Thursday, March 08, 2007

3-8-07: Thrashers 6, Canadiens 2 (Wherein Free Cake is Again Offered)

Why am I here? I've got better things to do.
I could hang out on the pier, down by the Hudson, sniffing glue.
I guess I'm a loser, but I like being miserable, swimming in sin.
I just wanna know where you been…

I hope you crash your mama’s car
I hope you pass out in some bar
I hope you catch some kind of flu
Let’s say I wish the worst for you

Henceforth, the comparative suckiness of all Habs games will be illustrated on a scale of the comparative twanginess of the music I’m listening to after the game- the more twang, the worst the game. Presumably if they ever manage a really excellent game again, I’ll have to go dig up some sort of sort of sugary Swedish dance-pop, but let’s be realistic: accent-wise, I’m not gonna get further north than Kentucky this season. For those of you who are not familiar with the song in question, ‘here’ is more or less pronounced as ‘hay-er’, emphasis on the ‘y’. Unfortunately, the Habs have already caught the flu, some of them are probably passed out in the hotel bar by now, and I doubt any of them drive their mothers' cars anymore. And honestly, I’d have a hard time sincerely wishing a car accident on anyone. But I do wish them some kind of unpleasantness, because really, they played a deeply vile game tonight, and there should be some sort of karmic retribution for it.

1. Halak and Aebischer seem to be having a contest to see which one of them can dash all our hopes more dramatically. Two things you can expect to see in the near future: small, improvised roadside shrines to Cristobal Huet appearing all over Montreal, and the CH debut of Michael Leighton.

2. Here is me drawing the line: Bouillon should be benched for the rest of the season. They’ve got better, or at least equally competent, defensemen who won’t fucking publicly shame the team. I don’t care how badly you’re losing, there’s no excuse for that kind of shit, and our Montreal Canadiens just can't be the team with the mediocre player who tries to cripple the other teams’ stars. Please, guys, don't be that team.

3. Fortunate are those who do not live in Montreal this past week, for they were spared The Great Kovalev Scandal of ’07, as it will no doubt be remembered for years to come. In essence, here’s what happened: La Presse published a translation of an interview Kovalev allegedly gave to a Russian radio journalist wherein he said all sorts of bitchy things about the Canadiens- including that Carbonneau hates Russians and that the French-Canadian players are all arrogant and overrated. ‘Allegedly’, because Kovalev claims he never said these things and the team supports him, while generally speaking the Montreal media have all stuck together in declaring the interview totally authentic. The original recording has yet to surface. Here’s what I hate about the whole thing: it’s this bizarre fetish that Montreal media and Montreal fans have with dressing-room gossip. Personally, I’m sure there are factions and bickering and animosities in the Canadiens’ dressing room, because there are factions and bickering and animosities among any group of people who have to spend that much time together in high pressure situations. I’m sure there are these things in every locker room for every team that ever has been or ever will be. We have this fantasy, I suppose, that teams have a warm-fuzzy bond where they all love and support each other through everything. I think this is right up there with the fantasies we have about the ‘pep talk’ that turns around the entire game- it makes us feel good to believe in such things, because they make for good scenes in movies, but my guess is they’re pretty far removed from the actual world that players live in. They do have a bond, certainly, but you don’t have to look at professional athletics very long to realize that there’s plenty of racism, jealousy, and plain old personality conflicts lacing every team. When the team is winning, everyone probably feels more warm and fuzzy, and when it’s losing, things get considerably less cuddly. One disgruntled player who may or may not have vented his version of these frustrations is not news and does not explain anything about what is wrong with the team.

4. The Canadiens problems aren’t in some mysterious secret room full of high school melodrama where they all sit around agonizing about who-likes-who and will-anyone-take-them-to-prom, they’re out on the ice for everyone to see. They’ve only got one decent scoring line, and even that line hasn’t been spectacular or even particularly reliable this season. They’ve been squeezing their scoring out of 3 things: the 3rd & 4th line hockey-proles, other teams’ stupid penalties, and one very glorious slap shot repeated ad nauseum. When they had Huet in net and he was on his game, that was enough to win. Without Huet, it isn’t.

