In "Gone With the Wind," Scarlett O'Hara lived her selfish, reckless life with little regard for the ever-patient Rhett Butler who loved her for the very flaws that made her a social outcast. Finally though, even Rhett had enough as he clapped his hat on his head and "Frankly my deared" his way into the fog and out of her life. In the Habs' version of the story, the players are the headstrong, selfish Scarlett and Bob Gainey the tormented hero.
Usually the "New Coach Syndrome" lasts ten or twelve games for an NHL team. Players who felt oppressed by the old coach are freed. Those who were underused or overused begin to play different roles. There's a feeling of guilt about costing a guy his job, even if they didn't like him, that makes players work a little harder for the new guy. In a case like that in Montreal, where the GM takes over, there's a little element of fear natural to anyone whose boss is literally looking over their shoulders. That motivates some players to work a little harder and show a little extra jump. At least at first. After a dozen games or so, old habits slip back in and old ruts are easier to travel.
That the Canadiens display of guts and determination in the third and overtime of the Oilers game on Tuesday lasted only until Thursday night is really depressing. Bob Gainey said he thought the players tried in last night's shameful loss to the Isles. If that's trying, then this is a very sad team indeed. They were outshot, outchanced, outhit and outscored by a team that will likely finish last overall. They had three shots on a two-minute five-on-three, and no goals to show for their "trying."
It seems that Bob's Big Gamble in firing Carbonneau and taking over himself was calculated to take advantage of New Coach Syndrome. But apparently, the Canadiens don't really care who's coaching them. They don't care about contracts for next season. It looks like they don't care about playing in Montreal anymore at all. You don't go out in your second game with the GM behind the bench and get dominated by the worst team in the league while you're fighting for your playoff lives...if you actually give a crap.
So, now what? Looking down the barrel of Marty and the Devils' Habs cannon of death, I'm not confident of a win tomorrow either. So I try to hope. Maybe Gainey's changes just hit a hiccup and another day of practice, coupled with the team's inclination to raise their game against tough opposition will at least inspire them to keep tomorrow night's game close. Perhaps the spectre of having Brodeur tie a great franchise record right in the Bell Centre will prick their pride and spur them to victory.
I hope Gainey's takeover gets more out of the team than it appeared to do last night. Because if it doesn't, it means at least one of three things: that Gainey's effectively gambled his job and lost, that the Habs don't care or that the team just isn't that good after all. Any of those scenarios are scary to consider.
So, like Scarlett, I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.