I watched Montreal's season opening loss to Toronto on Thursday. The loss lowers Montreal's all time record in season openers to 49-27-17.
I have a bit of a confession to make - I am not really a Montreal fan.
Growing up in BC, I naturally became a Vancouver fan, and I remain loyal to this day. But I do have a significant soft spot for the Habs, in part because of their glorious history and in part because I grew up watching hockey on the French CBC channel. The Habs were my Dad's team. Guy Lafleur was my Dad's favorite player.
So when I watch a Montreal game today, I secretly cheer them on but with a fair degree of an outsider's impartiality. That being said, I want Montreal to be a strong team. We all do, even Bruins fans, even though we do not necessarily realize it. We all want - need - the legendary Canadiens to return to glory, just like baseball's Yankees or basketball's Lakers and Celtics and soccer's Manchester United.
Last night I saw a young, fast, all-too-small Montreal team play what I thought was a decent game. Playing without two of their top defenseman (Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik) or sniper Mike Cammalleri, I thought they were unfortunate not to get a point. If they can build on their fundamentals and catch a few breaks, I think they will continue to be a team that will challenge for a playoff spot. That is far from great like we all want, but as they proved last spring they are always capable of catching lightning in a bottle now and then.
As I watched these undersized warriors of bleu, blanc et rouge zip around the ice, I can not help but wonder how much the team would benefit from a hulking presence. I'm not talking about a goon, but a relentless big-bodied leader who could change the flow of the game with a few big hits and a few big goals. I'm talking about someone who would enable all the smaller talent on the team to play bigger than they really are. I'm talking about someone who could be a true catalyst, firing up his teammates at the right time through inspiring play that no one else on the team can provide.