Poll: Who should be Montreal’s next captain?

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It’s one thing to be the captain of an NHL team, but wearing the “C” in Montreal brings on a rare level of scrutiny. Being the Canadiens’ captain is often about a lot more than taking charge of the locker room, as Habs great Yvan Cournoyer explained to the Montreal Gazette on Sunday:

“Being captain is something among the guys. It’s a little bit of everything, on the ice and off for the players, off it for the organization,” Cournoyer said.

“ … I might know that he’s a good player who can do something on the ice, but what can he do to bring the team together? That’s my main thing about the captain. In my day, if things were going bad, or if the players were having problems, it was up to the captain, and the guys together, to figure it out.”

(Check out the rest of the article here, it’s a great read.)

With Brian Gionta out of town, the organization has that question to answer. While many – Cournoyer included – believe that the decision doesn’t need to be rushed, it’s interesting to ponder the options.

For the sake of simplicity, this poll doesn’t include every player on the roster. An “other” option is included in case you really think that the likes of Alexei Emelin and Rene Bourque deserve greater consideration. Feel free to advance arguments in the comments, as well, of course.

(Carey Price’s inclusion is mostly an homage to the failed Roberto Luongo experiment in Vancouver, but stranger things have happened, right?)

Fanspeak: Maurice Richard named greatest player in Canadiens history

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This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Montreal Canadiens

1. Maurice Richard (597)

2. Guy Lafleur (372)

3. Ken Dryden (238)

4. Jean Beliveau (204)

5. Jacques Plante (93)

6. Larry Robinson (91)

You won’t see any other team with a legend like revolutionary goalie Jacques Plante listed in fifth place in its franchise history – not to mention one where Patrick Roy’s name wouldn’t even make it on the list – but then again, there’s really no team quite like the Montreal Canadiens. As iconic as many of these names are – Jean Beliveau coming in at No. 4 is too fitting – it’s easy to see why Maurice “The Rocket” Richard topped the list.

As fantastic as Richard (pictured to the left of Beliveau) was as a player, he meant just as much to the region as a symbol.

Modern reactions to suspension verdicts pale in comparison to the culturally-charged riot that broke out on March 17, 1955 following the decision to punish Richard’s on-ice outburst by making him sit out the remainder of the 1954-55 season. It was one of the darkest moments in both NHL and Canadiens history, yet it also said a lot about how much “The Rocket” meant to fans.

For the most part, No. 9 conjures up images of one of the greatest scorers in NHL history. He was the first to collect 50 goals in a season and finished his lengthy career with 544 regular season tallies and also found the net 82 times in 133 playoff contests.

He ended up with eight Stanley Cup victories in his career, which was impressive just about everywhere except maybe the Richard household (his brother Henri won a ridiculous 11 championships).

Richard remains the franchise leader in goals with those 544, though Guy Lafleur (518) and Beliveau (507) didn’t finish far behind. Richard finished fourth all-time in points behind Lafleur, Beliveau and his brother, but those numbers only matter so much.

“The Rocket” died in May 2000, yet his legacy (and that iconic glare) won’t fade anytime soon.

Markov represents Montreal’s other pricey extension

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The Montreal Canadiens spared little expense when it came to locking up crucial defensemen this offseason, yet it’s easy to see why they decided to roll the dice. At least, that certainly seemed to be the case regarding the expensive extensions they inked with P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov.

Naturally, Markov’s price tag doesn’t seem so staggering compared to Subban’s stunning $9 million cap hit, but the 35-year-old is a couple injuries and/or slumps away from drawing serious heat to his three-year, $17.25 million extension.

Considering some struggles in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, that price tag probably would have looked foolish just a summer ago, especially when you combine the inherent risks of a 35+ deal with the veteran blueliner’s unlucky injury history. Still, when you consider Habs Eyes on the Prize’s take on Markov’s most recent year, this deal might just be a bargain (or at least a necessary evil):

Taking into account the tough minutes that Markov was assigned this year, the amount he played, and his age, it’s hard to believe he was able to put up the season he did. Replacing a player of his caliber is essentially impossible, and if Therrien wisely decreases his minutes a couple shifts per game, he’s likely to be fresher and put up better results.

