Thursday, October 26, 2017

Eating Their Young

There's something seriously wrong in Montreal when it comes to nurturing the next generation.

Take a look at the last ten years of drafting. In 2007, the Canadiens picked four future NHL players. Only Max Pacioretty remains with the team, where he still regularly faces public criticism about his fitness to be captain, his on-ice production and his crises of confidence. Somehow, he claims to love playing in Montreal.

P.K.Subban was traded for Shea Weber after several years of veiled implications that he was a me-first player and amid outright finger pointing from his coach. Ryan McDonagh didn't even get the chance to prove himself in the NHL before getting traded for Scott Gomez, in part because management didn't like his performance at the world juniors the previous winter. He's now a star in New York. Yannick Weber had an up-and-down career in Montreal, but remains in the NHL with the Predators. That was the best draft class the Canadiens have had in the last decade.

The next two drafts, in 2008 and 2009, saw 112 NHL games played among the twelve players chosen. Notable among them was first-rounder Louis Leblanc, who suffered the dreaded high-ankle sprain in 2012. He came back in the AHL to minimal ice-time with scrub linemates and little PP time. Worse were reports that coach Sylvain Lefebvre systematically destroyed his confidence, even that he tied elastic bands to the player's skates to improve his stride. Leblanc eventually was traded for a fifth-round pick.

In 2010, the draft yielded NHLer Brendan Gallagher in the fifth round. The year's first-rounder was Jarred Tinordi who never earned the trust of his coaches and was traded for a couple of scrubs shortly before receiving a 20-game suspension for drug violations. The following year, the Habs picked one NHLer in first-rounder Nathan Beaulieu. He's now a member of the Buffalo Sabres; traded for a third-round pick after failing to live up to his potential in Montreal, and following newspaper reports about his penchant for partying and his lack of respect for fans.

That brings us to 2012. For the first time since Carey Price was drafted fifth overall in 2005, the Canadiens had a lottery pick and a chance to add some serious talent to a struggling lineup. Some might argue (with hindsight) that Filip Forsberg would have been the more productive pick, but Galchenyuk was a solid choice with tons of potential.

As it's turned out, though, his developmental learning curve has been just as steep and rocky as some of his predecessors'. Thrust into the NHL spotlight at 18, Galchenyuk has been the subject of debate about whether he's qualified to play centre every season since. He's been publicly mocked for being involved in a domestic altercation with a girlfriend and criticized for being Beaulieu's party pal. This season he's been regularly demoted to fourth-line wing duty in punishment for a lack of production.

Now this young player is dealing with the malicious revelation that he may have voluntarily entered the NHL's substance abuse treatment program. The person who decided to publicly announce this was none other than ex-player and ex-coach Mario Tremblay who was convicted last year for refusing to give a give a breath sample in a suspected drunk driving incident.

A player who voluntarily looks for help in the alcoholic culture of the NHL is to be applauded. We don't need to know their names or why they look for help. It's enough that they're self-aware enough to seek counselling in the first place.

For an alleged hockey professional to break the sacred confidence of rehab and betray a young player is unforgivable. Tremblay should be ashamed.

In the meantime, the Galchenyuk case is just the latest public embarrassment of a young player in Montreal. The party culture, the adulation of young women and the open-door policy of the local bar owners gives young men a degree of licence they don't get anywhere else. Unsurprisingly, they fall under the thrall of such privilege. The fact the team does little to help youngsters deal with the wealth of temptation in their city is shameful.

Management studiously ignores the problems off ice and focus on criticism on the ice. That does nothing but destroy confidence and leave young players adrift.

Just look at the last ten years and decide if the Canadiens' strategy of developing youngsters is working.


Friday, September 29, 2017


I confess, I haven't watched too much of the Canadiens' dreadful 2017-18 pre-season. Over years of supporting this team, I've realized the games in September really don't reflect what will happen when October comes. Still, you have to think ZERO wins in the warm-up games can't be a good sign.