5. The agonizing part about it is this: of the 20 guys who hit the ice tonight, 15 of them could be part of an excellent team doing more or less exactly what they’re doing, maybe as many as 17 depending on your perspective. But the problem is that the few wrong parts aren’t just kind of wrong, they’re really, terribly, insolubly wrong- players whose hypothetical role is essential, who can’t be easily gotten rid of, and even if they could be gotten rid of, wouldn’t be easy to replace with anyone better. People talk about ‘filling holes’ or ‘finding missing pieces’ via trades or free agency, but that’s like playing poker and trying to draw for the missing queen to get a royal flush- the chances of failure are vastly higher than those of success. So I'm starting to think that, despite the development of the darari, next season is just going to be more of the same, if not worse: there's a significant chance that the Habs will lose a few good parts, and almost no chance that they'll be able to make the changes that most desperately need to be made.

Fuck it, what the hell am I supposed to do for the next 13 games? No, seriously, I’m asking: What do I do? It’s time for a new contest: Free cake (or non-perishable item of equivalent value for those not in Montreal) to the person who can give me the best crappy-team hockey platitude. You know, the thing you tell yourself to soothe the pain of not only losing, but losing pathetically and repeatedly. I know something about my readership, I know most of y’all have been hockey fans a lot longer than me, and I know a lot of you follow less-than-consistently-fabulous teams, therefore, you’ve got to have at least a few comforting lies that I haven’t resorted to already. Failing anyone’s ability to come up with a hockey-based platitude capable of compensating for the vileness of this game, runner-up prize (cupcake?) to anyone who can make me feel less despondent about life in general.


JN said...

Top-10 draft pick? Hell Yeah!

Julian said...

Yeah, the d(r)ive for the top five (draft pick) is what's keeping us Oilers fans interested. Myself less so, but....

Otherwise, there's really only "wait till next year. Well, maybe the year after that...."

You can also console yourself by reminding yourself of past teams that have gone from missing the playoffs to winning the Cup in matter of a couple seasons, or less.

Why keep watching though? Because every season is a story, and even when you know the ending for the most part, there are always little suprises along the way, new players to watch, rookies getting their debuts and first goals, etc etc. Five years down the road you might be able to say "yeah, at the end of 06-07 they were done by early March, but that tear _________ went on as a rookie callup was something else, eh?"

Really though, there's no good reason to keep watching when all hope is gone.

Oh wait, yes there is. By the end of June, roughly two days after the playoffs finish, you'll start going through hockey withdrawl and you'll wish there was a game on that night to watch, even a meaningless one. So watch now, and don't have any regrets about games you avoided watching in March.

alice said...

As a Rangers fan, I've had very little to root for the last six or seven springs. Two things happen. First, you start rooting for the best story in the playoffs, whether it's the sappy, sentimental "win one for Ray (Bourque)" or "how cool is it that the Cup might spend a year in Florida". The redbud tree that I planted in my yard as the Ducks were winning a 3OT mid-round game (a lot of digging was involved!) finally blossomed last spring.

And, if a story line doesn't grab you, a team might "adopt" you. So, you'll have a spring fling with, say, the Preds. But next fall, you'll be back with your true love, guilt-free!

Lyle Richardson said...


How about: "At least we're not the Flyers/Blues/Blackhawks/Coyotes!"

Or:"At least we're not the Oilers" (As they came within a game of winning the Cup last season, but have traded away Smyth and will miss the playoffs this season".

Or: "At least we have a shot at winning the draft lottery".

Or: "Maybe the extra time off will improve their golf games".

Let's face it, the achilles heel of this team since Theodore hoisted the Habs on his back in 2001-02 has been its goaltending.

When Theodore and Huet were on, the Canadiens were a marginal playoff club. First or second round at best, but a playoff club.

Good goaltending can cover up some weaknesses or limit others, give his teammates confidence they'd otherwise lack, and makes a mediocre roster a good one.

Without it, weaknesses are exposed for all to see, teammates stop believing in themselves, team morale plumments and a mediocre team fails to make the playoffs.

