My buddy and coworker Mike played for the Dawson Blues in the late '80's when they were really putrid. Mike was a small shifty forward with the physique of an Alfie Turcotte. He also had a big mouth, a really funny guy who could be pretty caustic and not know when to shut his yap. I could imagine what he would be like to have on a team, seeing the crap he used to pull at work. His coach tried to put this rookie in his place right at the start of the season by not playing him. He didn't dress for most of the first 10 games or so, and when he did, he was mostly stapled to the bench. During a game when they were losing big, he whined to his coach that he should send him on the ice. "I'd understand if you were benching me and we were winning, but what are you saving me for?" He didn't get much icetime in the next few games either, but his point seemed valid when we were talking about it.
I thought of Mike's travails tonight while I watched Chris Campoli flat on his stomach trying to defend a two-on-one, while I watched Hal Gill chugging down the ice barely yet barely moving compared to Viktor Stalberg, and while I watched Tomas Kaberle's disgusting lack of effort on the 5th Chicago goal. Haven't we seen enough already from these gentlemen? Meanwhile, we have a 23 year old and a 25 year old defenceman who are part of the Canadiens' future sitting in the pressbox. Mr. Weber and Mr. Emelin must be on the ice, they cannot do any worse than Mr. Campoli, and they will improve by playing, compared to Mr. Kaberle and Mr. Gill who are on the downslope of their careers.
P.K. Subban is his own conundrum. He is immensely talented and will eventually be an excellent defenceman, but right now his mind just isn't right. He makes mental errors, he's lazy on many plays but then expends effort on needless individual plays. The problem is that there isn't enough talent and experience on the blue line to reduce his icetime accordingly. That is, it we're still hoping to get into the playoffs. If we throw in the towel and this season becomes a training camp for next season, however, we need to pull in the reins on Mr. Subban, and for there to be a reckoning.
There is no rivalry between the Hawks and the Canadiens, and it showed during the game. There was little intensity or emotion, and it almost looked like the Canadiens might lull them to sleep, but in the end we could kind of tell that Chicago had two or three extra gears that they could shift into when needed. Ultimately though, they managed to beat us at cruising speed. When they celebrated their third period goals, we didn't see great joy or relief, just the satisfaction of a job well done, like a tradesman who puts in his hours and inevitably succeeds.
We may be in for a long fishtailing end to the season. As I contemplated the horrors that may befall us, I wondered why Bob Gainey wasn't asked to take up the interim coach position and offer some stability and credibility to our team, which it is sorely lacking now.