The Montreal Canadiens Will Win The Stanley Cup

  A bold prediction


Ok, before you all start thinking I’ve lost it, or lost all credibility with you, dear readers, let me assure you that I don’t mean the Habs will win the Cup this year, or even next, for that matter.  Let me also make it clear that I’m not talking about a 35 year plan either, which seems to be the approach the Maple Leafs are taking towards the Holy Grail of hockey.  So what time frame am I talking about then ?  Well, in the interest of remaining bold (or optimistic), here it is:


Now, let’s get to the method to my madness.  Montreal is without question, the most storied organization in the NHL.  What the Yankees are to baseball, the Canadiens are to hockey.  Before the internet & satellite made the NHL accessible to virtually anyone on the planet, the most recognized hockey team counted on such Hall of Famers as Maurice “the Rocket” Richard, Guy Lafleur, Jean Béliveau, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante and more than two dozen other All-Stars.  They have won a record 23 Stanley Cups since breaking in the NHL in 1917.  From 1971 to 1994 (24 years), they managed to appear in the post-season every year.  The all-time Playoff record of 387-225-8 speaks for itself.  In 1960, they would win their 5th Stanley Cup title in as many years, a feat no other team has ever been able to accomplish.  Let’s face it, this is one team that is deep-rooted in tradition.  Today, the Habs aren’t even predicted to make the playoffs.  So how can the picture be so rosy in my eyes a mere 7 years from now ?  Simple.


Tradition.  Somehow, management in Montreal got away from what has made this organization so successful in the past – tradition, or the passing thereof.  A quick trip to the locker room serves as a reminder of this.  Up above all stalls hangs a sign.  A quote from John McCrae‘s poem Flander’s Field: “ To you, from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high ” .  Years ago, players passed on this proverbial torch to each other, with each passing generation.  Maurice Richard to Jean Beliveau, Beliveau to Guy Lafleur & Larry Robinson, Robinson  to Guy Carbonneau & Patrick Roy, and Roy to… Colorado ?  Somewhere in the mid-90’s, the chain was severed.  The only member of the current Montreal Canadiens team that has won a Stanley Cup with the team, has also been public enemy #1 in Montreal – Patrice “Broken Wood” Brisebois.  It’s hard to preach tradition to your teammates when you’re booed before the opening face-off, during the warm-up.  Enter Bob Gainey.


Or Jesus Christ himself, for he is the man who has been entrusted to save the franchise.  So far, so good.  Gainey brings a lot to the Canadiens; experience, leadership, and knowledge on how to build a championship team (he was the architect of the 1999 Stanley Cup winning Dallas Stars).  Most importantly, he brings tradition, or brings tradition back to Montreal.  He has already changed a few things since his arrival this summer as GM # 15, including a strict dress code ( jackets & ties are now mandatory when representing the team ).  I still remember going to the Montreal Forum as a young boy, and waiting around for autographs after the game by the garage on Atwater avenue (this is back when players didn’t have the luxury of parking their cars inside the facility where they played, so they actually had to meet fans after the game).  I remember how great all the players looked, all decked out in their suits and trench coats.  Thinking back, it did add an air of respectability, and with a respectable guy like Gainey in charge, the Canadiens will in turn, be respected. 


Gainey made sure that was clear, calling out the Brisebois boo-birds in Montreal after an exhibition game this year.  “We don’t need fans like that.  We don’t want fans like that.  They are cowards in my book”.  The result ?  A three-year streak was ended that night, as Brisebois not only has yet to have been booed this season, but was greeted with a standing ovation in the home opener !  Another Gainey rule is the ban of cell phones in the dressing rooms & during travel.  A rule enforced so strictly, that when Canadiens owner George Gillette Jr was talking on his phone a hallway of the Bell Centre, he was tapped on the shoulder by Gainey & reminded that if management & ownership don’t follow the rules, how can the players be expected to ?  He has also reinstated a “team” feeling, by forcing the media to travel separately from the team (the media traveled on the same planes and busses as the team before).  The players now have time not only to bond, but to have their privacy to prepare for games.  In brief, Gainey has been getting rid of all the distractions.  The result ? 


The Canadiens have been off to a great start so far, even without their captain Saku Koivu in the lineup.  As of this writing, they are 6-5-0-0, good for 6th overall in the Eastern Conference.  Jose Theodore seems to have rediscovered his Hart Trophy ways, and the team is buying into Claude Julien’s defense-first system.  It’s still too early to tell if they will see the post-season, but I wouldn’t bet against it.  It takes time to build a champion, but one thing’s for sure, the Habs are on the way.  One sign summed it all in the Bell Centre the other night:  “In Gainey We Trust”.


Pack your bags (Dave Aebischer):  Colorado Avalanche have yet to win a game when not scoring 4 or more goals.

Forgotten Player (Marcel Hossa):  when asked about the dull play of his Canadiens in their new defensive system after a Montreal-Ottawa game, Head Coach Claude Julien said: “We don’t have an Alfredsson or a Hossa.” 

There’s No Place Like Home (Mariusz Czerkawski):  after being sent to the minors last year when playing for Montreal, the czeck? centreman is off to a flying start with 8 goals, 10 points in 9 games since returning to the Islanders.

Quote of the Week (Martin Brodeur):  “I remember playing the Flyers and they were hitting (Scott) Stevens a lot so I said ‘Let me go out and play it and I will throw it to the fore checker and you can go hit him so it will be more fun for you.’”


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