Friday, January 13, 2012


If you're a theatre buff, this Canadiens season has had it all. It started out as a suspense piece. The team had looked pretty decent against the Bruins in the playoffs last year and were expected to get Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Max Pacioretty back from injury, as well as add Erik Cole for this season. Even though there were lots of questions, from whether Carey Price would be able to duplicate last year's stellar effort to how well Cole would fit into the lineup, hope abounded. Fans held their collective breath, waiting for the answers.

The play quickly became a drama, as Markov's long-awaited return was both delayed and shrouded in mystery. The team got off to its worst start since it nearly folded in the '40s, and Pierre Gauthier, in a bizarre and ludicrous attempt to right the ship, fired assistant coach Perry Pearn ninety minutes before a game.

Drama morphed into comedy as we watched chance after chance hit posts or miss the net, while the Habs' opponents were benefitting from every bounce and soft goal allowed. It was almost comical to watch a perfect 2-on-1 pass bounce over the stick of the receiver...again. Or yet another green rookie score his first NHL goal against Carey Price. A third period Habs lead was like like slapstick, blown as surely as a clown getting a pie in the face. It was hard to believe things could keep going like that.

They did, however, and comedy became tragedy. The injuries continued to pile up and so did the losses. Teammates fought in practice, the coach got fired before morning skate and the new coach got virtually fired before he started, for failing to speak the right language. Morale hadn't been this low since the team backed into the playoffs by virtue of other teams' losses in 2009 and got swept in the first round by the Bruins. That horrible Centennial season and playoff humiliation triggered the Bob Gainey housecleaning that brought in the batch of undersized, expensive free agents that, until last night, dominated the lineup.

Michael Cammalleri's departure seems to indicate the team recognizes the lack of size has been problematic. It also signals the transition of this theatrical season from tragedy to farce. Many fans, myself included, thought the year had become bad enough to consider moving high-priced underachievers like Cammalleri for a real rebuild of picks and prospects. The operative word there is "consider." Gauthier may be saying Cammalleri's recent strong words about his teammates' losing mentality had nothing to do with the timing of the trade, but it looks suspicious. Add to that the bizarrely unorthodox move of pulling Cammalleri out of the game in the second intermission to tell him he was dealt, but not where, and it gets weirder. When you throw in Bob McKenzie's claim that other GMs say they didn't know Cammalleri was available and would have been interested, and you've got yet another chapter in the tragic play this season has become.

Nothing against Rene Bourque, but four years of his inconsistency is a long time, regardless of his comparatively low cap hit. And he doesn't look thrilled about moving to Montreal. Watching the Bourque press conference after he learned of the trade, it's hard to tell if he wants to puke or cry. Or both. It would have been nice if Gauthier had been willing to shop around a bit more; maybe stop smoking whatever herbal hallucinagen he prefers, and accept that the Canadiens need a first-round pick more than they need another inconsistent, mid-range forward with a long-term contract. There's always a hope and the wish that Bourque will use his nice size to ramp up the level of physical play in the Canadiens' lineup, and bring 30 goals along with it. As they say, however, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And the Canadiens are certainly beggars at this point.

For those who'll throw back something like, "you wouldn't like this deal if the return was Crosby," that's not the case. There was nothing wrong with trading Cammalleri, who's just not been consistently dangerous (to the other team) in a Canadiens uniform, great 2010 playoff notwithstanding. There was certainly something wrong in Gauthier's not casting a wider net for a deal. And there's probably something wrong in the team's apparent lack of a plan. Is this to be a rebuild with youth via picks and prospects? Or is it to be a shuffling of veteran parts for other veterans who might scrape the team into eighth and an early elimination? Worst thought of all, does management seriously think the team can contend as it is, with a just few minor tweaks? Stay tuned for the mystery part of our programme.

The curtain dropped on the first act of this season two games ago. Act Two has been straight out of Vaudeville. The ending is anybody's guess.


Anonymous said...

When I heard about the trade after the game, I recalled your post about Gauthier's lack of class. This has gotta be another glaring example of that flaw. I wonder what it does for team morale to know that management fails to respect its players to such a degree that any one of them could be traded *during* a game. And if it's true that PG didn't even consider offers from other teams potentially interested in Cams, then I really can't fathom how he still has a job.

dwgs said...

I read the title and my first thought was 'farce'. But a bad farce put on by amateur players, perhaps a high school drama club.

Raj said...

As you said some time ago, it's becoming very difficult to stay proud of the team and proud of being a fan. I'm going to stay a fan not because I can be invested in team success(I can't be) but because of individuals like Erik Cole, Lars Eller, Moen, Gionta, DD, Jorges,Raphael Diaz and Cary Price. These guys bring it night after night, win or lose and I will cheer for them personally, not as members of Le Club de Hockey Canadien.

