assists and a minus-12, and yet again the Habs said, “THERE’S our missing piece!” Montreal traded Jaro Spacek, who was in the last year of his bloated contract, for a guy that wasn’t wanted in Toronto, Boston, or Raleigh.
  • Mike Cammalleri was a big leader of the Canadiens, and he was their clutch playoff performer in the 2010 post-season. He scored 19 points in 19 games and, along with Jaroslav Halak, carried the Canadiens.
    On January 10, 2012, Cammalleri commented following a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues:
    “I can’t accept that we will display a losing attitude as we’re doing this year. We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it’s no wonder why we lose.”
    Well duh. Your team was in 14th place at the time, and they couldn’t eek out a win to save their life, so people shouldn’t be upset that he said something like that. Hell, Sabres fans would kill for a player to say something like that instead of the usual milquetoast “we need to work harder, blah blah blah.”
    You’re forgetting something. We’re talking about the Habs. Two days after that comment, Cammalleri was traded for Rene Bourque. Oh sure, the Canadiens organization played it off like it was a move to make their team better (it wasn’t) and that it was in the plans for a while (you’re kidding). Cammalleri hurt their feelings and they ran him out of town, just like Patrick Roy before him.
  • Finally, the crème de la crème. After Patrick Kaleta celebrated his empty net goal on January 31, the players in Red & White took exception and started some pushing and shoving. It culminated with Max Pacioretty asking Paul Gaustad, “Where’s Lucic?” In return, Gaustad asked Pacioretty, “Where’s Chara?”
    If you’ve been under a rock since November, let me explain how dumb this all was. See, Pacioretty was poking at Gaustad’s ego, since Goose took so much flak for not responding to Milan Lucic concussing Ryan Miller in November. That has been spotlighted as a turning point of the Sabres season, and Gaustad was on the ice for the hit. Needless to say, the tough guy took a whole lot of negative attention for it, and it was well deserved.
    What could be worse than that? What could possibly be more embarrassing?How about when Zdeno Chara broke Max Pacioretty’s neck? Oh, and no one on the Habs has ever, and I mean ever, done anything about it. Not Travis Moen, not Hal Gill…no one. When the Sabres met Boston after the Miller/Lucic incident, Gaustad took his medicine and fought a fair fight against Lucic. He stood up to him, told him it wasn’t okay to concuss his goalie, and proceeded to get his butt kicked. But at least Goose slowed the bleeding by acknowledging it and stepping up.Chara broke the man’s neck, and it resulted in the Montreal police seeking his arrest. It resulted in Air Canada threatening to pull sponsorship. It did not, however, result in a single Montreal Canadien squaring off against him and taking a five minute fighting major.For Mathieu Darche to run to the media and complain tells you all you need to know about the team.

I feel for Habs fans. I really do. There were times this season where I was ashamed to be a Buffalo Sabre supporter, but I genuinely feel awful for fans of the Canadiens that pay hard-earned money to watch a team with this little of a backbone, an organization that makes this little sense. From first glance at the moves that have been made, the Canadiens organization is run by an armchair GM who has a few too many beers on gamenight and overreacts to minor incidents. As much as I sit on Twitter and say things like, “Trade Derek Roy for a bag of pucks!” I take comfort in knowing that the Sabres organization is not likely to actually trade Derek Roy for a bag of pucks.

You’ve got Carey Price stating that Gaustad’s comments don’t mean much, because he doesn’t really do anything on the ice. Don’t tell Price that Gaustad had the game-winning goal and two assists, or the Canadiens organization might actually trade the goaltender for a bunch of vulcanized rubber disks.


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Tags: Boston Bruins Brad Boyes Buffalo Buffalo Sabres Carey Price Carolina Hurricanes Darcy Regier Derek Roy Eastern Conference Fansided Free Agency Hal Gill Hockey Jaroslav Halak Jaroslav Spacek Jason Pominville Lindy Ruff Max Pacioretty Mike Cammalleri Montreal Canadiens New Jersey Devils New York Rangers NHL Northeast Division Patrick Kaleta Paul Gaustad Ryan Miller Sabres Scott Gomez Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Playoffs Terry Pegula Thomas Vanek Tim Connolly Tomas Kaberle Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Trade Deadline Travis Moen Ville Leino Zdeno Chara

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