Habs fans have good reason(s) to look forward to the team's immediate future.
Just don’t tell Canadiens fans that, because on any given night, no matter the standings, the Bell Centre will sell out, and that’s including nights when the Habs are playing, just to be clear.
So yes, the Habs may have just suffered through their worst season since before the last lockout, and they may not blow anybody away this coming season, assuming there is one, but fans do have a lot about which to be happy. At the top of that list? The Toronto Maple Leafs placed dead last on the same Ultimate Standings.
Here are eight reasons Habs fans should be happy the 2012-13 season is right around the corner.
Lars Eller faces off against Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals.
It almost goes without saying, but if there ends up being a 2012-2013 season, it would be reason enough to celebrate. I mean don’t go breaking out the champagne just yet as next season stands to be incredibly trying from a Habs fan perspective.
Still, with most looking at the progression of the negotiations between the National Hockey League and the players’ union and seeing a chain of events eerily similar to that which transpired eight years ago, the thought of a hockey season eventually starting up is a welcome comfort. It may not be a realistic comfort, but it is a comfort, nonetheless.
Even for Habs fans who stand to watch the team fail to reach the playoffs, a bad season is undeniably better than a non-existent one… something that can’t necessarily be said for most things out there, like dairy products, a credit card bill or, say, Scott Gomez.
Hockey, as such, is unique, and a unique part of Canadian culture at that. NHL action can’t be replaced by university or minor-league takes on the sport, because the level of talent just isn’t there… kind of like Scott Gomez.
Yes, there will be many a Scott Gomez insult in this piece. If there’s no hockey, we must find new and inventive ways to keep busy, no? Read on and enjoy.
Scott Gomez of the Montreal Canadiens.
This coming season, everyone’s favorite whipping boy will be front and center…okay, maybe in the rafters playing cheerleader instead of center. Wherever he is, Gomez will be behind the eight ball, and all signs point to him disappointing yet again.
I propose Montreal takes this negative and embraces it. Dress Gomez, every game, well every home game at least. Make it part of each evening’s entertainment and force him to play through whatever it is fans have planned. Everyone thought Patrice Brisebois had it bad, but Brisebois never had a cap hit in excess of $7 million.
Remember 2010-2011 when Gomez put up a sickening 38 points in 80 and he was all like, “My bad?” Apparently, that was just broken English. He was really saying, “I’m bad,” and we all should have listened.
Instead, a lot of us gave him the benefit of the doubt and he came back with an even-more-pitiful 11-point performance over 38 games. What has he in store for an encore, you may ask? The only way for him to score any less would be to abandon hockey altogether.
How about the dark arts, Mr. Gomez? You can make yourself disappear. It’s the only way short of putting together a decent season that will get you a standing ovation, and you’ve already established that’s out of the question.
Lars Eller looks to skate past Corey Tropp of the Buffalo Sabres.
At least one good thing has come of Scott Gomez’s recent challenges to put the puck in the net (or much of anywhere): a presumably empty top-six spot that could legitimately go to either Lars Eller or Louis Leblanc. In such an event, Habs fans may be given something about which to smile, namely the future, which is undeniably bright.
It is admittedly hard to argue against Rene Bourque having the inside track to that spot, however unjustifiably. It’s easy enough to argue why he shouldn’t (8 points in 38 games, his generally apathetic attitude, with emphasis on the “pathetic,” etc.).
Bourque is however Montreal’s biggest forward and management may argue an immovable force such as his belongs on a top line, even if it’s from off his behind that he doesn’t move.
If Eller, for example, is rewarded for his decent season last year, who knows how potent Montreal’s offense will be? Right now Montreal has one decent line featuring two young guns in their own right in Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
Who’s to say one of those two or even a (very) dark horse like Aaron Palushaj isn’t the missing part of the puzzle, because all Gomez and Bourque bring to the table right now are misshapen pieces of dark-brown something or other where a blue sky should be.
Colby Armstrong, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Granted, the likes of Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust are not exactly bound to be the reason you shell out hundreds of dollars for a family outing (unless you're not a Habs fans and it’s a trip out of town to watch the Habs lose as the visiting team in another arena).
Still, new faces in the lineup do spark somewhat of a renewed interest in a team even in the most jaded enthusiasts. Think, for example, of how a new love interest in your life makes you feel that very first time you make eye contact, all bubbly inside and whatnot. Sure, a lot of that may be the beer not sitting all that well, but still…
In Armstrong fans get a player who once rode shotgun with Sidney Crosby and put up 40 points in 47 games.
Additionally, he ended up being the centerpiece of the Marian Hossa trade going the other way to the Atlanta Thrashers. Unfortunately, the Thrashers failed to take into account one crucial factor that resulted in him, well, sucking from there on out: Crosby would not be coming with him.
