The Worst Fans in Hockey: Take 2.

As the Habs stand on the precipice of elimination. It saddens me to see the fan (and some media) reaction to the current roster. I’ve already written about how Habs fans can be considered some of the worst fans in hockey. I am fully aware it’s a broad statement. If you spend five minutes on twitter reading through any fan base’s tweets and you’ll see plenty of terrible fans. Mainly it’s people who refuse to either look into the details of the games or players; enjoy meaningless hot takes; or are prone to mob mentality. This reached a crescendo in my head when I saw Sean Campbell, host of the post game show on TSN 690, tweet about a “fan” who called in last night to complain about Pacioretty, because he believed that  Beliveau would have deked on the breakaway and that shows leadership. I mean…I have no words for this…so I’ll simply carry on. 

One thing I want to make clear is that I’m not against criticizing your team; everyone is entitled to that opinion and right. Especially as a consumer of the product that is sports. My issues is with the sub segment of fans, who prefer to live with their narrow view of the game and seemingly exist simply to stir the pot, or bask in negativity. Typically these fans are ultra-quiet when the Habs are playing well or will nit-pick on one player struggling despite team success. Look all fans will sometimes veer into the negative when things aren’t going right, but some prefer to just stay there. It just seemed that the Habs seem to have more of them, or maybe they just come out of hiding for the playoffs. So I’ve identified the 7 types of worst Habs fans, and ranked them on the DEL: “deking equals leadership” scale of 1 to 5; 1 being mildly offensive yet somewhat understandable and 5 being so irrationally stupid that you wonder if that person is constantly drunk and was watching cock fighting instead of hockey but thought it was a Habs game, so they kept yelling “Patio-ready sucks!!!” at a chicken.


The Bandwagon Fan

 Habs win game 1 of a series? This fan is talking about the Stanley Cup! Planning the parade route and party. Habs lose game 2 of the series? This fan morphs into a “He Sucks” Fan or a “Chicken Little.” Habs win game 3? C”EST SENT LA COUPE! Habs lose Game 4?…ok you get the picture.

 DEL Rating: 1. This fan is annoying, but not the worst. Most of these fans are either getting swept up by playoff fever or don’t usually watch the game on a regular basis. As mentioned – there is a fear that these type of fans dip into a more annoying fan type, but many are willing to just be supportive of the team and remain positive.

 

The Numbers Team and the Anti Numbers Team.

 I grouped these two together, because I’m only talking about the extreme fringe of each group. Those who only live and die by analytics, and those who flat out refuse to even acknowledge the value of numbers in any shape or form. Full disclosure here:  I am a numbers guy, but I don’t think they are absolute. I understand what PDO is but I don’t think it’s just an indicator of puck luck. Perhaps over the course of a season, but in a short series with the most talented players on the planet? It could be an athlete elevating themselves into a level of focus that allows them to exceed their average play even if it’s only for a few games. On the flip side to deny the value of these stats when they have so obviously been indicators of success means you’re so out of touch that it makes it difficult to be credible. 

DEL Rating: 2.5 Both extreme wings of these groups fall into a “know-it-all” category which is insufferable at times. It’s ok to have your ways of viewing the game, but don’t push that view on others, and scoff and belittle those who don’t share it. At the end of the day, you want to see your team succeed, but these fans come off a selfish, and usually deserve a to be ignored or occasionally, punched in the face.

 

The Subbanites

I love P.K. Subban, when the trade first happened, I wrote a whole blog on how I believed it was a mistake. It’s important to note I also love Shea Weber. They are two different players, and I appreciate what both can bring to the table. As the season progressed, there were moments were I missed Subban, or felt he could have helped the team, but in the end the trade was made, and it’s over now – move on. It’s ok to cheer for Subban, and be happy for his success, but don’t use it to revel in the Habs struggles. Those who constantly compare Subban and Weber, and gleefully point out that the Predators swept the Blackhawks to mock the Habs are bordering on trolling. Be the bigger person – Subban certainly has been – if you really are a fan of his, than emulate his character and class and shut the fuck up. 

DEL Rating: 2 to 3. It’s still fresh enough that I’m willing to be somewhat understanding, but as time goes on this will slide up the scale. In the meantime, Subbanites need to meet someone new, or go see a shrink so they can learn to let go. It’s not good for the soul to hold a grudge, or be an annoying prick.

 

The Old Timers Club

 Look, I’m all for nostalgia, after all, the Habs have a very rich and impressive history. But…that was then, and this is now. The game is so different as compared to the 90s, the 80s, the 70s that you cannot compare eras. It is a fool’s errand. I appreciate the lessons of the past to help build a better future. But when it comes to sports, some of those lessons don’t make sense anymore. The game is faster, players are bigger, goalies are better, management is different, coaching is more detailed…it is a different game. Furthermore, the Habs haven’t won a cup in 24 years – just like the Subbanites need to learn let go, so do the Old Timers. Be proud of the history, draw motivation, and spirit from the legends but don’t blur the time line. Enough with “these guys need to play with more vigor and jam! They don’t have enough heart. Dag nabbit! They need to hit more! Shoot less! Drink raw eggs, and crap thunder!! I don’t want Maurice tonight. I WANT THE ROCKET” and so on…until they fall asleep. So unless you have a time machine or can find those damn Forum Ghosts and bring them to the Bell Center, you need to step into the present.

 DEL Rating: 1.7. I have a soft spot for these old timers. As a fan who has read up on the history of the game, and Canadiens. I have become more sympathetic to the good old days. Furthermore I think the Canadiens mean more to Montrealers than most other franchises around North America. I’m not suggesting they are better or worse, simply that the Montreal Canadiens and the city of Montreal’s are intertwined in their history. Sports has become part of culture in many places. In Montreal it’s been the case for 100 years….Good Lord am I becoming an old timer? No way, I’m going to put on my Jean Beliveau jersey, read the hockey sweater, pound some prune juice, and go to bed early.

 

The Chicken Littles 

A lovable group, only in the fact these fine folks are as consistent as Andrei Markov. Pre-Season; Regular Season; Playoffs; Off-Season…it doesn’t matter to our fine feathered friends, as catastrophe is always looming around the corner. A player will inevitably slump, an injury will definitely occur. The coach will make the wrong decision, the GM will bring in the wrong player. A player’s positives are completely glossed over to concentrate on the negatives. I actually feel kind of bad for these fans, because I think deep down they want the Habs to succeed but they are incapable of seeing anything positive that would allow them to have hope. Perhaps they fear hope, after all it’s easier to hang out in the dark versus actually come out in to the light, and taking a look around. In the end these people have an expiry date, and begin to reach dangerous levels of annoyance in their constant negativity

 DEL Rating: 3. This can quickly spiral into a 5 if negativity levels reach a code red. But sometimes it’s easy to fall in the chicken little mode when things aren’t going well so I’ll give them a slight pass. But for those stuck there…at some point they will either need to be brought in or dragged into the light. Where they will either turn in to dust or begrudgingly accept that “hey, it’s not so bad to cheer for your team, win or lose.”

