Pucks Drop as Lockout Looms

(Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

by Dan Kramer, Staff Writer, AllHabs.net

MONTREAL, QC — Hockey fans hoping for a quick resolution to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations and thus an on-time start to the 2012-13 season were dealt a blow last week when the two sides arrived at an impasse and their sessions were recessed.  While it is true that there was a little bit of flex on the numbers, bringing the Players’ Association and owners closer together on paper, there remains a major difference in philosophies.

Simplified, it boils down to the existence of struggling franchises in the league.  Gary Bettman takes this problem and says, “we aren’t receiving a big enough share of league revenues for our teams to be healthy,” and then proposes to increase the owners’ take, making all teams wealthier.  Donald Fehr argues that while the players are willing to make some concessions and contribute to a solution that keeps all clubs afloat (after all, contracting a team would mean the loss of 23 NHL jobs), the solution is to revamp revenue sharing.  Rather than significantly increasing the percentage incomes of all teams, he believes that wealthier teams should help support the smaller markets.

Until the sides can reconcile their views with some form of hybrid middle ground solution that is agreeable to all, we will not see the puck drop on a new season.  The outlook is bleak for the time being, but as hockey fans, all we can do is cling to hope that we don’t have a repeat of the misery of 2004-05.

(Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

That said, though the NHL’s start date is up in the air, many members of the Montreal Canadiens organization have joined their respective clubs and kicked their (pre-) seasons off.  Here’s a look at what a few have been doing.

Alex Galchenyuk had a busy week attending a pair of promotional training camps.  His Sarnia Sting held a number of scrimmages and even their first exhibition contest last week, but Galchenyuk was first attending the NHLPA Rookie Showcase (mainly composed of photo shoots and autograph sessions) and then the BioSteel Camp, which culminated in a 4-team 4-on-4 scrimmage tournament.  Galchenyuk played on a squad captained by ex-Hab Mike Cammalleri, also including the likes of Wayne SimmondsChris and Anthony StewartDaniel WinnickDan CarcilloMatt StajanTyler Cuma, and Brayden Irwin, backstopped by Ray Emery.  After all four clubs finished the round robin at 1-1, Team Cammalleri was defeated by a Team Stephen Weiss in the semi-final.  Galchenyuk showed flashes of high level skill at times, notching a pair of goals and at least one helper in his club’s three contests.

With Nathan Beaulieu among those watching in the stands, Galchenyuk made his preseason debut Monday afternoon against the club coached by Beaulieu’s father and formerly captained by Jarred Tinordi, the London Knights.  Those in attendance say that Galchenyuk looked bigger, stronger, and determined.  He also wore an ‘A’ on his jersey, though teams frequently rotate letters during exhibition play.  Sarnia’s No. 94 finished the game with a pair of helpers, being named third star. Winger Reid Boucher, a 2011 4th round pick of the New Jersey Devils, scored twice for the Sting, making it four goals in two games for the soon-to-be 19-year old, leading the team to a 6-2 victory. (As a note, before jumping on Montreal’s Quebec scouting, Hab fans, Boucher is an American.)

Also participating in the BioSteel tournament was Montreal blueliner Tomas Kaberle, playing for Team Tyler Seguin which also included first overall selection Nail Yakupov.  Kaberle scored a big goal in the semi-final, with Team Seguin ultimately beating Team Steven Stamkos in a shootout, and then winning the BioSteel Cup in the Final over Team Weiss.

Though he is signed to play in the KHL this season, Andreas Engqvist remains Hab property, and he had a productive preseason with Atlant Mytishi.  He collected multiple assists in three friendly matches and a 4-game mini tournament, frequently playing on a line with former NHL’er Nikolai Zherdev.  Atlant begins their regular season this Wednesday, September 5th.

Staying in Europe, Sebastian Collberg has rehabbed from the injury that saw him miss Team Sweden’s summer WJC Training Camp to re-join Frolunda.  Over the summer, Collberg was confident that some veterans leaving his squad would mean more ice time for him, but thus far he appears stuck in the same third and fourth line roles he saw a year ago.  He skated most often on a checking line with long-time Boston Bruin P.J. Axelsson, while also getting a look on a higher unit with veteran Mikael Johansson and ex-Leaf Fredrik Sjostrom.  Another year bouncing around between Frolunda’s junior squad and being a depth player on the big team will not be good for Collberg’s development, so since he opted not to go the CHL route this year, Hab fans will need to hope for him to put up some points and earn a promotion to a bigger minute role.

Jumping to the CHL, Olivier Archambault is off to a hot start with Drumondville, notching six assists in his first three preseason matchups.  Archambault trained hard this off-season, spending a portion of it at the Brossard training facility, and it is a pivotal season for him following a disappointing 39 points in 45 games last year and playing for a contract at season’s end.

Also in the ‘Q’, Charles Hudon has played  in only one of Chicoutimi’s exhibition games thus far, a matchup against Drumondville, and he was held off the scoresheet.  More concerning is that he left the game in the first period, suffering what is being called a lower body injury.  He has since been seen walking with the aide of crutches, though the duration of his absence is yet undetermined.

In the West, Tim Bozon collected a point in each of the two Kamloops preseason games he played in.  His goal and helper match the point-per-game pace he maintained throughout all of last year’s regular season.  He’s next in action Wednesday night against Brendan Gallagher‘s former squad, the Vancouver Giants.

As we inch closer to mid-September, the amount of action across the leagues will only intensify, meaning there will be lots to follow even without any NHL activity.  Expect the Canadiens to scrap their rookie camp slated to begin September 18th, but perhaps most interesting will be the season ahead for the Hamilton Bulldogs who would benefit from an even further stacked roster if they aren’t to be bothered by NHL call-ups.  The ‘Dogs camp should start the final week of September, in preparation for their regular season opener on October 13th.