By Marc-André Breault – We often read and hear fans talking about the Stanley Cup. Some people claim that for the Montreal Canadiens, anything short of a Cup won’t be enough. It must be said that many of these supporters remained in the ’70s when the Tricolore was a powerhouse in the league, back when it was almost unacceptable to not win the precious trophy. A beautiful era that the newer generations would have liked to live in. For the most hardcore and most competitive fans, the Canadiens have to finish first and take home top honours. Being in the top 16 is not good enough. Unfortunately, I believe that we must also make concessions and realize that times have changed.
Like many of you, I have played the game and I still play it today. The difference over time is that my competitive blood has almost disappeared. I would love to describe my game as a Brendan Gallagher, but standing at 6-foot 2-inches and 200 pounds. Except that I’m more the type to miss an empty net by hitting the post, or the goalie’s glove appears from nowhere in front of my shot. Okay, I’m a lot more like Artturi Lehkonen, but not as good of a skater. But, I’ve always been the type to leave everything on the ice… even when trailing by several goals.
The fact remains that I experienced the competition like the majority of us and I am also convinced that like you, I have seen people give up after seeing the opponent score a couple of goals. I’ve seen teams struggle with nothing going their way, like the Habs this season. Despite all of that, we as players were playing for the Championship, for regionals, or provincials… In the end, should we have been disappointed for not going all the way, and feel sorry for ourselves? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s that different when it comes to the NHL. Some players get disappointed faster than others and quit sooner than others no matter what salary they make. But most remain very competitive.
When I was hearing people complain because Marc Bergevin kept saying that the goal was to make the playoffs, it boggled my mind. Those people may not understand that the ultimate goal was the Stanley Cup, and it goes without saying. Every NHL players, manager and coach aims to win the Cup. There might be the exception here and there, just happy to have millions in their bank account without having to work for the rest of their lives. But, for the most part, the objective is the Stanley Cup. To achieve this, you have to first make the playoffs. We saw it last season with our amazing playoffs’ run. Sometimes you are underdogs but you make it to the end regardless. We lived through a few examples with the Cup wins of 1986 and 1993. We saw the Los Angeles Kings, after finishing in 8th place, raise the Cup at the end.
My biggest desire is not necessarily to have a team that wins the Cup every season. But to see a team that will be competitive, in the playoffs every year for a long time. A team that will be able to compete with the best teams in the NHL and that will be able to get passed the first round of the playoffs on several occasions.
Today, there are 31 other teams who dream of winning top honours. In the 1970s, only 17 other teams battled to make the playoffs. At that time, only 6 teams did not participate in the playoffs. Today, 16 teams are not taking part. Whatever our expectations, dynasties like the Canadiens experienced, or the Islanders at the time of Mike Bossy, would be very unlikely. We will see good teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago or Tampa Bay. I understand those who want to see the Cup, we all do. But perhaps we should realize that our expectations are simply too high, and unrealistic. Perhaps the next dominant team will be Jeff Gorton’s who can continue Bergevin’s work. We obviously all want that.
Go Habs Go!
The Road to Respectability and Success by Bob Trask