 

The “He Sucks” Fan

 An amalgamation of the Bandwagon Fan, a Chicken Little, with a pinch of know-it-all. The “He Sucks” Fan is close to being the most annoying fan in existence. Almost every fanbase has these fans, but Habs nation takes the cake, as no one is safe from the clutches of this type of fan. This season Max Pacioretty became only the 5th Montreal Canadiens in their history to have 4 straight 30 goal season. As captain this season he was the most steady presence on the ice all season. He has become a two way force and dynamic penalty killer as well as one of the best goal scorers in the NHL. So of course because he’s struggled to score in this series (but generate chances, create space on the ice, and get shots on net): “He Sucks!” Carey Price has another stellar season in nets for the Canadiens. Widely regarded as one of the top 5 goalies in the NHL, he has backstopped the Habs to number of playoff appearances and earned a Vezina and Hart trophy along the way. Despite the fact he has no goal support in this series, has .936 save percentage and 1.82 GAA, numerous fans have come out and said “he’s not playing well – told you he was overrated.” One media member had the gall to suggest that Price wasn’t “stealing games for the Habs”…so I guess that means: “He Sucks!” Look I know the best players on a team will always be held to a different regard, however to ignore the work they are doing and quickly dismiss them as lazy or not good enough, shows a lack of credibility and understanding as a fanbase. It takes a significant amount of assuming to be a “He Sucks!” fan, and in the end you definitely come off looking like an ass to you and me.

 DEL Rating: 5. In the end this fan is so incredibly frustrated they need a smoke, a glass of wine, and a massage just to end up tense. They will also turn on a dime the second a good game happens to the players they were currently hating on. Stating all along that it was their complaining that got the player to kick it into extra gear even though that players has been playing as hard as possible all along. The most frustrating aspect of this fan is their complete and utter denial that the other team has anything to do with Habs’ struggles. So many fans seem blind to the fact that Lundqvist has been incredibly good for the Rangers in this series, and has kept them in games for long stretches where they could have been down by 2 or 3 goals. 

“Lundqvist? He Sucks…Pacioretty and Price? They suck MORE! TRADE THEM ALL! Blaaargghhhh”

Ugh….Well at least this fan is consistent…consistently annoying.

 

The Troll

 The ultimate worst fan. The fan who isn’t a fan of the team, but a fan of hate. One who stirs the pot, and makes outlandish claims aimed to generate a reaction. This fan is the mutant offspring all of the worst fans with a dash of evil thrown in. They exists only to crap all over the Habs and humanity, and revel in failure. Usually a front runner who jumps from being a fan of whoever the best team in the league is at that given time. This fan believes no one wearing the CH is good, and that the Habs will never win; don’t want to win; and can’t ever win – and will say anything to “prove” it. This is the fan that other fans tell spooky stories about around a camp fire. 

The Troll. They are rarely seen as they are often sitting behind a keyboard and tweeting away and cackling like an evil scientist. There is no redeeming quality to this fan. The worst of the worst. The only way to beat them is to ignore them. Because they can very quickly cross a line and they can be hurtful.

 DEL Rating: 10. If I ever met a troll in real time. I would tell them “I’m sorry you’re the way you are’ and walk away…right after I break their fingers so they can’t mean tweet, or cyber bully anyone for a few weeks. Assholes.
 There you have it. Come on Habs fans! I know there are plenty of good, honest hockey fans out there. Let’s rally behind the team and cheer them on win or lose! Habs in 7! 

Go Habs Go!

The NHL’s Worst Fans…?

Given the Habs red hot start, I resisted blogging due to superstition. 

Yes, I actually believed that releasing a blog post to my tens of fans (Hi Roy!) would somehow alter reality and cause the Habs to lose a hockey game.

 Look no one ever said superstitions made sense, it is what it is…and it’s f’n real, ok!

 (Please note: I also believe in winged horses, pagan Gods, and Batman)

 As a result I’ve missed out on putting down my thoughts on the record setting 9-0 start. While one can argue that I didn’t even do a preview post before the season began, I could argue back…nothing…since I totally could have done it. My only valid excuse is that I had tend to my multiple fantasy football teams….and my child, of course…if I go missing one could assume it’s because my wife gave me multiple F5’s after reading this section.

 I’ll keep my thoughts on the Habs start to a minimum because ultimately my overwhelming feeling throughout the whole run was “it’s only October.” While it’s nice to bank some points early and not have to rely on a mad dash finish to make the playoffs to secure home ice advantage. I couldn’t help but think that this start was getting way too much attention. Either way, the big 3 have stepped up and played great. A full season of Petry will do wonders to rest our top pairing (specifically Markov) and give the bottom pairing more time to grow (specifically Beaulieu). The 4th line has been great, and Galchenyuk has looked good at center. So all this leads me into my next point, which sadly has overshadowed anything else I wanted to write about with regards to the Habs.

 Alexander Semin.

 Not specifically Semin, but the fans reaction to Semin. Not just about Semin…but the fans reaction after Monday night’s 5 -1 loss to the Canucks. (Even worse I heard someone complain about Price, this person’s name is probably Judas and suffers from short term memory, and is blind…and deaf). Also can’t forget the fans’ over reaction to the game against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. (one fan: OH MY GOD THEY GAVE UP 5800 SHOTS!! THE HABS SUCK) (another fan: YAY WE ARE 9-0 WE RULE THE UNIVERSE, CALL OFF THE SEASON. WE GOT THIS) (me: SIXTY! SEVEN!) (sorry I couldn’t resist)

 It comes down to the fans’ reaction.

 It’s often said that Montreal has the best fans in the NHL. I’ve said it myself. During one of many (long) short and sweet posts waxing philosophical about hockey and life, I’ve mentioned how galvanizing the fan base can be during a playoff run. How tremendous the Montreal fan base can be. Well here I am to sing a different tune. For the most part we do have some amazing fans, but – and keep in mind: I’m a super fan, I watch every game, I own a plethora of paraphernalia, my son’s first word was Habs (this isn’t true, but I wish) – I’m here to say that…

Habs fans are the worst fans in the league.

 Cue “Yes!” chorus from my Bruin, Leafs, Flyers, Senators, Rangers, Canucks, Oilers, Sabres, (this list can go on) fans. However I’m not stating it from their point of view. Those teams love to hate the Habs for a myriad of reasons, chiefly among them is how Habs’ fans love to remind people of their rich history and championship pedigree. While I admit this can be annoying (nostalgia is fun, but it has its limits), any fan would love to have lineage and history of the Montreal Canadiens. I mean could you imagine if the Habs had still been winning cups this whole time, my God…we’d be insufferable. We’d essentially be New York Yankees fans…Yuck…hold on while I take a shower after that thought.

 No, my statement is based on the fact that Habs’ fans live and die from one extreme to another. Look honestly they aren’t better or worse than any rabid fan base. Most Canadian cities have irrational fans, but everything gets amped up here, due to the history, the culture, the politics, and the fact that everyone is a know-it-all. While saner minds usually prevail, it’s sometimes disheartening to see our fans come down on a player because of a perceived reputation and not based on his play on the ice. It’s even tougher when that is sometimes split along the lines of language. I know it’s complicated but it’s also not complicated. This is your team: support them! You don’t abandon ship at the first sight of trouble, just like you shouldn’t cram aboard the bandwagon because your team is doing exceptionally well…in freaking OCTOBER…I mean is it even November yet? Get a grip people.

eh Michel? Which way to the parade mon gars?

