The washed out, grey sky and the glistening frozen-tundra-look of the trees is akin to the frozen wasteland the Canadiens have become. And just like the weather that announces snow over the next day or so, the immediate future looks decidedly frosty for the Habs.
I can honestly say that, in the 35-plus years of watching this team, I have never seen the organization in more turmoil.
Sure they've had their share of drama like when Patrick Roy was traded, the Mike Milbury-like Rejean Houle years and even the Bob Gainey rebuild of 2009.
But none provoked as much angst and frustration from the Habs fanbase as their current situation.
Politics not sport
So this morning, as I read about a protest of the Canadiens being organized by the Quebec and Montreal French Movements, and I hear politicians getting up on their soapboxes to slay the evil anglo demon known as Randy Cunneyworth, I can't help but feel sick to my stomach.
This is not hockey. This is not the Montreal Canadiens. This is politics, pure and simple.
It's an opportunity for some in the media to advance their personal agendas. It's an opportunity for politicians to jump on a bandwagon in order to gain votes and trumpet a dead and dying cause.
But more importantly, it's an opportunity for the strong xenophobic current that lies dormant in Quebec culture to rear it's ugly head.
Maybe it's just fear, as my HabsAddict.com colleague, Louis Moustakas wrote (en Français).
Whatever it is, I won't get into the details of the language debate. Enough people have already hashed and rehashed them. But I will say that as a born and raised Montreal Allophone who used to be married to a French-Canadian woman, I truly understand both sides of the debate.
And my one wish would be that there was a little more moderation on both sides. If each took one step toward the other, perhaps a reasonable understanding could be reached.
For those who say that it should be the best coach, no matter what, and that language has no bearing on anything, I ask, do you have no knowledge of Quebec history?
Do you not understand the roots of this team and the repression French-Canadians used to suffer in this province?
And for those who say it must be a French or French-speaking coach, no matter what. That winning is secondary to protecting the French language, I say, do you not want another Stanley Cup in Montreal? Would you not be happy with a championship team, regardless of who is running the ship?
I would also ask why do we have to be stuck in the past? Why do a people need to be stuck in the mentality of a movement whose roots took ground 60 years ago?
It is not better to move forward towards the future rather than living in the past?
But I'm not here to discuss this current sports battle turned politics. I am here to show how when a team is falling apart, as the Canadiens certainly are, the vultures come out in full force.
And that is exactly what is happening right now.
We've heard the refrain "winning cures all" this week and, when it comes to the Habs, that has never been more true.
And I'm not talking about short term winning, since this year looks like a write-off, but winning on a perennial basis. Becoming a Stanley Cup contender again. Having an on-ice product that is both entertaining and successful.
Those are the key ingredients that have been missing from this team since they last won the Cup in 1993.
It starts at the top
If you haven't yet read Bertrand Raymond's brilliant piece about Gauthier and the current language problem, do yourself a favour and check it out.
Sorry my anglo readers, it's in French. :-)
In short, Raymond explains how the seeds for the Canadiens current mess were sown when then Habs President, Ronald Corey, fired GM Serge Savard and brought in Rejean Houle.
He says that the organization has had poor drafting, terrible trades and a coaching carrousel since then.
Hard to argue with any of that and Mr. Raymond basically nails the descent of this once proud organization. He also discusses the shortcomings of Bob Gainey and his successor, Pierre Gauthier, and goes on to talk about how Gauthier is finished in Montreal.
And I tend to agree.
When Gainey took over this organization, he was a ray of light. He was the man who was supposed to shepard the Habs back to glory and out of the dark times of the 90s.
Instead, since he took over in 2003, the Canadiens are perennially one of the highest spending but lowest achieving teams in the league. Moreover, Gainey and Gauthier have shown that they simply do not know how to manage a team in the salary cap world.
They run the team like it's still 1994.
With long term, high paying contracts to Michael Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez, in addition to rich extensions to Andrei Markov—who for all we know will never play again—and now Tomas Kaberle, the Habs are a team who will continue to be up against the cap for the forseeable future.
And the kicker? Most of these are second-tier players being forced into top-tier roles and being paid accordingly.
What an absolute mess.
To me, there is no doubt in my mind that Gauthier will be let go by or before the end of the season.
Heck, if Habs owner, Geoff Molson, is smart he's probably already looking for his replacement.
Who he ultimately hires for the job will determine whether this team will get back on track or remain a rudderless ship.
Taking a step back, this year, in order to take two or three steps forward in the future is not a bad thing. It's the "we must make the playoffs at all costs" mentality that has kept the Canadiens in a one step forward, one step back dance for the last 15 years.
Here's hoping Molson brings in someone who understands the modern game, is creative, innovative and knows how to build a winner. Anything short of that will unfortunately bring more of the same.
As Hockey Inside/Out's Mike Boone pointed out in his post-game piece, the Habs need 60 points in their remaining 47 games to end the season with 93, and make the playoffs.
That's 30 wins out of 47 or a 63.8 winning percentage from here to the end of the season.
Can you say early tee-time?
Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/
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(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)