Rumored Gionta captaincy leads Quebec party leader to say that the Habs aren't French-Canadian enough

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briangionta1.jpgThe funny part of being the Montreal Canadiens is that sometimes, just being a successful hockey team isn’t enough when you’re in Quebec. While the team on the ice often has its own problems to contend with, the politicians in the Province of Quebec can get a bit anxious about things. No, they’re not passing legislation to help rook the rules in favor of the team or passing a tax on visiting hockey teams. Instead, they’re getting upset at the Habs for not having as many French-Canadian players as they used to.

With the rumors of Rochester, New York native Brian Gionta being slated to become the next captain of the team, one Quebecois party leader, Pauline Marois, and a PQ language critic, Pierre Curzi, have taken the moment to make a political stink over the apparent lack of Quebec-born players on the province’s only NHL team.

The party’s culture critic, well-known former actor Pierre Curzi, got the ball rolling in a recent television interview, where he said it’s no accident there is a dwindling number of French-speaking Quebeckers in bleu-blanc-rouge.

“The people who don’t wish Quebec to become a country, who don’t wish French to flourish, they know very well that you must take over a certain number of symbols of identity,” he told the television magazine Les Francs-tireurs, adding “the federal power” has seized control of the Canadiens.

Then Ms. Marois weighed in on Wednesday, and while she stopped short of endorsing Mr. Curzi’s line of thinking, said: “I think Quebeckers would like to have more francophones in this team.”

The comments were immediately derided by the ruling Liberals – Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard burst out laughing when reporters informed him of her remarks.

See Americans, our political system isn’t the only one with out-of-whack ideals and insane grandstanding. We’re not alone in this world.

Unfortunately for Habs fans this kind of talk bubbles up from time to time, especially when it comes down to the selection of front office personnel. Taking a job in Montreal does have distinct differences in that you have to deal with bilingual media on a daily basis. Being the De facto torch bearers for any players born in Quebec is a special burden unto itself and one that’s seen the talent pool drop off in recent years.

That said, wanting the team to be more ethnocentric based simply around Quebeckers is insanity. Hockey is a globalized game with talent oozing out from all over the world. The days when the Habs could throw out dominant line after line of talent from Quebec are gone and players from PQ can go wherever they want to or be drafted by any team in the league. The obsession with players from Quebec, or players relatively close by, has often made times tough for players as they’d burn under the spotlight of Quebecois Habs broadcasters RDS. Just ask Guillaume Latendresse about that.

In the end, this story is simplified by boiling it down to the simplest of public relations kind of analysis. The hockey season is about to begin and politicians want to cash in on the attention and find a way to appeal to the more rabid parts of the fanbase. Problem with that is when you lash out without dealing in logic you’re going to get picked on. With that kind of action, I’d say Pauline Marois and Pierre Curzi are just about ready for American politics.

Former Flyers goalie Heeter signs with Detroit’s AHL team

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The Red Wings added some goalie depth on Monday, agreeing to terms with journeyman Cal Heeter.

Heeter, 27, broke in with the Flyers organization a while back and made his big-league debut in ’13-14, appearing in one game.

Since then, he’s bounced around the ECHL, AHL (with the Toronto Marlies) and, last season, split his time between Hamburg of the German League and Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL.

By itself, this signing isn’t especially noteworthy, as Heeter projects to be an American League mainstay next year.

But the contract is kind of interesting when looking and the big-picture goalie situation in Detroit. The Wings now have Heeter, Petr Mrazek, Jimmy Howard, Jared Coreau, Eddie Pasquale and Jake Paterson all under contract for next season, which is an awful lot of goalies.

With that in mind, remember that Howard’s name has been in trade talks for quite some time.

 

Ex-NHLers Bellemore, Collins sign with KHL’s Chinese club

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HC Kunlun Red Star, the Beijing-based expansion team that will begin playing in the KHL next season, has added a pair of former NHLers.

Sean Collins, who appeared in a pair of games for the Capitals last season, and Brett Bellemore, a veteran of over 100 contests with the Carolina Hurricanes, have agreed to join the club, per Russian news outlet R-Sport.

Bellemore, 28, was originally drafted by the ‘Canes in 2007 and spent most of his professional career with the organization. He signed on with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence last year, and appeared in 56 games.

Collins, 27, broke in with the Blue Jackets before signing with the Caps last season. He spent the majority of the year in AHL Hershey and fared well — 16 goals and 39 points in 75 games — and scored three times in the playoffs, helping the Bears advance to the Calder Cup final.

 

Report: Journeyman Santorelli signs in Swiss League

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  Mike Santorelli #25 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during a game against the Montreal Canadiens at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Veteran forward Mike Santorelli, who’s appeared in over 400 NHL contests over the last eight years, is headed overseas.

Per multiple reports (see here and here), Santorelli has signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss League. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Ducks, scoring nine goals and 18 points in 70 games but didn’t dress for any of the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Santorelli broke into the NHL with Nashville but enjoyed his best years with Florida and Vancouver. He was a former 20-goal scorer with the Panthers and enjoyed a successful stint with his hometown Canucks in ’13-14, scoring 28 points in 49 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Santorelli is the second veteran forward to sign in the Swiss League recently. Over the weekend, fellow journeyman Kris Versteeg agreed to join SC Bern.

Jackets sign d-man Harrington, acquired in Rychel trade

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14:  Scott Harrington #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on November 14, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Upon trading Kerby Rychel to Toronto at the draft for Scott Harrington, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Harrington was “a guy we’ve watched for a while,” and a “steady, smart [and] good defender.”

Which makes today’s move none too surprising.

On Monday, Kekalainen announced Harrington signed a one-year, two-way deal (financial terms weren’t disclosed). The contract comes after Harrington split last season between the Leafs and the AHL Marlies, appearing in 15 NHL contests.

While Kekalainen was high on Harrington, the most noteworthy thing about the acquisition is it ended a long-running saga with Rychel, the 19th overall pick in 2013. There were repeated rumblings that Rychel wanted out of town, and felt stifled by Columbus’ reluctance to make him a full-time NHLer.

For a while, Kekalainen stood firm in the face of the reports, once openly wondering where they came from. But in the end, the decision was made to part ways with the 21-year-old, the son of ex-NHLer Warren Rychel.

As for Harrington, he should compete for a spot on the Columbus blueline next season. Right now he projects to be the No. 7 or 8 guy, assuming that super prospect Zach Werenski is primed for a full-time gig in the NHL, firmly entrenched in the Blue Jackets’ top six.

In other news from Columbus today, the club has also agreed to terms with AHL forward Alex Broadhurst.

One of the pieces acquired in last summer’s Brandon Saad blockbuster, Broadhurst was a key contributor to AHL Lake Erie’s Calder Cup championship this past spring, finishing second on the club in playoff assists.