 It’s all compounded by social media which gives everyone a platform to voice opinions…I fully support this of course, but it’s hard to read things about Semin for example, when you realize fans simply aren’t willing to educate themselves. I mean the guy has a 57 CF% and producing more shots on net per minute than Tomas Plekanec. Yes he’s looked a little slow, yes he’s had some brutal turnovers, but you know what…so have other players. The fact remains he’s a useful player and you have to question how the coach is motivating his players or if he is using them to their full potential. But hey, let’s pile on a guy who’s been in our line up while we went 9-1, of course he’s the reason we are struggling! It’s hard to swallow such irrationality of expectations sometimes. Habs fans have become like that student in the class…you know who I’m talking about…that kid who gets mad because they got an A, not an A+…Really? I hate that kid…unless I needed help understanding algebra, then that kid was my BFF…

 I’d say it’s compounded even further by the fancy stats crowd. While I’m a huge proponent of the advanced stats movement, and have written about it at length…holy crap are they a bunch of negatrons. Habs advanced stats have been decent through ten games, but in the last few games they’ve fallen off…CUE THE NUMBER GEEK POLICE! HABS SUCK! WEE WOO WEE WOO (that’s supposed to be sirens)…sometimes these guys are more insufferable then the layman who won’t educate himself and still be pissed that we lost “one.” Hey now, I respect the numbers, I understand the concerns, but these people are like those kids at the arcade back in the day; the ones who knew all the crazy codes at Street Fighter and wouldn’t tell any others. SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE GUY…instead of being all smug with your hadoukens. I know Therrein doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to advanced stats, but you know who does…Price and you know who else? P.K Subban, and wouldn’t you believe Captain Pacioretty has excellent metrics as well. I know Semin is a lightning rod for the number guys, but let’s face it guys; he isn’t making or breaking the Habs this season. His benching isn’t a good sign, but at the same time, it’s early in the season and maybe you want other guys to play and get some burn. I always try and say this, don’t assume to know what’s happening behind closed doors, the makeup of a team is more than just numbers and spreadsheets. Let’s not over react.

Hadouken your face Michel!!

 I wrote ages ago about the different types of fans. One of those was the “Chicken Little”, a fan who couldn’t believe in this team no matter what. Even if they won a Cup, they were the genesis of my “Bursting into Flames” post because I could genuinely see these naysayers exploding at the sight (and utter confusion) of the Habs success. The sad reality is…all the different types of Habs fans have a slice of “Chicken Little” in them. The biggest Habs haters, aren’t the Bruins fans, or Leafs fans, they’re Habs fans.

So let’s focus Habs nation, there is A LOT of season left to play, there will be slumps, streaks, injuries, and surprises. Let’s keep our eye on the prize. Going 82-0 was never an option, and even worse going 82-0 and losing in the first round would be meaningless. The games that matter start in April, and they end in June. That’s what Bergevin is concerned about, and that’s what we should be concerned about. Let’s not fret small decisions, bad turnovers, and uneven score adjusted Corsi. Just take a step back off the ledge, stop planning the parade, and relax. I mean, the team is having a great start, let’s just enjoy it and appreciate the effort from les boys. Only in Montreal will you find fans nitpicking anything on a 9 and 1 team. I, for one, will do such thing! We have a good team, with great players, solid complimentary players, and a mediocre coach…Damn, I was this close…oh well can’t win them all…there’s clearly some chicken little inside this fan as well.

I guess that’s what losing since ’93 will do to a fan base…

 …But hey at least it’s not as bad as’ 67. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

 Go Habs Go

Habbin’ a drink with…

Montreal is an incredibly diverse city; filled with people from different cultures, different walks of life. However, there is one one thing everyone has in common; they all know how to solve whatever ails the Montreal Canadiens. Look I know, that Price has been all multiverse this year, and the power play is less effective than whatever the hell they use to fill in potholes in this city. I know Therrien seems too conservative and the Habs’ “analytics” suck. But, despite battling for top spot in the league, despite having a Norris candidate on defense, a potential 40 goal scorer, a two way dynamo at C, some young and exciting players…the natives are still restless.

Not much you can do about the attitude of the masses…just hit your local watering hole and have a pint…

…Now I’ve chronicled the different types of fans that you’ll see walking the streets of Montreal before. Taking that idea and my penchant to occasionally sauntering around the city to watch Habs games with the millions (and millions) of Habs fans around this city. I’d like to take it from the view of the average pub goer; I’d like to recap the different type fans that you’d encounter at the local pubs, sports bars, and restos around the city. We’ve all had an encounter with one, or two, or all of these amazingly different, somewhat depressing, but ultimately fascinating Habs fans.

 1) the “Coach” 

This is perhaps the most fascinating fan, as they are unaware of the fact that they actually can’t be heard through the technology of the TV.  These loyal, die-hards are constantly yelling at the TV, giving instruction, and turning to their bar patrons to dole out criticism. All while violently gesturing at the TV with their pint glass.

 “Coach” phrases overhead at the bar:

“Awwwww man!…What are you doing putting Eller out there again!?”(Note: If Eller scores, the Coach will loudly say “I told you Eller was going to get one there, eh?”)

“Cycle guys…awww man…guys…you need to cycle…Cyc…what the hell is Desharnais doing!?…CYCLE!!”

“F’n Pacioretty…and his stupid eyebrows…you had 39 goals last year!!..what are you doing passing the puck!?”

2) the “Tweeter” 

 Social media is a wonderful tool that allows fans to get live updates, extra details, and all sorts of stats during a game. It’s also allowed fans a soap box to post their reaction to any moment of the game. The Tweeter is often found face illuminated by his smart phone, as he furiously types about the latest decision from Therrien or a significant part of the game. These hashtag maestros also tend to miss portions of the game due to their inability to not let the online world know their very important opinion. Once in a while you encounter the Elite Tweeters, these rare birds are a sight to behold as their eyes are fixated on the TV, yet their thumbs look like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix. 

“Tweeter” phrases overheard at the bar

(Note: mainly heard is the sound of furious typing and clicking noises)

“DD still getting more PP time than Eller? #therrienbeingtherrien #freeeller #nomorehobbits #habs” 

“Habs #fancystats are brutal once again. #firetherrien #hockeynerd #corsithis #fenwick4life #getdownwithPDO #yeahyouknowme #MBhireme #imavailable” 

“HOLY SAVE BATMAN! AND BY BATMAN I MEAN CAREY PRICE. #wow #habs #vezina #hart #batman #iamthenight”

 3) the “Napkin Ripper” 

Also known as the “Beer Label Shredder”, and the “Drink Coaster Destroyer.” This nervous nelly spends most of the game with their eyes fixated on the TV, while their fingers are working with the dexterity of a Patrick Kane deke. Often caught muttering mumbled phrases under their breath; these origami flunk outs also tend to be very pessimistic about the Habs chances regardless of how they are playing.  They form a mountain of trash at their seat that doubles as a pile of tissue for them to bury their face in should the Habs suffer a heart breaking loss or an emotional victory.

“Napkin Ripper” phrases overheard at the bar:

“…please Saint Maurice lets us win…omg…I’m so nervous.”

“Umm, excuse me…I need another coaster.”

“Damn you Tampa Bay!!!” (Note: this is followed by bits of paper being flung in the air like confetti…and tears.)

 4) the “Bait and Switch” guy. 

This is the guy at the bar who dressed up like super fan: Habby McHabertson. You take a seat next to this guy; you know you got a loyal Habs buddy to go through the ups and downs of a game…or so you thought. The Bait and Switch guy or BS guy as I like to call him, isn’t a real Habs’ fan – he simply dresses like one. A shyster, who is seeking bar friends. The BS guy is quickly revealed – not really knowing anything about the game, and even worse not giving a shit about the outcome. Be weary of the BS guy, if his Habs gear looks a little fresh, and he’s drinking a Smirnoff ice, approach with caution.

 “BS Guy” phrases overheard at the bar:

“Hi, big game tonight eh!? Oh yeah…who we playing again? The Nordiques?”

“Is Halak starting tonight?”

“…and yeah, so as I was saying – the paint in the bathroom started peeling…oh it’s overtime? Ok I’ll wait to tell the story…” (Note: at this moment there is also a high probability of the BS guy being punched in the cornea.)

