Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Taking the Pulse

On September 4, 1943, Wing Commander J.F.Young at the RCAF base in Gander, Newfoundland, took a B-24 Liberator bomber up as part of an experiment in airplane noise levels. It was meant to be a routine flight, but local people, to their horror, watched the big bomber make a slow turn, then plummet directly down into Gander Lake. Divers attempted to salvage the wreck, but found the plane resting on a ledge balanced between shallow and deeper water. During the course of the operation, the plane slipped off the ledge and sank to the bottom of the lake where it lay out of range of recovery. It's been sitting there for almost 75 years.

Well, Habs fans, your team is on the ledge.

They can't score goals, aren't great at preventing them and are likely going to finish in the draft lottery. From there, they will probably pick a player with talent whom they'll either rush to the NHL before he's ready or bequeath to the Sylvain Lefebvre development program, which has produced one playoff round at the AHL level in five years (they were swept) and looks unlikely to make the post season this year. On the current NHL roster, the only Canadiens draft picks who spent time under Lefebvre are Charles Hudon, Jacob de la Rose and Brendan Gallagher. They have 40 points between them this year...the majority of those from Gallagher who only played 36 games in the "development" league back in 2012.

This is a bad hockey team with very little hope for a quick turnaround in the future. It's not the worst group the Habs have iced since their last Cup in 1993, but it may be the most demoralising. Once upon a time, fans remembered what it felt like to win, and so did the players. Even if they lost, they still tried hard. Now they look lost, disorganized and completely hopeless. A large number of fans who buy jerseys and tickets have never seen a championship team in Montreal. Even the formerly die-hard, willing-to-live-in-the-past fans have had enough and are sending their chilly message of unacceptability at the Bell Centre. It won't be long before the silence comes not from disapproving fans, but from empty seats.

With the current state of affairs being what it is, I thought it would be interesting to gauge the mood of long-time fans. To that end, here's a little quiz:

1. You think Carey Price's contract is:
a) Appropriate. He's the only one on the team who's earning his money.
b) Too much for too long. His deal is as bad as Luongo's in Vancouver.
c) Ridiculous. He should have been traded for assets before he signed the extension.
d) Brilliant. It's all part of Marc Bergevin's plan to burn the Habs to ashes, only to have them rise, phoenix-like from the ashes to glory.

2. The current defence-corps is:
a) Decent. They've had some injuries, but the regular top six are competent and not to blame for the current mess.
b) Better than last year. Bergevin said so.
c) Hopeless. They're more likely to lead a conga line at Mardi Gras than impede an oncoming forward.
d) Missing the General. We hope you're enjoying your millions of available cap space, Bergevin.

3. The captain should be:
a) Traded. He's one of the few movable assets with a decent contract for another year and a chance to bring a useful return.
b) Given another chance. He's one of the best goal scorers in the league since the lockout, and the Canadiens can't afford to give up offence.
c) Demoted from the captaincy. He's not temperamentally suited to the position because he's too hard on himself when he struggles.
d) Made to be the marshal of Montreal's "We Used to Have Pride" parade. Follows the old Stanley Cup route, but in January. At night.

4. The Drouin-for-Sergachev trade was:
a) Great. The team had to give to get, and badly needed offence.
b) Good for cultural appeal. The Canadiens must have a French-Canadian star, even if he's not yet living up to expectations.
c) Dreadful. Sergachev, an 19-year-old D is putting up more points and playing a much better all-around game than the Great Hope and will continue to be the better player for many years.
d) Just another brick in the wall. More evidence of Bergevin blinded to all else by the sheer number of colours in his suit closet.

5. Should the Habs end up with a lottery pick, they should:
a) Take the best possible player, regardless of position. There are so many holes on the team, everything is needed.
b) Deliberately choose the best centre available. The position has been an Achilles heel for so many years, it's got to be a priority in a rebuild.
c) Pick Minnesota's Mr. Hockey. Just because it's been a while.
d) Give it back. This team no longer deserves to spoil good young players.

