Breathe. In. Out. Close your eyes. In. Out. There. Feel better?
I do, because, like most of you, I've been forgetting to breathe in the general panic this season has become. We need to slow it down, breathe and remind ourselves about a few simple truths if we're going to survive until April while remaining semi-sane fans of the Montreal Canadiens. So, here are the ten rules for achieving Habs Zen before our heads explode:
10. Forget about Scott Gomez's salary. Yes, it's a ridiculous amount for a second-line centre. But it's there, it's real and grinding your teeth over it will not only fail to change it, it'll end up giving you outrageous dentist's bills as well.
9. Accept that Andrei Markov will not save the team. He's a great defenceman and he will help the transition game and the powerplay a lot. He'll be good for 25-30 points in the thirty-five games he's likely to play this season. But he will not singlehandedly turn the Habs into a contender. Hoping he can will only lead to more frustration and a bigger emotional crash in March when becomes apparent Markov is not God.
8. Latendresse and Chipchura are gone. Stop freaking out every time one of them puts up a point for their new teams. Similarly, Koivu, Kovalev, Souray, Streit, Ryder, Tanguay, Lang and Schneider are playing for other teams and aren't coming back, so stop asking "what if?"
7. Carey Price and Jaro Halak are both good, young goalies who have yet to establish themselves as bona fide NHL stars. Stop losing your mind every time one of them lets in a "questionable" goal. Every goalie in the league lets in goals they maybe should have stopped. We need to stop analyzing every goal allowed. And we need to stop arguing about how one goalie is the real saviour while the other one should be traded.
6. Andrei Kostitsyn will never be Getzlaf, Perry, Parise, Carter or Richards. But he is a talented player who's working on improving his game. Let the 2003 draft go.
5. Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price, Brian Gionta and Andrei Markov are good players. Enjoy them and stop wishing for them to be bigger, taller, faster or Frencher.
4. Ryan O'Byrne, Max Pacioretty, Ryan White, Josh Gorges and Sergei Kostitsyn are all still developing and showing signs of improvement. Hope for them.
3. Stop watching/listening to/reading inflammatory rhetoric about the team. It's bad for the stomach and gives you unsettling dreams.
2. Stop stressing about what Bob Gainey's up to. We cannot mentally push him into signing Plekanec, trading Gomez or dumping Laraque, no matter how hard we concentrate on bending him to our will. It's best to let Bob be Bob, and just relax since we can't do a damn thing about it anyway.
And the number one piece of advice for finding peace and enlightenment as a Habs fan this year:
1. Leave the past in the past. The team is never going to be as good as it was in the '50s, '60s or '70s. The navel-gazing, self-congratulatory Centennial ends tomorrow, and with it the past can be laid to rest for a while. That means it's time to stop looking back and begin to look forward. This applies to the team's management as well as its fans. We've lived on memories long enough. Now we have to find the good in the future and focus our attention there.
And don't forget to breathe. In. Out. In. Out. Good luck, and may your head remain intact no matter what happens with the Habs in the next four months.