 5) the “Out of Towner”

These poor folks fall into two camps: those who are aware of the utter hatred love affair the city has with the Habs, and those who don’t know anything about hockey.  Most of the time these curious foreigners get swept up in the madness that is Montreal hockey fandom. I have to note the inclusion of the “out of town hockey fan” – they are here to cheer on their team and disparage everything about the Habs and the city. Occasionally, depending on how many beers they’ve had, they end up failing to grasp the utter madness that grips the people of Montreal and end up getting kicked down a giant Montreal sinkhole while some fan yells “THIS IS SPARTABERNAC!”

“Out of Towner” phrases overheard at the bar: 

“Eh lad, can we put it on the football game? Real football though mate…”

“Well I’ll be, y’all are crazier than a Brahma bull fighting a Texas rattle snake!”

“Montreal sucks!!! Let’s go Bruins! (Note: Fight breaks out.)

“Montreal sucks!! Toronto rules man. Next year man, Leafs all the way.” (Note: Laughter breaks out.) 

6) the “Barfly” 

This poor “regular” who’s favorite watering hole gets commandeered by loud, obnoxious, younger fans during the playoffs. While the good ol’ Barfly just wants to get to his seat and order his Labatt Blue. He is forced to shove through throngs of Habs’ jerseys, t-shirts, caps, and jackets – all so that he could find some young fan in her tied off Price tee, yapping with some BS guy wearing an old Kovalev jersey he borrowed from a friend’s closet. This curmudgeon mutters under his breath and finds another stool to watch the game from, and although it offers a better view of the TV, it is never as good enough as “his” seat.

“Barfly” phrases overheard at the bar: 

“Merde…stupid kids, not even watching the game.”

Any phrase that starts with “Back in the old days…”

“Who farted?…oh it was me. Maybe that’ll shoo away the kids…ha!” (Note: when the young lady looks around to see who dealt it, the wily Barfly will point at the BS guy and make a face.)

7) the “Friend”

This is that poor sap who was dragged to the bar by their Hab loving friends, with promises of free beers and a fun night after the game is over. These stool fillers are there to drink, occasionally pay attention, and will spend an inordinate amount of time outside smoking, or playing games on their smart phone.

“Friend” phrases overheard at the bar:

“Bro, are we doing Bueno Notte after this? Bro?…Bro!? Pay attention to me.”

“Who’s winning? Is it over?…Who wants a smoke? Some fresh air eh? Let’s go boys.” (Note: he goes alone)

“Yo Bro…who won the Stanley Cup in 2011? I need this sports crown to beat this stronzo at Trivia Crack”

8) the “Shoot!” guy 

The Shoot! guy is a devolved, drunker version of the Coach. The Shoot! guy also shares the inability to discern that his voice doesn’t resonate through the time space continuum to reach his intended target. These infamous famous and loud fans are well known in all hockey towns, They take their passion for yelling “shoot!” from the arena, to the bar, to their basement. 

“Shoot! guy” phrases overheard at the bar: 

“…Shoot!”

“Shoot Tabernac!” (French Shoot! guy)

“Shoot you f@$&er!” (English Shoot! guy)

“Shoot Malaka!” (Greek Shoot! guy)

“Shoot Stronzo!” (Italian Shoot! guy)

“Shoot ya khara!” (My Dad and I)

“…Shooootyamuthassshitassmalakfckstickyourface…zzzzzzz” *passes out on bar* (Drunk Shoot! guy)

“…eh bartender… … …Shots!!” (Temporarily sober Shoot! guy)

  

 Any other Hab pub goers I missed? Let me know in the comments below or give me a follow @wolverine_z.

Till next time.

Go Habs Go.

 

Fanalytics:  How analytics has changed the game for hockey fans.

There has been a lot of discussion on analytics and how advanced stats have changed the way teams are built, managed, and coached. We’ve seen the supporters argue the detractors, but not much has been made of the fan who is just a fan. The guy or gal who loves their team, and just wants to see them succeed.

I have to admit; considering my relatively young age; my affinity for sports stats; my desire to always learn more about the sports I love; it took me a while to come around on advanced stats.

The consumption and understanding of the numbers wasn’t the issue. I’ll never be mistaken for Will Hunting, but I do enjoy delving into numbers when it comes to my favorite sports teams. Simply put, looking up stats has always been a hobby of mine. Like a lot of people from my generation, I was the prime age for the hockey card revolution that swept the early 90s. While I collected a variety of cards, I also read them all. I would sit there for hours, reading the little blurb on the back of each card and checking out the stats; comparing players to each other. Eventually I ended buying books (yes before the internet we had these things called books) so that I could compare stats and see how my favorite players stacked up historically. 

 Yet, despite my affinity for numbers, I didn’t pay much attention to advanced stats when they first started creeping up in the mainstream a few years ago. 

I admit, my biggest issue with advanced stats is, I didn’t understand them in relation to a team sport like hockey. Like most sport fans, my first introduction to “analytics” and the use of “new” stats was through the book Moneyball (and the movie based on the book, which is based on the Oakland A’s). Baseball was the first sport to really push the advantage that advanced stats provided.  However, right or wrong; I always felt as though baseball was a game within a game; a one on one sport within the confines of a team sport. When it came to team sport like hockey, I couldn’t see, or maybe didn’t want to see, how it could help me understand a game that was reliant on so many different factors, working concurrently, for team success. 

Hockey fans take their cues from the hockey players they cheer for. They are fierce, passionate, and will defend their teams to the the point irrationally. Like the players they adore, they are tough and stubborn. The introduction of analytics into a sport that reveres toughness above all; that celebrates violence and includes fighting and bone crushing hits, was like receiving one of those jarring open ice hits from Scott Stevens.

 It seemed like blasphemy to say that size was not as valuable as speed, after all haven’t we heard in Montreal how our team is too small, too soft? It seemed strange that we should value a player who can control the puck along the board, and not the one who can put people through the boards. As a fan of the physical side of hockey I scoffed at the notion that Corsi, Fenwick, and whatever other oddly named stat could tell me more than what my eyes, mind, and heart could see. Hockey is an emotional game, and like any other sport,  there are intangibles at play that cannot be measured by numbers. 

 My first reality check came during the Habs playoff run of 2009-2010, aka: that time in our lives were we promised some deity that we’d name our first born Halak. While I was swept up in that playoff run like so many other Montrealers, it was clear we were winning due to incredible performance in nets. Were we opportunistic? Yes. Was our special teams play excellent? Well our penalty kill was, but the bottom line is Halak was able to steal two series for us. So before I even knew what PDO was (feel free to click this link to get an understanding of it yourself) I could see that we were going to be screwed if Halak regressed even a little bit. I don’t have the numbers but I suspect the PDO was through the roof through the first two series…I maybe way off, but the Habs run of 2009-2010 may be the best case study ever for the value of PDO. Sadly Halak did regress (he had a .939 and .927 SV% in the first two series, and that dropped .884 against Philly) in the conference final and the Habs were ousted by the Flyers in 5 games. 


 Two seasons after that exciting run, the Habs had their worst season year in recent memory. Ironically the Habs even strength play was better than that 2009-2010 season, but we couldn’t win games. Strange how that works? How can you explain that? That’s when advanced stats started making sense to me… 

 I felt it was prudent to go through some revisionist history because at the time, there was no major discussion about analytics at homes, in the bars, and even among die-hard fans. Recently the NHL debuted a whole section of their website which the called enhanced stats, that is quite the progress. However, as someone who considers himself a fan who can wear many hats, I could understand some of the resistance to how important these stats are.  When having a discussion among friends about the Habs, I’m the only one who brings up advanced stats. Some of my friends are intrigued, but most are dismissive. Do I blame them? Not really. Not everyone cares about the numbers, some fans just want to know the results, some fans just want to cheer their team on and see them win, regardless of how they do it. It’s not my place how to tell anyone what type of fan they should be. I would prefer to be more informed, but that’s my personal choice. Ultimately that may be the biggest issue I have with how advanced stats are pushed, your team maybe outperforming their analytics, but can you enjoy it if you live and die by their Corsi numbers? It takes the fun out of it a little…doesn’t it? 

