My lifestyle’s changed dramatically. I remember with fondness the days when I’d wake up, make coffee, and greet the day. Now, I wake up, make coffee, and check and see if Guy Carbonneau’s been fired, or if Bob Gainey sent Alex Kovalev and about five others to Tampa for Vincent Lecavalier, or to Anaheim for Chris Pronger. And then when I see that everything’s status quo, that the team sits pat and prepares for the next loss, then I wonder why couldn’t it be Boston, or Vancouver once again, who’ve tanked and made me all giddy.
Will the Canadiens ever win a few in a row again this year? This is a team so far off their game right now, so fragile as Steve Begin pointed out, and so nervous and out of sync that it’s turned this one hundred year deal into a stinker, a nightmare for players and fans, and now no job is safe, and worse, this a team that could be sitting at home counting their American dollars when the playoffs begin.
Montreal sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 64 points, just two ahead of Buffalo, and four in front of Florida. Only five points away are two teams ready to make a final push, Carolina and Pittsburgh. Thankfully Toronto only has 50 points or we’d be worried about them to.
Last year, Alex Kovalev became my favourite player. The way he handled the puck, the way he racked up the points, the things he did on his DVD. He was great, and in many ways, the reason the team became a powerhouse. This year, Kovalev has not only been a shell of last year’s player, but in my mind, the true reason why the Canadiens have slumped like they have going down the stretch. He’s not my favourite anymore. He’s a selfish player, lazy, stops skating at the worst times, tries to be fancy and loses the puck almost every single time, and recently has resorted to taking stupid penalties at crucial times.
Has Carey Price been broken mentally, and possibly ruined? Making him the goaltending saviour at 20 years old may have been Bob Gainey’s biggest mistake as general manager. When a player is on the verge of tears in interviews, you know something bigger than normal is going on. His confidence has been squashed like a bug and he’s playing no better than a mediocre minor leaguer now.
When the season opened, I brashly said the Kostitsyn brothers were all-stars. They’d had serious moments of fire-wagon brilliance last year, and one would conclude that this would continue. Andrei has been a fair player this season but nothing like he was before. Sergei’s play, on the other hand, has mostly been just plain stupid. It’s been immature penalty-taking, losing the puck at the wrong time, long moments of brain-dead play, all of which has led to stints in the press box. The Kostitsyn’s have been a failure.
Mike Komisarek was chosen for the all-star team this year, and not by a country mile has he played like an all-star. Komisarek has not become the defenceman everyone thought he would be. He’s a big hitter, which he’s suppose to be, and that’s fine, and he’s a natural for interviews. But he’s also a poor decision-maker who gives the puck away, often by throwing it up the middle which is something players are taught not to do in peewee. Komisarek should forget about being a media darling and get smarter, if that’s possible.
Of course, I could go on and bring up other underachievers like, well, most of the team. But it would be just a re-hashing of what fans, reporters, taxi drivers, and pretty well most of the hockey world has already discussed. I don’t want Guy Carbonneau fired. I like him. But maybe he’s lost his players, and if so, he needs to be replaced. And how do you fix Carey Price? If he goes in goal tomorrow or the next day and lets in another five or six or seven goals, then what? Will he need professional help in the off-season?
I’m not writing the Habs off just yet. But this free-fall has to stop and for now, there’s no answers. How do you get Alex Kovalev to skate harder, to try harder, to be more of a team player? How do you perform brain implants on Sergei Kostitsyn and others? And even when they were winning earlier in the season, in my mind they still weren’t playing well. They were simply getting it done with smoke and mirrors.
Maybe it’ll be a lucky bounce to win a game. Maybe a surprisingly outstanding performance from Price very soon. Maybe a shake up. Maybe putting the big CH’s back at centre ice at the Bell Centre, where they should’ve been all along, 100 years or no 100 years. You just don’t screw around with tradition like that.
Bowling doesn’t work. Sitting some in the press box doesn’t work. Criticizing and complaining and offering suggestions doesn’t work. This team has to do it for themselves, and they’d better start doing it soon. Especially starting with Alex Kovalev.
How can a team go in the toilet like this? What happened?