There are many reasons why Habs fans are going into the new year with trepidation. The loss of Andrei Markov who, even in his late thirties, played a ton of solid minutes on the back end last year will impact the stability of the blueline. Paying top dollar and term for Carey Price while doing little to shore up last year's struggling offence (Jonathan Drouin can't do everything) puts the team a knee injury away from disaster. The prospects are obviously not a match for those of other teams in the Northeast division. Victor Mete aside, it's hard to imagine most of them making the NHL any time soon.

Those are some stark facts which most of us recognize and we're skeptical going into the season because of them. Most of us.

I have a friend, however, who's one of the most loyal Canadiens followers I've ever met. I mean, this is a serious fan. She grew up in the '70s in Massachusetts and wore a Habs sweater to the Boston Garden, which was a life-threatening move at the time. She's attended the Canadiens fantasy camp more than once. She has cats named for members of the 1950s Punch Line. She's been known to stalk Jacques Lemaire.

When myself and my cynical fellow fans watch games, we start to get sarcastic around the time the second PP of the game shoots blanks. By the time the team is getting shut out by the Hurricanes, we're angry at management, the inept forwards and the universe. Not my friend.

The Canadiens might be down 3-0 with a minute to go, and she's reminding us Bill Mosienko scored a hat trick in 21 seconds, and Jean Beliveau did it in 44. If they're down by three with twenty seconds to go, she reminds us records are made to be broken. She tells us Karma will save the day.

The only problem is, I don't think Karma is as good a friend as she does. One definition of it is: "The spiritual principal of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of  that individual (effect.)" In other words, if you do good things, good things will come back to you. Likewise, if bad things (like the other team scoring on an iffy penalty call) happen to you, good things will come to offset the bad.

That's a great theory for the hopeful among us. However, Karma isn't an in-game phenomenon. She has a long-term memory and she owes Canadiens fans a lot of payback. 

Once upon a time, the Habs were members of a six-team league, blessed with a copious number of talented players right in their own back yard who all dreamed of playing in Montreal. The set-up brought five Cups in a row in the '50s and more in the '60s. Even after expansion the Habs had the best GM in the business in Sam Pollock. Pollock maneuvered the 1971 draft to land Guy Lafleur with the first pick. He regularly traded chaff for wheat, to the detriment of those who dealt with him. As a result, the Canadiens won a ton of Stanley Cups and fans did a lot of rubbing it in. 

Now here we are with a dubiously-skilled GM in Marc Bergevin, with 2012 first-round pick Alex Galchenyuk, the most recent top draft choice to make the NHL, on the third line with trade rumours troubling him. The team is 25 seasons out from its last Stanley Cup and doesn't look much like a contender this year. Some might say, Karma is balancing the scales for decades of triumph with the drought we're in now. leafs fans are laughing at us. 

I admire my friend for never giving up on the Canadiens, no matter what. She truly believes Karma will help them pull off the last-second OT goal or defend a precarious lead under pressure. I feel for the fans who are as optimistic as she is. Thanks to her, I believe in Karma too.

Only thing is, I believe Karma is a bitch.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Price for Price

Carey Price is unquestionably one of the best goaltenders in the world right now.  He's a Vezina and Hart Trophy winner. He led Canada to Olympic gold. He was a high first-round draft pick and a world junior gold medalist. The man is the real deal; a legit superstar.

The only prize of significance Price has yet to win is the Stanley Cup. And one can argue he never will as long as he's in Montreal. General manager Marc Bergevin has had five years to take advantage of Price's prime and build a championship calibre team around him. Most would agree he's failed to do that. The Habs are not the Penguins or Blackhawks. That's why now is the right time to trade Price.

The Canadiens have been trying to improve at the centre position for years now, but due to poor first-round drafting and suspect development of its prospects, the club has stagnated. A big reason for that is a chronic lack of tradeable assets. When you draft mediocre players it's tough to move them for players of greater value. You can't trade draft picks when you need them desperately yourself. And, when the roster is full of underperformers, it means potential trade partners want more than the diminutive winger who hasn't scored in twelve games with whom you're willing to part.