 On the flip side, I recently I came across this stat: “five of the last seven Stanley Cup Champions have been top 5 Fenwick % teams during the regular season. What’s more, of the 14 teams that reached the Final since 2007-08, 10 teams finished in the top 10 in Fenwick %.”  I shared this info recently with friends, and was dismissed quickly, not because it didn’t make sense, but because they didn’t want to understand it. The context of the conversation was my concern that the Habs weren’t as good as their record, and my nugget of information ruined the enjoyment that they derived as fans that their team was in first. I suppose, if I had said that “10 of the last 14 Stanley Cup finalists had been top 10 in driving shots towards the net if you discount blocked shots.” I may have been met with a more receptive audience. This is where my issue with both the stats crowd and the non-stats crowd comes into play. Both sides are stubborn; both sides refuse to accept the shortcomings of their point of view. 

Up until now, advanced stats have NOT been explained very well to the everyday fan. It is only in the last year that it has been adopted by mainstream media. TSN and Sportsnet began using he terms; agents began using it to negotiate contracts for their players. The group of people who first pushed this new phase of hockey analysis were defensive of their stance, and in their defense, it was because they were met with narrow minded and old school views. Furthermore there is often a complete lack of acknowledgment of the human element that comes into play. The intangibles. Last I checked, hockey was played by human beings and not robots. While the numbers have proven a puck moving defenseman is more valuable than a plodding, big, hard hitting defenseman. What if that hard hitting defenseman is a leader in the locker room? What if that player helps elevate the games of the other player on his team through his ability to motivate and lead; to be a stabilizing force in the dressing room? How do you quantify that? The obvious answer is to say “There guys are adults and they’re professionals, the better players need to play.” But that’s just as narrow minded as the hard headed fan who tells the stats guy to go take a hike without considering the value in their information. Hockey teams are a family, and the best teams aren’t the ones who are most skilled, but teams with skill who play together, for each other.  Maybe that’s a romantic view on sports, but I suspect anyone who played pro sports at an elite level, would back up that statement. Ultimately I think teams need to find that balance between skill and emotion; between the numbers and camaraderie.

While it’s one thing for casual fans to be dismissive of advanced stats. It boggles my mind that the media which is paid to cover team would also be as dismissive. While many media sites have accepted the analytics community and teams themselves have shelled out money to hire whole hockey analytic websites to be their advanced analysis departments, certain media members are still refusing to accept that advanced stats have provided an added layer of seeing the game. I suspect that many of them have less issue with the numbers and more with the people pushing the numbers. However I’ve seen various members of the media look silly when completely dismissing the value of the analytics community. I suppose that makes sense, since many of them were raised on the old school, rock’em sock’em model which is all but obsolete. When you turn your back on such firm stats such as “five of the last seven Stanley Cup Champions have been top 5 Fenwick % teams during the regular season” you’re not just turning your back at the advanced stats crowd, your losing credibility with new fans, and casual fans who are curious about what’s going on. 

 The Habs this year have been a lightening rod for this head to head confrontation, due to the simple fact that they don’t seem to be playing well enough considering their place in the standings. However their goaltender is having a Hart contending type season, and while you don’t need advanced stats to see that he’s been saving their bacon all year. There is argument to say that he is part of the team and thus you can’t take away anything from the Habs standing.

At the end of the day, why am I writing all this? I’m worried about the Habs, and I’m also sick and tired of the “fight” between the old timers and the number crunchers. While this site will never become a stats driven site, I will always strive to include some layer of enhanced stats to help explain my point of view. At the end of the day, there are much better blogs/sites out there that break down numbers and make them digestible. For the Habs fans, who are content, and happy with the standings, I encourage you to read this article on Habs EOTP, by Andrew Berkshire. It’s a depressing look at the state of the Habs, and the best argument for why Carey Price should win the Vezina, the Pearson, the Grammy, the Espy, the Oscar, the Slammy, and the Hart award this year. Habs need to find more offense. Price will regress from his current hockey God level, to a mere super human like level, and without the added offense, the Habs will be hard pressed to go anywhere this year. This isn’t about being negative, or slamming the coaches (although I sure wish they would try something different…something new) – it just needs to happen. So whether it’s shuffling the lineup or fixing the powerplay – we need more goals. 

 As a fan, whether it’s through numbers or the almighty power of the “forum ghosts”, I hold out the hope that the coaches will figure it out, that our stars will be our stars, and that the Habs can make a run. 

 Go Habs Go.

NHL Individual Awards – Half Season Assessment (aka HABNRAMDCWITWWA)

I accept defeat, I accept the fact that I will not be able to update this blog as regularly as I hoped. Thus I have officially changed the name of this blog to “Random Rumblings”. Which I feel is a more accurate description of how often it is updated.

With that out of the way. I was planning on posting this big beautiful blog post during the NHL All Star game weekend. But in typical random fashion (see, it didn’t take long for the name to come in handy) – it did not get completed in time. Luckily with a few minor changes and some additional rumblings, it is now completed and ready for your reading pleasure.

The NHL All Star game typically represents the mid point of the season. As a result, we are inundated with numerous bloggers and pundits giving out their “mid season” awards that mean absolutely nothing since there is literally half a season left to be played. Never one to strive for uniqueness or glory, we at Random Rumblings Inc, will simply follow the masses and put out the first ever Halfling Award Extravaganza. Thus revealing how little we value our own picks and what geeks we are for naming our awards after David Desharnais Bilbo Baggins. (On a side note, I keep saying “we” because while one would assume I manage this awesome and consistently updated blog myself. I actually have a team of 23 people who help keep this site humming at a breakneck speeds)(If you believed that …than you must be the same person who thinks having one player from each team on the All Star game is a good idea.)(Yes, that means you’re an idiot.)

bilboholcey

So just to be clear this is not really an awards post as I’m simply breaking down the awards race, and eventually determining who I think will win the award….yes the name is misleading, but the truth is I also misled myself. I started writing this with the intention of giving out a mid season award…and then just ended up basically rambling for 2300 words instead. (Yes, I’m also an idiot)

Because I know how much you all love my long, long…long posts, I wanted to add as much crap into one blog entry as possible. (Since I probably won’t update the blog again till March…2016.) I will also rank – on a scale of 1 to 5 Bilbos – how likely the player I choose ends up winning the award (1 being not likely, and 5 being a shoo-in) and I will also provide a true, out of no where, dark horse per award. Finally….since this is a Habs blog, I will discuss which players on the Habs will win the “equivalent” award within the confines of the team.

In the immortal words of the Joker (geek alert #2) “… here we go…”

(Before continuing I have to note that I forgot to break down the Calder, which goes to the rookie of the year. Let’s just say it’s going to Filip Forsberg. With props given out to Aaron Ekblad.)

The Rocket Richard Trophy:

This looks like it’s boiling down to a five horse race between Rick Nash, Tyler Seguin, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and one of the most underrated players in the league –  Joe Pavelski.

Winner: Steven Stamkos – while he’s having a great season, and Tampa Bay has a deep team that has the best shot at winning the East. He still hasn’t gone on a real tear – I can see him going on a second half scoring binge and separating himself from the pack.

One Bilbo: All that said, this is as tight a race as we’ve had in years, especially when you factor in Nash’s reemergence and Seguin emergence as goal scoring dynamos. Finally you can’t discount number 8 – hard to bet against Ovechkin when it comes to goal scoring.