6. The team is having such trouble scoring because of:
a) The system. Claude Julien's defence-first system is too similar to his predecessor's, and built for a stronger, more mobile group.
b) The lack of talent. Nobody in the forward positions is capable of hitting the water from a boat in a good year. Don't even ask about the D.
c) NHL regulations. Carey Price is not allowed to skate past the red line.
d) Fidelity. Scoring outside the home would make them unfaithful.

7. The song that most makes you think of the Habs this year is:
a) Kelly Clarkson's "Beautiful Disaster."
b) Def Leppard's "Armageddon It."
c) The Who's "So Sad About Us."
d) Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It."

8. If Geoff Molson decides to part ways with Marc Bergevin, the Habs should:
a) Hire Patrick Roy. At least the press conferences would be interesting.
b) Hire the fans. A reality show-like contest to choose a management committee could be a source of untapped revenue.
c) Bring back Serge Savard. Maybe there's a little savvy left in the last GM to bring a Cup to Montreal. Plus, he'd be available for ceremonies dwelling on the team's past.
d) Hire the best possible candidate. The team can't afford the niceties of choosing a language preference for this position.

9. If you were offered seats in the red for fifty bucks, you would:
a) Go. What the hell; you've followed the team for this long.
b) Go and boo. Fifty bucks is cheap for a chance to let this team know how it's made you feel.
c) Pass. You'd rather use the money for underpants and deodorant.
d) Laugh uproariously. For $22, you can see the Lightning play real hockey. In Florida.

10. At this point, your feelings about being a Habs fan are best described as:
a) Defiant. No matter how bad they are, you will watch because they're your team.
b) Bitter. They had good players over the years, but management has failed them.
c) Sad. You're glad Jean Beliveau can't see this.
d) Indifferent. This team has been useless for so long now, you realize you haven't seen a game in a month because you've been busy playing classic Nintendo.

I'm interested to see how you're feeling, fans. Especially because right now, the Canadiens are balancing on a ledge between shallow water and seventy-five years in the unreachable depths.


Harry said...

Hi JT-here are my answers....I am a sad Habs fan,this will take years to fix..

Darren Bifford said...

Bitter, disappointed, increasingly indifferent.

rocket9 said...

Hey, I enjoyed the read but I'd rather just say that I am completely indifferent to the Habs and their dysfunctional organization after being a fan of theirs since basically birth. I don't expect a Cup every year but once a decade is do-able for a well run organization. They are not. They are a losing culture, much like the Cincy Bengals of the NFL. Good teams on occasion but never a serious contender to win it all, regardless of talent level. Perhaps they resemble the Leafs of the Ballard era in (at least) one way as well. I used to know a bird dog scout in the Soo who would talk to you during Greyhound games if he had the time and you approached him in the right way. He told me that the problem with most bad teams in the NHL was not always lack of talent but the lack of development of said talent. The Leafs D-men would make the same mistakes in year 3 in the AHL or NHL that they did in their Jr. A careers. Fast forward to 2018 and the likes of Garry Galley go on about how the Habs still don't play positionally correct on the PK. How they make the same mistakes 5 on 5 over and over again. This is what losing cultures do. They don't change what is clearly not working, they probably dont even realize it's not working. And they mess up young talent who never develop properly and hire moronic bullies like Michel Therrien (I have some personal stories about him that would singe your hair) to "guide" the youngsters to the top of the NHL. Except they reach that proverbial top with other teams. See the Subban file, the McDonagh file, the Sergachev file, and the Chucky file after MB trades him for a bag of pucks.

dra58 said...

My answers a little late are c, d, a, b, a, a, d, d, d, c.
I always enjoy your takes but I also am becoming bitter towards this team since the culture is french first before wins. This is a different time and the best players are not all from Quebec and those that are may not want all the adverse media scrutiny brought on them daily when they can have success elsewhere today.