May 25, 2010
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here are Toronto Maple Leafs loyalists Down Goes Brown and Bloge Salming, fondly recalling the Montreal Canadiens. And it's as good as you expected.)
By Down Goes Brown and Bloge Salming
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to mourn the passing of the 2009-2010 Montreal Canadiens. I trust that we'll all conduct ourselves with the full measure of reverence and respect owed to a franchise that is the oldest in the entire league, and the second-most popular in Eastern Canada. We'll pause for a moment so you can all dress in black.
Wait! No! No, that's too much black! Good god, what is wrong with you people?
Look, we just want to spend a few moments reflecting on this past season. Everybody relax, and let's see if we can do this without throwing any flaming trash cans through store windows.
Montreal's 2009-2010 season kicked off with a surprise hiring. After apparently acing his interview, Jacques Martin was unveiled as the team's new head coach. Many fans worried that Martin was an ex-Senator, and therefore came pre-coated in a thick sticky film of failure. But others were optimistic -- after all, Bob Gainey was in charge so it's not like they were also stuck with some Senators reject at general manager.
Speaking of Gainey, he stunned the hockey world by acquiring Scott Gomez(notes) from the New York Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ryan McDonagh. Gainey explained the move by saying, "Any time you have a chance to trade one of your best prospects for the worst contract in the entire NHL, you have to make that deal." And while it's true that Gomez didn't come remotely close to living up to his cap-crushing salary, Habs fans should look on the bright side -- he still has four more years to keep trying.
The other notable transaction saw Mike Komisarek(notes) depart as a free agent. This led to Habs fans flooding YouTube with videos of them burning their Komisarek shirts and jerseys, which they would later admit was a strategic error that deprived them of a valuable source of kindling during the post-season.
The Regular Season
The Canadiens' regular season included as many highlights as you would expect an eight seed to produce, which is to say almost none.
But on Dec. 4, the franchise did celebrate its 100th anniversary as part of a special evening titled "Wait, I thought we told everyone it was our Centennial last year?" A touching pre-game ceremony saw many former Hab greats take to the ice for a final time. The veteran players, many of them senior citizens, struggled to complete a few emotional laps around the ice, took part in the ceremonial faceoff, and then went on to defeat the current Canadiens roster, 13-1.
There were other highlights. On Dec. 28, Cammalleri scored the 20,000th goal in franchise history in a game against the Ottawa Senators. The next night, in a game against Vesa Toskala(notes) and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Cammalleri scored the 21,000th goal in franchise history.
But the positivity didn't last, as in January the team cut ties with Georges Laraque(notes). The veteran enforcer had taken a leave of absence from the team to travel to Haiti because, as he explained to the media, he "wanted to get a sneak preview of what downtown Montreal will look like by mid-May".
As the season wore on, the dominant story was Jaroslav Halak(notes) emerging to challenge Carey Price(notes) for the starting job. The goaltending controversy would rage for the remainder of the season, dividing fans and spurring passionate debate over who was better. It was just like Betty and Veronica, only if Betty was a Slovakian Allan Walsh client and Veronica was a terrible goalie.
Hold on, I'm being told that Jacques Martin is taking the podium for his end-of-year address. Let's interrupt the eulogy and go there live:
By the end of the season, the Canadiens found themselves on the verge of missing the playoffs. On the final weekend, Jacques Martin urged his team to do the near-impossible to make the post-season and the Habs granted his wish by losing to the Maple Leafs at home. That allowed them to limp into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed, earning a first round matchup against the Washington Capitals.
I'm sure there were some important things that happened in the series, but for most fans the only especially memorable moment came when Alexander Ovechkin sprayed snow on a child. Some fans were outraged, although in Ovechkin's defence the kid was four feet tall so he just assumed it was Brian Gionta(notes). Most observers were just happy to see a Habs fan at playoff time being sprayed with something other than a mixture of fire extinguisher foam, pepper spray, and their own poutine-and-nicotine flavored vomit. Anyways, the Habs won in seven.
The second round saw the Habs welcome the defending champion Pittsburgh. While most experts picked the Penguins, the Canadiens stuck to their strategy of being badly outshot, getting completely outplayed, praying that their goaltender would steal a game, and diving. It worked, as the Habs won in seven to advance to the conference finals for the first time in 17 years.
That brought a showdown with the Philadelphia Flyers, in a matchup everyone agreed the Habs would probably win as long as they remembered to score a goal every game or so. After losing the first two in Philadelphia, Montreal won game three at home after an emotional pre-game ceremony to mourn the tragic death of Tomas Plekanec's(notes) free agent market value.
The series featured some controversy, as somebody poured sand in the Flyers' hallway prior to Game 4. It didn't help -- the Flyers won 3-0 -- but the damage to the Flyers' skates did result in the first known instance of anything at a Habs game being duller than a Montreal fan talking about 1993.
Needless to say, the Habs bowed out meekly in five games to become the first team in pro sports history to be incredibly proud of a postseason where they finished under .500. Everyone has agreed to pretend that going 9-10 was really impressive, out of fear of being set on fire.
And so another season will pass without a championship in Montreal. It is true that the Habs can still boast of being the last Canadian team to win a Stanley Cup, which at this point is vaguely like boasting of being the last Dion quintuplet to get laid.
But it's also true that the team just advanced past the second round for the first time since 1993. Put another way: There are now people living in Montreal who just saw the team reach a conference final for the first time in their lives, but are still old enough to legally drive the car you just set on fire and rolled into a daycare.
So now, the season is over. But it was a notable one, to be sure, and it has left us with plenty of memories. Among them is the Annakin Slayd anthem known as "Feels Like '93", which you may know by its more common name, "The video that the Habs fan in the cubicle down the hall watches nonstop all day while discreetly fondling himself".
Some fans may remember this song from 2008; it was re-released for 2010 during the playoff run. Well, we figured it needed to be redone one more time. So let's say a goodbye to the 2009-2010 Habs with this musical tribute to a once-proud franchise that now considers nine playoff wins something to get excited about.