Sunday, 20 March 2016

Game 73: Canadiens 1, Flames 4

Ouf...  What a 'game' it was.  Mike McCarron scored late to give it the appearance of decency.

At the end in 2012, I don't think we were all quite so blue or homicidal.  I don't have a lot of context, that was my first season back watching Canadiens games assiduously, after years of missing out on Andreas Dackel and Radek Bonk.

I think that year we could be more Zen because we knew there was going to be a massive cleanup at the Nouveau Forum, Geoff Molson had been the owner for only a year, and would have spent that time to evaluate the organization top-to-bottom.  That, combined with the certainty of a high draft pick, and a great chance at 'un gros joueur de centre' in either Alex Galchenyuk or Mikhail Grigorenko, meant a brighter future to look forward to.

We'd have to outwait the millstone contracts of Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle, sure, there's no miracle cure to those, Gary Bettman hates long contracts to veterans and would ensure that we wouldn't slip out of those, that we'd take our medicine, drink our gallon of cod liver oil, like every other team that gives crazy contracts.  Fair is fair.

But we were proven right.  Geoff Molson purged the hockey operations staff, hired a bright young go-getter with lots of experience from a quality organization as his GM.  We ended up with 'only' the third pick, but the stars aligned, the Oilers picked the consensus best player in the draft in Nail Yakupov, the Blue Jackets took a defenceman some compared to Scott Niedermayer in Ryan Murray, and we were left with the player we wanted, uber-talented Alex Galchenyuk, who if he hadn't lost his draft season due to an ACL reconstruction, some pundits claimed, would have been the lock for first overall.  And the farm system, long neglected, would start to overflow with the shrewd picks from Trevor Timmins, so we'd be able to deal with the salary cap and make trades from a position of strength, swapping superfluous assets to desperate teams, because we had kids in the minors who couldn't be denied a chance in the NHL any longer.

The table was set for unfettered progress.  We weren't enthused with the new head coach, dreaded what may come, but I figured we should give him a chance.  I hadn't been happy when we hired Jacques Martin previously.  "What, the Ottawa reject-coach who couldn't get it done with a stacked team?", I scoffed, but in time he proved to be a quality NHL coach, inspiring confidence in his charges, winning more than he lost.  I thought maybe Michel Therrien will have the same effect, would be preferable to a rookie head coach, a guy from the minors learning the ropes.

This year, I'm not looking ahead at next season with the same optimism.  Sure, Carey Price will be back healthy, and so will Max after a full summer of workouts, something he couldn't do last summer with his tibial plateau fracture.  So will Brendan Gallagher.  If anything, we're lucky these three core members of the team had their injury-marred season concurrently.  It will allow us a high draft pick this season, and we can maybe get right back into Cup contention next season.

Looking past the solid pieces of this core though, we get so many more question marks than anything else.  We used to jones for the day when we were rid of riffraff like Travis Moen and René Bourque, but in our minds they'd be replaced with newer, shinier, better, cheaper players, it's the Wheel of Life right?  It seems to me that next season, we'd be happy to have these players, those pros, on our roster, compared to the callow youths we're seeing in the forward corps lately.

And there probably won't be a cathartic housecleaning at the New Forum.  I'm afraid a New School coach like Guy Boucher, freely available now for hire, will be left at the altar, in pursuit of organizational stability, so as to put an end to the endless cycle of coach hirings and firings, to stop the madness.

Which is fine in principle, but ignores the practical reality that the players are speaking loud and clear how they feel about the current régime.  They're not playing with any pride, any desperation.  They've thrown in the towel.

How awkward will it be if the whole gang is brought back together next September?  Are we supposed to cheer them on as if nothing happened?  Kind of like the morning after, when your life partner found your texts on your phone, and furniture was wrecked and dishes were smashed and words were said that can't be unsaid?

If we knew there was closure coming this April, we'd deal with this a lot better.  Instead, we're forced to protest ever more stridently, like opponents of a Trump presidency being ever more fervent as they are faced with what seems like a fait accompli.

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