Gainey's rebuilding this club and I still have faith that, over the long term, the Habs will be better for it. But it's painfully obvious that there's still lots of work to do.

LittleFury said...

Okay, quoting the Old 97s in a post about the Habs makes you, not just my favorite blogger, but my favorite huuman being anywhere ever.

LittleFury said...

Also, as a dual faith Edmontonian (Oilers/Canadiens), I feel your pain x 2. But watching the Oil's recent ice capades against Tampa, I found that the knowledge that I have nothing to cheer for to be quite liberating. I could just watch the team in a detached manner, make fun of Matt Greene and look for promising signs fo rnext year. Now, I still wanted the Oilers to win, but I was free of any expectation that they would. I guess that's the acceptance stage of grief, and I'm sure you'll get there with the Habs.

LittleFury said...

Okay, last thing: is that post title by chance a Wondermark reference?

Olivier said...

Man I felt bad for Bouillon. He isn't exactly a cheap shot artist, and he sur isn't a bad fighter, so that had to feel pretty bad. That being said, I disagree with your line drawing; they need him, and I doubt he'll get a suspension (even Bob Hartly basically said "shit happens, no gruge held").

I actually tought he had a pretty good chance of knocking Tkachuck; like most guys taking on Bouillon, he clearly underestimated him at first. But man, is he (Tkachuck) strong or what?

On fandom: I think it's matter of being Zen, of accepting. This is the hand we are dealt. I had my last team bolt to denver and win a cup the very next year after fleecing our greatest rivals of the best goaltender in history. I tought that was it. Then there was that game they got blown out by my ex despised foes and now favourites. Whilst everyone was gloating at Theodore, Paul Stastny, wearing the 26 for the first time, scored his first NHL goal. *sigh*

They are what they are, and that is way better than nothing. Trust me.

Doogie said...

1969: Stanley Cup
1970: No Playoffs
1971: Stanley Cup

Or, how about: "It's a rebuilding year. It's part of a multi-year plan. We have our eye on some excellent prospects in the middle tier of the draft." It's an old standby, really, when a team sucks ass.

Then, there's Julian's point about watching one of the kids tear it up and surprise everyone when there's nothing left to lose. This is happening a bit in Edmonton right now with Marc-Antoine Pouliot and would've with Tom Gilbert if he hadn't been hurt, but really, that's as much to do with having 10 players injured and probably half the remaining "regulars" from the start of the year either playing hurt or traded away.

And, of course, there are the playoff stories as Alice noted. Ray Borque in '01 and Dave Andreychuk in '04. The near-annual Cinderella run of (Vancouver, Florida, Washington, Carolina, Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton). Or alternately, just watching one team fit all the pieces together at just the right time and blow past all the opposition and really look like they deserved it, which is a story in and of itself.

I see I'm not the only Oilers/Habs dual fan suffering here. Good to know.

LittleFury said...

Things I'll be watching for this Oilers-less and potentially Habs-less post season:

1) Marty Brodeur getting aquainted with Ryan Smyth's ass.
2) Calgary's ineveitable Flame out (get it? Huh? Huh?)
3) The high-flying Penguins meeting the Cinderella Minnesota Wild in the SCF

E said...

here goes longest comment ever-

JN- no go, because a) too many teams already crowding their way to the bottom, b) this coming draft is supposed to be pretty weak, and c) as far as i can tell, the habs tend to do better with their lower-level draft choices anyway. but thanks for playing!

julian- i don't think there was really any question going so far as to stop watching, i'm in too deep for that. it's more an issue of how to cope with watching an increasingly bleak situation. but you've got a good point about focusing on the little things- although in the last couple of games there hasn't been too much to love on any level. dammit kostitsyn, why aren't you being more inspiring?

alice- yeah, i've already started thinking about who i'm going to root for in the playoffs once the habs are out of it (or not even in it, as the case might be). because really, it is more fun to watch when you're on someone's side, and it's not like i'm just going to ignore the postseason. but nevertheless, i still think i'll feel a little whoreish about short-term flinging with some other team. oh well.

lyle- i suppose i could go with ‘at least we’re not the oilers’, but really, i don’t even want to contemplate how awful it is to be an oilers fan now, even as a means of trying to make the habs seem fortunate in comparison. and i, too, have faith in gainey’s management, and in carbonneau, for that matter. but this city doesn’t have the patience for a lengthy rebuilding process, and i wonder if gainey will be around for long enough to finish what he’s begun. much depends on the summer.

