This Habs Fan Is Fed Up With Mediocracy, The Prospects Of Clinching Playoff Spots In Game 82, And Being A Perennial Also-Ran

Habs fans, do you have the same numb sensation as I, as tonight's game against the Leafs approaches? It's not a good feeling at all, is it?

With about ten games left on the schedule, it was almost assured the Canadiens had secured a playoff spot with a solid post Olympic break win streak, and then all four wheels dislodged from the wagon.

With as many as four teams having a realistic chances of clinching a playoff spot, the Canadiens, with their fate tied between their teeth, were given odds of something like 97.7 inevitability of making it in.

Yet, having their fate in their own hands was likely the worst scenario. As it is playing out, all of the Rangers, Flyers and Bruins seem to be doing what they need to do to get in. The Habs, with a God gifted schedule, are in the process of blowing it, big time.

Imagine this. A good two weeks back, many of us surely found it ideal that Game 82 at the Bell would be a matchup with Toronto. As I type this morning, it's likely the most dreaded scenario.

I want and wish for the Canadiens to qualify for the post season. It's a thing of honour, although no one is deluding themselves that their chances for any type of success is very good.

Truly, a first round meeting and upset of Buffalo would be euphoric, but ultimately, does this hockey club deserve any higher hopes?

Another reason I hope they manage to make it, is that I greatly fear the scene at the Bell later tonight, if they don't. There will be 21,273 fans at the game, a sizeable portion of which will letting their feelings known should the Habs crap out.

One of those fans will be EOTP contributor Francis Bouchard, a Habs die hard to the very end. He and his father-in-law have travelled a ten hour run from Hearst, Ontario, hit a hard stretch of snow falling along the way, to make it into Montreal. They have a pair of seats that set them back a bunch of good, hard earned dollars, and like many in that crowd tonight, will be expecting something special to happen. Francis and I are cut from a similar cloth, and I can truly feel and sense everything he is surely going through in anticipation of the game. That said, I don't envy the knots he must have in his gut, as game time approaches.

Times have changed in hockey, from era's past, but I ask you now, don't fans of this team deserve better than waiting until the final game of the season to know if it is all over or not?

I understand that the Canadiens no longer get a shot at Stanley by divine right anymore, but with all the hockey knowledge out there, can't this team somehow offer its supporters something better than this?

An older friend of mine, about a month back, jarred me with an observation and nailed point that hit home like a sock to the jaw. We were actually talking about the Maple Leafs, and the perception in many minds that they could care less about winning, as they are one huge money making machine for ownership.

I begged to differ, when he offered the fact that George Gillett sold the team at record price despite it not winning anything of significance in the past decade. My friend had to run off at that moment, called away on business. Before he split, he told me he was paying my coffee, and slapped two Montreal Canadiens logo imprinted loonies on the counter, as if to give me something to think about.

I was speechless, for a rare time in my life!

In the past two seasons, just about everything normal about how the Canadiens generally do things, has taken on a realm of warped and twisted sensibilities. Perhaps in time, I will, as a fan, be able to digest what it all had to do with the team centennial that required a neccessary celebration that brought on all sorts of pomp and bombass.

As hockey's most storied franchise, the Canadiens could hardly avoid noting the anniversary anymore than it could avoid the lure of capitalizing on it at every fan's expense. The plan, all along, was to have a Stanley Cup contender to mark the date and increase the frenzy, but only Hollywood can manipulate such a script.

I started having great faith, once again, in the Canadiens at the beginning of the Bob Gainey era, for several reasons. In that summer of 2003, I heard words from Gainey that were the most logical thoughts I had heard since the end of the Serge Savard era, or for closer watchers, the end of Patrick Roy's time as a Canadien.

When Gainey took over the Habs management (before this current restrictive CBA), he addressed a pair of things in particular that had been hampering the team for a few years - mainly the draft and free agency.

In Gainey's initial press conferences in the summer of 2003, he stated in the present tense, that the Canadiens needed to find ways in which they could make their current players better through astute and instructive teaching and support. At that time, Gainey's answer was designed to address the difficulty in acquiring outside talent, smartly pointing to the reality that first, the Canadiens needed to get stronger from within before it could seek to attract big money players.

Over time, the club has been able to lure and sign more attrative free agents than when Gainey first took over.

