Then the season started, and the nightmare hit. Carey Price was revealed as something less than the personification of the Great Wall of China. Our youngsters on defence weren't NHL-ready and the veterans looked old and slow. Stalwarts PK Subban and Josh Gorges tried to do too much to compensate, and they committed crucial blunders. Our forwards lived down to their reputation of being too small and soft. The snipers looked like journeyman 20 goal scorers at best. Erik Cole was a money-pit who would kill our cap for four years. Andrei Markov's knee was septic spaghetti.
It seemingly only took a management reshuffling for the nightmare to end. Assigning Mr. Pearn's responsibilities to Mr. Ladouceur and Mr. Cunneyworth, and placing both behind the bench with a mission to provide verbal, enthusiastic direction and correction to the players seemed to tilt the ice our way. Pucks that used to hit the post or aggrandize Jacob Markstrom now find the corner mesh; Raphaël Diaz and Yannick Weber are effective and improve every game; Jaro Spacek seems rejuvenated; Erik Cole, Andrei Kostitsyn, Max Pacioretty and Travis Moen (!) are too much for opposing defencemen to handle. Carey Price is back to his usual unflappable self. David Desharnais plays like Scott Gomez should. Brian Gionta's snakebitten, Réjean Houle-Chris Higgins impersonation is currently humourous instead of dolorous. Lars Eller finally scores his first goal, after showing flashes of much-needed skill and strength during his trial-by-fire, for-keeps training camp.
Now comes a five day break until the next game, to solidify the confidence and goodwill within the dressing room. Andrei Markov returns to Montreal with a clean bill of health from his doctors and is set to resume on-ice training. GM Pierre Gauthier has slipped the team doctors a twenty, and they will be exquisitely careful with Mr. Gomez's shoulder treatment and rehab plan, with a resultant projected return to the lineup on February 31st.