There is almost no way to argue that the Habs aren’t getting fair value here, no matter what deficiencies you think Markov might have in regards to speed. If you look at other defenseman playing at his level at around the same age in Dan Boyle, Kimmo Timonen, or even Sergei Gonchar and Stephane Robidas, 39 seems to be the age where the big drop off happens, and that’s an age the Canadiens don’t have to worry about with this contract.

Both Markov and especially Subban will face significant pressure stemming from the justifiable-yet-undeniable risks that come with their contract extensions, but that doesn’t mean that Montreal GM Marc Bergevin made illogical decisions in either case.

Don’t expect anything but venomous, hindsight-fueled criticisms if Markov’s deal proves to be a flop, though.

Canadiens’ Bozon back on ice

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After suffering from meningitis and being placed in a medically induced coma in March, Montreal Canadiens prospect Tim Bozon is back where he wants to be, on the ice.

It’s been a long summer for Bozon, who told the Montreal Gazette recently that he had “to do two times more than normal” in order to prepare for the upcoming hockey season.

Bozon spent four weeks in a Saskatoon hospital, then returned home to France where spent another three weeks at a rehab center working on things such as his speech.

“I didn’t see the time go by with all that I did every day,” Bozon told the Gazette of his summer, which has flown by. “I live near the beach and I didn’t go once. So it’s a lot of sacrifices like that. But that’s what had to be done if I wanted to continue to hope and live my dream.”

His hard work paid off as last month as Bozon suited up for France at an Under-23 tournament in the Czech Republic.

Originally a third-round pick of the Habs’ in 2012, Bozon fully expects to be at the team’s rookie camp next month.

The toughest part of Bozon’s summer has been to recover the nearly 40 pounds he lost while in sick, but thanks to his dedication in the gym Bozon is now back to 194 pounds, just five pounds shy of his playing weight of last season.

As for what’s next?

“I just want to be the player I was — even better — have a big season then and see what happens,” Bozon said.

Bozon has one year of junior hockey eligibility left, which means he will likely return to Kootenay of the WHL where in 50 games last season the 20-year-old scored 30 goals and 62 points. There is a chance he could make the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, as well.

Related: Bozon’s condition to improve, but he still ‘faces a long recovery’

Subban: Sticking with Montreal ‘wasn’t about the dollar signs’

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P.K. Subban insists that contract negotiations and the salary arbitration process weren’t personal. Instead, his latest talks with the Montreal Canadiens were “educational.”

(Others would use words like “profitable” being that the end result was an eight-year, $72 million blockbuster.)

As much as hearings can leave emotional bruises, the 25-year-old defenseman sounds excited to remain with the Canadiens and emphatically stated that there are no hard feelings on his end. He said that staying with Montreal is all he ever “really wanted.”

“It wasn’t about the dollar signs,” Subban said. “Listen, If I could do a 20-year contract with Montreal, I would.”

Subban joked that he wanted a long-term deal before he “deserved one.” He also showed quite a bit of savvy about what goes into contract negotiations, mentioning projections of salary cap increases related to TV deals and other factors. He even said all the right things about learning things from the more judgmental part of the arbitration process.

Maybe most importantly, he emphasized that he believes that his relationship with GM Marc Bergevin, head coach Michel Therrien and team president Geoff Molson remains strong.

“I think it’s a strong commitment … It sends a strong message to me that they want me here and appreciate everything that I’ve done to this point. They believe in me as a player,” Subban said. “People don’t have to speculate about how the Montreal Canadiens feel about me.”

As much as Subban said all the right things, he didn’t confirm or deny the existence of a no-movement or no-trade clause, stating that he’s leaving those kind of details to his agent Don Meehan.

With the contract talk out of the way, people can get back to what really matters: wondering if he’s worth what he’s currently getting paid.