To really gain, you have to give, and the Canadiens have little to give that would bring a significant return. The one enticing piece they could offer right now is Price. Even though he struggled for a lengthy period this season and has missed serious time with injuries in the last couple of years, his reputation as one of the best money goalies in the league persists. Teams close to a Cup, but missing that security in net, would be potential trade partners and the return would be high.

There is a compelling case to move Price now. First of all, as a butterfly-style goalie with a history of joint injuries, his body's warranty is not unlimited. Turning thirty this summer, he may have two years or five of healthy play ahead of him. He may also end up with a debilitating injury in training camp next fall. He's not infallible and if he's hurt long-term, he's no good to the Canadiens and his return in a trade will drop precipitously.

The second issue the Canadiens will have with Price is his next contract. He's got one year left with a cap hit of 6.5-million dollars, which, when you consider his role on the team and his contributions to it, is extremely reasonable. However, after next year, he'll be looking for lifetime security. He doesn't know, any more than we do, how long his body will hold up. At 31, a five or six-year deal will take him into his declining years even if he remains healthy. So, he'll likely be looking for the kind of money most teams' best players make. That's not unfair, but Bergevin has to be careful about ending up in a Luongo trap.

Back in 2010, the Canucks signed Luongo to a twelve-year, 64-million dollar contract. At the same time, a young Corey Schneider was proving himself as an up-and-coming star. The Canucks would have loved to move Luongo to save the cap space and make room for Schneider, but the former's contract made him untradeable. In the end, Schneider got traded because he needed to play to fulfill his potential. Later when the collective bargaining agreement allowed salary retention, Luongo went to Florida and the Canucks ended up with neither of their star goalies; replacing them with an aging Ryan Miller and three out of the last four years with no playoffs.

The Canadiens now are in a situation in which the goalie is the undisputed best player on the team. That means he has the most value. Watching the team in this playoff, in which one or two goals against are enough to lose a game, it's proof Price needs to go in exchange for a variety of pieces that will improve the team. After all, teams have won the Cup with decent, not star, goalies. But they've rarely won with ONLY a goalie.

So, what's fair value for Price? Any team trading for him must, at the very least, offer its first-round pick. Then, considering the Habs dearth of useful prospects, there must be two solid prospect offers. One on forward and one on defence. A third-or-fourth line NHLer wouldn't be out of the equation either.

Any way you look at it, Price's time of usefulness is coming to an end. A smart GM would realize that a team's best player can't be its goalie without other players to back him up. On the other hand, you CAN have a solid team with a merely decent goalie. If Bergevin can come to the logical conclusion, Price will move and the return for him will be the foundation of the next Cup.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Price of Getting Shellacked

Michel Therrien has done many dumb things in his NHL coaching career. Questionable overuse of mediocre players like David Desharnais, a failure to make tactical adjustments other than rearranging his line combinations and over-reliance on slowing veterans are chief among them. None of those obvious shortcomings have imperiled his position with his boss, Marc Bergevin.

In another city, with another GM (see Pittsburgh, 2009), Therrien likely would have been replaced after a season like last year's. In Montreal, under Bergevin, however, Therrien has the enviable safety net of the best goalie in the world saving the team from disaster on a regular basis, and thereby glossing over the coach's failures. It's fair to say, based on the Habs record with and without him, Price is Therrien's ticket to job security.

During the 10-0 dismantling of the Habs by the Columbus Blue Jackets, though, Therrien might have finally made a fatal error. Leaving Al Montoya in net for all ten Jackets goals humiliated the veteran goalie who obviously wasn't having a good night. While it's understandable for Therrien to want to give Price the night off and protect him from risking injury in what had become a meaningless game, Price had other ideas.

