A FAN’S NOTES
The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup relatively recently. I cannot remember which particular season nor can I remember their opponent. Those two sentences may also be applied to the St. Louis Blues. Both of these clubs had made the finals previously and lost, many years ago back in those remarkably courteous days prior to the uber-advent of the internet. In today’s bloated and gaseous NHL it’s not easy to reach the final, let alone make a return trip.
The Montreal Canadiens last summer reached that heady height for the first time since 1992-93. Like most teams they are mediocre on their best nights. Their surprising run reminded me of my days in university when I sometimes woke up in strange places and wondered how I’d got there. The Habs were easily dispatched by Tampa Bay. The Lightning, though an elite squad, are also a covid era anomaly, repeat champions due to two pandemic seasons being pretty much compressed into one. They beat somebody to win the lockdown tournament and then skated through an abridged schedule oddly reconfigured by a temporary divisional realignment.
The Montreal Canadiens are a lot like the Rolling Stones in that their glory days were some 40 years ago. Like the band, the franchise has exhibited an unabashed knack for marketing its past. And only a delusional fan would believe that last season’s unfulfilled miracle is something to build on, some kind of harbinger. The Habs’ operating philosophy since their heyday and the ensuing swelling of the NHL goes something like this: “Please God, if we can just squeak into the playoffs, anything can happen.” A bowling alley manager or a beer rep could manage the organization with a mission statement like that one. Oh, wait, those snarky scenarios actually unfolded. When a Habs fan says, “I could’ve done that,” it’s not barstool bragging. The shocking and immediate quality play of the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights exposed the systemic ineptitude rampant in most NHL front offices. Remember, the Vegas roster was initially comprised of players 30 other teams deemed expendable.
I’m not writing to bury my favourite team. I can’t praise them either. Their perpetual mediocrity will likely see me out. Saturday night the Habs walloped Detroit’s Red Wings 6-1. That was their sixth game of this new season. They lost their first five, giving up 19 goals while scoring just four. The team’s two lynchpins are aging defenders, both of whom have probably reached their sell-by dates due to past injuries. Neither one has played a minute so far in 2021-22. Goaltender Cary Price is out for a month having entered the NHL’s player assistance program. Perhaps his head exploded when his employer left him and his contract exposed to the Seattle Kraken in yet another expansion draft. Canadiens defenceman and power play anchor Shea Weber is gone for the entire season and may be permanently broken after 14 years of big league hockey.
The pixels in the NHL post season picture usually morph into focus by American Thanksgiving, Christmas at the latest. It’s not even Halloween yet and the Canadiens are already in an awfully deep hole in their awfully deep pre-pandemic division. When the next cup final rolls around sometime during the middle of the 2022 baseball season a few Canadian sportswriters will pen their annual laments about Lord Stanley’s lengthy sojourn in the United States. I’m looking at you, Roy MacGregor, and so why not just write that the seven Canadian teams in the league are similar to the majority of their American counterparts, they haven’t got a clue as to what it takes. Meanwhile, virtually no fan of the game will ask, “Who lost it last year?” Bonjour, hi, Montreal! Bonjour la visite!
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of barstool sports expertise since 2013. My novella Of Course You Did is available. Visit www.megeoff.com to find your preferred format and retailer.