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In other words, au revoir

Blunt Cammalleri sent packing by Canadiens

MIKE CAMMALLERI Traded to Calgary MIKE CAMMALLERI Traded to Calgary
By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / January 13, 2012
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Nimble, you want nimble? The Montreal Canadiens, who have been anything but their trademark skate-and-shoot selves this season, really put on the moves at the Garden last night despite falling, 2-1, to the Bruins.

In a series of events that redefined the hockey term, “Changing on the fly,’’ the Canadiens pulled discontent winger Mike Cammalleri after the second period and informed him he was no longer under the employ of Club CH. It is believed that Cammalleri, 29, quickly caught a cab to a downtown hotel and this morning presumably will make his way west to join his new club, the Calgary Flames.

The Habs, whom the blunt Cammalleri on Wednesday labeled a bunch of losers in a conversation with longtime beat reporter Francois Gagnon, obtained ex-Wisconsin star Rene Bourque as the linchpin in the deal. According to general manager Pierre Gauthier, speaking in a media scrum outside the dressing room after the game, the 30-year-old Bourque will bring the kind of scoring moxie up front that the Habs have lacked this season.

“He adds the chemistry we need,’’ said Gauthier, noting that his club, with 110 goals in 43 games, has been unable to produce scoring via tip-ins and rebounds. “We need to score harder goals.’’

Cammalleri, with only nine goals and 22 points, has been part of an offensive flatline for the Habs, a franchise that for decades was the NHL’s offensive showpiece. They were once the Flying Frenchmen and everyone else was Equipe Flatfoot.

But the good ol’ days are long gone in Montreal. The Habs haven’t won a Cup since 1993, which also stands as the last year they played in the Cup final. They are just one of the Original 30’s stocking stuffers these days, with a 16-20-7 record and a fan base, with little else to discuss, fuming over the fact that recently hired coach Randy Cunneyworth doesn’t know how to speak French.

Habs fans should be far more concerned how Cunneyworth’s coaching techniques and in-game adjustments translate to goals - and maybe a few wins here and there - but in a season that is rapidly conjugating into a disaster, they want to hear him say “baton’’ instead of “stick’’ and “but’’ instead of “goal.’’ What next, demand that the puck, for decades fashioned by vulcanized rubber, be made out of Rosetta Stone?

Cammalleri, on the books for $6 million cap hit through 2013-14, essentially talked his way out of town with his comments to Gagnon after practice Wednesday. He said the Habs practice like losers, then play like losers. A source with close ties to the Habs’ dressing room yesterday said Cammalleri attempted to explain those remarks to his teammates late yesterday morning, but two things became clear:

1. He wasn’t actually apologizing for what he said;

2. Absent an apology, he might as well play for someone like, say, the Calgary Flames.


Gauthier, claiming the deal had been in the works since Dec. 1, repeatedly downplayed Cammalleri’s remarks in terms of how they related to the trade. In fact, said the GM, he has spent the last six weeks talking to a number of clubs about deals, convinced that he must make the Habs bigger if he is going to make them better.

No question, the Habs’ forwards, as a lot, lack size and moxie, in part why they added aged free agent Erik Cole on July 1, in the opening hours of free agency. Cole was among Montreal’s more impressive forwards last night, but he also was one of 10 forwards (out of 11), who finished with a 0-0-0 line next to his name, despite getting a heavy workload of 20 minutes and 44 seconds. He did finish with five shots, only one fewer than Max Pacioretty’s game-high half-dozen.

Despite Gauthier’s comments to the contrary, though, Cammalleri officially became “mort’’ to the franchise as soon as his words became public Wednesday. No matter what he meant, or how he meant it, or what might have been lost in the translation, his comments became etched into the mind of the fan base.

In the fans’ eyes, he sullied the hallowed CH logo. If anyone thought he could suit up again for the Habs tomorrow night at the Bell Centre with the Senators in town, then it wasn’t anyone in Montreal who cared about Les Canadiens.

“I didn’t make a big deal out of it,’’ said Gauthier, when asked about what Cammalleri said.

Further asked if the comments proved the catalyst to the trade, Gauthier added, “Absolutely not.’’

The word in French, I believe, is “Okey-dokey.’’

One of the great things about Montreal, its people, and its hockey is that everyone in that part of Quebec, and most everywhere else in that hockey-loving province, cares about the franchise like its family. Here in the Hub, Bruins fans find that insufferable - although winning the Cup last June has made many of us here offer a sympathetic shrug of the shoulders toward Montrealers this season.

We are all about largesse now with a Cup in the cupboard and the Habs in the pits. Our kindness know no bounds.

But we also know the perception game. Too well. Red Sox Nation still simmers over the image of Messrs. Lackey, Lester, and Beckett swilling beer and inhaling fried chicken in the clubhouse as the pennant race went upside down. No matter what they’ve said, continue to say, or will say, the fans will never get over it. Not in a town that still remembers Roger Clemens as the “Texas Con Man,’’ Bill Buckner as the guy who blew the ’86 World Series, and Manny Ramirez as being a quitter.

It was just time for Cammalleri to go, his words the clincher, and the sooner the better. With only 40 minutes gone on the clock last night, and 9:02 of ice time logged on his worksheet, he was told by Cunneyworth to pack up and get out town. A victim of a club in need of new chemistry, but above all, a victim of his own words.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.

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