Jets fans can find little solace in how the team would have lost Hossa anyway as an unrestricted free agent as they threw in, just for the hell of it, Pascal Dupuis. That’s the same Dupuis who put up 59 points last season largely without the anointed one, on which to fall back. That’s more than Armstrong scored in the last three seasons (combined).
Meanwhile, Prust promises to add some solid scoring punch to the fourth line for just slightly more than six times the salary of the president of the United States.
In his defense, every NHL player does make more than $400,000, and there’s little denying Montreal needed to overpay in order to get bigger up front. I mean, all 187 of Prust’s pounds will do wonders patrolling the ice trying to protect the likes of Max Pacioretty…who weighs nine more pounds…and is two inches taller.
Joking aside, until Armstrong and Prust have been given a chance to prove they’re busts, they’re perhaps entitled to a little slack, the way you would wait until your hangover subsides before assessing the damage done following your latest drunken one-night stand.
Francis Bouillon, formerly of the Nashville Predators.
Following his second of two different stints with the Nashville Predators, Francis Bouillon will even more impressively lace up for his third tour of duty with the Habs. Fittingly, he also goes by “Frank the Tank,” taking somewhat of an old-school approach to hockey (one that doesn’t involve K-Y jelly, or so we hope).
He may not ever force fans from out of their seats with an exciting play, but Bouillon’s brand of hockey is nonetheless a physical, hard-hitting and, most importantly, effective one.
Bouillon was an unsung hero the first two go-arounds in Montreal, and that likely won’t change now as he’s going to be 37, he was always the unlikeliest guy to score on the ice (although that honor probably now belongs to Gomez) and Montreal’s top six is pretty much already set.
As such, look for Bouillon to spend more time in a suit than in uniform. Still, his stabilizing presence is a welcome one and will be appreciated by teammates and fans alike, much like a hot bowl of broth on a cold, winter day. Mmmm. Soup.
Brian Gionta, flanked by Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges.
It may not represent a completely clean slate, as injuries tend to stay with players, but this new season will nonetheless mark the returns of Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta.
Granted, the former actually played in 13 on Montreal’s final 14 games, but the true test of how Markov’s knees hold up starts at the drop of the puck for this latest NHL season. When healthy, both add an extra dimension to Montreal’s lineup.
That holds true when they’re on the shelf as well, but then it’s more a dimension reminiscent of the one created by author H.P. Lovecraft, complete with all the gargantuan, monstrous beasts that dwell inside who, upon their sheer sight, prompt even the most steadfast among us to go insane.
Or, you know, alternatively, you can just watch a taped compilation of all of Bourque and Gomez’s shifts from the past year on a loop. That works just as well.
In sharp contrast, it will be good to see both Gionta and Markov on the ice and hopefully regain some of what they have surely lost during their respective rehabilitations.
Michel Therrien, head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
All things taken into account, Montreal is poised to build upon the team’s horrible season from last year, but the question is by how much?
Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter as most who follow the team are well aware the rebuilding process will take a few years at least.
For the time being, it’s still going to be incredibly frustrating, especially to those who actually remember the Habs as the dynasty they once were (yes, those banners represent championship seasons and aren’t in the Bell Centre rafters purely for feng shui purposes).
As such, fans will take anything they can get and a team poised for an improvement in the standings, even a marginal one, is something.
The bottom line is the addition of Markov means Montreal’s defense will be much improved. Gionta does the same for the team’s offense.
Armstrong and Prust meanwhile admittedly add depth to the team’s forward lines. Even Gomez is bound to have a better season than he did last year. I mean he has to.
Granted, the star of Most Valuable Primate could have a better season than Gomez did last year, but word on the street is it was actually a group of three chimps that pulled a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on us…each of whom probably would not miss a step replacing him either.
In any case, Montreal may not contend for even a playoff spot, but they will potentially win more often and wins are more fun to watch than losses, unless we’re talking about losing Gomez. That guy really needs to find his way onto the side of a milk carton one of these days, you know, to reunite with his “game.”
Following the last lockout, a modified draft lottery enabled Montreal to come within four picks of taking Sidney Crosby.
Nathan MacKinnon is arguably the most talked-about prospect since one Sidney Crosby.
You know the one? The phenom who grew up idolizing the Habs…for whatever reason (remember, these were the Habs of the mid-to-late ‘90s). So much so did he want to play for Montreal that he just signed a 12-year extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins at his first opportunity.
In any case, while the Habs may not be as bad a team as they were last year, they do have a legitimate chance at yet another lottery pick, and that pick could turn out to be the next Hart and Maurice Richard Trophy-winning Crosby.
So, while the Oilers failed for Nail (Yakupov), stay glued to your television sets as the Habs prepare to stop winning for MacKinnon. Finally, a legitimate reason to play Gomez!