When Carey Price acknowledged a sputter of visible jeering directed toward him with a sarcastic gesture of his own amid, the Montreal Canadiens’ elimination at the hands of a, 4-1, loss against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, one could see an eerie similarity in the way in which Patrick Roy surrendered to fans on Dec. 2, 1995 and his last game in the old Forum.
While it would be inconceivable folly to mention Price and Roy in the same class, both expressions were indicative of remorseful times in La Belle Province, however, Price, the object of much derision this season, did show a very rare glimpse of overt frustration in what may be a year many Canadien fans will remember—albeit for the wrong reasons.
As the Canadiens scrambled for a playoff berth in a season that marked the centennial anniversary of the historic franchise along with a demanding litany of expectations—i.e. Stanley Cup contention—little success came into fruition, and now a bitter off-season will allow much time for judgment.
Considering where the Canadiens stood in the standings early on—they hovered in and around the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference—it would have taken a precarious, whimsical bet on Proline to predict a collapse as steep as this: a first-round playoff series sweep only perpetuating a year of competitive dearth.
In retrospect, there are explicit points to which one can attribute the Canadiens’ demise as they unraveled like a ball of yarn.
Vincent Lecavalier rumors
The 29-year-old centre was at the heart of many speculative reports published in La Presse and abroad and became almost an obsession for the media as the NHL headed into all-star weekend.
Despite signing an eleven-year, $85 million contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning, much fans believed such a deal could materialize given the grandiose standards made in Montreal.
Carey Price buried in the Young Stars game. After sustaining a terrible ankle injury, the 21-year-old net minder complied with the obligation of partaking in the 57th annual all-star game, however, he was also called upon to play in the Young Stars game in which he conceded nine goals in a 9-5 loss to the Western Conference.
Prognosticator Don Cherry has reproached that decision and accredits Price’s lack of confidence to the game and how it might have hampered a successful recovery.
Kovalev in exile
As the Canadiens began to lose their stronghold in the East upon the completion of the all-star festivities, general manager, Bob Gainey, announced Alex Kovalev would remain at home on one of the Canadiens’ upcoming road trips in mid-February. In his return to the lineup against the Ottawa Senators, Kovalev was able to score a goal and two assists in a, 5-3, victory, but the disparaging message had already been mailed.
Time to party
To exasperate the Canadiens’ mid-season shortcomings, several images resurfaced depicting Montreal players on the party scene in the off-season last year, including Kyle Chipchura, Carey Price and Josh Gorges.
While it was merely a piece of trivial news that didn’t provoke any supplementary discipline, one could see the pieces falling off their Jenga tower—especially for Price.
Life in the fast line
Three Canadiens were alleged to have befriended 38-year-old mobster Pasquale Mangione, who was apprehended by Montreal police after being charged for drug trafficking.
Defenseman Roman Hamrlik and forwards Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn were later named the players involved with Mangione at one time or other, but no evidence linked them to possible offences.
This occurred during the same week in which Kovalev was benched and managerial worries were mounting, which happened to coincide with an even further slide down the standings.
GM Bob Gainey relieves Guy Carbonneau of coaching duties and assumes the position in the interim. There were rumors pertaining to rifts in the dressing room that were not mediated by Carbonneau and suggestions inferring he no longer had the attention of his players.
Canadiens or neither?
Owner, George Gillet, was rumored to have put the Montreal Canadiens up for sale as loans piled up. The issue was downplayed by the organization, but it still remains ambiguous as to whether there will be a new owner next year.
…Oh, and the Canadiens at this point had a one-point cushion for eighth in the Eastern conference.
After vacillating in and out of playoff contention, the Canadiens managed to hold on to the No. 8 seed.
While success in a series against the rampant Boston Bruins was unlikely, a 4-0 series sweep may only dictate further losses for the franchise. Will Gainey still be the general manager?
Is Saku Koivu going to resign with the only team for which he has played?
There are 10 unrestricted free agents that will need to ruminate their future—and if it should remain in Montreal.
At least no one can say the Canadiens came and went without a stirring.