As the score mounted and became more and more embarrassing, Price got up half-way into the second period and went to the tunnel to stretch. And stretch. Nobody told him to do so, but, like everyone else watching Montoya's embarrassment, Price assumed Therrien would show mercy and replace the guy. Price, the real leader of the Canadiens, was frustrated and upset by the way things were going on the ice and he wanted to get in there to help stop the bleeding. When that didn't happen; when the coach left his goaltending partner to serve out the whole mortifying sixty minutes without relief, Price could not have been happy.

Whenever a team takes the kind of nosedive last year's Habs did, we say the coach has "lost the room," but Therrien managed to survive that because he had the "Price was injured" excuse to protect him. Now, with Price healthy and playing at the top of his game, Therrien has a bigger concern. When he threw Montoya under the bus, he risked losing Price's support. And if he loses Price, he really has lost the room.

Max Pacioretty may wear the "C," but Carey Price is this team's captain. While it's not in his nature to quit just because he dislikes the coach, his opinion will influence his teammates. After that embarrassment in Columbus, he can't be thinking happy thoughts about Therrien. And that may be the dumbest thing Therrien has ever done.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Not Not the Habs Coach

The Scene: Marc Bergevin's office, June 1, 2016. Michel Therrien enters and takes a seat.

Therrien: Hi Marc. Thanks for the new golf gloves. I guess we'll give 'em a good workout with all the hockey we're not playing this summer, eh? Heh heh.

Bergevin (gritting teeth): Yeah. About that, Mike...

Therrien (grinning vapidly): Listen, before you say anything, I know things could have been better this year. But Pricer was hurt and then with everything else...well, you can't replace a player like that.

Bergevin (softening): I know Carey's loss hurt the team...

Therrien: Oh, yeah. Of course. But I was talking about when Davey hurt his foot. I mean, you just can't take him out and expect the offence to work. What was I supposed to do? Play Chucky at centre?!

Bergevin: Yeah. Anyway...I asked you here today because I wanted to tell you some great news.

Therrien: What is it?! Let me guess! You're trading P.K.?! No! Eller! Those guys bug me so much...

Bergevin (looking guiltily around): No! No, of course not. I'm not trading those guys. They're part of our core. No, it's about you, Mike.

Therrien: I know my rights! I have two more years at full pay, and you pinky swore you wouldn't do this! I've still got those pictures, you know!

Bergevin: No, no, you're not getting it! I'm not firing you. I'm giving you a promotion!

Therrien: Oh. Well, that's more like it. But, I like coaching. I get to wear my good ties and look smart on TV.

Bergevin: I know you do. But this is so much better. You, Mike, are going from coach to...figurehead!

Therrien: Hey! That's not a promotion. I'm not that dumb!

Bergevin: I know that! Just listen. When the Vikings conquered half of Europe, they ruled the seas and struck fear into the hearts of opponents. Leading the way were the fierce, terrifying figureheads of their ships. People saw them and just threw down their swords. Now, isn't that something to be proud of?

Therrien: I guess. But...

Bergevin: I'm not done. Think about the Queen of England. Or the Emperor of Japan. They're rich, famous, honoured. But you know what? They're also figureheads. Now, who wouldn't want to be in that company?

Therrien (showing a little more enthusiasm): Okaaaay.

Bergevin: It's like this, Mike. A lot of people hate you. And I know that hurts your feelings deeply. I want to take the burden of making hard decisions like who to put on the PP and when to take your time out off your shoulders. You've been around too long and have done too much to have those kinds of grunt problems on your plate.

Therrien: Well, it's true I could use some support, for sure.

Bergevin: That's the spirit! And the best part is, you can still wear your nice ties and talk to the media in French. You just won't have to do all that boring game prep and period-to-period adjustment stuff.

Therrien: Weeelll...if I still get to be on TV, I guess that's okay. But who's going to do all the boring stuff?

Bergevin: I know it's going to be super hard to find anyone as good at it as you are, but leave it with me and I'll find someone. I'm sure there's got to be a guy out there somewhere who doesn't mind being a lowly coach.

