Boxing-Day reality

 

With a great start to this season, the Canadiens managed to convince many fans (and perhaps even members of the organization) that they had contender in front of them. Spectacular goaltending earning a star in almost every game contributed to this false sense of invincibility to which many saw as one of the great teams in the National Hockey League.

But for a few weeks now, we see the other side of the medal. We better understand that the Stanley Cup is not awarded in October or November and one thing is for sure, the games and the schedule aren’t going to be any easier with teams fighting for a playoffs’ spot.

While he wasn’t performing at his best after his return, Andrei Markov’s loss is being felt. We’re seeing the same scenario as we did last year when Roman Hamrlik did a great job filling in for a short period of time, only to start slowing down through lack of energy for the long run. Spacek simply isn’t the player he onces was with the Sabres. An injury to Josh Gorges and Hal Gill is human again, his deficiencies being put to light. Price not pulling miracles and the team is average at best defensively.

On offense, Max Pacioretty seems to have given wings to Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, a wind of changes. But how long should we truthfully expect that to last? Will it be like the arrival of Benoit Pouliot last year? Andrei Kostitsyn, after a great start to the season that many attributed to his brother’s departure, is back in hibernation in spite of a goal recently. Is his brother calling him every night now? Cammalleri and Gionta can’t seem to find the back of the net as easily as last year. Eller is showing some great things out there but he’s young and inconsistent. Pouliot is an enigma, as we could have expected him to have a breakthrough season. We now have to question if he’ll ever live up to the early expectations put on him. Come to think of it, Plekanec can’t do it all on his own! In a league where fighting has gone up, only Moen and Lapierre are able to defend themselves and the other players on the team. Even Subban had to drop the gloves twice!

To be successful, the Canadiens need to add three elements to its current line-up if they don’t want to hand the division to the Bruins :

  1. A veteran physical defenseman. Preferably a guy like Kevin Bieksa (for his offensive upside), but a Robin Regher would also do the trick.
  2. A power-forward for the Top 6. A Dustin Penner, Jarome Iginla, Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe, Andrew Ladd, a big player who uses his big body well and who contributes offensively.
  3. A guy who can drop the gloves for the 3-4th line. Someone who is somewhat liable defensively, who can keep up with the NHL. A David Clarkson, Jared Boll, Zack Stortini, Colton Orr…

If Pierre Gauthier can’t address at least two of those four needs for his team, the Canadiens will be fighting for a playoffs’ spot instead of finishing in the top 3 in the Conference.

But beware Mr. Gauthier not to fall in the trap in front of you! Stay away from a Brad Richards or Alexander Semin, rental players who will become UFA at season’s end and who will cost way too much for only a few months of use, as well as an Alex Kovalev who will only add laziness to a line-up of hard workers.

It was the night before Christmas… in Habsland!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in the Bell Centre
Not a player was skating, the fans could not enter.
The skates had been placed in the lockers with care
In the hopes they’d air out while the players weren’t there.

Price and Auld were relaxing off-ice
Asking Santa for shut-outs that would be oh-so-nice.
The forwards and defense were all telling stories
And tales of the days of the team’s previous glories.

When out on the blue there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
I ran to the living room, I had to see this–
I knew it was a sight RDS-HD wouldn’t miss.

The lights of the city shone down on the snow
It glittered, and sparkled, and gave off a glow.
But lo, what was that, could it be a mirage?
The new centennial jersey, with its whole entourage!

With a bespectacled coach, so pensive with no grin,
I knew in a moment it must be Jacques Martin.
More rapid than slapshots his curses they came
And he whistled and shouted and called players by name:

“Now Gomez! Now Pacioretty!
Now Subban and Cammalleri!
On Gionta! On Lappy!
On Hamrlik and Pleky!
To the top of the circle!
To the front of the net!
Now put it away!
You can score a goal yet!”

And as with the pigeons that you’d swear couldn’t fly,
Just before you step on them, take off for the sky.
So all of a sudden, the Zamboni just took flight!
I couldn’t believe it, it soared like a kite!

And then, oh my god, that was my house on TV
And Pierre and Benoit were screwing up with glee.
As I clicked off the tube, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Jacques Martin came with a bound.

He was dressed in his suit, that tan one you know,
And his clothes were all covered with ashes and snow.
There were lots of pucks in his over-the-shoulder sack,
And it looked like the weight just might break his back.

Not a smile in sight, he was wearing a frown,
It looked to me like he wanted to leave town.
He was grim and severe, like a typical coach.
(Which only gets worse as the play-offs approach.)

He spoke not a word, but went straight to the tree,
Putting new pucks and sticks around haphazardly.
And turning to me, he broke a small grin,
And with a grimace he left the way he came in.

He sprang to the Zamboni, gave the driver a hail,
And away they all flew like the Fox comet tail.
But I heard him exclaim, ere they drove out of sight,
“HAPPY SKATING TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD FIGHT.”

Adaptation from © 1996 Alison Luperchio