Right now you are staring at my headline and if you cheer for a different team, you are probably scoffing with authority. “Yeah yeah, everything is worse as a Montreal Canadiens fan. Shut up you entitled mess. At least you don’t cheer for my team. That’s real pain!”
So let me best try to explain to you why I hate the Montreal Canadiens offseason. I’m going to start it with a sentence you’re going to read and wonder if I really mean it or not, and yeah, I kind of do. So much I need to make it prominent.
The desire to win the Stanley Cup is less than the desire to avoid Montreal Canadiens offseason discussions.
I’ve been alive for two Stanley Cups. I remember 1993 quite vividly. I remember how balanced the Habs were compared to the rest of the league. I remember the team leading the Adams until a poor second half. I remember how many playoff games felt like miracles that we won. I remember how that run shut up Habs fans who wanted Patrick Roy traded for only a year. I remember the next year how they turned on Roy because he got ill in the playoffs against the Bruins. I remember how winning the Conn Smythe trophy for a second time and pushing a team captained by Guy Carbonneau and coached by Jacques Demers was forgotten in a year. I remember all of that.
It’s those memories and the memories of every year why I dread the Habs offseason. All summer long and all season long, you deal with a collection of Montreal Canadiens fans that think exactly the same way and never change course, no matter how times they are wrong. Did they bet on Halak over Price? Did they want to trade Subban because Diaz was looking good? Did they stomp in fury at Diaz being traded for Dale Weise? Did they scream about Mike McCarron being drafted? If you’re a Habs fan, you know who I’m talking about. You know this person. You might be this person. Do you try to claim that Michel Therrien is the worst coach in the NHL, or a bad coach? Do you constantly say David Desharnais is a “number one center” when he doesn’t play first line minutes on the Habs, simply plays often with the best winger on the team?
If you’re a Habs fan you’ve just rolled your eyes a thousand times reading this stuff or you’re saying, “Yeah, so?” because you post this stuff ad nauseum every single day. Every day is a complaint about Alex Galchenyuk not at center. Every day is a complaint about Lars Eller not getting top six minutes. Every day is a focus on the powerplay when statistics for the past five post-seasons prove a strong regular season powerplay and a strong playoff powerplay is not the answer to a successful team (five on five is the lifeblood of a great playoff team). Every day is exactly the same for you. And every day is exactly the same for me. Me reading your bile.
The playoffs is the only reprieve. It’s the only time the games matter to Habs fans. We won 50 regular season games? It was all Carey Price. The rest of the team had nothing to do with it in the minds of these wackjobs. But the playoffs? That’s the time they start losing their narratives. That’s when they have to actually consider more than just their Tea Party-esque party slogans. The further we go, the better they will appreciate the intelligence in the club…
When the team gets eliminated, which they have been getting eliminated since 1993, everything is forgotten. And as I said, in 1993, we only got one year of sanctuary before the hyenas came out to bite on the fresh carcass of an eliminated team. It was now time for the Montreal Canadiens to have one million general managers firing the head coach, trading the “dead weight” and putting the team back into contention status. This despite the fact all of them cheer for the Montreal Canadiens, which means since 1993 they haven’t a single fucking clue what a Cup winning team is supposed to look like. They just know other teams do it and we need to do it like other teams.
“If Therrien only did this”
“If Bergevin did that”
“We need to be more like the”
Now I’m not going to act like it’s impossible for fans to make better hockey decisions than the people in the jobs. I have the utmost confidence that I could general manage the Edmonton Oilers better than Craig MacTavish or Kevin Lowe. I’m pretty sure if you put me behind the bench of a mid-90s Hartford Whalers, I’d get a better performance out of the team than Pierre McGuire, and less people would hate me. I don’t even have to be 30 years old. I could do a better job as a 9 year old back then. I would have at least treated Michael Nylander better.
I’m also not saying that Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin are beyond scrutiny and shouldn’t be critically analyzed for the job they did, or that questions shouldn’t arise as to why the team was almost beaten by one goalie (Anderson) and eventually beaten by another (Bishop). I want to avoid losing two games in a second round series because we outplayed the competition but couldn’t get a puck in the net next time. I want Bergevin to address our lack of play in front of a goalie net. I want Therrien and the coaching staff to answer to why the powerplay, while not the end all/be all, was a putrid 6%.
But this time of the year is when everyone thinks they know the answer, and none of them do. And the offseason doesn’t end in October. These narratives will continue until the team wins the Stanley Cup. The only time we get any sort of break is in the playoffs, when they shut up for a couple games and just watch the team play. They watch that Michel Therrien has outcoached Jon Cooper for nine of 10 games. They watch that Marc Bergevin’s deadline deals were some of the hardest working players for us in the playoffs. They see that it’s not all Carey Price, but Carey Price is still the backbone of the team.
Of course, they won’t talk about that now, because they will have to talk about all of their horses that have already decomposed into the earth but they are still trying to beat it.
What’s that? More talk about firing Therrien for Mike Babcock, who Red Wings fans hated for his reluctance to play their young stars and played Justin Abdelkater and Dan Cleary on the top six more times than anyone wants to admit? The guy who felt Jay Boumeester was a “safer” defenceman than P.K. Subban? Oh no, go ahead. I’ll just act like I don’t know what hockey is. Better than listening to you act like you have the cheat codes for it.
The Montreal Canadiens offseason is the worst because it doesn’t end in the fall. It ends when we win a Stanley Cup.
Photo by Mike Carlson of Getty Images