V said...

Well, I am practically speachless - or writeless (I suppose since this is a blog).

I am a pretty positive fan, but since Kaberle coming and Martin going I have not quite known what to think.

It has been bizarre - what has happened to PG? Is it the new owner that's pushing this agenda?

It is not so much the actual moves - afterall, let's wait and see how Bourque works out - it's the way the moves are being made. I don't recognize this type of disorganization from the Canadiens.

A Leaf fan just passed me in the hall and gave me that 'I know what you're going through and I love it' look. Can't blame him.

G said...

I think you have to ignore what people say and watch what they do. PG is an example of that but it applies throughout life. Pearn was fired suddenly, JM was fired suddenly, Cammi was traded suddenly. Each of those things can be rationalized easily but together they form a pattern.

I suspect PG is under a great deal of pressure. It is all going to ca-ca around him and he is likely fed up. His job and future are on the line and he's not taking it from his subordinates as well as from his boss.

Frankly I never much cared for Cammi but appreciated the skills he has. I hope he does well in Calgary and that it is a fit for him. The real kudo's though have to go to the media. Not only did they manage to figure out something was up but they somehow managed to distract the Canadiens bench in the third by asking if they knew about it. Classy. Kind of makes you glad the authorities contact the next of kin before the press.

mineral said...

I think the drama is what we make out of it. "It" being the moves of management that are not made to either impress us, assuage our doubts, nor meet the criteria of our ideas surrounding integrity, class, etc. Hockey is a business, and while opportunities for classiness are there, being friends with your business partners is not what it's about. That being said, i have not seen this much fact-twisting, exaggeration, and blowing-out-of-proportion in Montreal in a longtime. And i blame the Media and commentariat for that.

Don't take it as a finger pointing at you, JT. I'll happily point the finger at RDS, members of the French media like Francois Gagnon, whom i'm sure had half a boner in his pants as those words trickled out of Cammalleri's mouth this week. I can even picture that facetious, adolescent grin of his. He couldn't wait to spread the word, twist it, and make it sensational enough to create the story that wasn't. He was an architect for the same in the French language fiasco. They complain no one wants to come here, yet they are the prime manufacturer of the pressure and vitriol that has made this soap-opera.

There has been an atmosphere of resentment and bitterness across the board which has festered to the point where every single person out there is supremely righteous and critical of the organization to the point where they cannot do anything right in the eyes of the altruist fanbase. We are in full kick'em-while-they're-down mode. I'm certainly waxing the obvious in regards to how we bandwagoneers are extremely bi-polar in our delivery of praise one night and scorn (let's blow it up, fire XX and YY) the other.

Everyone (or most) has lost perspective. Opinions everywhere show little patience, no thoughtful interpretation and string together assumptions like they are observers to everything going on behind the scenes. Here's a great example, a tweet by Dreger on why the 2nd period intermission trade was:

DarrenDreger Trade call couldn't happen with Cammalleri in game. Call was also recessed to coincide with start of Cgy game to burn 1 gm of Bourque susp.

See? There's reason behind everything, but because we know nothing, we assume the worst possible thing, and we create theatrics to fill the void. Everyone is shooting off in full emotion when any matured individual knows that's exactly the time to avoid drawing your conclusions. The story isn't 24 hours old and yet the book is closed on how this deal went down, why it went down, etc. etc.

For all our infinite hockey wisdom in this great fanbase, we're degenerating into buffoons as we illustrate our frustrations by compounding, magnifying, and distorting facts we're not even privy to. Perhaps that's what makes for great fodder in our consumption-based society, but as a Habs fan, it just turns my stomach sour to see the degree of seething bitterness that is extolled in every possible thing this franchise does. Alas, we are all armchair GMs of the Steve Yzerman mold, eh?

Bottom line is, we are all members of this Thee-a-tah group. We may not be the scribe, or the director, but we certainly contribute to the message that this production is trying to create.

Too bad there are few wise enough to see above it all and separate themselves from the tabloid garbage that precipitates Habs news sites. So much for the erudite champions of hockey insight and knowledge.

Hopefully with time, this will pass and make us stronger. But right now, it seems like we learned nothing from past where we REALLY hit rock bottom. Do we honestly think we're back that far?

dusty said...

The Habs are officially a joke.

Too bad Cammalleri didn't score a few in the first two periods. Can you imagine being named first star and not even being on the team any more? That's a record that would stand the test of time.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that this season has been theatre; it appears more like the Jerry Springer Show. Maybe Dr Phil should intervene.


Anonymous said...

