You may have wondered what I may have been doing while I’ve been AWOL from writing Habs articles for the bestest and gayest hockey site on the entire interent. The short answer is that I’ve been going through the stages of grief as the Habs’ season has continued its agonizing implosion.
The stages have gone like this:
It started with the rending of clothes and obsessive house cleaning. I then proceeded onward to the “why me, oh lord, why my team?” stage. There was a long stretch of disbelief (a/k/a denial), followed by a brief manic explosion of hope, and then the dark days of January and February where I turned catatonic. When I snapped out of that I was bitter and looking for people to blame. There was plenty of blame to go around. The angst felt like it was crushing my very will to keep watching the train wreck. But I persevered, having now watched all but 4 Habs games this season. The return of Markov rallied my spirits, but that proved to be brief and illusory.
By late March I have settled into the melancholy, jilted lover mode. Dust covers everything in the house. Cobwebs have filled in the corners. And I, I sit in front of the TV on game nights, periodically gazing at the 24 mini replica cups on the table and wistfully moan. Miss Havisham has nothing on this bitch.
But not for one second did I ever considering abandoning my team even though it was clear for a long time this season was going nowhere. I noticed that this has been the prevailing sentiment of my Twitter friends who are Habs fans.
There has been no stampede to exit the virtual, online Bell Centre before the end of the game. I have heard no one say “Gee, the Habs suck this year, I guess I’ll become a Leafs fan” or “Maybe those Bruins aren’t so bad after all”.
There doesn’t seem to be any clear, single reason for the lousy season. We’ve been losing a lot obviously, but not losing by much usually, and lots of OT’s and stupid shoot outs.
It appears that there’s a combination of mediocrity and numerous crappy factors that have all mixed together, with tragic results. If I were to choose two of the biggest issues I would say the coaching (both Martin and Cunneyworth as well as some of the assistants) and the defence have been the two major factors. But nothing stands out as completely bad, just that there’s mediocrity across the board.
Or almost across the board. There have been some stand out players for sure. Price has done an amazing job in net- which would reflect in his stats if he had a little help – any help – from the defence. Cole and Pacioretty have both now scored 30+ goals each and given the fans something to cheer about.
David Desharnais (despite his diminutive stature, roll eyes, as I’ve heard too many times this year) has been great too. Gorges has been one ray of hope in front of Price.
But, um, other than that, we start to go downhill from there. Emelin and Eller have been surprisingly positive but uneven contributors.
Subban is improving his game slowly but it is agonizingly slow. Plekanec hasn’t shined this year – if half of the breakaway chances he’s had this year became goals he’d be king – but he’s a good workhorse in setting up plays and assists. And I like his hot East European sizzle. Leblanc and White have added some missing skills to the team. So there’s a core of players to whip till morale improves, I mean to rebuild with for a better team next year. The rest are pretty much expendable – especially that sad sack Scott “one goal” Gomez if that were possible. But we’ll see if the Habs even stick with and sign Subban and Price when their contracts are up soon.
In the last month or so the Habs have gotten noticeably more assertive. As in more heavy checking and fighting. I don’t know if it’s out of desperation at this point or if it’s an acknowledgement that the soft touch in the first half of the season didn’t do us any favours. There’s been plenty of experimentation in lines and power play combos, all to no avail. The General Manager, Gauthier, was recently fired, and the current coach was never meant to be more than a place holder for the rest of the season. So next season we’ll see a total change at top. And no doubt a lot of change in the player line up. Maybe they’ll figure it out.
Meanwhile, in Montreal and the far flung Hab hinterlands, the gloom that has set in is forecast to lighten up upon the final death of the season in a couple of weeks and the beginning of a new team. It will be strange to not have a post season, like usual. And I’m at a complete loss as to who support in the playoffs besides whoever is playing against the Bruins. Cheering on other East teams just doesn’t come naturally to me.
Fortunately, the Leafs aren’t going to be in the playoffs so there won’t be that awkward moment when I’m asked to support the Leafs in the playoffs and I have to say sorry dude, I don’t swing that way. It’s safe though to support Western teams – and I hope for the best for the Wings and Canucks. The Wings have shrewdly snatched up some of UMaine Black Bears’ finest alumni so they have my whole hearted support.
The Habs fan family has been very supportive of each other and that has helped us all through the dark times. Over the summer we can collect ourselves and work through the final stage of grief. That would be accepting the fact we just did not have enough cute players on the team this year. Price carrying all the hunkiness factor AND being both goaltender and 4/5 of the defence is a lot for one man to bear all on his own. So while I ride off into the sunset with Carey for the summer, Molson better get us an awesome coach, a new GM, and some better, stronger, faster, bigger, and cuter players for us for next year.
Follow Matt Skolnikoff on Twitter: @mattsko