The Canadiens new season is not yet three games old, and Habs fans are already gnashing teeth and wringing hands. It's not about the goaltending this time. Carey Price did enough in his first two starts to spare the suicidal for at least a period in the home opener. It's not about the salary cap or Hal Gill's inability to handle the puck cleanly or Scott Gomez' contract or the fact that the team is too small. Nope. This time, it's about the bloody Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Tampa Bay Freakin' Lighting, sired by Gary Bettman and born in ignominy. The only reason the team entered the league was because Phil Esposito was one of the only franchise applicants who actually coughed up the $50-million expansion fee back in 1992, after more legitmate owners in more legitmate locations balked at paying that kind of dough on pure speculation. The only reason it still exists is because it sucked badly enough to land Vincent Lecavalier first overall in 1998.
That's the crux of the problem with Habs fans. It all comes down to jealousy. People are jealous because the Lightning have St.Vinny. They're jealous that Martin St.Louis and Simon Gagne have French names to go along with their scoring talents. And they're jealous Guy Boucher and his staff ditched Hamilton and a possible future with the Habs in favour of an immediate promotion to the NHL in Tampa.
You know what? Jealousy does not become Habs fans. In wishing the Canadiens had Vinny and Guy, fans fail to appreciate Plekanec and Muller. Sure, they're not local boys, but they're talented, dedicated and...get this...actually playing for and coaching the Montreal Canadiens.
Of course, most fans of the Canadiens are just that; devoted to the CH and whatever players happen to be wearing it at the time. Still, the number of whiners complaining about Tampa having everything Montreal doesn't is growing, and it's annoying. Yzerman took over in the summer and made a few moves to improve what was a pretty dreadful team last season. He's still got a long way to go toward turning the Lightning into a contender.
Boucher may win a Cup in Tampa or he might flame out after a year or two. Until there's a body of evidence to prove he's actually the coach of the century a lot of Habs fans are convinced he is, jealousy of him is misplaced.
The Lightning are still the Lighting; an unremarkable team with some good players along with some major questions on defence, in goal and lower-line depth. They will undoubtedly give the Canadiens a run for their money tonight because all the homeboys love to rub it in the home team's face. But if they manage to beat the Habs, one can only hope the fans will take the loss as they should: with distaste, dislike and dismissal.
It's the third game of the year and being jealous of the Lightning is like envying the leafs because they got Grabovski and The Traitor, and have managed to put up a couple of early wins. Calling the Lightning "Habs South" is a joke to most fans, but for others it's a serious complaint. The Canadiens are our team. The Lightning are just another opponent and giving them a connection to Montreal based on envy is embarrassing. Fans should save their angst for something that really matters.