All Habs Mailbag: Kostitsyn, CBA Negotiations, Training Camp, NHL Expansion


by Rick Stephens, Editor-in-Chief,

MONTREAL, QC. — 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 Wednesday 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  •  As long-time readers of All Habs know, we do not publish rumours.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.

Senior writer, Robert Rice is on vacation this week, so I’ve intercepted the mailbag to respond to this week’s entries. For next week, please send your questions to [email protected]!

Let’s open the All Habs mailbag!


Who is the most interesting unrestricted free agent left on the market?

Well Michael, since you used the word “interesting,” my answer will be Andrei Kostitsyn.  I’ll pause briefly while Habs fans roll their eyes.  Upfront we remember the bonehead move by Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov violating curfew before a Nashville playoff game this Spring. On the other hand, let’s acknowledge that under Jacques Martin, Kostitsyn was one of the most misused players by an incompetent head coach.

Kostitsyn is a pure sniper.  He should be deployed on the top-six, belongs on the power play, and when in an offensive groove, needs consistent linemates.  Forget the talk about him being disinterested — a player who registers 140 hits in a season (2010-’11) is engaged.  Kostitsyn is capable of 25 goals / 50 points and if paired with a motivating coach, AK-46 could add offensive punch to a lineup, and could be an interesting late-season UFA addition.



When do you think the NHL season will start ?

Honestly, I don’t know, Ibrahim.  But all signs are pointing to a late start to the season — there isn’t much optimism that the puck will drop on October 11. A recent CBC poll reported that 64 percent of fans believe that some of the season would be lost.

The NHL tabled a new proposal on Tuesday — a response expected Thursday by the NHLPA was postponed.  The players didn’t think much of the NHL’s second offer which the league viewed as a significant improvement.  With just over two weeks until the September 15 deadline, there doesn’t seem to be any urgency by either side, and they are still light years apart.

At this point, both sides seem to be trying to make the other side look bad in an effort to secure public support.

All of the focus has been on the way the revenue pie is divided and the size of the portions with little progress.  In addition there are a number of other issues to be resolved.

Having said that, revenue sharing is the issue, and once there is agreement the rest of the negotiations should move right along.  Bettman is also aware that several NHL franchises are hanging by a thread and a work stoppage would be devastating for them.  Let’s also assume that with players set to hold their own training camps, that negotiations could go beyond the September 15 deadline without the commissioner declaring a lockout.

So, for the optimistic, there are still glimmers of hope.  Realists, on the other hand, expect that part of the NHL season will be lost.



Do you think the Habs will invite as many players to training camp this year and do you think last year there were too many players?

It’s a common complaint Dave.  The Montreal Canadiens invite far too many players to development camp who lack the talent to be part of the organization now or in the future.  This is done to quiet irrational voices who whine about local product.  Similarly training camp rosters are bloated.

Given the direction of the off-season hiring, this is unlikely to change.

But last season, something even more damaging to the team’s performance was Jacques Martin’s stubborn reluctance to pare down his roster as training camp progressed.  Martin’s decision may have been partly influenced by the way the Canadiens and the league use Habs games as a cash-cow during the pre-season.  It resulted in an inadequate amount of time for line combinations to come together and to prepare the power-play.

Let’s hope that Michel Therrien’s knife is a bit sharper.



If Toronto gets a second NHL team, should Montreal get a second team as well? #MontrealMaroons #LavalPoutine #VerdunVirgins

Have you got siblings Martin? Hey Mom, he/she got one, I want one too!

Here in Montreal, we are secure enough to acknowledge the economic reality: the best location for NHL expansion is the Golden Horseshoe.  With a market of about 10 million people, the area should be able to support two additional teams: a second Toronto team and another in Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo or London.  It’s been calculated that teams in those locations would have a better chance to be successful than places like Winnipeg or Quebec City.

There have been a number of studies to look at this issue including a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada.  But the most comprehensive study was authored by Tony Keller for the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation.  Mowat made the case for 12 Canadian teams in the NHL including a second team in Montreal and one in Quebec City.

