A Little Perspective
Published Thursday, February 7, 2013 7:43PM EST
MONTREAL—The night before the season began I predicted the Montreal Canadiens would make the playoffs on the last night of the season.
The positive prognostication felt like a moment of clarity arguing that every single Habs player had a chance to be better than the previous year; add the new talent of gritty veterans and exciting rookies to the many injured returning, and I believed the recipe was there for quite a turnaround. Why not? Two and 2 thirds lines are better than last year, and one of the best defenceman in hockey is still standing and holding up well despite numerous operations.
A look at the predictions of some 30 scribes, radio and TV analysts showed only one other man standing out as having the Habs even make the playoffs, and did he ever stand out—Rejean Tremblay predicted the Habs would finish first.
Flash forward only three weeks and what strikes me already is how short the memory is of everyone: both the media and fans. The last place team of last year I felt last night received an inappropriate amount of criticism for a hard fought loss in a game that could have just as easily gone the other way, but Boston just happened to put one more in the net than the Habs who squandered a lot of chances including breakaways from Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller.
Sometimes sports goes that way—there isn't anything to really pick between the two clubs, except one scored one goal more than the other.
Why the short memories?
Most thought the Habs wouldn't win a game until mid-February, yet now with an excellent campaign start there's a certain unfair elevated expectation creeping in. I'm all for critiquing. I better be. It is my job. But I also think it is important too, and maybe most important, to temper the negativity over the details when the overall is so rapidly changing positively for this organization.
I think you could argue that the Montreal Canadiens have among the best third and fourth lines in the league. They also, it appears, have only one bad contract now with Tomas Kaberle's $4.25 million per year the sole remaining bone-crushing, spirit-sapping move of Pierre Gauthier on the books as it appears with the passage of time that Gauthier may have seen the tea leaves quite wonderfully on the Bourque-Cammalleri move. Bourque now healthy and still big and a powerful mover to the net, is looking solid in comparison to the still small and having-trouble-finding-the-net-in-Calgary Cammalleri.
The Habs also have a goalie who will be a rock solid talent for a long time to come. Add to that, the Habs have a solid core of defenders right now and three big guns are getting ready to take over through the near years.
All of this points to this year as a transition year, but not a transition from 11 to 6th place the following year. This might just be a transition from 8th this year to something pretty spectacular down the line.
However, patience is required; especially considering three weeks ago almost no one thought they were going to see anything good for a long time. Three weeks ago, Rejean Tremblay was the only man throughout North America that I could find who thought the Habs would have any more than a win one-lose one season.
Sure. Get excited. Get very excited. But when it doesn't work out, remember that you don't leap from 15 to 1. You have baby steps and growing pains. Be patient for this turnaround to take flight, because it is going to happen. Alex Galchenyuk is going to lead the Habs to great things. P.K. Subban is going to be magnificent down the line. Carey Price can stop the big shot at the big time. The building blocks are there. The present tense looks strong; the future tense has no limits.
A new day is dawning in Montreal, a better day than you have seen in a very long time. From management all the way down the line, these are not the Montreal Canadiens of this century. They are going to be the Habs of the last century. You heard it here and remember I said it.
But tonight as they visit the Buffalo Sabres who are well rested, just a little perspective.