Dark Horse: Tomas Tatar – he’s been a ripping it up lately and is 9 goals off the lead with 22 total. Furthermore he’s playing for the Red Wings, who are the home made chocolate chip cookies of the NHL – always good, never disappoint. I also just wanted to say his name, which I always pronounce “Tartar”. (You know you do it too)

Habs Top Goal Scorer: Max Pacioretty – I was tempted to go with Max Pacioretty as the dark horse, but is he? He finished 6th last year and top ten again this year. Regardless, he’s got this category locked up as far as the Habs leading goal scorer. If I was also giving out Bllbos on the Habs category, he’d have 86387 Bilbos, and all of them would have been given super soldier serum. (geek alert #3)

Art Ross Trophy:

Hands up if you had Jakob Voracek as the league leader in points at the half way point of the season. Now hands down if you’re a compulsive liar. Hands down if you’re Jakob Voracek’s mother. If you do, by some miracle, still have your hand up, you should immediately forward your CV to the Toronto Maple Leafs because you’re a hockey psychic, and they will hire anyone. There are ten guys within 10 points of Voracek, including a pair of recent Art Ross winners, who’s lives are narrated by Morgan Freeman. As well as, noted point demons: Patrick Kane, Claude Giroux, Tyler Seguin and Tyler Johnson…wait what?? Ugh TB really is that good eh? (cue Habs fans sadly nodding their heads before they burst out in evil maniacal laughter and rip their clothes’ off to reveal Carey Price themed unitards.)

Winner: Jakob Voracek – Crosby and Malkin have had injury issues, which may hold them back. Giroux may have the best shot, but the dynamic with him and Voracek is pretty consistent which leads me to believe he will be slightly behind him for the rest of the season.

Two Bilbos: Like the Rocket race – this is to tight to call. Kane and Seguin have a great shot but play in a much more difficult conference, and you can’t ignore Sid the Kid, who’s more than capable of going on sustained stretches of brilliance.

Dark Horse: Steven Stamkos – is it even possible to call Stamkos a dark horse? He sits 12 points back, and as mentioned above, he has yet to go on a real crazy scoring binge.

Habs Top Point Getter: Maybe Max Pacioretty – It ultimately boils down to Pacioretty, P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec, with an outside chance going to Alex Galchenyuk. P.K. has come on strong lately, as the power play has finally found it’s footing. Galchenyuk, even at the age of 20, is probably the most talented forward on the roster, but does not get enough playing time…so I’m going with Pacioretty on this one. He’s the Habs’ best even strength player, gets ample PP time, and should finish on top in goals and total points.

Frank J. Selke Tropy:

They should really rename this award the Bob Gainey award, since it was literally created to honor him given that his defensive prowess did not always show up in the stat sheet. They should be careful in renaming the award however, since they would run risk that the award would then trade Ryan McDonagh to the New York Rangers for Scott Gomez… … …Let’s move on.

Top defensive forward in the NHL typically doesn’t have much turn over, as there have been 8 multiple time winners in the trophy’s 32 year history. In more recent years it’s sort of been given to the best “two way player” as winners tend have had some impressive point totals to go along with solid +/-.

Winner: Jonathan Toews – with perennial contender Patrice Bergeron having gone through some early season struggles, there is no clear cut favorite this year. Chicago is still tops among the league leaders in goals against and they do it without the help of a top 5 goaltender. Toews hits all the hot buttons; he is an elite scorer, solid face-off man, and great penalty killer.

Four Bilbos: There is a lot of hockey yet to be played, but let’s face it…what warm blooded Canadian hockey fan doesn’t love Toews. I think I go to bed every night and pray my son grows up to be Jonathan Toews. The NHL needs to a find a way to honor this guy, and the Selke trophy is the perfect award.

Dark horse: I just claimed that I want my son to grow to be Jonathan Toews! There is no dark horse, there is only Toews.

Habs Best Defensive Forward: Tomas Plekanec – This one is a no brainer; Plekanec will probably get consideration for the Selke. Pleks remains the Habs’ best two way player, main penalty killer, and is great face off guy. He also wears a teenage mutant ninja turtle neck and shall be called Plekanardo from here on out.

Plekanecturtle

James Norris Memorial Trophy:

The Norris has bounced around various players the last few years. But is generally an award that features the same contenders every year and has some impressive multiple time winners. This year we should also see new players garner some consideration. If the season ended today you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that Mark Giordano and Ken Shattenkirk didn’t deserve to be two of the nominees.

Winner: Shea Webber – in a year where there could be as many as 7 legitimate contenders for the award. I’m going with Shea Weber given that he plays for one of the best defensive teams in the league, he’s top 5 in TOI and +/-. He’s top ten in points and goals for defensemen. Finally, he was recruited by the Avengers to stop Ultron by shooting a puck at his face. (Geek alert #4)

Half a Bilbo: If the Flames make the playoffs, I’d be tempted to say that Mark Giordano would be the odds on favorite to win it, but the Flames are definitely not guaranteed a spot in the rough and tough West. Add in names like Duncan Keith, Ken Shattenkirk, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, and Erik Karlsson and this should probably be -3 Bilbos.

Dark Horse: No one – Given all the real contenders there just isn’t room for a true dark horse, so I’ll mention the name of one my favorite players in the NHL who is a tremendous defenceman but plays for the lowly Arizona Coyotes. Oliver Elkman-Larsson-Awesome. OK so I added the “awesome” but this guy is the real deal, and does not get enough recognition.

Habs Best Defenseman: P.K. Subban – I mentioned that P.K. Subban will probably be in the mix when it comes to the Norris conversation. He’s improved in the defensive zone, and his offensive game remains one of the best in the league from the blue line. Furthermore, unlike some of the other contenders P.K. has very little help in terms of carrying the load. Andrei Markov is an ageless wonder, but once you get by those two- the Habs’ blue line is dangerously thin. As a result, P.K. Is one of the most valuable defenseman in the league, as the Habs are a substantially worse possession team when he’s not on the ice.

Vezina Trophy:

Between 1990 and 2010 only 10 goalies were awarded the trophy, and most of those goalies showed up as multiple nominees. Sure there was that one year Jim Carey quit acting and played goalie for the Capitals in preparation for a big movie role, but the part went Jean Claude Van Dame who saved the day in Pittsburgh. Over the last 3 years we’ve seen 3 different winners, and two of those are in the running again. King Henrik Lundqvist who maybe the most consistent goalie of our generation, and Tukka Rask, who despite a slow start, he has really come on strong as of late. I’d also love to give a shout out to everyones lovable undersized goalie: Jaroslav Halak . But let’s face it this season boils down to two netminders who have not won the award yet: Carey Price and Pekka Rinne.

Winner: Carey Price – HOMER ALERT…but not really. While there is no doubt this is a Habs blog; my choice of Carey Price is echoed by various non Montreal based pundits, as well as opposing coaches. Furthermore various advanced stat articles have laid claim to Price’s dominance this year beyond the usual numbers.

3.5 Bilbos: Barring huge run by Rask (which is possible) – it’s coming down to Price vs. Rinne.The biggest hurdle for Rinne is staying healthy, he’s already missed the last few weeks with a knee injury.

Dark Horse: Branden Holtby – There are a few dark horse candidates, specifically Branden Holtby who has really bounced back after a down year to be top 7 in wins, GAA, SV%, and shutouts.

