Habs: Some Good, Some Bad, a Little Hope, More Torment

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(Photo by BEN PELOSSE/LE JOURNAL DE MONTRE‰AL)

Written by Kristina, AllHabs.net

In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.  –Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, 1878

MONTREAL, QC – In our world of financial insecurity, volatile markets and investment companies wondering how billions of investor dollars could magically vanish – the numbers mean everything. In the case of the Montreal Canadiens, the numbers game is becoming more agonizing with every passing day.

The number of home losses, the number of times they have been shutout on Bell Centre ice, the number of points they sit back of a playoff spot, the number of times where the team just did not compete. The list goes on.

(Photo by Ben Pelosse/QMI Agency)

And as painful as it is, until the numbers read “mathematically eliminated,” a faint glimmer of hope continues to twinkle on the Canadiens 2011-2012 season.

On some nights, that glimmer of hope burns a little brighter. Embarrassing the Detroit Red Wings 7-2 prior to the All Star Break, dominating the Winnipeg Jets at home with Lars Eller stealing the show, and winning four games in a row starting on Super Bowl Sunday are some of the few shining moments that come to mind.

But those moments have been few and far between.

Being shutout three times in a row against the Washington Capitals dating back to March 2011, not showing up in Pittsburgh in the Canadiens’ sixth game of the season, squandering leads to lose games far too many times to count, losing eight times in the shootout, more than any other team in the NHL, represent some of the more typical events that have characterized the Canadiens’ 2011-2012 season.

And those were just the moments on the ice.

What about the off-ice PR nightmare and questionable decisions the Canadiens brass fashioned this year, making the team an easy target to mock?

Allow me to enumerate them.

  • The Andrei Markov debacle, which was teed off by Gauthier with flying controversial colors at the Canadiens Annual Golf Tournament in September 2011 before the season had begun. Markov still hasn’t played a game this season.

 

  • The firing of Perry Pearn a mere hour prior to Canadiens taking the ice to play the Philadelphia Flyers. Incidentally, the Canadiens won that game 5-1. Woohoo!

 

  • The firing of Jacques Martin the morning prior to the Canadiens taking on the Devils. Jacques Martin won 13 times in 32 games he coached; meanwhile Randy Cunneyworth has won 11 times in 29 games. Looks like that move worked out to be pretty Even Steven.

 

  • And about that interim, unilingual headcoach. Way to lay down your new bench boss on the tire tracks of an oncoming 18-wheeler truck before the man even set foot behind the bench to coach a game. Geoff Molson’s press release really cleared everything up for us. The writing is on the wall, Randy. It is unfortunate because the English-speaking lad appears to be a coach who knows how to communicate and knows a touch about that game of hockey.

 

  • The acquisition of Tomas Kaberle. The Canadiens needed a powerplay quarterback so of course the only logical choice was Tomas Kaberle with his 4.25 M cap hit for the next two seasons. Really? Jim Rutherford said he “should have known better” then to sign Kaberle to that three year, $12.75 M deal. Rutherford really rubbed the salt in wound there. The joke is on you, Mr. Gauthier, the Canadiens continue to sit at bottom of the league on the powerplay.

 

  • The mid-game Mike Cammalleri trade. Gord Miller and Mike Johnson being as perplexed as they were on national television wondering where the hell Cammalleri had gone mid-game just says it all. Gauthier made the right move in trading Cammalleri and picking up a bigger, grittier forward and of course a second round draft pick, but the manner in which that trade unfolded is just baffling.

 

  • The presentation of the Molson Cup for the month of December to Carey Price in front of Jaroslav Halak prior to the start of the Canadiens vs. Blues game on January 10th, 2011. That one really backfired. Halak was the guy who had the last laugh as he skated off the ice with his 18th career shutout. The Canadiens had two home games, one on the 4th and one on the 7th of January and two opportunities to give Price his award pre-game. I’m sure Carey was thrilled.

Probably not the season Geoff Molson had envisioned as his first full season as the owner of one of the most storied franchises in sports history.

But let’s flip the coin; there is always a positive side of a ledger too.

  • The signing of Erik Cole which has been arguably the best UFA summer-signing in the NHL. Cole has been the Canadiens’ best player, bringing his effort, passion and determination night in and night out, even on one leg.

 

  • The rise of David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. One is a crafty center with impressive passing skills; one is a bona-fide power forward with 25 goals on the year so far. Their success playing together with the Hamilton Bulldogs has clearly translated to NHL success this season.
  • Alexei Emelin. Boom. The Russian has 185 hits in 49 games played and has established himself as a much needed physical presence on the blue line. How can you not adore a player who can get under the skin of Shawn Thornton with a clean hit?

 

  • The Josh Gorges signing mid-season. Six years with an affordable cap hit for a player who leads the league with shots blocked and has emerged as the leader of this team sans Brian Gionta. There aren’t many guys who would take a puck to the head and be the first guy out to practice the very next day. Intangibles will go a long way going forward.

 

  • The Hall Gill deal. The expectation was a second or third rounder. Try Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney, and a second round draft pick in 2012. The proof is in the pudding, Hal Gill is a valuable playoff asset. The 6’7 American certainly left his mark on this team over the course of the last three seasons. Would be wonderful if Gill took a management role with the Habs once he hangs up those skates.

And so you can jumble the good with the bad and say that the numbers even out and that the Canadiens still have a chance to make the playoffs amidst this seemingly tumultuous season. The fact is, the team sits seven points back with 21 games to play.

Is it possible? Maybe.

Hope is the hardest thing to die.

Until the numbers say “casse.”

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