MONTREAL - Like a kid on Christmas morning who just discovered a new bike under the tree, Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau couldn't stop smiling as he talked about the newest additions to his dressing room.
After seeing GM Bob Gainey roll up his sleeves and make a flurry of moves over the past 24 hours that saw the Canadiens welcome Sergei Samsonov and Mike Johnson, Carbonneau is more anxious than ever to start his first season as head coach.
"With the addtion of both Samsonov and Johnson, we've added a pair of right-handed shots and a lot of speed," said Carbonneau on break during the Canadiens Development Camp at the Martin Lapointe Arena in Lachine. "We lose Richard Zednik, who did a lot for this team over the years, while adding a pair of players who are looking forward to coming to Montreal and are ready for a new challenge at this stage in their careers.
"Johnson can help us in a number of ways," noted Carbonneau. "I know he can score goals, he has had 20-25 goal seasons in the past, plus he is responsible in his own end. You can never have too many players who can play his type of two-way game."
Samsonov, meanwhile, has been busy being a thorn in the Canadiens' side over the years as a long-time member of the arch-rival Bruins. Despite standing at only 5-foot-8, he has nonetheless made a name for himself as a dangerous scoring threat.
The last Russian forward to win the Calder Trophy before Alexander Ovechkin turned the trick this season, Samsonov will now get to reacquaint his himself with fellow countryman and international hockey sidekick Alex Kovalev.
"We were looking to fill in the open spot alongside Mike Ribeiro and Kovalev," said Carbonneau. "A natural goal scorer with a really good shot, Sergei knows how to get free and Ribeiro and Kovalev like to find the open man. They should be a good combination."
Rookie Russian Roulette
Samsonov is one of only five Russians to ever win the Calder Trophy.
|2006 ||Alexander Ovechkin ||WSH |
|2001 ||Evgeni Nabokov ||SJ |
|1998 ||Sergei Samsonov ||BOS |
|1992 ||Pavel Bure ||VAN |
|1990 ||Sergei Makarov ||CGY |
Samsonov's new coach learned first-hand over the course of his 19-year career that good things come in small packages. When Carbonneau won his first of three Stanley Cups in the spring of 1986, a certain pint-sized dynamo was a huge part of that playoff run. At all of 5-foot-7, Mats Naslund may have had difficulty gaining access to certain rides at amusement parks, but the Swedish winger had no problem piling up points. The last Canadiens player to reach the century mark with 110 points in 1985-86, Naslund never let his lack of size hold him back. Carbonneau expects the same from his new left winger.
"Sergei brings a lot of speed and skill and I've always enjoyed watching him play," said Carbonneau, who faced the speedy Russian at the tail-end of his own playing career. "He may be small, but he's not afraid to go to the net or fight through traffic. The new rules stopping defenseman from hooking and holding will only help a player like Samsonov.
"He's solid on his skates and tough to move off the puck," added Carbonneau. "I played at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds myself, so I'm not too worried about Sergei, he'll be fine."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.