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Habs Media Poised To Slam Esposito Slight

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If you watched through the first hour and a half of the NHL's 2007 Entry Draft, you no doubt caught several glimpses of Angelo Esposito sitting in the stands, patiently waiting to hear his name called.

You surely noticed the facial expressions and morphing demeanor of the kid, changing from excited teenager to confused adolescent, lips pursed in a defiant pout.

Come the 12th pick, the gleam in Esposito's eyes went from anticipation to sullen dejection in two words: Ryan McDonagh.

Quickly, amongst the Esposito family clan, disbelief blew across their gazes. It was as if they'd opened their front door and saw ghosts.

What you did not see, was the piqued ire of thousands of pro-Esposito boosters in La Belle Province, convinced their star would be donning the sacred bleu, blanc, rouge on this night, angered and disappointed at this most improbable fate.

If you listen closely, you will be able to hear computer keyboard keys slamming, pens scratching, and printer press wheels churning - all because the so-called smartest hockey man in Quebec chose to pass over the local protege.

Bob Gainey likely made triple the enemies as he did friends in choosing McDonagh over Esposito. He also did what was best for the Canadiens.

Everyone understands the logic behind wishing for Quebec born stars to become Montreal Canadiens. There's no need no dwell on and discourse the meaning of the term "Habitants".

There's no need to list the positive points versus the negatives when it comes to choosing Quebecois talent. It is all, actually, besides the point.

The job mandate of Gainey and company is to select the player they best feel serves the Canadiens needs. They did so by choosing to go with a player, a defenseman, who brings size, toughness, and some offensive prowess, to an area sorely lacking in these qualities amongst the teams prospects in regrards to depth at this position.

McDonagh will never be as spectacular as Esposito may one day be, but that doesn't make the pick a catastrophic error.

There will be, of course, the inevitable Denis Savard scenario comparisons, from the 1980 draft. Get ready to read about all it over and over again. And again.

The french Quebec media will make this comparison, and be all over it like Hugh Hefner with a fistful of Viagra on a Playboy Bunny.

The simple truth of the matter is the comparisons simply don't fly.

Backtrack to Savard and the 1980 draft for a moment, for clarity's sake.

Savard was an offensive dynamo, with stats Esposito could only envy. He was ranked third by Central Scouting that season, behind the 89 goal scoring Doug Wickenheiser, and potential franchise defenseman David Babych. 21 NHL scouts were unanimous in thinking the best player available was Regina's Wickenheiser. The Quebec media vehemently disagreed. They backed a Savard pick all the way, because he was dynamic, and because he was a homeboy.

Hindsight is a very powerful history revisionist.

In looking back on the 1980 draft that went wrong, many fail to remember that all Canadiens centers at the time were on the small side. There was a defined need to bring in a pivot over six feet tall, and over 200 lbs, to fill a gap that remained since the trading of Pete Mahovlich.

Now you have a choice between a shifty 5' 8'', 175 lb dazzler of a center racking up great totals in a defensively challenged QMJHL, or a 6' 3", 210 lb 89 goal scorer in the tough as nails WHL.

Who would you choose?

It's a no brainer that you take Wickenheiser!

What unfurled after, may be a case study for psychology majors.

The Canadiens chose to leave Wickenheiser in the stands on the date of his NHL debut, against none other than Denis Savard. The homeboy, likely spurred by the sprurn, was the game's first star.

Wickenheiser felt it like a thousand bitchslaps, and never recovered from his team's lack of faith in him.

Savard, of course, went on to a Hall Of Fame career, jersey retirement in the Chicago Stadium's rafters, and legend status. Wickenheiser settled for a defensive player role, shuffling from team to team, before retiring due to injuries. He sadly died of cancer complications at age 39.

All of this somehow made the Quebec journalists right in their initial prognostications.

Again, history revisionists skewered the truth.

Savard never came close to a Stanley Cup in Chicago, he won one with Montreal in 1993, not as a prime contributor, but as a bit player. Look at that year's team celebration photo - he's dressed in a suit. All Savard's aquisition cost the Canadiens, which was prompted by relentless demands from the Quebec media, was Chris Chelios. Chelios was hardly a media darling back then, and the papers portrayed him as detrimental to the team.

Can you even begin to imagine, if had Chelios stayed?

The media rarely admits it's errors. Their goal has nothing to do with being correct - it has to do with selling newsprint.

Think about that, while you anger over the Esposito slight.

The paper media, as well as the television media, will lead you to believe whatever it needs you to believe, in order to sell tomorrow's paper, keep you watching the sports updates, or tuning into the radio talk shows.

Of those writers, commentators, and talk show hosts, you would be challenged to find one know-it-all who has done the Canadiens scouting staff's work involving Angelo Esposito. They have covered him inside and out, better than we can imagine.

The average full time NHL team scout takes in, on average 200 hockey games a year. They have witnessed Esposito in all his highlight reel glory as well as undocumented lower points, to which I trust there are many more than have been reported.

If Esposito had a string of brutal games - does that sell papers?

Not only do these scouts know the inside out on Esposito, they have also watched hundreds of others players and evaluated their potential. Province-wide. Country-wide. Continent-wide. World-wide.

That's their job. They do not sell papers.

These scouts won't appear on the TV in interviews to suggest that Esposito is not the next Guy Lafleur. Those highlight goals by Esposito will be an alluring fraction of the story, but the truth is, Esposito isn't even the second coming of Stephane Richer.

Perhaps the next Mike Ribeiro?

Nineteen picks went off in the draft before Pittsburgh chose Esposito. What does that say?

With his draft day value dropping like an anvil off the Champlain bridge, don't expect a detailed article as to why it happened.

You may have read that the Canadiens interviewed Esposito three times. The writting suggests that they were extremely interested in him.

Could it be that the Canadiens were so unsure of Esposito, that they brought him back all those times, and remained unconvinced that they should snap him up?

They weren't alone!

Trust this, it's doubtful you will read that story - the angle of truth doesn't sell to people unwilling to hear it!

Having said all this, if given the chance, Esposito could do really well in Pittsburgh. It's a great set up for him. It's also one he wouldn't have gotten in Montreal.

In the coming years, if he does shine in the jersey of the flightless birds, before criticizing the Canadiens for not picking him, I'd like to have someone name the Canadiens player most resembling Sidney Crosby, who could helped such things happen.

Good luck!