Habs best Goaltender: Dustin Tokarski. Just kidding. Halak? Oh yeah this guy…

IMG00022-20100327-1900CP

Hart Memorial Trophy:

This is officially the MVP award of the NHL. As with other MVP awards it is often difficult to assess who should really win this award. Is it the best player in the league? Or the player most valuable to his team. Typcally this award goes to a high scoring forward who plays for a playoff team. In fact over the last 30 years only one defenseman has won the award, and two goalies (with Dominik Hasek winning it twice in back to back years.) This year no forward has really separated themselves offensively, I counted up to ten legit candidates at forward. Such widespread attention, has left the door open again for a goaltender to sneak in, and two in particular have been staking claim to being MVP.

Winner: Carey Price – While Pekka Rinne is also very much in the running (the Preds have gone a respectable 3-2-2 in his absence.) This TSN article which I linked above, and this blog post from the managing editor of Habs Eye on the Prize, Andrew Berkshire, show without a shadow of doubt that Price is the most valuable netminder in the league. Despite some really impressive seasons some of the NHL’s brightest offensive stars. The bottom line is the Habs would not be a playoff team if not for Price. When you factor in that he’s the best at his position, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better choice.

2 Bilbos: Habs lost to the Sabres today, and there is a sliver of truth to the thinking that the Habs’ are too reliant on Price and he could wear down. Add that to the fact that this award typically goes to a forward and I’d have to say the odds are low.

Dark Horse: Phil Kessel? – What if the Leafs turn it around? and go on a run? and make the playoffs!! Yeah…dark horse…not a dead horse. How about Mark Giardano? He has no hope of winning this but the Calgary Flames have been one of the best stories in the league so far, and Giordano is the heart and soul of that team.

Habs’ MVP: Carey Price – He’s won the Molson Cup for the last 386 months…Look, it’s obviously Price. But P.K. Subban is not far behind. and Max Pacioretty isn’t far behind that. As mentioned in my Habs’ Season Preview the Habs’ will only go as far as the big 3 take them.

So there you have it there first ever “Hafling Awards But Not Really an Award, More of a Discussion on the Candidates and Who I Think Will Win the Award” Awards! better known as the HABNRAMDCWITWWA, (It’s really a miracle that the word HAB is in this acronym,..that was not planned.)

 

Go Habs Go!

The Game of Life

A hockey season can sometimes be a good metaphor on life. You start the season with a fresh slate, you have your plans, you have an idea where you want go and what you want to do. Of course, it never really goes as planned, does it? A key player gets hurt, a player doesn’t develop the way you thought he would, the competition improves. There are things that occur that are out of your control. As a result, you either adapt and move along or scrap your plans altogether and start over with another path.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, you have to take a moment to acknowledge what’s happening. Sometimes you need to allow yourself to settle before moving on.

Full disclosure – while I am a diehard Habs fan and have immersed myself in history of the team, I’m also under the age of 35. I only started watching hockey when I was 7, and only began appreciating the history and cultural significance of the Montreal Canadiens in my teens. I never saw Jean Beliveau play. When I heard of his passing this week, beyond a twinge of sadness I didn’t know what else to feel.

I do know he represents the holy trinity of famous French Canadian forwards to wear the CH. Along with The Rocket and The Flower, Le Gros Bill is held to a standard that borders on sainthood in the annals of the Canadiens de Montreal.

He differs from the other two in that he was also able to maintain that saintly personality off the ice as well. Mr. Beliveau was one of those rare athletes, whose greatness as a man outclassed his greatness as an athlete – a huge statement when you can argue he was one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Sadly, his type is quickly becoming extinct. I won’t sit here and write a long memorial on all the man’s achievements, when people who are much more qualified than me have done such an outstanding job framing his life and all his accomplishments, both tangible and intangible.

The following morning I was listening to TSN 690 on my way to work and got to hear so many people – from all walks of life – call in and talk about how Le Gros Bill inspired them with his play on the ice and how Mr. Beliveau inspired them with his humility, class and grace off the ice. In this city, hockey is more than just a game, but that’s really all it is – a game – and real life will always be bigger than the game. We put these legends like Richard and Beliveau on a pedestal, not because they were great hockey players (although that certainly helps) but because they transcended the game and touched our lives in more than one way. As I was listening to these callers, I couldn’t help but get emotional. I remember thinking: “Why am I sad right now?”

I’m not really sure; perhaps it was simply because a really good man passed away, leaving behind family, friends and thousands of fans to mourn and grieve. But I suspect it was deeper than that. Perhaps his loss represents a passing of a generation that we take for granted these days. I think we will be hard pressed to feel that kind of affinity for athletes anymore. Although we have unprecedented access today, with 24 hour news cycle and social media, athletes of today feel fake and generic – a 24/7 commercial, highlighting themselves and hocking their products. It’s a generalization of course, but with Jean Beliveau, we never felt he was anything but himself. That alone is a tremendous accomplishment – to be true to yourself and never compromise who you are for anyone.

Ultimately, no one should be sad at his passing. What I mean by that is he was older, he had a rich and rewarding life and left an indelible impression on so many. He had a good life. His life should be something we aspire to have because it appeared to be full of good, proud accomplishments and love.

True sadness at loss would be if that had never been realized. True sadness is the loss of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who at the age 24 was gunned down needlessly, leaving behind a young child who will never have a father to teach him about the Beliveaus or the Lafleurs, the Roys or the Prices. Death has a funny way of making people evaluate their own lives and take a look at what’s truly important and if they are devoting enough time to those things. So you should probably take that moment and stop worrying about things like losing streaks or slumps, that weird sound coming from your car, or the weather. Stop and think of your heroes and what inspires you, think of Jean Beliveau, think of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, think of your parents and grandparents, think of your friends who died far too young, think of those close to you now – your friends, your family. Take that moment because come tomorrow we’ll all move on, forget that perspective and go back to fretting about the small stuff.

Hey, Habs have lost 6 of 7 and look like they’re in trouble now.

They’ll be fine. After all it’s only a game. Right?

R.I.P. Mr. Gilles Tremblay
R.I.P. Mr. Jean Beliveau

 

 

Great Expectations: Habs Hangover Season Preview Edition

When the Hangover burst into cinemas in 2009, it was a revelation. It exceeded any and all expectations. It launched the careers of Zach Galafinakis and Ken Jeong, and propelled Bradley Cooper into an A-list actor. So naturally, after this epic run, news quickly spread that Hangover 2 was in the works. Excitement spread immediately; fans could not wait to see how it would top the first. Alas, while the movie was a financial success, it was ultimately disappointing (and led to a slightly better but also disappointing third movie).

The Montreal Canadiens just finished their most successful season since winning the Stanley Cup in 1993. They finished the regular season with 100 points. They rolled to the Eastern conference finals, highlighted by an emotionally charged and electric 7 game series victory over chief rival and Eastern conference powerhouse, the Boston Bruins.

So naturally, after this epic run, fans can’t wait to see how the Habs will top last season. Will they win their division? Will they score more than 100 points? Will they make it back to the Eastern Conference finals? The Stanley Cup finals? Will they lift Lord Stanley’s Cup over their heads and hang a 25th championship banner in the rafters of the Bell Center?

Well there is one guy out there that wants to pull back on the reins of Habs nation and say: “Whoa there, big fella!” He’s pretty important to the overall success of the Habs. He writes an effin’ amazing blog. He has won the last four fantasy hockey leagues he’s participated in, but let’s face it…realistically, I actually matter as much as one of P.K Subban’s farts. But Marc Bergevin, the man I was actually alluding to, does matter…he matters a lot. He went out of his way after last year’s epic run to quell expectations entering this season: “The fact that we went to the conference finals doesn’t mean that we start ahead of everyone else on October.” – He’s right, but fans tend to get playoff goggles.

