Thursday, 22 December 2011

Game 36: Montréal 0, Winnipeg 4

I'm going to concentrate on the big picture today, instead of focusing on, oh, I don't know, if I was to pick a subject at random, how bad Chris Campoli and Tomas Kaberle played tonight and how the Kaberle contract will cripple our organization for years to come. Truthfully, I couldn't really break down the game by periods or by crucial or noteworthy plays, since I snoozed on my comfortable couch during the first and second periods for long stretches, and didn't bother rewinding the PVR when I came to. I could tell by Pierre Houde's voice that there was nothing worthwhile that I had missed, except maybe some dominating stretches by former Vancouver Giant Evander Kane, a leader on the Whistler Marmots, who are currently 7-3 and battling for top spot in the HabsInsideOut Memorial Fantasy Hockey League ( ).

If I wasn't drifting off and snapping to, I was reading Neal Stephenson's 'Quicksilver', the first book of the Baroque Cycle trilogy. It's my second go-round, an amazing bounty of a read, 400 pages in and I'm not even halfway through the book, with two more to come ( Anyway, I'm really enjoying this part of the book, I'm having trouble putting it down, so I was reading and glancing up at the screen now and then, and it came to me that I haven't really done this all season. I've watched every game this season but one, and really watching, not having it on in the background while I do something else.

This is the first sign that I may be giving up on this season. To do so, I have to protect myself psychologically, and I usually do so by convincing myself that I don't really care how the Canadiens do, it doesn't affect my quality of life, so no sense in getting all worked up, kind of like I did during Réjean Houle's Reign of Error. I've already done that with the Chargers, and I've enjoyed this late meaningless winning streak they're on, watching the games is a real pleasure when you're not awash in fear at the potential playoff implications of a botched snap and fumble on the Chief's five yard line which negated the chance at a chip-shot game-winning field goal. The games are fun now, they're exhibitions of artistry and skill with no chance of a payoff and no risk of further heartbreak, kind of like a Cirque du Soleil performance.

The only problem is I can't shake the feeling that we are witnessing an implosion of our beloved team, from which wreckage it will take years (again) to emerge. Think Viggo Mortensen trying to eke out a living in the movie 'The Road', and that's the amplitude of the catastrophe we're going to have to crawl out of, with maybe some zombies and an expiring Maya calendar thrown into the mix.

The Canadiens seemed to be a team on the rise, with talented, respected veterans like Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec leading the way. Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges were on the mend, there were promising youngsters on the roster, including two guys you could potentially build a franchise around in Carey Price and P.K. Subban. Montréal was no longer a free agent last resort, we managed to overpay Erik Cole to come here instead of he being overpaid somewhere else. Things were only going to get better in the next few years, as more judiciously acquired free agents grafted onto a nucleus of promising draft choices, tantalizingly out of reach for now.

We now behold the ruins of a once promising and thriving team, which seems directionless and despondent. The players are committing the mortal sin of not even trying anymore, as if they adopted Andrei Kostitsyn as their role model. We're not even halfway through the season, and it seems as if we'll endure a Bataan Death March to elimination.

And that would be okay if we could retool next year, except that not only are we hamstrung by our salary cap situation, but now we have to be concerned that Montréal may not be seen as a good place to play hockey by free agents from without and by our current players. The organization transmogrifying in half a season from a strong and stable one to a Mickey Mouse outfit lurching from one crisis to another is one problem. The language issue, which used to be a hurdle but was now seen to be a quirk that made Montréal kind of cool and gave the cute girls adorable accents is once more going to be a disincentive for a lot of players. Playing at the New Forum and the loudest, most enthusiastic fans, another arrow in our quiver for attracting players, is not going to be thought of so highly when it generates the loudest, most enthusiastic boos in the league.

I've been seen as a glass-is-three-quarters-full kind of guy when it comes to the team and its management and future outlook, but I'm crestfallen at how quickly the wheels fell off this jalopy. Maybe this is something that a nine game win streak can turn around, but until win #5 or 6, I'm going to be hanging with Chicken Little.

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