Oui The North: Still Canada’s Team

By JD Lagrange – According to numbers recently published by Sportsnet, the Montreal Canadiens have survived a pretty awful stretch while managing to retain their title of “Canada’s Team”. This is particularly impressive considering that in the meantime, the second favourite team nation-wide, the Toronto Maple Leafs, were one of the Stanley Cup contenders, only to fail winning a playoffs’ series for the 18th consecutive season.

The numbers

Here is Sportsnet’s breakdown of percentage by region. Instead of using by province, they have amalgamated the Maritimes as one region and the prairies (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) as another.

Facts to note, the Canadiens are in the top-3 in all regions and in the top-2 in four of the six regions. The Leafs find themselves outside the top-3 in three of the six regions.

Populations argument

According to the most recent data from Statistic Canada, the total population in the country sits at around 38,654,738.

British Columbia5,286,528

That is not considering the Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, which count for about 128,000 in population. But one can assume that the trend would be very close.

Now, based on Sportsnet’s percentages, here’s the breakdown between the two most popular teams in Canada:

Quebec6,489,888not top-3
British Columbia422,922not top-3
Alberta225,046not top-3

Granted that those numbers are a bit skewed as not every Canadian is a hockey fan, but we can agree that most are at least a little bit across Canada.

The results show that the Toronto Maple Leafs have more fans in the country. However, they are almost exclusively in Ontario while the Montreal Canadiens are in the top-3 in all regions in Canada. So we can safely say that while Toronto is Ontario’s team, the Canadiens are Canada’s favourite team by a wide margin. At least in percentage of population across the country. Even in Ontario, the Habs are the second favourite team!

Imagine now how those numbers will be affected when the Canadiens return to winning on a more regular basis! It is no stretch to think that the scale will only be tipping more in favour of the team sporting the red, white and blue uniform.

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Avoid Turning The Habs Into The Leafs

By JD Lagrange – There are models to be followed and others, well, not so much. For a few years now, many people claimed that the way to rebuild is to follow the model of the Toronto Maple Leafs. As time has gone by, we now see why that model is not working and they are trying to find ways to fix it on the fly.

You see, the Leafs went all out with skills. They even have some size in there, so they thought that they were addressing all requirements to finally end a Stanley Cup drought dating back to 1967. They missed one important aspect: grit and character. You know, the elements that cannot be measured by fancy stats?

Before closing my previous website, I wish I would have kept a few articles but what’s done is done. Prior to the series between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs, I had predicted, with stats in support, that the Habs would cause the upset because their top players were more physical than Toronto’s and over a 7-games series, it would be a deciding factor. And that’s how Montreal ended up winning. The Leafs’ top-six, their players on the ice the most, are all very soft. They don’t like physical play and for the most part, try to avoid it. They added grit on the bottom-six but those are not the players on the ice the most. Result? No playoffs’ series win since 2004.

Anderson rumours

Josh Anderson was a huge reason why the Canadiens went to the Stanley Cup finals a year ago. He did manage a few goals but it’s so much more than that. The Leafs’ most physical top player was Jake Muzzin and Anderson was all over him the entire series. And when the rest of the Leafs saw him coming, they were getting rid of the puck much sooner than they wanted to, causing turnovers and change in possession. And when Anderson tagged them with a hit, they felt it. It hurt. Those are more key factors in the game of hockey that cannot be measured.

Josh Anderson

Now, rumours are circulating around Anderson being traded. What’s worse is reading fans claiming how it would be a good thing. But you see, the one we nickname the Powerhorse has been scoring at a pace of 25 goals over an 82-games season. He skates like the wind, he’s huge, he’s physical, he will drop the gloves to defend his teammates. While he’ll never be nominated for the Selke Trophy, he’s not a liability defensively either. How many guys like that are there in the NHL? Two? Three? He’s a very rare breed in today’s game. And that’s why Marc Bergevin stole him from Columbus in a trade.

Flawed reasoning

Those wanting to justify wanting him traded are repeating the same three most often used reasons:

1- His contract: Anderson earns $5.5 million per season and has five years remaining. Well folks, he’s only 28 years old! At the end of his contract, he’ll be 33. Not 38, 33! How much is a 25-goals’ scorer who can hit, drive the net and fight worth do you think? Some claim that his contract will be worse as time goes on? False. The salary cap will only go up and as time goes by, his salary will only look better as it will take less of the team’s percentage. It’s poor reasoning and a lame excuse.

2- Injury-prone: Some say that his injuries are an issue. Yes, he only played 26 games for Columbus the season prior to the Canadiens acquiring him. He had one injury, an shoulder on which he had surgery on and that has since been fine. But get this… Only Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Jeff Petry have played more games for the Canadiens in the past two seasons! So the injury-prone reason is just another (false) excuse. Predicting future injuries? I’d love that crystal ball.

3- Canadiens’ window: We have often read or heard people claim that they should trade Andy because by the time the Canadiens are competitive, his contract will be ready to expire. For one thing, I personally think that the Habs will be competitive before five years. But even then, in the meantime, they can use Anderson. He’s useful regardless. He can skate on the same line, even periodically, with the team’s young stars and protect them, create space for them on the ice. Yes, it is needed, as the league went away from goons.

You have a short memory and need visual proof? Notice who is coming to defend Suzuki on that play. Yes, Anderson and… Chis Wideman. Now which one commands respect, do you think?

Monumental mistake

At the end of the season, Anderson publicly stated wanting to remain with the Canadiens. Context? He said that after the awful season the team had gone through. In multiple occasions during the season, he has taken a leadership role and backed his words with actions. He was even named assistant-captain for Team Canada at the World Championships. As we recently reported, Andy is spending the summer in Montreal to learn the City.

The team needs to shed salary? The Canadiens just traded Shea Weber’s contract and there are much better options to continue doing that. Jeff Petry ($6.25M) is all but gone. Mike Hoffman ($4.5M) comes to mind. Evgenii Dadonov ($5M) or even Jonathan Drouin ($5.5M) would be better options.

Look, Jeff Gorton’s former team, the New York Rangers, went and got a 4th liner in Ryan Reaves to protect the skilled players Gorton put together out there. They too recognized the importance of protecting their skilled guys. The Tampa Bay Lightning got Patrick Maroon to help them win two Cups in a row and they’re in the finals again this year. Teams recognize the need. Why can’t some fans admit it too?

In Montreal, we have a quality guy who can skate and score, a legitimate top-9 forward and we want to trade him? It makes zero sense! In fact, Anderson is crucial in helping the development of the team’s young players at the NHL level. The Canadiens cannot make the mistake of trading him… unless they get a similar player in return. But then, why would either team do that? Please Habs, don’t turn the Canadiens into the Leafs.

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