All Habs Mailbag: Collberg, Fighting, Martin, Lockout, Goaltending, CBA


By Robert Rice, Senior Writer, 

TORONTO, ON — The All Habs Mailbag is as popular as ever! This is the place to send in your questions about all things Montreal Canadiens.

Then check every Thursday to read the answers to the most popular or poignant questions about the Habs. Keep in mind that we will discuss the entire Canadiens organization so questions about prospects and roster players are equally welcome!

Submissions can be mailed directly to [email protected]

Three Guidelines for Submissions:

  • This is not for hate mail or complaints. If you have an issue with what you read on these pages, this is not the place to bring it up. The mailbag is for questions about the Canadiens.
  •  As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.  Therefore I will not engage in discussion of the validity of rumours — frankly I consider them a waste of time anyway.  For every rumour that was close to accurate, there have been about a thousand duds.
  •  Nothing of essay-length please. There will be other people who will have questions and it is a bit unfair if I have to dedicate the Mailbag to answering one very large question or someone who’s asking five questions at once.
 So, let’s open the All Habs mailbag!


Isn’t Sebastian Colberg better off in a junior league playing lots of minutes in every situation?

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Elitserien in Sweden where he plays now, the issue is he is not getting the 10-15 minutes per game to benefit a prospect of his grade for professional league experience. There are draft picks who play in the European leagues and benefit from the experience of playing against professionals and it also allows them to adjust to pro-level play more quickly when they come over to North America. The issue at present is his team, Frölunda HC does not seem to be using him much, nor are they prepared to lend him to a team in the secondary pro league, the Allsvenskan, or their Under-20 team at the current time.

Arguably one could say he’d be better off in the CHL playing 15-20 minutes per game against peer competition, but a number of good NHL players have arrived coming out of playing in European professional leagues and done well for themselves. If Collberg’s ice time doesn’t increase, he’ll be losing valuable development time, but if he does start getting it, at his skill level he’s just as well off in Sweden. There’s no magic path to the NHL, all kinds of players take all kinds of routes to get there and Collberg could do very well for himself getting some professional experience before coming to North America.

What’s your take on the OHL fighting rule changes? Do you see something similar coming to the NHL?

I’m encouraged by the rule, I don’t believe fighting has a place in hockey and especially in junior hockey. We are dealing with a system that has many minors playing within it, who are pushed and encouraged to fight to earn a spot on the team.

The issue being as in all levels of hockey, the post-fight medical attention is in my view, appalling. Unless there is literally a knockout or a lot of blood lost, a player almost never receives medical attention post-fight. Also if a player is cut from a fight but not knocked out, it’s almost certain there will not be a neurological examination of any kind.

Also to keep in mind, the vast majority of junior players don’t have a professional career in front of them, they will be moving on to all kinds of walks of life and carrying potential neurological issues from a career as a junior league ‘enforcer’ hardly benefits them. Junior players are also left woefully uninformed on the dangers of concussions and the long-term side effects. As of late, I’ve decided to call concussions by what they actually are, brain injuries. “Getting your bell rung” and such colourful euphemisms are tossed around too much for what is really, damaging the one organ you really can’t do without in life.

As for the NHL instituting limitations for fighting majors, I can dream but the league has dragged its feet on player safety issues for decades and I can’t see it pursuing any kind of bold course along that path. Fighting is still seen as a way to sell tickets sadly.



Does anyone miss Jacques Martin? If yes why? If not….no explanations needed.

There will always be a particular crowd that feels a head coach didn’t get a fair shake in Montreal. There is always the argument that Martin never quite had the team he should have been coaching, as the defensive-minded Martin was deprived of the team’s All-Star defencemen Andrei Markov for the majority of his tenure. Including playoffs, Martin only had access to Markov for 60 games of the 222 he worked behind the bench. Now one can always argue coaches must improvise, but for a team that hasn’t been star-studded in a couple of decades, it’s hard to keep a team on it’s best footing when it’s best player is on the injured reserve list for the majority of three seasons.

You can argue his style wasn’t a fit for the players, but the Canadiens were not a powerhouse and it’s not difficult to assert he did the most with what he was given. One can’t help but imagine what the 96-point 2010-11 Canadiens might have been if Markov had been available for most of the season while Price was enjoying a career year. There was likely no Stanley Cup coming their way, but they might have at least upset their arch-rivals in Boston during the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.



Why should any self-respecting fan return to NHL when lockout ends?

 Because as much as the NHL messes around with us, it’s the greatest game in the world and the quality of the NHL outstrips any other hockey league there is. You can always choose to not buy tickets and merchandise to boycott league revenues of course. To me, we too often do not perceive the NHL for what it is, a private entertainment industry that will often war between those who operate the industry, the owners and the entertainers (the players) who attract the patrons. Whether we like it or not, the NHL is a business as are the AHL and the Major Juniors. We have to ask ourselves, what is more important, accepting occasional breaks in our personal entertainment, or just walking away and depriving ourselves of the sport that we love the most?



 What are your thoughts on Habs goaltending depth? Bulldogs goalies good prospects or do they need to draft and develop one?

 I’m personally lacking any sort of confidence that the depth chart gives the Canadiens any truly viable option for goaltending should a ‘doomsday’ scenario occur that costs them the services of Carey Price. Teams tend to overlook a position once they’ve selected a ‘franchise’ talent in that area, especially in goal as it doesn’t make sense to overly invest in a position once you feel you have a solution. In my view, the Canadiens could stand to invest a couple of draft picks, not necessarily high picks, but select a goaltender or two soon so that they can at least have a viable solution if Price is injured or they wish to give him some support and ease him off from a 70+ game workload so he can better rested for playoff runs. It should be noted the last Hall of Fame talent the Canadiens enjoyed in Patrick Roy was one who kept his starts in the low 60s over his career.



Do you think any progress will happen this Friday when these greedy guys meet for the lockout?

It depends on the tone of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement talks really. Bettman said the last deal on the table, which allowed for Hockey-Related Revenue to remain as it is, which was the first actual concession by the owners in these talks was only good until the lockout deadline. If they reopen that debate, things could go even further apart on the areas of disagreement. If both sides are ready to address a more balanced approach to the revenue split between the league and its players, there could be hope for progress as it seems to be the major stumbling block right now. The issue will be that revenue sharing, contract lengths and the term to reach Unrestricted Free Agency are still areas of debate that haven’t been resolved and other areas of the new CBA could open up as well. I suspect this agreement will be edged out one point at a time and one negotiating session can’t realistically push progress in all of the problem areas at once.


  1. Is Desjardins not a viable option in case Carey goes down? After all he did have the best SV% in the ahl last year. Is there something i dont know about him?

    • With Desjardins having just turned 27 and yet to establish himself in even a backup position in the NHL I’m not that sold on him, especially considering Tampa let him walk, especially considering their depth is still soft IMO even considering new acquistion Lindback.

      I know there are late bloomers, but I think Desjardins is more akin to a Corey Locke or Alex Giroux, a great AHL player but not quite an NHLer.

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