LF- your favorite person ever? that’s sort of sad, isn’t it? surely someone must have done something in your life more worthy of that title? also, why is it that there are so many polyamorous habs-oilers fans out there? i’ve never met a hybrid habs-flames fan, or habs-canucks fan, or habs-wild fan, or anything like that, but habs-oilers fans are freakin’ everywhere. and as to accepting, i think the problem is that i got very used to them being an uneven team early in the season, wherein they would always compensate for a bad loss with a great comeback in the next game, and i can’t help waiting for the comeback even though they’re not doing that anymore. all my expectations are set up for a manic-depressive team, not just a depressing team, so it’s hard to lay back and just accept consistently lame play. and no, it’s not a wondermark reference, it’s a reference to the cake-girl what sells really good cakes down the street. seriously, really really good cakes, especially on the weekends.

olivier- i’ll probably forgive bouillon with time, but that was hella dirty hit and looked pretty deliberate, and i’m still upset about it. anyway, i’ve been trying the zen thing, but it’s terrifically hard, because as previously mentioned, i suck at detachment. and while i’d like to be able to just say that they are what they are, it does seem like every time i think i know what they are, they turn into something else…

doogie- don’t mock my ‘rebuilding year’ excuse! i’m still clinging to that one…

there’s a very interesting ‘stories’ theme developing in this comment thread…

kazmojo said...

Hey E, I know things are bad, but don't take it out on the heart-and-soul types. It was Lapierre a few posts ago, and now Bouillon? Every team needs guys like these to energize and show the others what it's like to lay it all on the line. The problem is you can't win with just that, and we've got more than our quota -- Lapierre, Bouillon, Begin, and Murray.

But compare any of them to Kovalev, Samsonov and maybe even Latendresse. These guys either become invisible, or make the most bone-headed plays. Rarely do they perform up to the level they are capable. Even the new kid Kostitsyn seems to show more urgency than any of them.

Lee said...

Well, I was feeling pretty mad and enraged last spring, after that game where Ottawa managed through an enormous amount of bumbling boobery to contrive, fashion, and create out of goddam nothingness a way to lose 7-6 in overtime, to Buffalo.

In fact, I had trouble getting to sleep that night, until a thought struck me, and I drifted off no problem. I realized that despite the shenanigans, which certainly made me mad, I'd been excited and brought to within an inch of my life, and that this was precisely why I watch hockey.

Martin said...

Hey, if I have to finish the season watching the Oilers slip into oblivion only a year after coming within a game of winning the Cup, you can hang in with the Habs. At least your teams isn't made up of AHL players...oh wait...maybe they are or are at least playing that way. Anyway, it is depressing but we carry on.

Julian said...

E, you can either focus on the bigger picture (looking years down the road, remembering that this is just another chapter in your team's story) or look for the little things (How's ________ playing, and is he improving at all?).

You can't look at the main picture, cause yeah, that's incredibly depressing.

Or, take it as a learning experience, as in "oh, so this is what it's like when your team loses and has nothing to play for". Then you'll be able to properly contrast it with what you feel when your team is kicking ass all over the league. Someday. Hopefully.

And I think there are lots of Oilers-Habs fans for two reasons: Everyone needs a eastern and a western team, though it's kinda pointless when both are out of the playoff picture. And the Oilers and the Habs are the two most successful Canadian teams out there (after fourty years, the Leafs don't count) so there's some mutual respect, some mutual knowledge about what it's like to be a dynasty and fall on hard times later on.

Warhole said...

As a Montreal Canadiens fan myself for many years, I've been trying myself to look for something positive out of the last few games, and I can now tell you that it is absolutely impossible.

