Just Not Their Year
Aside from the periodic updates courtesy of MP contributor Andres, we don't talk a lot about the Habs around here (mostly since there's plenty of other sites that do). But we know our readers are still pretty dismayed by the team's dismal season (even with Thursday's ridiculous "win"). One of those readers got in touch to offer us his thoughts on what's ailing the Habs. Max Jones is a freelance writer currently kicking it old school in St-Henri, "where the schools are old but the BBQ systems are new." He has an undying love for midnight poutine (the dish) and a newfound love for Midnight Poutine (the blog). You can find him wandering the streets of le Sud-Ouest looking for the best of everything, then begrudgingly heading elsewhere to get it.
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, the Montreal Canadiens and their fans have to accept the fact that the club will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign. If that wasn't bad enough, right now they are the Eastern Conference's basement dwellers, with a measly 58 points. That is 3 points less than the next team, and 11 points back of the 8th playoff seed, with only 18 games to go. Barring a late season miracle, the Habs will be watching the playoffs from their couches, and all us fans will be left to wonder: what went wrong?
To start, the franchise has been surrounded by controversy and instability all year. From the firing of coach Jacques Martin after a slow start, to the decision to trade the frustrated Mike Cammalleri to Calgary for Rene Bourque, the management has spent all year reacting to problems without any clear overarching plan. It must be difficult for Pierre Gauthier, the team's general manager, to appease one of the most vocal and critical fan bases in all of sports. However, firing Martin in favour of Randy Cunneyworth, to then name the latter an 'interim' replacement, was one of the most ill-conceived moves of the year. There has been plenty of discussion regarding Cunneyworth's monolingualism, but the bottom line is that the 'interim' designation cut his legs out from under him before he had stood for one second as the Head Coach. If the powers that be don't believe in the coach, it makes it awfully difficult for the players to, either.
That lack of belief manifested itself with a losing attitude throughout the locker room. The same attitude that Cammalleri, the hero from the team's deep playoff run two seasons ago, spoke out against when he said, "We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose." That comment precipitated his departure from the team in the middle of a game on January 12, 2012. The message was clear to the rest of the team: it's not a problem to lose, but if you speak out about it, you're gone. Considering their 8-10-7 record since that trade, Cammalleri's comments came not from frustration, but from fact.
It is a season for bottoming out and starting afresh next year. Unfortunately, Gauthier is still too scared of the Montreal media to do that, and so he only shipped off one player at the trade deadline, the underachieving Andrei Kostitsyn. The GM managed to stockpile two draft picks for Kostitsyn, but those will take years to develop. In a city filled with rabid supporters expecting a shot at the Stanley Cup every year, Gauthier needs the Habs to make a late season push or he might find out the hard way that he is just an 'interim' General Manager.
An extra special thanks to Max Jones for letting us use his words here. Photo found on skippyjon flickr page, under a creative commons license