Passionless Montreal Canadiens Bringing About Their Own Demise

Tim ParentSenior Writer IFebruary 26, 2009

In what was supposed to be a year full of pomp and promise; hope and glory; history and hysteria, the Montreal Canadiens have failed to deliver.

Flashes of brilliance are not enough to push you ahead in fits and spurts, hoping other teams will falter at the right moment.  It may propel you to the first round but it's a guarantee you'll sputter out long before game 7 is reached.

Fans have been quick to judge to the Habs, to point fingers at the under-achievers, to call for the head of the coach and demand top quality trades from the GM.  It is their prerogative to do so but the blame game can not single out only Alex Kovalev or Carey Price or Georges Laraque. 

The entire team has flushed away this season, from the captain on down the lines and it has nothing to do with stopping every shot, killing every power play or capitalizing on every chance.

It has to do with passion: passion for the game, passion for the team and, in the case of the Canadiens, passion for the history of this storied club.

When you look back at the icons of hockey, you are drawn to names like Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante and Guy Lafleur, all men who have proudly worn the CH.

Each played with a fire that burned deep in their bellies, a passion that can easily be seen in any photograph of the "Rocket"; the cold-eyed certainty, the sheer determination and dedication.  It is hockey fury in still life and in black and white.

Gentleman Jean Beliveau, who played 20 seasons in Montreal with a Stanley Cup ring for every finger as jeweled proof.  His name appears on the trophy a staggering 17 times, a testiment to his dedication to this club and should stand as a beacon to all who dream of a landing a rental player to help them all drink champagne out of the Cup.

They were legends in their day and remain so to this very day.  All of them -- Lafleur, Plante, Robinson, Gainey -- understood what it meant to be a Canadien, to wear the logo that is sacrosanct to believers and non-believers alike.  Nothing unites the city of Montreal like the hockey team that represents it.

It seems more and more unlikely, in a decade or two, that Montreal fans will cherish the memories of Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev, or Carey Price and Christopher Higgins. Even the questionable judgment of the Kostitsyn brothers will be long forgotten, being a footnote in a dismal stretch of lifelessness.

Earlier this year, Kovalev lamented "off-ice distractions" such as the 100th anniversary celebrations.  Perhaps it added pressure to this squad, an additional burden to carry knowing expectations are so high. 

But the same pressure was put on the shoulders of Richard and Beliveau, Lafleur and Dryden and Robinson.  Instead of complaining, they carried the load, understanding the demands of the rabid fans and meeting their expectations with a flick of the wrist or a blistering slap-shot.  For those that have gone before, it was never a burden but a torch that all Habs players, past, present and future, are expected to carry. 

Until this current team realizes that, until the roster begins playing with the passion this team feeds on, it will be many long seasons before another banner is hoisted to the rafters.