Therrin (rising to leave): Thanks, Marc. You've totally made my day. I can't wait to tell the family I'm going to be the Habs new figurehead.

Bergevin: Hey! Not just any figurehead. You're the first one in the history of this proud franchise. I wouldn't have given it to just anyone!

Therrien: Awww! Buddy! See ya on the golf course!

Therrien leaves. After a beat, Bergevin hits a number on his phone.

Bergevin: Okay, Kirky. It's all set. The newser is at 2:00 tomorrow. We're going to call you an "associate," but you know the deal right?

Kirk Muller: Yep. See ya in the playoffs!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cult of Personality

When my youngest child was a pre-schooler, she was extremely energetic. All. The. Time. You'd wake up, bleary-eyed early on Sunday morning and she'd be standing there beside your bed with her fork in her hand asking chirpily, "Can you make me waffles?" Followed shortly by, "Let's go on a family outing!" Or  "I want to make my own kite. I have some string!" Ignoring her was not an option because her sheer will made her something of a force of nature. She wasn't rude or angry; just persistent and enthusiastic. She was a pint-sized tornado in a jar, and the jar was my house.

A child like that can be a wonderful gift.  It can also be exhausting. On one hand, you'll go places and do things you never imagined you would at the start of the day, and that joy can be infectious. On the other, sometimes you're just not in the mood. At those times, you just wish there was a pause button or a volume control you could press to get five minutes of peace. It's an impossible wish, though, so you learn to adapt your life and your family to embrace the little whirlwind because you love her. 

When that whirlwind leaves the family and becomes an adult in a workplace, not everybody embraces him or her. Without the love and acceptance of long, tolerant acquaintance, that in-your-face, joyful person quickly becomes annoying. Constant energy, rather than positively charging others, can become obnoxious when it intrudes on their mood. I think of this when I contemplate the P.K.Subban trade.

From a hockey perspective, I'm not sure the Canadiens got the best of the bargain. Subban is younger than Shea Weber, which, in an increasingly young league, should have been a bargaining chip for youth in return.  Subban's game is built on speed and agility which are two valuable elements at a time when speed and agility make you hard to defend and can win you a Cup. Weber is about toughness, solid positioning and a heavy shot. Those are valuable assets too, but weather differently than Subban's gifts. Both players add something to a team. Only the passage of games will determine whether the addition of Weber weighs heavier in the asset column for the Canadiens than the subtraction of Subban lightens it.

In terms of money management, Subban carries a higher cap hit for a shorter time, which is appropriate for a younger player with a Norris Trophy to his credit. Weber's $7.85-million cap hit is cheaper than Subban's in the now, and his six-million actual salary over the last four years of his deal, without an accompanying no-movement clause makes him tradeable if he's no longer in the Canadiens' plans. Essentially, money-wise, assuming both players work out the length of their contracts, the trade's a wash.

Much of the outrage surrounding the trade comes from perceptions that, over time and with repetition,  became unshakable truths. Subban was one of the players whom, if you'd asked any fan to name the Canadiens' untouchable core, would be immediately mentioned. He was meant to be a pillar during this "window" for winning the Cup. There's also the perception that management didn't appreciate him or really like him that much. And there's a perception that his race or his attention to his personal brand contributed to those feelings.

Of course, had he remained with the Canadiens, Subban would have still been one of the players around which the team is anchored. However, replacing him with Weber doesn't mean the team is adrift. It just means there's a different anchor. In the anger over the loss of Subban, people are missing the truth that Weber is an elite player as well.

In regard to management's dislike of Subban, I think there's truth in that, but I don't believe it had anything to do with race or activity outside the team. For fans, who only saw Subban's antics through carefully released video vignettes, he was a one-of-a-kind character. His big heart was on display when he dressed up as a security guard to surprise underprivileged kids. His million-watt smile lit up every crushed velvet suit and fedora he wore. He was a breath of fresh air that blew through a stagnant, cliche NHL like the first open window of spring. However, for those who spent all their time practicing and playing with him, attending meetings and travelling with him...working with him...I suspect Subban came across less like a bracing breeze and more like a tornado in a jar.