Bergevin had a busy off season; vets like Gionta, Gorges, Briere, Bouillon and Vanek were let go to make room for PA Paranteau, Tom Gilbert and a slew of young prospects. Most fans rejoiced with the increased roles that would open up to our young roster players, and prospects. We need to take a moment and respect the players we released. While Gionta, Gorges, and Briere were clearly on the downside of their careers, they brought certain intangibles to the table and a winning attitude. Fans tend to take ‘experience’ for granted, and while there is an argument that young players won’t get experience as long as the old guys are around, you still can’t discount the stability that veterans bring to the locker room. That said, the Habs have a good mix of veterans and young players coming into this season and should be able to build off last year.

However, there are still some burning questions as we enter the season. Questions that – depending on how they are answered – will go a long way to shaping what direction the Habs’ season will take.

Here are my top 5 issues/questions facing the Habs as they enter the 2014-2015 season.

1) The Center Conundrum?

One of the main talking points of last season was David Desharnais’ effectiveness as the teams #1 center.
One of the main talking points of the off-season was about trading Tomas Plekanec.
One of the main talking points of the preseason was moving Alex Galchenyuk to center.

All three points are connected, with the general consensus being that it is a matter of time before Alex Galchenyuk ascends to the #1 center spot. So what happens to David Desharnais? It is well documented that Max Pacioretty is happier when he’s lined up with his best bud. Does Desharnais even have any value when he’s not playing with Max? Keeping Pacioretty happy is a key component, because he was proven to be somewhat surly and defensive when his effort is questioned and whenever he or Desharnais are struggling. So if Desharnais is required to appease Max (and frankly he’s a tough piece to trade as his value is so closely tied to Pacioretty), that leaves us with Plekanec and the true X-factor when it comes the center position: Lars Eller. Most people will agree at this point that Plekanec is a better player than Eller and you would get no argument from me. However, we can’t overlook these factors: Eller is 6 years younger; he makes 3.5M dollars less annually; he is signed for the next 4 years versus 2 years for Plekanec. He is also bigger and stronger than Plekanec. On the other hand, Plekanec has the experience, the higher hockey IQ, and is a two way force who warranted some Selke consideration the last couple of years.

Fearless Prediction:

I think this season remains status quo with Galchenyuk resuming his role on the wing, and Desharnais, Plekanec, and Eller manning the top three center spots. I predict that Eller and Galchenyuk will both have strong seasons. Next year – with Pleks entering the last year of his contract – we should see a changing of the guard down the middle of the Habs line up.

2) Can the kids step up?

Speaking of Galchenyuk, he will be needed to up his game to a new level this year. The same goes for Gallagher, as well as new edition Jiri Sekac. On the blue line,Nathan Beaulieu and Jared Tinordi will be expected to earn full time roles and contribute nightly. Dirty little secret about the Habs last year was that they were the worst corsi team in the playoffs and had the fifth worst corsi in the entire league. Having Beaulieu and a big body like Sekac to replace Gorges and Gionta should help. Ultimately, the skills of Galchenyuk, and the drive of Gallagher can help take the Habs to another level. The “young G’s” are only 20 and 21 years old respectively; both these kids still have a long way to go before hitting the peak of their potential. If the Habs are to maintain last year’s pace and/or take the next step, both kids have to take a step forward in their careers and (cross our fingers) stay healthy. (Galchenyuk has a dicey injury history, and Gallagher is always at risk of being shillegaghed by opposing goaltenders – Gangs of New York style).

Fearless prediction:

Galchenyuk leads the Habs in scoring and Gallagher leads the NHL in penalties drawn and goaltender interference calls. The Young G’s will notch new career highs in goals and points and continue progressing into premier players in the league.

3) 9 million reasons for P.K. to fail?

P.K.’s contract was a hot button topic this summer. In the end, he will be the highest paid defenseman in the NHL at 9M dollars per year (although with the influx of TV money coming in and the rising salary cap, his contract will be much more acceptable in a few years, but as mentioned – Habs fans tend to be shortsighted). While no one doubts P.K.’s confidence and skill, he will certainly have an extra big target on his back this year, and not only from opposing teams but from the media and fans. Should he struggle even for 2 or 3 games in row, there will be an avalanche of articles, tweets, and quotes about how he is buckling under the pressure of his new contract. P.K. needs to be able to quiet his detractors and take his game to an even higher level. As the Habs’ best player not named Carey Price, he will be needed to excel in every situation of the game for the Habs to mimic any success they had last year.

Fearless prediction:

P.K. finishes the season top 5 in defenseman scoring, top 5 in minutes per game, and becomes the first player penalized for farting on an opposing goaltender. Oh, and he will also be nominated for a Norris trophy.

4) Oh captain, my captain?

Will the lack of a captain hurt this team and serve as a distraction moving forward? Gionta was just named captain of the Buffalo Sabres and with Gorges serving as his back up, the dearth in the leadership contingent of the Habs is noticeable. While some suggested that Markov is the natural leader of this team, it’s been clear that he has no interest in the extra responsibilities that come with being captain of the Habs. P.K. was described as the natural future captain by some, and a “not ready, prima donna” by others. Finally, most pundits seem to agree that the one true leader of this team is in fact Carey Price, but goaltenders are not allowed to be captains per league rules. So in the off-season, the organization named Markov, Plekanec, Subban and Pacioretty as alternate captains and for the second time in less than ten years the Habs will play a season without a captain.

Fearless Prediction:

I should note that the last time the Habs did not name a captain, they went to the Eastern Conference finals. I don’t expect the lack of captain to be an issue at all as these “young vets” along with Markov should be able to guide and lead the Habs’ youngsters and new additions. By the season’s end P.K. will emerge as the one obvious choice to be captain, while behind the scenes Price will hold the most clout.

5) Can the Habs’ stars continue to shine? Can they shine brighter?

Carey Price emerged as a top 5 goaltender in the NHL last year. Max Pacioretty finished sixth in goal scoring with 39 goals. P.K. Subban followed up his Norris winning season by finishing fifth in overall point total for defensemen. They are the Habs’ version of the “Big 3”. Can they continue their success this year? Can they raise their games to the next level? None of them are even 27 years old yet – which is scary when you consider their level of success up to this point. So much is dependent on their play – from the Habs maintaining their top 5 penalty killing unit, to improving the Habs’ 19th ranked powerplay. They are also vital to the even strength game; Pacioretty dominated all Habs’ forwards in both corsi and fenwick 5 on 5 and P.K. led all Habs’ defensemen. Price had the second best save percentage at even strength in the entire NHL. While we mentioned many different factors in play for the Habs to succeed this year, the season will ultimately rest on the shoulders of these three players.

Fearless Prediction:

I already mentioned that I think Subban will be fine and will be nominated for a Norris. Pacioretty will take the ‘A’ on his jersey very seriously and elevate his game to a new level, cracking 40 goals and looking like a force. He will eventually join Galchenyuk to be one of the best center/winger combos in the league for the foreseeable future. While Price will obviously be in discussion again for the Vezina, he will also be in the discussion for the Hart trophy as he emerges as a true leader, and the irreplaceable piece to the Habs’ machine. The Big 3 will have the Habs battling the Bruins and Lightning for the top of the Atlantic division all season.

This season should be very interesting as key teams in the Atlantic division have improved, and Boston still rules the hill. However, led by the Big 3, the emerging play of the Young G’s, and some of the youthful additions to the blue line, they should avoid the hangover, improve on the almighty possession metrics, and contend for a top seed in the Eastern conference.

I hope.

We’ll find out – starting tonight versus the Toronto Maple Leafs!

Let me know what you think on twitter (@wolverine_z) or in the comments below.

Go Habs go!

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