Gainey also helped solidify the Canadiens drafting record, which was horrendous between 1990 and 2000, and his charges began turning prospects into NHLer's at a ratio comparable to the Pollock and Savard years.

The whole plan hit some roadbumps along the way, but through some error and trial by fire, culminated in a first place finish in 2008.

Bob Gainey was perceived as genial at that time, and could be seen as having done little wrong in the long term.

From there to today, everything that looked so brilliantly placed and planned out has fallen apart dramatically.

In the past 16 months, Canadiens fans have seen a multitude of second guesses, dropped as bombs, right before their eyes.

In the centennial season, a coach who looked to be completely in synch with management the season prior was shelved in total panic.

The hockey club was sold for a ridiculously unforeseen sum in the midst of centennial celebrations, camouflaged by what can now be termed transitional turmoil.

Almost half of the hockey club's NHL player assets were let go of, in a precedent setting flurry of off season free agent signings.

The Canadiens signed an NHL experienced coach for the first time since 1993, but could not find a captain within its ranks for the first time in their history.

Gainey resigned as GM in mid-season, which has never happened in the modern era of the club.

In terms of hockey landscape, that's an awful lot of changes in a short span. Call it akin to a living through a divorce, while being audited by Revenue Canada, as your doctor informs that you are not healthy enough to handle taking Viagra.

Okay, so that is an extreme take on an emotional ball breaking, money sucking heartbreak, but you get the drift!

I began this site in 2006, a few years into the Gainey / Carbonneau era, personally filled with an abundance of hope that the club was indeed on the right track. There was all kinds of evidence for some time that it was.

For myself, the weight of expectations should not ever be a factor in the deviation from a plan, but all that I have witnessed in the past 15 months has been exactly that.

If you have read this site for any great length, you know that changes in the past year have rocked my general disposition, and not in a good way. Since last summer, I do not recognize the team I am cheering for. My patience, a great part of my hockey insight and understanding, have gotten paper thin.

I do not like coach Jacques Martin. I could list why until it sounded like a personal agenda, but I'll pass, for the time being. I am not quite sure as of yet, what to make of Pierre Gauthier as a GM, but I can only fairly comment that he does not inspire my hope, as Gainey had when he took over.

As for the hockey club itself, I'm more readied these days for disappointment than I am primed for success. Perhaps that is a consequence of having learned more from the Canadiens hockey club's failures in the 30 years since 1980 (when I was 18 years old) that I did from age nine in 1971.

On the current Canadiens team, I feel a certain attachment to only five players, and that is sad.

As Habs fans, do we not deserve better?

Andrei Markov and Tomas Plekanec are long standing Habs at this point. They have grown up with the only team they have known to become pivotal pieces. Their service to the team has allowed me as a fan to overlook their occasional inadequacies - Plekanec last season, and Markov in the present tense.

Josh Gorges is a warrior plain and simple, giving the most he has to offer, game in and game out.

As a former goalie in my youth, I cannot help but find a feeling for the humanity and personal challenges and growth of Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak (as people and players) in what could best be described as a frying pan test of gonads on the sizzle for both, in the city that hockey madness owns and eats the young.

They are often like sons to me, at heart, of which I cannot decide whom I appreciate more.

Imagine yourself, in their skate boots, having to live throught what they have had to endure in their time as goalies under the biggest and most cyical of hockey microscopes and spotlights. Absolutely no one who criticizes either has been through anything remotely similar in their lives.

Think about that for a moment or two.

Apart from this bunch, maybe only Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri has a shot at truly becoming Habs in the strongest sense. Time will tell, as it always has.

Maybe it is time to rethink how the entire Montreal Canadiens scheme is run, because as I gauge it, most Habs fans have had enough of being a middle of the pack run team.

It has gone beyond frustration.

Fans want a return to the dedication of old, when players felt the pride of donning the CH.

If that means a more Canadian, and perhaps a more Quebecois lineup to the team, I am a ready and willing gambler at this point to try such a theology.

Really, can such an outlook fare worse?

Perhaps the most undying reality of the current Montreal Canadiens team is that few of its members have to endure the summer months in Montreal, after they have not qualified for the playoffs or, in extremes, won the Stanley Cup.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time that the club throw its faith in individuals, from management to players, who have a personal stake in how well the club fares.

After all the failures of the past seventeen seasons, this is one track that has yet to be travelled.

What is there to lose?

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