Ok, I think I needed a day before writing something about the end of the season. This is gonna be a long and probably not very funny post, but I’m writing this because it’s a good way to summarize my feelings about this whole season, and the way it ended, and to evacuate everything! :)
It’s not exactly clear how things went wrong exactly for the 2008-09 habs, but it certainly looks like someone in Montreal pissed off some Luck Deity.
This is not about looking for excuses, because as much as it pains me, Boston WAS the better team. But it’s hard not to think “what if?”. We’ll never know how the playoffs could have gone if Markov, Schneider and Tanguay didn’t get hurt in the last week of the season. But the team was looking pretty hot at that point, and they even had an outside chance at the 5th seed. Anyway, it’s not how things turned out, so this is pretty useless to think about what could have been.
This was fittingly a very disappointing end to a very disappointing season. Pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong:
- The PP stopped producing right from the start
- Most of the young players who had a very promising season last year made a big step backwards (the Kostitsyn brothers, O’Byrne, Chipchura never managed to stay in Montreal, Plekanec, Higgins…)
- Injuries plagued all the new guys that were brought in to reinforce the team (Lang, Laraque, Tanguay and Schneider all went through prolonged injuries. Only Metropolit escaped it)
- Kovalev had long stretches of his frustrating inconsistent play.
- Komisarek got hurt in a fight against his nemesis, and never fully recovered (I think however that his confidence has been way more affected by all this than his shoulder. He has yet to look like the player he was last season).
- Carey Price showed signs of great play, but he also was pretty inconsistent, and looked really fragile mentally this season (I’m not blaming him, given all the crap he has had to go through and the huge expectations the media and the fans have about him)
- Carbonneau was not able to help the team recover from its terrible february slump.
- Gainey couldn’t shake things up at the trade deadline (even if his trade for Schneider was pretty brilliant, and if Metropolit turned out to be really solid too), had to fire the coach, and finally couldn’t make much of a difference after he took over as coach.
- Off the ice, the controversies were aplenty. The media were all over the team all season long, and kept on throwing mud week after week on the habs. I’m still really pissed at the whole “SCANDAL!!! MAFIA!!! DRUGS!!! WOMEN!!! ALCOHOL!!!” debacle. And the rumors about the young players partying excesses have surrounded the team all season long. But we also have to remember the Lecavalier rumors, the Kovalev-staying-home-and-allegedly-dissing-his-coach-through-a-mysterious-anonymous-Russian-friend controversy, the future coach language skills debate, the usual crap about soft Europeans that lack the desire to win the cup. Overall, that was an amazing year for the media…
- The fans sometimes turned their back to the players and regularly booed them off the ice, including during the playoffs.
- The centennial celebrations proved to be a big distraction at times, and the predictably high expectations of the fans and media (I mean, when you finish first in the East the season before, it’s pretty normal to expect a promising season) looked like a burden that the team couldn’t cope with.
- When things were finally looking better, as the first line was on fire, the PP was producing, and the habs looked ready to enter the playofffs with a good momentum, they lost two of their most important players (in a game against the Leafs, of course…), and finished the season with 4 losses. This set up a series against the best team in the East, which happened to be their archrival, but also a team that they barely beat in last season’s playoffs, a team coached by their own former coach (fired by none other than Gainey), and a team that had beaten them all season long. often in devastating ways (Komisarek, Lang and Lats were all injured for long periods of times in losses against the Bruins)
Seriously, I don’t think it’s possible to think of a much worse scenario.
BUT, in spite of all this, everything was not that awful. It’s time to bring back the rosy glasses for a while:
- It obviously wasn’t enough, but the team showed at times that it could be one of the very best in the League. The habs started the season with a 8-1-1 record, and went through an often overlooked 11-2-1 stretch in january. There were some horrendous slumps this season, but the habs had their good moments too.
- We saw glimpses of promising new young players: Pacioretty, D’Agostini, Stewart, and Weber all came up and made an impact. Pacioretty and D’Ags started really well, and scored points right from the start. They eventually both went through slumps, but that’s hardly surprising for rookies in a team that was at the time in a huge collective slump. Stewart was scrappy and sometimes did the job that Laraque couldn’t do because he was injured. And Weber looks to be a promising future offensive defenseman. With the quality of some prospects coming up in the next few years in D (notably Ryan McDonagh, Alexei Emelin and P.K. Subban), that’s a good thing.
- Maxim Lapierre turned into a really nice 3rd line C. He works harder than anyone (except maybe Kostopoulos), he is scrappy, he is very good at getting under the skin of the opposition, and he is starting to contribute a little more offensively. He was definitely one of the best surprises of the season in Montreal.
- Higgins finished the season in a new more defensive role, and he did pretty well on the PK. Latendresse had a good season: he ended up with just one less point than last season in 17 less games, and finished with a positive +/- for the frst time in his career.
- Gorges turned into a scoring machine. 4 goals and 19 assists?! Woooo Hooo!! Hide your Norris, Lidstrom, Josh is coming! I’m kidding Josh, this is seriously awesome, especially since you finished with a more than respectable +12 plus/minus, and you really helped the team this season when Komisarek or Markov got injured. You know you’re my very favorite hab!
- Maybe we can hope that some of the players that struggled this season can be resigned for cheap and return to their past play. Hey, that could happen! :)
- Oh, and probably the best thing about this season: I started blogging! What do you mean, that’s another Montreal related disaster?! Hey, shut up!
Well, I’m aware this doesn’t make a lot of positive points, but… this is all we got. So where does that leave us?
There are a lot of questions marks surrounding the team now. A LOT of free agents, no coach, maybe a GM change (I hope not), maybe a change in ownership. In those conditions, it’s pretty hard to tell how the team will look in October. For now, I’m praying Gainey keeps his job, I hope they will resign Komisarek (I’m convinced he can rebound. I just hope he will resist the temptation of going for a fat contract elsewhere), and I REALLY hope we haven’t seen the last game of Koivu in a Montreal jersey.
So here it is. The 2008-09 habs are dead. And I made peace with that.
By the way, the end of the habs season seems to have pleased a LOT of people, judging from the comments I could read on major mainstream hockey blogs (Puck Daddy posted twice about it and there was quite a bit of habs bashing going on in the comments) There seems to be some dancing around the habs grave going on. Listen, I know Montreal fans can be obnoxious, and I know everyone is fed up with the centennial crap. But I’m surprised to see fans of other teams rejoicing so much (I mean, I totally understand it pleases the people in Boston and Toronto, but beyond that, I didn’t think Montreal pissed of so many folks.) Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It’s always better to provoke hate than indifference I guess!
Ok, that was way too long, and not very original, but I needed to get that out I think!