Montreal’s rough ride has been especially hard on its fans. The baggy pants farce that was the Cammalleri trade on Thursday evening, didn’t help. But our Habs man, Matthew Skolnikoff, puts a positive spin on it and gives hope to even the gloomiest of boosters. And to
Cammi Tammi, he says, “au revoir.”
“When you live in a small town like I do you get used to being a character in a never ending soap opera where even the smallest details of your life are not only noticed but are discussed in intimate detail, subject to wild speculation peddled as fact, and ultimately argued about in vehement terms by two sides that are willing to stake their first born children, life savings, and beer can collections (sorry, that was redundant) on the outcome of their fervently held yet intellectually impoverished opinions. Celebrities get similar treatment. And so do hockey teams. The only difference is that in small towns people pick you apart if you succeed and with hockey teams they tear you apart if you are losing.
This year the Habs have been the stars of what can only be called a parody of a mockumentary about a reality show about a professional hockey club.
Halfway through the season and we’re still #24 in the NHL, we’re almost to the point where it would be impossible to get into the playoffs even if we won every single game here on out, beset by injuries, have multi-million dollar players playing at Bantam league calibre, and management that makes the Keystone Kops look like a viable crime fighting force. What makes this even more unbearable to the Habs fan base is that we are not used to being in this position. The Blue Jackets we are not.
To add insult to injury, we are now the laughing stock of even serious hockey fans for management decisions that included firing an assistant coach on the day of a game (to little effect), firing the coach right before a game (which was long overdue and will no doubt pay off in the long run), and now firing (OK, trading) a first line player DURING a game. As a part-time management consultant I can only roll my eyes at the poorly executed and very publicly humiliating ways in which the Habs executives have pulled off some of their decisions. The decisions I mostly I agree with, the method and timing I most certainly do not. If the Habs were indeed just a reality TV show trying to one backstab-up other shows for ratings that would be one thing but this kind of melodrama doesn’t improve ratings or sell merchandise. Hockey is, has been pointed many times, a business after all.
If you were hoping that you’d be reading an article analyzing all the many factors contributing to the Habs craptacular season then you’ve come to the wrong place. Likewise, if you were hoping to hear the dying wails from a die-hard Habs fan you won’t get satisfaction from me. I can flog myself, throw myself on my bed and bite my pillow, and jab my Chara voodoo doll full of pins on my own time, thank you.
Instead, the rah-rah-rah-sis-boom-bah cheerleader complete with miniskirt, push up bra, and tastefully coordinated pom poms is coming out! That’s right! We’re going to talk about positive highlights that give Habs fans a modicum of dignity and hope for the future. Here’s what I can come with:
1. COACH MARTIN was fired. Though the positive effects have not been as immediate as hoped I think in the long run getting rid of the coach that put together astonishingly idiotic lines; favoured poor, veteran players over better, young ones; apparently did not work the team hard enough or intelligently enough; and inspired no confidence by the team or its devotees will be positive.
2. SOME PLAYERS are doing well. It gets lost by the fact that others are not doing well and because of said bizarre line combinations that don’t meld skills well. But my hat is off to Price, Eller, Cole, Moen, Pacioretty, Kostistyn, and Gorges.
3. THE RIVALRY issue seems to have been getting more settled. Get with the program, folks: The Bruins are our main enemy not the Leafs. From a purely hockey stand point the Bruins are not only our nemesis (how many playoff rounds have we had to go with them?) but our opposite.
Over the years I’ve noticed they play a style of hockey that is very different from the Habs’ style. You could say that the Bruins style is superior in that they won the cup last year and they are #3 so far this year. But the Bruins style of hockey is not the goonish style of hockey that I, or most Montreal, Maritime, and Maine fans like to watch. The only reasons I see anyone thinking of the Leafs as our bete noir anymore is out of ancient tradition (get over it, girls!) and the never-ending Toronto-Montreal and Anglo-Francophone hostilities that I, as an American, gladly do not have to take part in.
4. MY BIRTHDAY. The Habs gave me the best birthday present I can think of, other than Carey Price in my candlelit boudoire asking me to drive one hard into his crease, on January 4th with a spectacular win over the Jets that featured a hat trick by cute blond twink Lars Eller - topped off by an amazing penalty shot said same Eller managed to get past the Jets’ goalie with both skill and a little over the top finish. Video clip here.
5. CAMMALLERI TRADED. I have been shouting in favour of this for over a month now, as my Twitter buddies can attest to. And now it is finally done. That it was done in such a dramatic and humiliating way I’m not so cool with but he had it coming and it was, ultimately, a fittingly dramatic end for a drama queen. I’d like to think that the Habs finally listened to me because the team is owned by Geoff Molson and my, um, very enthusiastic support of their products during my years living in Montreal bought me a seat at the table. Hockey is a business. And beer drinking used to be mine.
Cammalleri, known affectionately or derisively as Cammy (or even Tammi!), was a prima donna that was all chiseled good looks and bags of beauty products in the lockeroom for touch ups during intermissions but not, in my opinion, much of a hockey player. His playoff glory days now behind him, the last two years have been nothing but a disappointment. Being an almost useless six million dollar a year man on a team that is up against the salary cap and needing fresh talent has been one of many impediments to future glory.
We sent Cammy, a reserve goalie I’ve never even heard of, and a #5 2012 draft pick to Calgary for Rene Bourque, Patrick Holland, and a #2 2013 draft pick. I like this trade, for many reasons besides getting rid of deadweight.
We got a bigger player (which we sorely need), a higher round draft pick (which will be good for the multi-year rebuilding process), and got a player that likes to shoot on net a lot and from areas the Habs are notoriously weak in.
But almost more importantly we got value. Someone on Twitter today pointed out that although Cammy and Bourque have similar numbers of goals in recent years the fact that Bourque’s salary is almost half that of Cammy’s means we got the same amount of goals (in theory) for almost half the price. You don’t need a fancy management degree from an Ivy League graduate school like I do to realize that makes sense.
Also, because the Habs were up against the salary cap and we just downsized our payroll we will now have the funds to retain Price with the salary he deserves (and no doubt will demand if he is to stay in Montreal) when the time comes later this year to renew his contract. One of the only things keeping the Habs from being at rock bottom is Carey Price. We need to (and now can afford to) keep him while we retool the rest of the team.
Getting rid of Cammy was also good because of the distraction he was causing the team. Apparently he was not well liked by his teammates, his vanity and ego turned off many people, and his recent comments to the press about the team having a “losing mentality” were not helpful. For a guy who was not scoring or assisting on goals, not checking or hitting, and basically not giving his all to the team it was a tad hypocritical and over the top on his part to say what he did. There is no “i” in team, Tammi. Pack your beauty bags and go!
6. GREAT FANS. The Habs fans are a great bunch of people and it’s been a blast getting to know more people with the same passion that I have for a team that will, mark my words, return the cup back home to Montreal one day soon. Especially nice to get to know Habs fans in the Maritimes! But I must say that I have yet to come across any other Habs fans who are gay and that makes me sad. It strange, because I know I’m not the only queen who loves the Canadiens!”
His or Her Royal Highness, Matthew, commands you to follow him on twitter: @mattsko