Well, the NHL 2013 season is underway. Saturday night’s Habs-Leafs game was a disappointment (for us, anyway). To say the least.
There I was, all in my new Habs toque and my newish t-shirt actually going out to watch the game because the wifi in our building didn’t work. A message from a Quebecois friend of mine about watching (a pleasure to hear from him), a moving and spirited opening ceremony, the Habs hit the ice — and it was 2011 all over again.
All the received wisdom from last season made it out that the problem with the Habs originated behind the bench. I’ll admit that Jacques Martin’s “I’m-an-extra-from-Walking-Dead-who-can-write-and-is-too-lazy-to-gnaw-on-the-living” act got old real fast. But was it really all his fault?
Besides, if he was the problem he was made out to be, shouldn’t SOMETHING have changed when Randy Cunneyworth took over? I really doubt RC’s not being a Francophone was all that much of an issue to anyone but the PQ – there aren’t that many Francophones on the team, and if they wanted to be snarled at in French, all they had to do was take the Métro out to Beaudry station and ask, in English, to buy an all-day pass. Easy as poutine.
Yes, I know not everyone was playing somewhere else while negotiations dragged on (or didn’t happen). Yes, I know there really wasn’t much of a training camp or any preseason. But you know what? That applies to the Leafs, too, and last night they didn’t let it get in the way of their play. The Habs, on the other hand, were disappointingly lackluster.
I do want to acknowledge the contribution of the refs during the game – although it would probably be more fitting if a Leafs fan did that, since most of the calls went Toronto’s way. But the officiating we will have with us always, and if you know that’s a factor, you do your best to play in a way that makes it a non-issue. Like clearing the puck, better puck handling, getting more shots on goal and scoring. Little things like that.
Obviously, things could improve. One game is a little early for panic, even in Montréal. Especially for me, conditioned from my earliest recollection to be resigned to teams that play almost well enough. (I think they start training us in the cradle here in Northeast Ohio.) It’s just that the talent’s there, the front office was cleared of Pierre Gauthier, Jacques Martin’s not behind the bench, and there’s no real and obvious reason why this team shouldn’t have improved.
Once upon a time, there was a hockey team who came on the ice with attitude, expected to win and usually did. I think they were called the Montréal Canadiens. I hope they show up Tuesday night – I miss ‘em.