The study argued that a Canadian team would “take in roughly US$23 million a year in extra gate revenue, relative to an American market of the same size. This greater level of fan interest north of the border means that small Canadian cities are bigger hockey markets than most large  American cities.”

Order up your Maroons jersey, Martin!



  1. While this question doesn’t exactly pertain specifically to the Habs, in a way it does. I’ve often asked this question of sportswriters and journalists but haven’t been able to get a satisfactory answer.
    In the old days, before the players became millionaires, they were rightly rewarded for winning league titles, playoff series, and ultimately, the Stanley Cup. We used to hear that everyone connected to the team, down to the trainers, equally, shared the financial rewards.
    Well, does that financial reward system exist any longer in an age whee players earn upwards of 8+ million dollars a year? Exactly how much does each player (team member) receive for winning the Stanley Cup, semi-finals, a divisional/league title.

    • It’s a good question Tom, but not one for which you will get an exact answer. Stanley Cup winning owners have provided financial awards and perks to players and team personnel but there is no formula for doing so. This is in addition to honoring financial incentives specified by a player’s contract for winning the Cup.

  2. My first-time comment is to send congratulations on the comments regarding the top eligible free-agent.I am pleased to finally such a fine and reasoned assessment of André Kostitsyn. I could not agree more with you on the way he was mismanaged by coach Martin. When playing with Plekanec, with whom he enjoyed passed success and some last year he was moved. When he and Lars Eller clicked he was moved.He was kept off the power play, where he had success.As you say, he can hit and his totals in that regard and plus-minus were good.
    I have seen reports last year that he was liked by team-mates and despite the glum look in front of cameras had a sense of humour. I also heard that he and his wife love Montreal and wanted to stay.
    Do you have any idea if these last stories have any truth?
    Should he be the replacement for now-injured Bourque?
    He seems to score and set up most goals from the left side despite playing right-wing. Just wondering.

    • Thank you for your comments Harry. You are correct that Andrei Kostitsyn had success with both Plekanec and Eller as his center. Yet each time Kostitsyn got into a groove he was switched to another line — his most unproductive stretch came when paired with Scott Gomez. AK-46 spent only 6.5 percent of his even strength shifts on a line with Plekanec and Cammalleri last season.

      Kostitsyn is a natural right-winger who was listed as a LW on the Canadiens. Being on his off-wing changed the angle for goaltenders where Kostitsyn was lethal with his exceptionally quick release. It is also apparent that he scored meaningful goals: five of his 16 goals in 2011-12 were game-winners. In addition 14 of the 16 goals came when his team was within one goal of the opposition (or tied) and one goal came in the shootout.

      Kostitsyn made it quite clear publicly that he wanted to stay in Montreal and would even take less money to do so. Prior to the trade, he directly said that he didn’t want to go to Nashville when rumours were swirling about him joining Sergei.

      I’ll pass on the question of whether AK-46 should replace Bourque to the readers. Despite have about $6.3M in cap space, I don’t see the Habs making that type of move. San Jose and Washington are the teams most often mentioned as having interest in Kostitsyn.

      • I don’t really see the Habs signing AK at this point, but I would love to see them bring him back and I think it would be really good for the team on the ice. Plus, off the ice, wasn’t he supposed to be one of the most popular guys in the room?

        Ah, after much looking through my files, I found the source for that.

        “As his slump has dragged on, Gomez has been ribbed, in jest, by teammates. The best of it has come from Andrei Kostitsyn, who Gomez says would be voted the most popular Canadien among teammates if a poll were taken.”

      • I agree completely with your comments, though I hope the Habs would come to their sensesnand realize that at a still young age there is much potential upside if someone can manage him and he is surrounded by mature individuals…that said he still seems to be a family man and is still young…Isn’t Alexander Semin oloder?

        If Washington gets him and Ovechkin and André K. focus on on-ice work, they would be a deadly paring especially with a center like Backstrom….I wish the Habs would grab him back..I still believe he will be an even better player as he gets older….

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