What is so depressing is that any way you look at it, things are very likely to get worse next season.

I think it is a fair prediction to say that Samsonov, Perezhogin, Murray, Niinima, Aebisher and probably Souray will be gone by next year. You must now add Kovalev to that list after last week's scandal. Rivet is already gone.

No matter how disappointing their season have been, none of them will be replaced easily (except Niinima).

My worst nightmare, is the fear that given the state of the team right now, Markov might want to play elsewhere next year. This thought scares me to hell.

We probably get some joy by watching Plekanec, Streit or Johnson play but they've been doing it all season so it's getting old. Plus none of them is set to become a franchise player, no matter how hard they play.

I therefore predict a few years of misery.

Earl Sleek said...

e, sometimes these tough answers have to be found at the bottom of a tall bottle. I know you have a distaste for the spirits, though, so you might alternatively consider a low-level concussion.

It's not necessarily good advice, but it might be helpful.

E said...

kazmojo- i ain't got no problem, no how, with heart-and-soul, but i do believe that you can play with heaps and piles of passion and still not knee-check marian hossa. but maybe i'm living in a fantasy world. but yes, i see your point. why does it seem like so often one is presented with a choice between talent and passion? or is that a problem particular to the habs?

lee- oh, i can be very happy with disastrous stupidity at least in the context of an entertaining game. i mean, to lose 7-6 in overtime y'all must have been doing something pretty crazy- infuriating, yeah, but engaging. the problem is that ahbabi just aren't doing anything worth getting excited over.

martin- patient endurance in the face of the injustices of this world? nooooooo!

julian- wait, i need a team in the west too? is this obligatory? i don't have the time for that kind of research! *huge sigh*

warhole- wow, you really think gainey will move that many non-ufas in the offseason? sure, niinimaa and aebischer are not likely to get resigned, and we've all known all season that it's probable souray will be movin' down california way if he gets an opportunity. but it would be very un-gainey-like to get rid of that many guys in one fell swoop (what a weird ibara that is- what the fuck is a 'fell swoop' anyway?). anyway, he's not going to move kovalev or perezhogin without getting something of value in exchange, and there might not be anything of value to be had, which would mean they'll be staying. with samsonov i can see him maybe just looking to get back the cap space, and maybe somehow disposing of murray just to make roster space for one of the hamilton kids. markov will probably stay- he seems happy enough with the organization, and as someone who speaks neither english nor french, he's uniquely suited to play in montreal and remain untraumatized by the media turmoil. anyway, bottom line, i don't think anything that happens in the summer is likely to be inordinately dramatic. you're right, that means they're not likely to completely turn around, but it is possible they could improve slightly... maybe? please?

earl- i've tried drinking! it doesn't help. i suppose i could move on to more intensely mind-altering substances. maybe i can find a hallucinogen that will convince me that the habs are awesome? but then i get this vision of myself, 4 or 5 years down the road, sitting on a folding chair in a oversize sweatsuit during the group therapy portion of my rehab schedule, shaking, chain smoking, and trying to explain how my crack addiction is all because sammy wouldn't JUST SHOOT THE FREAKIN' PUCK...

PB said...

"At least the Habs are not the Coyotes..."

Pretty rich...:-)

What keeps me going (now that the Coyotes has lost 10 of their last 12 before tonight's game against the Blackhawks)? The notion that when the victories do come, and they must at some time, the losing season(s) will have been worth it.

I am also a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning (I lived in Florida) and they were just awful in the late 90s. When they finally won the Cup, it was incredible and I felt deep satisfaction with being one of their original fans.

I agree with the Zen approach - the yin and yang of sports: the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. What goes down must go back up.

As for me, there is plenty of beer in my 'fridge to help me cope. ;-)

Julian said...

Nah, you don't really need a team in the other conference, it just makes things a bit more interesting in times like these.

the habs are my team in the east, but i get most of my info on them through this very blog, so i don't have what anyone would call alot of research invested into them. basically, they're a backup, someone else to keep an eye on.... the opening band, if you will. Could be interesting, could be worth showing up for, but you don't really know any of their songs and they're certainly not who you're there for.

alice said...

