Friday, February 18, 2011

Aftermath: Discouragement

Sometimes, even the most patient among us feel like shouting in frustration. After years of scraping into the playoffs, or landing barely outside them, and knowing this is another of the same kind of season, this is one of those times.

I only saw the first period and half of the second last night, but it was enough to see the team, with this defence, is not going far in the playoffs. Add the devastated blueline corps to the ongoing inability of the forwards to score goals, and one can see that without Carey Price, the Habs would probably not be six points ahead of eighth place right now.

Then, today, we see the Bruins going all out to make a Cup run this year with the acquistions of Rich Peverley and Tomas Kaberle. The Lighting have improved their D as well, by adding Eric Brewer, whom I would have liked to see in Montreal. The Flyers got better up front by acquiring Kris Versteeg. Only the Caps and Pens have yet to get even better than the Habs than they already are...on paper.

It's not that I begrudge those teams those particular players (save Brewer), but I begrudge them the opportunity to make those trades. I see their depth and their very realistic playoff hopes and I want those things for the Canadiens. At the same time, I have to admit the Habs aren't there, and they won't be there for at least a year or two, if
everything goes well.

The truth is, the Canadiens are locked into Scott Gomez' overpriced contract for another three years. They have all of their organizational depth on D playing in the NHL right now, with little behind it. There aren't any hot shot goal scorers in Hamilton either. Don't get me wrong. There are some nice, solid prospects, but no potential stars among them. If they wanted to trade for a significant part, the sad truth is, they can't. Not without giving up an equally valuable part they still need. There's just no duplication of talent in the organization, and a team needs that if it's going to bargain its way up the standings.

Sometimes, being the character-filled, overachieving also-rans just isn't enough. I wouldn't want the Canadiens to be cocky and arrogant like the Flyers and Bruins, but it'd be nice if they had the goods to back up jerkish behaviour if they felt like it. The team right now is a lot better than it was a few years ago, but it's still not good enough to be considered a serious contender.

If a fan is realistic, it's hard not to see the Canadiens have a long way to go to build up the kind of depth they need to compete. Years of poor drafting and disappointing prospect development have left them with few moveable assets. So, in order to keep believing, Habs fans have to be unrealistic.

We were reminded last year what hockey in May feels like, and we want that again. We know, though, when the bubble of unreality clears enough to see the truth, that there are teams the Canadiens cannot beat. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, hope is a rare commodity.


Anonymous said...

Boo. First post of yours I didn't like. Ever. That's a pretty good record tho :)
You're right about many things, but we have too many injuries to judge the team this harshly. Yes, like the Bruins mind you, we need a couple pieces, but had we the whole team healthy (even Gomez) we're tops in the league.

Anonymous said...

As a follow up, I was at last nights game, and they were terrible. Gomez was terrible. Kostitsyn was terrible... Plekanec was invisible! The team is decimated, and with a shrewd trade and some guys back and rested, we could be a sleeper. Could.

Ps I boo'd the overall tone of your post, not your writing. Love your writing :)

dusty said...

I feel your pain. The Goat does his best but that's not good enough. Now if he deals Ak46 plus some picks for Shea Weber that would be something. Of course this won't happen because the Preds are real good and are dreaming of their own Cup run.

The deals the Bruins made stink and they will be sorry. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The Devils beat the Rags 1-0. What a great game. Why are Lemaire and Robinson not in Montreal? The Devils look great. Oh well.

DT said...

Right you are, JT, about Price -- and generally most things you say about this team. As long as Price is healthy and playing well, I think there's still hope for this lunch bag group of guys, who come to work most nights, to make a good run in the playoffs. If we happen to go head to head against the style of team we can handle, who knows... The leadership is strong and even if we don't win the cup this year, the experience of a good run will be very valuable for the kiddy corps at this point in their development.

Speaking of development: what's going on there? Why do many other young players move on from this organization and seemingly flourish on other teams? Ribiero, Grabovski, SK74, to name a few. All the top picks in the world won't make a difference if this isn't addressed going forward. At least the farm team in Hamilton is playing the same style this year as the big team.

The passion that fans and media have for this team floods the senses and even when the team may not be going well, I have to admit, it's still all very highly entertaining for this fan.

Thanks for taking the time to keep this blog going. It's fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Pretty much bang on again. The team is good when totally healthy but not elite. We have some elite players, well two...Price and Subban are all-stars and if Markov comes back thats three.

The defence outside of those two is weak. The individual players are mostly ok in their own rights but a corps has to have different ingredients to be successful. Mara helps with toughness and size but our defence other than him is a bunch of sweethearts. Toughness, and that includes fighters has to be present if needed to be considered an elite team.

We also dont have surplus players in the good to great category. Because of that we dont have tradeable assets. We have what elite teams would consider depth players, and depth players only yield second and third round draft picks at best when traded. (or Q-league prospects)

We dont have the goods to trade for elite or even very good players so my view is that trading right now yields us very little in the near term.


