One of the first thing that strikes the eye at the pre-game parties outside the Bell Centre during the playoffs is how young the revelers are. Then comes the realization that the vast majority of them have no idea what it is like to watch their team win the Stanley Cup.
So perhaps a good number of Canadiens fans could be excused for considering the 2013-14 season to be halcyon days. Perhaps they could be cut some slack for reacting to every playoff victory as a pivotal event.
But they’re not. In fact, they’re not even close. This is not Toronto where many fans consider the early 1990s to be glory days. That’s pathetic, by the way. Really pathetic. Almost as pathetic as an entire country clinging to a meaningless exhibition series in 1972 as a seminal hockey moment until it started winning Olympic gold medals again.
The reality is that the Canadiens had a pretty good and relatively unexpected run to the Eastern Conference final this season. And that’s all they had. End of story. To be sure, this group is better than the one that overachieved and got through two rounds of the playoffs in 2010 and probably has a much brighter future, but in the grand scheme of things, it is nothing more than a footnote in the franchise’s history.
So Canadiens fans, please treat it as such. By making the Canadiens run to the conference final more than it is would be to take the pressure off this team and its administration. The Canadiens deserve kudos to be sure for their play this spring, but the fumes should wear off pretty quickly. In most markets where almost coming close to winning something is not a cause for celebration, that’s the way they act. That way, your franchise doesn’t get complacent or allow a conga line of management mistakes to go unpunished.
And while we’re at it, here are a couple of other pieces of advice for the Canadiens and their fans:
Proceed with caution on Dustin Tokarski: This is almost in the vein of the previously mentioned piece of advice. Yes, Tokarski came in and played very, very well in what was an almost impossible situation. But the fact remains is he won two hockey games. Previous to that, he had played in the minors for five seasons. Now, guys don’t play in the minors for that long because every GM in the league wants to screw around with them. There’s almost always a reason for it. And usually it’s because they are much like supernovae, with the ability to shine brilliantly for short periods of time before burning out.
It’s probably a little too early to assume that will happen with Tokarski, but it’s too early to assume he’s ready to even be a backup at the NHL level. That job is not near as easy as it looks and Petr Budaj has done it with aplomb behind Carey Price.
Don’t take the bait on Thomas Vanek: When Vanek negotiates his next deal, he’ll probably point to the fact he was arguably the best Canadiens player in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, conveniently ignoring the fact that he was terrible through much of the previous five. (One caveat: We still haven’t found out whether he was playing through an injury during the playoffs.) The Canadiens and their Midas-touch GM Marc Bergevin got him for a prospect at the trade deadline and they should be happy with that. Some team is going to sign Vanek to a long-term deal for a lot of money and that team is probably going to regret it.
Sign P.K. Subban: Just have him back the Brinks truck up to the Bell Center and start throwing the wads of cash into the back. The Canadiens won big by signing Subban to a bridge contract after his entry-level deal kicked in and now they’re going to have to pay for it if they want to buy his years of unrestricted free agency. It was a great move by Bergevin, but if he tempts fate again and goes to arbitration with Subban, it could prove disastrous in the long term. Get the eight-year deal done now and officially make him the co-face of the franchise along with Price.
Find a way to keep Andrei Markov: Even though the veteran defenseman looked worn-down and completely discombobulated as the Eastern Conference final wore on, he continues to be one of the team’s most reliable defensemen. And he can’t be replaced by anyone in this year’s crop of free agents.
Hire Ginette Reno full-time: The Canadiens have not had an anthem singer this universally loved since Roger Doucet. And she had a pretty good run, to boot.