The problem with sucking for a decade is that it results in the sports version of post traumatic stress. It started with Chris Chelios being traded, but the real root of the problem was the trade of Patrick Roy.
Patrick Roy was the last time that the Canadiens had the best player in the game at his position. An undeniable talent who could win games on his own. When Ronald Corey began running the Canadiens like a high school where attitude and off ice behaviour mattered more than on ice performance, it started a chain reaction that crippled the team.
No team in the NHL is as closely covered as the Canadiens. No, not Toronto either. Leafs fans complain about their media, but they're just nowhere near as vicious.
Montreal is obsessed with buzzwords like "class" and being a "team player", even though someone can be a team player on the ice and still be accused of not being one off of it.
What's worse is that this post traumatic stress from sucking so long has lead to Canadiens fans automatically thinking their players are overrated. We saw this with Carey Price after his first playoffs, and it carried through until Jaroslav Halak was traded and Price put up a Vezina calibre season.
With Price it became so absurd it was embarrassing. While other team's fans were praying for the Habs to panic and trade him, Habs fans were calling above league average goaltending "AHL quality".
It got so bad in the playoffs of 2009 that Price had a breakdown at the season ending press conference, hiding his face under a baseball cap, visibly shaken and crying. He looked like a broken man. The following season Price was labeled a cancer in the dressing room. Rumours were spread about off ice activities so absurd only idiots would believe them, yet they persisted. He lost his starting job, and people were clamouring for a trade.
Now Price is entrenched in Montreal, with a nice 6 year deal for security, the highest paid player on the team. His contract, negotiated by his agent and Marc Bergevin, is the richest one the Canadiens have ever awarded to a player. Only the most persistent and delusional fans doubt Price now, as he enters his prime and looks to be an elite goaltender in this league.
Now we see this undervaluing of Subban. Over the last two seasons you could hardly find a Habs fan who didn't love Subban. In fact last year the meme around town was that Andrei Markov was never going to be back, and that we were overrating him in our memories anyway. Now that Markov is back, the meme is that Subban only played top minutes because Markov was gone.
It's funny how it's always the same people who come up with this opinions. It's well known that Montreal is a "what have you done for me lately?" hockey town, but this goes deeper than that. Fans actively cut our star players to ribbons once they've been here awhile. Talent, even elite talent, becomes old hat very quickly.
We've talked a lot about P.K. Subban this week, from why he's right to be looking long term, to comparing him to his peers to prove that he's a dominant player, but eventually he's going to sign. And it will be for a palatable contract for both him and the Montreal Canadiens.
Then where does the ire go? Certainly Subban will get some flack if he has an off season with his nice new contract, but he'll be signed and that's done. He's too good for people to stay mad long, just like Price.
So who's going to be the next player fans turn on? Easy. Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk is too high of a pick for this not to happen. He's obviously skilled, obviously belongs, but that doesn't matter. In a couple seasons, he'll have a year that isn't deemed "good enough". He'll be outplayed by someone drafted lower than him over a short period, and this same process will happen over and over again.
When I first thought about writing this article, I thought a Stanley Cup win could possibly cure this town of it's plague of underrating and tearing down it's own stars, then crying about UFAs not wanting to sign here, but I'm not sure it would. Hell, we already have fans who pretend that the 1986 and 1993 Canadiens championship teams were below average clubs who won through luck and goaltending, no matter what the evidence actually says.
If the Canadiens do win a cup, these same people will say it wasn't deserved, and we'll be back at square one. It's tough to see an end to this cycle of self destructive behaviour. But remember when "that guy" in your office starts talking about how overrated Galchenyuk is, I warned you it would happen.
We eat our own.