Saturday, December 27, 2014
The Irony Of Hab Fans
There is nothing in life that we Hab fans want more than to win a Stanley Cup. If we could win in the Finals by beating the Bruins or the Leafs, the victory would be even sweeter. Fans old enough to remember the Toe Blake (coached) years of 5 cups in a row will remember that 2 of them were against the Leafs and 2 were against the Bruins. During the Scotty Bowman years, the '77 and '78 Cup wins came against the Bruins. I was a child in the 50s and hate was not a sentiment I had mastered. Children are just thrilled that their team has won. They don't delve into the details of the opponents and their moral and ethical shortcomings. By the 1970s, as a young man in my 20s, I had developed strong opinions on matters from the Vietnam war to the treatment of blacks in the US. I had now mastered hate towards the perpetrators of injustice. Once you master that sentiment, it is easy to redirect it. I can't remember a sweeter feeling than what I experienced in '77 and '78 after Les Glorieux had defeated the hated Bruins.
Will the Habs 'ever' win another Cup? 'Ever' is till I die. I have no proof that the world will exist after my demise. If someone had told me there would be no Stanley Cup parade in Montreal for 21 years, I would have paid more attention to the last Cup win. I assumed that with Serge Savard at the helm, Roy in nets, a big goal-scoring power forward like Leclair in the fold and skilled centres like Damphousse, Carbonneau and Denis Savard and players like Bellows. Leeman, etc. and a solid D corps with Desjardins, Brisebois, Rob Ramage, Odelein etc. Stanley Cups would be making at least a couple more visits to Montreal. Boy was I wrong!
We Hab fans have to give up what we love and know in order to win the Cup again. Firstly, we cannot win unless we lose badly and often. The rewards are great. You get generational talents like MacKinnon, Stamkos, Toews, Kane, Hall,Seguin, etc. at entry level contract money. We must sacrifice the players we love (in trades) who bloomed too fast, in order to fill the needs of a team that is capable of winning the Cup. We need to trade away players like PK Subban and Price (both of whom are peaking when the team is ill-equipped to go all the way), Markov and Plekanec who keep us respectably in the middle of the pack but would be too old by the time this team is a contender, We do this in order to acquire what we need...a big highly skilled centre or 2 and a couple of big high-scoring wingers. A team that is well-coached defensively needs no superstars on the blue line (especially one that has a cap hit of $9M) or in net. The Preds may have Shea Weber but they will never have a Cup. The Canes won with Ward, Tampa with Khabibulin, Chicago with Antti Niemi, Detroit with Osgood, Pittsburgh with Fleury, Boston with Thomas. We can agree that none of the aforementioned goalies will be in the HOF. Cup winners need HOF goalscorers. There is a definite dearth of them on the Habs.
The Canadiens no longer need to be the spiritual driving force for an entire province of French Canadians who felt exploited and disenfranchised by the English. That group has not existed for several decades. The Province of Quebec does not need to see French players streaking down the ice and blasting a big shot into the net in order to feel their lives and culture have relevance and value. The French speaking people of Quebec are a very powerful and affluent group in Canada. We don't need to deliver to them players like Briere, Desharnais, Parenteau, Bouillon, Bournival, Bourque (namesake only)...the Habs don't need to convince the fan base that they are always seeking ways to bring Vinnie into the fold. French players don't want to play for the Habs. They hate the thought of it; until they are worthless to every other team and the Habs are willing to pay them $4M per for 4th line minutes. Name the top 50 players in the NHL and count the number of French Canadians on that list.
In order to win the Cup, we fans need to change what we love about hockey. We need to admire bone crunchers like Lucic, Getzlaf, Pronger, etc. We need to re think how the game should be played. Small and skilled, no matter how fast, will never ever win in the NHL. Reway, Hudon, Andrighetto, Gallagher, Lehkonen, Desharnais and the like that the Habs have in their system are skilled and entertaining but are never going to win you a Stanley Cup. Herein lies the irony. We fans love the thought of watching these types of players hoisting the Cup wearing the big CH because fast, skilled hockey played by Cournoyer and Pocket Rocket and Mondou and Provost and Moore and Geoffrion, (none of whom was bigger than 5' 10") is what we grew up watching and loving. At one time it worked for the Habs and we fans got to see multiple Cup parades. Sadly, it does not work any more. The fans and management need to decide whether they want things done the 'winning way'or the 'Canadiens' way. Ironically, those two are mutually exclusive.