Sometimes, when my youngest child is bored or tired or not getting the attention she requires, she cranks it up a notch. She pokes her brother and sister just to get a reaction. They poke back and there's squabbling and cries of "Can you just SHUT UP?!" I can't deny, on those days, when she's finally in bed and quiet, the atmosphere in the house changes to something approaching serenity. Although we love her dearly and she adds something special to our home, it's occasionally a relief when she's turned off.

I imagine what it must be like when you work with someone so high-energy, for years at a time. At first it's funny. Then it's a bit irritating. Then, with repetition, it goes from outright annoying to unbearable. I can see how moving that person to another location, just for a change in atmosphere might be possible. I don't know if Subban's approach to life contributed to a deterioration of his relationship with the Canadiens, but I can understand it if it did.

Marc Bergevin has decided to change the direction and tone of his team by replacing Subban with Weber. It's a message to the league that the Canadiens will be bigger, stronger and tougher. They'll also be slower, more conservative and less flashy. They'll be better suited to playing the style Michel Therrien likes. Whether that style is out of step with the direction in which NHL competition is heading is up for debate. Likewise, whether the Canadiens will regret keeping the conservative coach rather than the exciting player will be analysed to death in the coming months and years.

One thing is sure: if Shea Weber helps bring a Stanley Cup to Montreal, nobody will care about his analytics performance or his foot speed. And few will give much thought to whatever P.K.Subban is singing at the karaoke bar in Nashville. Right now, Bergevin's trying to build a winning team and his decision to send the high-energy, passionate kid on a permanent time-out must be evaluated by the gimlet eye of hindsight.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How the Coach Stole Playoffs

Every Hab down in Habsville liked playoffs a lot...

But the coach, who was just north of tubby, Did NOT!

The coach hated playoffs! The whole playoff season!

Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps, that his suits were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all,

May have been that his brain was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason, his brain or his suit,

He stood there at playoff time, Habs chances moot.

Staring out from his bench with a sour, grumpy frown,

As the banners above spoke of teams of renown.

He knew every Habs fan was there at the wickets,

Standing ready to purchase next season's tickets.

"And they're buying their jerseys!" he snarled with a sneer,

"Next month is playoffs! And they want us here!"

Then he growled, with his short fingers nervously drumming,

"I MUST find some way to stop playoffs from coming!"

For in April, he knew, all the Habs girls and boys,

Would wake bright and early; dust off their Habs toys!

And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!

Noise! Noise! Noise!

That's one thing he hated! The NOISE!


Then all fans, young and old, would throng into the Bell.

And they'd yell! And they'd yell! And they'd YELL!


They would yell at Ovechkin, and at Bergeron too.

Which the coach loved as much as a stone in his shoe!

And THEN they'd do something he liked least of all!

Every Habs fan in Habsville, the tall and the small,

Would stand close together, with rafters a-ringing.

They'd stand side by side. And the fans would start singing!

They'd sing! And they'd sing! And they'd SING!


And the more the coach thought of this fan playoff sing,

The more the coach thought, "I must stop this whole thing!"

"Why, for four long, long years I've put up with it now!"

"I MUST stop this playoff from coming! But HOW?"

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!


"I know just what to do!" The coach laughed in his throat.

And he drew up a powerplay, starting to gloat.

And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great sneaky trick!"

"I'll use Davey to start to be sure it won't click!"

"All I need is a scapegoat..." The coach looked around.

But really terrible players didn't abound

Did that stop the old coach? No! The coach simply said,

"If I can't find a scapegoat, I'll make one instead!"

So he called his dog, Lars, who responded with dread.

"If you make a mistake, then it's all on your head."