JF said...

Right on, J.T. Even with a healthy lineup, the Habs would have no more than an outside chance. What I find most frustrating is our inability to acquire any serious offensive talent. Yes, we're locked into the Gomez contract, but even if we weren't, I don't see how it's to be done. We always finish in the middle of the pack, so always draft in the middle of the pack, which means we never pick up any outstanding offensive talent through the draft. So we have to trade for it or acquire it through free agency, and at the moment we have no assets we could deal that would land us the kind of offensive talent we're missing.

It seems this has been the case for years. Good as the team has become defensively (and I think with a healthy lineup we'd be excellent), we're not going anywhere unless we can score more than we've done this year or for the last few years. And I don't see how this is going to change any time soon. We have some good pieces in place going forward, with Price, Subban, Pacioretty, and some of the other young players, but how are we to become more of an offensive power?

MC said...

I realize the defense is decimated right now, but I really don't understand all the doom and gloom here and on HIO. The Bruins have improved their powerplay but not their defense. They add Peverley but take a away Wheeler was has been dominant at times in the past, so not a big net difference. Sure there are better teams than the Habs in the East,( slightly better when we are healthy), but for the playoffs that is largely irrelevant as it is not a round robin, it is a single elimination tournament, so the only team that matters is the one you are playing. The 8th seed always comes in hot because they have been fighting for the playoffs for a month while the 1st seed comes in complacent or riding early season success. If Philly gets knocked out early, the East will be wide open. If the Habs can get healthy for the start of the playoffs like last year, and get a good match up in the first round, anything can happen, especially with the best goalie in the East.

J.T. said...

@DT: The guys you're talking about, save Ribeiro who was simply a headcase, were late-round draft picks. Those guys need time to develop, if they ever do. Unfortunately, by the time they get ready to bloom, they've often been passed in the depth chart or are in danger of being lost on waivers for nothing. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out for them until after they get traded. It's different for high draft picks, both because they generally have more talent and because the organization has invested more in them and is inclined to be more patient with their development.

@MC: That's just my point. We know anything can happen in the playoffs, and we hope the Habs can put it all together to surprise people. The hard thing to take as a Habs fan, though, is that we *always* have to hope to be surprised. We never get to be the fans of the best team, who *expect* a long playoff run. That gets tiresome sometimes.

Mike said...

Look at our potential lines for next year:

Patches-Pleks-Gionta (13 mil)

x-Gomez-Cammy (13.5 mil)

Pouliot-DD-White (3.5 mil)

Darche-x-Moen (2.5 mill)

Markov-Gorges (9 mil)

x-Subban (.800 mil)

x-Weber (1 mil)

I'm guess this is what we would have to spend to get these guys back, we still have eller. and we only spent around 44 million. That would leave us with about 12 million to sign 1 second line winger, 1 third line center (Eller, we have) a second and third line defenseman. And potentially getting rid of Gomez's contract. (7.3 mill)

Look to next year. Just think about the experience PK, DD, Weber, Eller, Nash ect.. are getting

Anonymous said...

Discouragement? Every year. The horses in the barn are too small to pull this wagon all year. They can come out the gate but when the going gets tough they nip and kick, pull up lame, and show their mule side when the whip snaps.

Come the playoffs they will likely come together. Unfortunately it won't be enough, but it will be fun.

I am a Price believer, always have been. But that doesn't mean I buy into the Cult of the Goalie. Teams win games, cups, and fame. Individuals get their sweaters retired but if it was all about individuals every team with Lemieux on it would have won a cup. Hockey is a team game and teams have to work together to win.

The Montreal Canadiens are a perimeter team in play and the standings. They have a chance of 4 out of 7 against other groups of players but not against a team who wants that trophy and is willing to pay for it. The Montreal Canadiens are seriously retooling while doing what few other retooling teams try: they want to stay competitive while doing it.

Some places are great places to work. Some places terrible. Some just work. Some achieve great things, others not so much. A hockey team is like that. Chemistry is real important. Sometimes a good player gets down. Without leadership he stays down and drags more people down with him. It could be over nothing. A comment about waiving a clause; a "Hey did you read what Red wrote?"; or my favorite, a woman.

This hockey at the NHL is a young person's game. Most of the guys can speak well in public but that doesn't make them mature (remember your article on brains growing up:-). So in sports, and in hockey, strong motivational leadership is critical. With such a small window you can't afford to keep (rather than name all those names) guys like Chelios who act out but have so much potential, even though instinct says hang on for a couple more years and see...maybe.

Anyway, if they make the playoffs they will likely look better than they do in the season, lose a few draft positions, and it will go on. This isn't Colorado or someone who can slide down, pick up a few good kids, and creep back. This is the team Canadiens, and they have come a long way during the Gainey/Gauthier era.