Weather no damper for ex-Habs

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Jacques Demers and Serge Savard finally made it to London, but they couldn't do a Savardian spinnerama around the weather.

Delayed for four hours in Montreal yesterday, the former Canadiens head coach and ex-Habs blue-line great arrived in town in time to help celebrate the 53rd Rogers Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction last night at the London Convention Centre.

"It's Canada, it's winter, so you know what's coming," said Demers. "We made it to London and I'm really happy that some of my ex-players are having so much success running the Knights. I had (London GM) Mark Hunter in St. Louis and Basil (minority owner Basil McRae), of course, in Detroit.

"I had Dale (president and head coach Dale Hunter) when I was in training camp in Quebec.

"I'm so happy for those guys and now, they have (John) Tavares in the mix. I watched that young man in the world juniors and he never gets too high, never gets too low. He's well-spoken and says the right things. I don't like to put personalities and comparisons on players, but he kind of reminds of Stevie Y (Steve Yzerman)."

This is a big year for Montreal hockey. It's the 100th anniversary of the Habs and Savard will take part in the clubs' NHL all-star game festivities. The league draft will be held at the Bell Centre in June so Tavares will be there.

"Montreal always does things classy," said Demers, who covers all the Canadiens game for TV channel RDS, "and that starts with president Pierre Boivin and GM Bob Gainey. They make my job tough because I'm supposed to criticize. When the team's going well like it is now, it's a great place to be.

"This team they have here has the most potential and upside of any since (Demers coached the Patrick Roy-led Habs to the Stanley Cup in) '93."

"You have (Alexei) Kovalev and exciting players like the Kostitsyns (former Knight Sergei and older brother Andrei) but it all depends on (goalie) Carey Price. If he can stay healthy, they have a real shot at it," Demers said.

"Price is the difference. He's not a Patrick Roy yet but he has that kind of capability to lead the way."

When it happens and Montreal parades another Cup down Rue Sainte-Catherine the way Savard did six times in his NHL career, no one will be happier than Demers.

"It's been 15 years and I'm ready to pass that title as the last coach to win off," he said. "Especially if it's guys on the bench I respect and won Cups like Guy Carbonneau and Kirk Muller. They're winners. They know what it takes. It's been too long.

"Now, there are a lot of teams to get through -- like Detroit and San Jose, Boston, Washington and Philly -- but this team has the best chance I've seen in a long time."


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