Habs’ Fans in 50 Shades of Grey


By J.D. Lagrange, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine


“Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.” ― E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey

PENTICTON, BC. – Habs’ fans are in many ways like any other fans from any other sports team but in several ways, they also differ. Some of it might be based on the team’s history but as a vast majority of the fan base wasn’t old enough to recall the team’s last two Stanley Cups (even less the ones from the 1970’s), I don’t know that it can justify the differences.

Self-proclaimed as being the “most knowledgeable fans,” how can we explain the vast difference of opinions on many key factors of the game such as the work of the coaching staff, the play of a guy like David Desharnais or P.K. Subban, or the team’s needs going forward? Unless we think that we’re knowledgeable and our neighbour isn’t.

The biggest difference might be the passion of the fans towards their favourite team, their favourite (or not so favourite) players.  And mostly, how far they are willing to go to defend their point of view, whether it is by using some fancy statistics or by their own life experience. But where exactly is the truth in those endless arguments?

Like in the Best Seller, fans share a joint passion, with ties to the same goal, reaching the climax of the Holy Grail. Some however prefer arriving to their end by pulling the whips and chains, trying to beat others to submission with their ideas. But what if there was more? What if there were other ways to get to our means? What if not everyone liked the submission tactics?

Is Michel Therrien, who has taken a team which finished 28th in the NHL, as bad as some make him out to be in spite of a 106-55-16 record since then? Is David Desharnais as bad as some fans make him out to be for a $3.5 million player? Is P.K. Subban flawless and worth his $9 million cap hit when comparing him to other NHL defensemen in the league? Why are some fans so dead-set on one side of the fence or the other in all of those cases?

The fact is that the truth in all of those cases is somewhere in the middle.  But because the passion gets some people so involved in debates and so invested into their own opinions, too often mistaken for facts, they can’t see a way to back down, take a step back and admit that in fact, everything does not have to be either black or white. That in fact, there are many shades of grey and pulling the bondage arsenal, while impressive to the inexperienced, is only a smoke show, a fantasy to those who know better.

Michel Therrien has his flaws. Every coach has his flaws. He does change his lines. Every coach changes his lines in an attempt to whip his team, to shake things up in trying to generate some offense and playing his hot hands. No, he doesn’t do it (much) more than anyone else and anyone honest enough to watch other coaches around the league should be able to acknowledge that fact. The other night against the Dallas Stars, he should have ensured to have two centermen on the ice with a couple of seconds left to the period, when Manny Malhotra was kicked out and Brendan Gallagher lost a clean faceoff on Benn’s goal. But he also made some great decisions during that game.

David Desharnais is not a first line center. The truth is that the Canadiens don’t have (yet) a true first line center and they haven’t had one since Vincent Damphousse and Pierre Turgeon. Yes, Saku Koivu was becoming one before his first serious knee injury but he, like Tomas Plekanec, are (were) excellent second line centers in this league. The Canadiens have drafted Alex Galchenyuk to become that elusive big body first line centre and Therrien is developing into that slowly, and looking at the way Nail Yakupov is developing in Edmonton, it’s hard to argue against what the Habs are doing with their prospect. If we keep on being honest instead of trying to be right, we have to admit that Lars Eller certainly isn’t a better offensive option to Desharnais, at least not at this point and perhaps never.

Another player that seems to draw controversy is P.K. Subban and a lot of it has to do with his shiny new contract. Whether fans want to believe it or not, contracts are one of the barometer used in determining expectations. Just ask Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, Mike Richards, Dion Phaneuf or Ryan Suter for example. Some fans cannot see it that way as it seems like everything the guy does is positive. Why does it have to be that way?

Just last week, I was accused by such fans as being racist because I stated, during the game against the Nashville Predators, that I’d take Shea Weber 10 times out of 10 ahead of Subban if I had the choice. This was perceived as an attack on Subban for some weird reason when the fact is that while Subban is a great player, it is my opinion that Weber is that much better. Why does it have to be perceived that way though? In order “to be right”, some even invented stories saying that I never praised Subban… *sigh*

Here’s one last example I’d like to bring to light: If someone proposes trading Tomas Plekanec for a top end player in return, a percentage of the fan base will turn on them for even suggesting trading him, many of which claiming that either one doesn’t understand his true value or even that one hates him for making this suggestion. Why is that folks? Do you honestly think that you can get a top end player by trading away your dead wood? That’s not how it works in the NHL.

Yes, it’s good to have a strong opinion and to share it with other fellow Habs’ fans. It’s great to have a difference of opinion as it can lead to some healthy debates. But never, ever lose sight of the principle: they are opinions and yours is as good as the opinions of those who differ. Demonstrate and defend your opinion, your idea, but know to respect others and their opinions, even more so when you disagree with them. Don’t take it so far that you develop blind hatred (or love) for a player, a coach, the team, taking out chains and whips, and by refusing to acknowledge that not all is black or white… knowing full well that there truly are 50 shades of grey.

Go Habs Go!

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J.D. Lagrange
J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.

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