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Why are the Canadiens better?

The return of Andrei Markov has had a huge impact on the fortunes of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

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The return of Andrei Markov has had a huge impact on the fortunes of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Yes, it’s March already – and that means we’re a little more than a month away from the NHL trade deadline. That usually means more swap-related mailbag questions, but before you whip up a Joe Corvo-for-Patrice Bergeron-type exchange, remember my general rule for trade speculation: if it doesn’t sound tantalizing to both sides, it isn’t happening no matter how much you wish it would. Now, on to your latest batch of questions.

Hi Adam, As a Canadiens fan, I love the newfound success of the team. But it made me think, how can a team play so differently with just one or two changes? Thanks.
Joe Hollingworth, Grantham, U.K.


Hi Joe,

In some ways, you’re right: this Montreal team isn’t wholly different from the one that finished last in the Eastern Conference last season. However, there are many more changes that have led to the Habs’ drastically increased competitiveness.

The health of veteran defenseman and franchise cornerstone Andrei Markov is one of those differences, as is the more physical edge brought by agitator Brandon Prust. However, most of their upper management team has changed - and the culture has focused on work ethic more than ever before.

The other change is more organic: the progression of Montreal’s younger players - Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, P.K. Subban - has made life easier on the rest of their lineup. And the final reason is the same one that drove the Ottawa Senators to rebound last season from a terrible 2010-11 campaign: the pride of the veterans in the room. When I spoke to defenseman Josh Gorges about it this week, he confirmed the longtime members of the team were none too pleased by the collapse they endured last year and were committed to making sure something similar didn’t take place again.

Hi Adam. Seeing that the Oilers will have their hands full trying to sign all their superstars in five years and that there will be little money left for anyone coming after, wouldn't it make sense for them to trade their first round pick this year?
Mark Shields, Hamilton, Ont.


Hi Mark,

On the surface, absolutely, the Oilers should explore their options with their 2013 first-rounder. Edmonton has some very specific needs at this stage in their franchise’s development - experience and blueline help - and you never know what a potential trade partner might want in return.

They might want Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner or Ales Hemsky. And the salary implications of deleting those players (or others) from the picture might make it more palatable for Edmonton to keep their first-rounder this year. The variables here, as with all teams, means that the potential results are anything but set in stone.

Hey Adam, follow up to Joe Cordova's question from last week: What about a special allowance for goaltenders since some goalies that have been developing for years don't make the NHL until they're over 26. Do you think they should be considered eligible for the Calder?
Michael York, Langley, B.C.


Hey Michael,

No, I don’t think the Calder needs any sub-categories or special allowances. It becomes too burdensome to the average fan to understand what a rookie of the year really means.

Besides, given the dearth of goaltending jobs available in the world’s greatest hockey league, the simple act of nailing down one of only 60 netminding jobs is reward enough for these guys, regardless of the age at which they do so.

Why wasn't the NHL kinder to fans when the lockout was over? I know you're probably tired of hearing about it and writing about it. I truly thought the NHL would come to the fans "hat in hand," but nothing. With only half a season, they should have offered “NHL Center Ice” at a huge discount or for free. I'm in Dallas Stars country, but I'm a New Jersey Devils fan and usually miss their games. OK, rant over. Thanks!
Carolyn McEvoy, Mesquite, Texas


Carolyn,

I completely understand why some fans aren’t enthused with what the NHL has done to make amends to fans after the tumult of the lockout. Without a doubt, the fact that the cost of an average ticket has risen nearly six percent from last season is even more nauseating.

Still, it’s tough to blame the league from a business perspective when fans have rushed back just as quickly as many predicted they would. This is a straight ahead supply-and-demand industry and when you don’t have people staying home in droves, there’s absolutely no reason for the NHL to cut prices and do more damage to the business model than the lockout did.

The optics certainly don’t appeal to you or I, but the reality is that fans and league sponsors have made the NHL’s decision a very easy one. As they say, the customer is always right - and for better or worse, the NHL’s customers have spoken loudly and clearly.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.

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