Like every hab fan with a blog today, I feel like I need to post something because it’s a special day. The Ducks are in town, and with them, many familiar faces are making their return to Montreal.
First, I want to mention the two that will likely be forgotten tonight: Chips and Paul Mara.
Paul Mara is kind of easy to forget. He was injured most of last season, and he didn’t get to show us his wonderful facial hair during the playoffs. But I wanted him to have success here, so I’m happy he’s playing more in Anaheim this season.
Chips. Oh Chips. I really liked you. I was really sad to see you go. But let’s be honest, that trade was probably better for you…
Now the two others.
Lapierre. Well honestly, I don’t really miss you at all. You were kind of good, sometimes downright hilarious with your crazy faces. But I can’t forget the bad penalties and the embarrassing moments either. I was never a huge fan of yours. I hope you’re doing well now, but honestly, I don’t really care.
And that leaves us with the real important one.
Le (vrai) Numéro 11.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
There’s no need to say much here, everyone else will probably say much better than I ever could what this guy meant to Montreal. I’m not a Montrealer, but even for me he meant a lot, and yeah, I still miss him. Fans in the bell centre tonight better give him a freaking awesome ovation.
You’ll always look better in bleu-blanc-rouge, Saku.
This started as a post stating my love for Chipchura and my sadness to see him go. But then, it turned into something bigger. An ode to fringe NHLers.
I’ve already written a little bit about Chips this year (I’ll miss this name A LOT). As you know, he was dealt to Anaheim yesterday. Looking at the big picture, it’s certainly nothing more than a minor trade for the habs. The story is quite simple:
Chipchura was drafted in the first round a few years ago. For some reason, in spite of several stints in the nhl, he never managed to keep a regular spot in Montreal. His best season with the Habs was 2007-08. This year was his last chance to become a regular member of the team, and yet he failed to firmly grab a spot, even when injuries were hurting the team. Then younger guys were called up, the coach decided they were better, and Chipchura definitively lost his spot. Then it was only a matter of time before he would be waived or traded, since the Habs could not simply send him back to the AHL.
That’s a common story that happened to LOTS of players around the league. Just look at Benoit Pouliot in Minnesota.
So why am I even writing about this? Because I liked Chips a lot. Probably even enough to consider myself a fan. Then if you look at his story through the eyes of a fan, the perspective changes a little. I know his numbers this season were dreadful (19 games played, 0 point, -10, 11 shots on goal). I also know he played 68 games in Montreal, and it’s tough to argue that he didn’t get a fair chance to impress the team managment. But if you look at the way this season went, you have to feel for him.
To begin with, he was injured during the whole training camp. I don’t want to rewrite history, but you have to wonder how things would have gone if he had been healthy at a time when Jacques Martin was learning to know the habs roster and his prospects. His season only started during the infamous trip in Western Canada, when the habs were dominated by the Flames, the Canucks and the Oilers. He was bad during those games, just like the rest of the team. After a few games, though, he seemed to play better and better. (To be sure I was not making this up, I re-read some of Mike Boone’s after game comments on Habs I/O, and it confirmed my impression.) But then, as he was showing signs of improvment, White and Pyatt arrived. Chips was immediately scratched for the next 4 games. He only returned once Gionta was injured, because the Habs had holes to fill. From then on, he never played more than 7 minutes a game, mostly with inexperienced wingers, on the 4th line. Martin clearly decided others were better, and that Chips was not useful anymore.
You didn’t think I’d let a guy named Chips go without doing this, did you?
At this point, it was already almost over for him in Montreal. It was definitely over once the habs traded Lats and got Pouliot, a natural center. It was painfully obvious that he would be waived or traded as soon as regulars would return to the lineup. This is just what happened yesterday. Now honestly, there is nothing dramatic about the whole thing. He’ll hopefully have a chance to redeem himself in Anaheim, and I believe he still has the tools to become a regular NHLer. I realize the habs still have some good prospects, and they probably won’t regret Chips much. But I’m sad anyway.