The thing with alternate teams to root for is that you don't choose them; they choose you. The playoffs start, and there's a real overtime game. At the beginning of the game you were watching, not caring whether the Wings or the Sharks win. But sometime in the second overtime, you realize that you kind of want the Sharks to win. You won't be able to put your finger on why (or maybe, you'll trace it back to a spectacular, impossible save). But, it will matter, at least for the duration of the playoffs; the Sharks will be your team. But, never fear, when the Sharks play the Habs next season (if, indeed, they do), you'll be back to hating them.

During the Rangers' down years, I've rooted for the Canes (twice), the Ducks, the Lightning, and the Oilers (but not as much as I rooted for the Canes). But, those were just spring flings. I'm back to living (and dying) with the Rangers (what is it with those two-goal leads?).

Doogie said...

doogie- don’t mock my ‘rebuilding year’ excuse! i’m still clinging to that one…

Mocking wasn't my intent, but the Oilers have pretty much been rebuilding since 1992. Eventually, cynicism sets in, which isn't exactly aided by the events of the last nine months.

The origin of my Habs/Oilers polyamourism is actually quite simple: Dad's from central Alberta (all over) and Mom's from Montreal.

kazmojo said...

Hey E, you may have stumbled onto something with Markov's language issues:
1) Samsonov was clearly overpaid to be a Hab.
2) No one else even offered Kovalev a contract his last time on the market -- and still the Habs make him the 2nd highest paid on the team.
3) A good chunk of our prospects for next year are all Russian (Grabovski and the Kostitsyn brothers)

All part of some sort of extra-contractual attempt to help tilt Markov toward staying?

Julian said...

So c'mon E, who wins this this ever-so-hyped cake? Anyone?
Actually, I wouldn't blame you if no one won.

Yamp said...

I guess I'm awful late for a post here, but here goes :

Pairing : Watching the game with another fan (or a few others) is one good way of making it easier on yourself. Somehow, when someone shares your total dissapointement, it doesn't feel that heavy. The more, the mearier!

Singing : Have you ever tried singing? A hockey game with a soundtrack is that less depressing ;). You may question your sanity afterwards, but then again, it is something else to take your mind of the failure you are watching... Another time when it is more fun to watch the game paired-up! ;)

Cynicism : Takes away the edge. A must. If you think cynicism is a bit too drastic, humor may be substituted.

Hope : It's been said often already, but keep repeating to yourself "It'll get better. Bob Gainey has a Plan. It's a good plan. It'll work". Look at the Penguins (or this year, we might say "the Chicks"). They were struggling, and now they have all these great young players... We'll do the same. We'll manage. Remember, Bob Gayney has a plan.

More hope : Next year will be better. It has to be better. It will be better. Think long-term. Rebuilding. Good thing.

Much more hope : They may yet still win. As a matter of fact, they did, last Saturday. And it was a good game. Scared the heck out of me, but I finished the evening with a smile. The already spoken for idea of focusing on the good thing(s) may englobe all this, and sure can be part of it (and finally, Kovalev DID something good [after an evening of catastrophes, but hey...]).

Much much more hope : The Plan. Think about the Plan. You get the idea, I wont repeat myself ;).

Verbalizing : Talking to the player, has they play, is also helpful. Then, when Souray passes the puck to the other team's player, you can shout : "I told you so!", or "No, no, no. Your team is the one with the RED jacket, not the black one!". Well, the idea is to relieve the pressure and frustration has the game goes on. Verbalizing does that for me. Some people drink beer, I spill words. And again, afterward, you may invoque the sanity point (see the singing entry! ;)), wich is good. Sadly, this trick may make the pairing part a bit more difficult.

Dreaming : Maybe this poor performance is all a trick to get the other team to think you're mediocre so they'll be of their guard when it will really matter? Oh... It already matters? Crap!

I guess that rounds it up for my part (and about time too!). I don't know if it'll be any help to you, but it was therapeutic for me!

I'd also like to say that I'm a bit of a double-fan, but I have it for the Canucks. Go Luongo! ;)