THEN he loaded some scrubs and some old tired hacks,

On a ramshackle special team,  leaning on Max.

Then the coach said, "'Ard! 'Ard" And the team started down,

From the top of the heap to the shame of the town.

The fans' outlooks were dark. Quiet fear filled the air.

As the GM was dreaming sweet dreams without care.

And the coach kept on filling round holes with the square.

"Don't you second-guess me," the old vacant coach hissed,

And his face turned bright red as he shook his fat fist.

Then they slid down the standings, past Caps and the Rangers.

But no one in management recognized dangers.

He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.

Then he set up his team to take less than their due.

Where the Stanley Cup banners all hung in a row.

"This goalie," he grinned, "is the first thing to go!"

Then he played Price too soon, with a smile most unpleasant,

'Til he went down for good thanks to the old peasant.

Pop guns on offence! Defence that's all thumbs!

No forecheck! No backcheck! They all played like bums!

They lost more and more games. Then the coach, very nimbly,

Defended his methods in French, although dimly!

Then he revamped the lineup from  greatest to least.

And he managed to plummet to low in the East.

Bergie cleaned out that roster, no more Weise or Flash.

Fans bemoaned the unpalatable plate of Habs-hash!

When the coach said "Be happy! I'll play all the kids now,"

And still Chucky played less time than DD somehow.

As the coach kept on making the same old mistakes,

The Habs bandwagon kept on downhill without brakes.

With Desharnais out and Chuck still on the wing

(For no one could replace the old coach's offspring,)

Somehow the young guy started scoring nice points,

Proving he who's the best isn't who coach anoints.

And fans stared at the coach and said, "Therrien, why,”

"Why are you wrecking our playoff chance? WHY?"

But, you know, that old coach was so oily and slick,

He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!

"Why, my dear loyal fans," the incompetent lied,

"There's a gap on this team, see there on the right side."

"And our goalie is out; he's our best hope for wins."

"And there's P.K., who's guilty of multiple sins."

And his lies fooled the press. Then he smirked and stepped back,

And had high octane beer before hitting the rack.

The fans went to sleep with no hope of a Cup,

While the coach cashed his paycheck, living it up.

The last thing he took was the torch's bright fire!

With lots of excuses and whines,  the old liar.

In the room he left nothing but hooks and some wire.

And the one speck of hope that he left in the Bell,

Was that this season's sounding the coach's death-knell.

Then the GM did something no one expected

Announcing, from his view, the coach was protected.

It was quarter past deadline... most Habs still were Habs.

While fans wished for the coaching staff laid out on slabs.

They packed up the season, the hoping and dreaming

The fun and the laughter, the cheers and the screaming.

Seven floors up the Bell,  where the managers live,

They all knew that the team just had no more to give.

"PoohPooh to the fans!" coach was gleefully humming.

"They're finding out now that no playoffs are coming!"

"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!"

"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,

Then the fans down in Habsville will all cry BooHoo!"

"That's a noise," grinned the coach, "That I simply MUST hear!"

So he paused. And the coach put his hand to his ear.

And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.

It started in low. Then it started to grow.

But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded angry!

It couldn't be so! But it WAS angry! ANGRY!

He stared down at Habsville! The coach popped his eyes!

Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every fan down in Habsville, the tall and the small,

Was chanting! Without any playoffs at all!

He HADN'T stopped playoffs from coming! SO LAME!

Somehow or other, fans yelled just the same!

And the coach, with his cheap shoes ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?"

"They chant without Davey! They chant without Price!"

"They chant without anything decent on ice."

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the coach thought of something he hadn't before!

"Maybe playoffs," he thought, "are not what it's about."

"And maybe the true fans don't have any doubt!"

And what happened then? Habsville they say,

That the coach misjudged fans for the last time that day!

In one minute he thought he was liked after all,

So he whizzed to the Bell; he was standing so tall,

He vowed to keep coaching in all kinds of weathers!

And the fans met him there with hot tar and feathers.