And it’s not the first time this happens to me. I tend to be emotionally attached to perpetually the same kind of players. The fringe NHLers, or the guys who have trouble keeping their spot on a team. The underdogs. I can’t help it. I know there is a great chance that I will be disappointed in the end, but I always do the same thing. They come and go, and I always fall for the next one in line.
I liked Mike Johnson. I liked Aaron Downey. I liked Garth freaking Murray (although it was mostly because of that old pic where he has an Afro haircut). I rooted for Corey Locke. I was a fan of Streit when he was playing as a forward because he had no spot on the Habs D. I liked Smolinski. I loved Tom Kostopoulos. I miss Lang. I fell in love with Gorges when he arrived from San Jose and had a hard time getting a regular spot on defense. I love Halak. I love Metropolit. I liked Chips. And I already know I’ll cheer for Pouliot, because everyone seems ready to jump on him.
My little Hall of Fame
What’s wrong with me?? Am I doomed to love average players and to have my heart crushed every time the habs get rid of them for a bag of pucks? It’s tough because not only do half of these guys go away, but the general feeling on internet forums and blogs when they do is “whatever” or “good riddance!”.
I just can’t truly fall in love with superstars (Koivu was one of the only exceptions here. And I still got screwed!). Sure, I like successful goal scorers and exciting playmakers. And I’m as excited by guys like Malkin as anyone. But most of them feel a little boring *cough cough Cammalleri* compared to guys like Kostopoulos or Gorges. Watch Gorges when he scores a goal, and compare that to Gomez. It’s just not the same. (By the way, Gomez only scored one more goal than Josh so far this season. Just sayin’) One of my favorite situations in a game is when 4th liners and defensemen have to take part in a shootout because the talented forwards have failed to win the game. It’s glorious.
I guess that’s the way I am. I don’t think it has to do with a special love for hard work (I’m lazy) or mediocrity (or at least I hope so!). It’s just that I love seeing those guys beating the odds. And well, maybe I’m a little masochistic too… But at least, even if I’m regularly crushed, I know I’ll always have new 4th liners and less talented guys to love. There are new ones popping up year after year! :P
(screencaps from the RDS videos filmed in the Alouettes dressing room after the Grey Cup, available on their website)
And step 5:
See? That was quick and easy!
Now, just a word about tonight. It’s the Maple Leafs. They got shutout by Miller and the Sabres yesterday, so we can assume they’ll be motivated tonight (as they always are against Montreal anyway). But maybe they’ll be a little tired in the third period too.
On the Habs side, there is hope that some players will be returning into the lineup. Gomez and D’Agostini could start the game. That’s very good news. The habs have been doing ok recently in spite of missing key players, but I’m not sure how long this would have lasted. Hopefully, Gomez starts getting some points now.
Just a thought about him, by the way: I think it’s stupid to hope that he’ll suddenly produce enough points to justify his salary. Of course he’s overpaid. That’s the reason why we could get him: Sather wanted to get rid of his salary. Now the habs are not expecting him to produce Crosby-like numbers just because he’s getting the same kind of money. But they’re expecting him to be a good first line center. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried because of his play. But we should just accept the fact that he’s overpaid. That’s the way it is, and the habs knew that right from the start. We all knew what we were getting. I hope he does better than in NYC, but he’s not going to magically turn into Joe Thornton.
And a last word, about Chipchura. It’s no secret I like him, and I’m hoping for him to have more success. He played a little bit on the PP during the last game, but his 4th line duties were very minimal, and he was on the ice for just 5’09 during the game. Tonight, he could play along Metro and D’Agostini on the fourth line. I was hoping for him to get some time with Metropolit, and I think it could really help him. Now I hope he does good tonight. Because once Gionta, Kostitsyn, Pouliot and Laraque return, it’s going to be very hard for him to keep a spot. I know the likeliest scenario is that he’ll get waived because he only has a one-way contract, and Martin seems to like White and Pyatt better (one of them will probably be sent back to Hamilton too). But I’m still hoping he can somehow turn things around. If he does get waived, I will be torn. It would be good for Hamilton to get him back, and I wouldn’t like to see the habs losing him for good. But at the same time, I still hope he can be a NHLer, even if it’s not in Montreal… Come on Chips, hang in there!