This isn’t some post to blast the Montreal Canadiens for telling Andrei Markov to shove off back to Russia today. Markov is yet another player who was massively overrated simply because he played in Montreal. Andrei Markov is fine. If he was on your second pairing, you could probably get away with it. The only reason the Habs got away with him on their top pairing for so long is because Carey Price was behind him, and for a lot of years PK Subban next to him.
No, it’s not that. What it is is to poke holes in what the Canadiens are and what they think they are. The Canadiens would like you to believe they are the NHL’s Steelers, or Cowboys, or Packers, or Celtics, or Lakers, or Yankees. This is in fact, utter horseshit.
I’m sure that if anyone really cared in July, and if there’s any fandom that’s going to get all huffy and bloated other than Hawks fans it’s probably Canadiens fans, I would get bombarded with the number 23. That’s the amount of Cups the Habs have won. Well I’m here to tell you that over half of these are crap.
Honestly, the NHL shouldn’t count anything that happened before the expansion of 1967, much like the NFL doesn’t really reference anything before the Super Bowl era. That’s when things counted. Before then, the NHL was essentially 100 guys cracking each other over the head for 70 games in a system that was completely rigged to funnel talent to Montreal. Wow, you beat five other teams with the best talent available. They’ll write tons of songs about you one day (actually, they did). While other leagues have obviously expanded as well over the years, none were ever as closed as hockey. We don’t count the Bears championships before the Super Bowl era. They have one. Which is why they’re pathetic.
So that leaves the Habs with 10 Cups, which obviously still leads the rest of the league by miles. Fair enough, I guess. Except the Habs haven’t been in a Stanley Cup Final in 25 years now, and if it wasn’t for Patrick Roy that number might be 39. Here’s a list of teams that also haven’t appeared in a Final in that time:
Three of these teams only came into existence somewhere in that window. Here’s something for you, the Blues have appeared in the same number of conference finals as the Habs have in that time. The Coyotes are only one behind. Wow, what a tradition.
While every franchise in every sport goes through dips, the teams the Habs would like to associate themselves with never go through a drought this long. They find success in every generation. The Steelers did miss pretty much all of the 80s, but got to a Super Bowl in ’97. The Yankees missed the 80s pretty much too, but have been a constant story pretty much every decade other than that. Same goes with Lakers and Celtics… ok maybe not so much the Celtics, who other than that Garnett/Pierce three years have basically been useless since 1988. But hey, they had those years. The Habs have not.
One of the NHL’s many problems is it doesn’t really have a generational villain, at least not one south of the border. The Canadiens don’t move the needle, no matter how much they’d like to tell you they do. The Leafs never have. We’d like to think it was the Hawks, but that’s only a product of the past decade. In two or three years time, the Hawks are not going to be much of a villain anymore. They don’t have the staying power of being one for generations, at least outside of St. Louis. You may find this about the Patriots too when Brady and Belichick retire as well, as they are only a product of the last 15 years (though it seems like 100). Give the Pats three years without either and you might just think of them as you do Washington. Had a good, limited run there and it’s contained to only that time. Does anyone other than Killion remember they won two Super Bowls in four years? And I guarantee he doesn’t.
Moreover, the Habs continue to embarrass the sport with how they judge and scout it. It’s actually rather amazing that the league itself has allowed the Habs to have this policy where they can only hire a coach that speaks French, relegating them to glorified morons for I don’t know how long (and I don’t even know where Claude Julien fits). If the Canadiens want to do it that way, then they should go totally Athletic Bilbao and only have Quebecois players. Would anyone dare let them do it? We know they’d prefer it.
Moreoever, Marc Bergevin continues to make idiotic trades and deals in order to be “harder to play against.” He traded the league’s most marketable player for what basically boils down to racism. NFL owners would be proud. There’s a rumor going around that he didn’t re-sign Markov and let Radulov walk because he thought the make-up of his dressing room was too Russian, as if that type of bullshit is still regular thinking in front offices around the league (and it is).
Even if the Canadiens were regularly a powerhouse, I don’t know that it would vault them in the minds of fans where their fans just assume they inhabit. But it assuredly would be better for the league. I wonder if they ever can get it back. It’s close to 30 years since the Canadiens did anything that mattered to anyone (remember, their two conference final appearances in that time basically saw them get clobbered both times).
The NHL looks poised to just jump from one team’s era to the next, without something linking them. My father grew up hating the Yankees as did I, along with the Cardinals. So that’s why one of the few times he and I ever drank together was the night the Yanks blew that 3-0 lead. He grew up hating the Celtics, and so did my brother. Fans everywhere have generations that are connected by the presence, good or bad, of the Steelers or Cowboys.
What links hockey fans now? 10 years from now you’ll wonder. There will always be regional rivalries, but honestly the Penguins have a better chance of being that than the Canadiens do.
You’re just the Maple Leafs in disguise, Montreal.