I have to wonder about the "other" GM's not knowing Cammy was available. You have to think that they would all be sniffing around a team that is struggling, and especially after Cammy's PR disaster. Maybe certain owners should be looking for general managers... or maybe it just makes a good story, LeBrun ....

Anonymous said...

Actually I like the trade...It saves us many up front and we got a big player in return.Time will tell but Cam was upset with what has happened to the team enough to turn in a very poor season until the time he was traded.I like that fact that the season all but over but another trade is on the horizon.For sure by the trade deadline.

Anonymous said...

excellent post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector do not notice this. You must continue your writing. Im confident, you have a great readers base already!

Anonymous said...

I like this trade for the following reasons:

1. Shows the team is fully cognizant that they need to sacrifice some skill for size. The St. Louis game confirmed it without a shadow of a doubt.

2. They got a 2nd round draft pick, albeit not this year instead of giving them away for short term solutions as they did prior. Also got a promising prospect with a decent chance of making the NHL.

3. Got some cap flexibility that increases the likelihood they'll sign Andrei Kostitsyn. Bourque's contract is more easily movable than Cammalleri's.

4. Bourque's scoring over the last three years has been about the same as Cammalleri's.

5. Bourque likes playing in Montreal and his response is likely shock from how sudden it was. On Oct 13 he tweeted it and got 2 goals and first star:!/rbourque17/status/124533955524427776

I understand your frustrations as a Hab fan, JT.. yet this analysis seems highly coloured by it. I appreciated McKenzie's cool headed assessment here:

Anonymous said...

The media doesn't like Gauthier, because he is secretive. He plays his cards very closely to his vest and doesn' t feel the need to defend himself...thankfully. Molson will judge him by his results and his slow demantling of the dister created by Gainey is encoraging.

Dave White said...

My Uncle Bob once told me in convoluted English that "It is never as bad as it can't get worse". Since the beginning of the pre-season games and the bizarre saga of Markov's return, hardly a week passes when the Montreal Canadiens organization proves my Uncle Bob correct.
I grew up in St. John's in the fifties and listened to our kitchen radio about the Canadiens. I have been a Habs fan since 1949. I can honestly say that although there were down years, I always felt good about being a Habs fan. No longer. I won't cheer for another team. That's impossible. But I am sick and tired not so much of the players. Many do their best night after night. I am disgusted with the management of this once glorious institution. No script writer could imagine the comic tragedy played out on the NHL stage by Houle and Gainey and now Gauthier.
Thank you for another perceptive and insightful article Leigh Anne. I always look forward to your comments.

Anonymous said...

As far as other GMS not knowing. Cammy had a limited no trade clause in which he could be traded to 7 specific teams without his approval. With that in effect why would PG bother to tell the other 22 GMs he was on the block. He had 7 available partners.

Anonymous said...

If a guy like Kessel brings in 2 firsts and a second why is it that a Cammalleri can't bring at least one first pick? Change the second round pick for a first and I'm happy about the trade. Why trade arguably our best player for so little? Isn't that the craziest and sadest proof that this excuse of a team has nothing of value?
What I want is to see the Goat tomorow try to get a guy that has Cammy's skill set (40 goals in a season!)and trade him against say a Moen and a second round....why is it that the other teams get those kind of deals AGAINST us. Cammalleri was way more worth than Bourque and a second, that's my opinion. If not now, wait until the deadline and go get a first round pick. I am outraged at this deal. You don't trade an elite player for some middle of the pack players. This is NEVER acceptable. This is the kind of things that get discussed by clueless fans in blogs everywhere, the kind of deals like Moen, Weber and a fourth round pick for Malkin. This is not the way it works but apparently Mister Gauthier is happy in that fantasy land. Now let's call Colombus and offer them Moen and a second round pick for Rick Nash. Try it Gauthier. Let's see the GM's reaction in Colombus.

J.T. said...

@anon(the one talking about the details of Cammy's NTC): It's actually the other way around. He had 7 teams he could NOT be traded to. The other 22 were fair game.

dusty said...

Getting rid of Cammalleri will help the Habs. Thankfully the Flames management is every bit as incompetent ours. If not for Feaster the Habs wouldn't have been able to move Cammy. I now understand why PG pulled him in the middle of a game. He was afraid Jay might sober up and call off the deal.

The Habs have screwed up too many times to count over the last few years. But letting Muller get away was the biggest mistake by far. Watching him smiling behind the Hurricanes bench brings tears to my eyes.

Steve said...

We need a star, a scoring star, Cammy has that going and lost it. The Panthers are contenders, surely we could pry Huberdeau out of them, Gill, Cole, Gomez and take some of their trash back. Cole is our best player but, will he be there when we have the team in place, thats 2014.