I haven't ranted lately, simply because it's hard to do when the Montreal Canadiens claw their way out of the sewer and back up a long ladder to the top of the Eastern Conference.
They've been playing some good quality hockey, and they've found a lot of team spirit which is translating into solid team work. Throw in a fresh start courtesy of Geoff Molson, Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien and I've been a happy Habs fan for the most part.
But there are still some things that are obviously amiss. That being said, this is still less of a "rant" and more of a "musing online".
Right off the bat I'd have to say my biggest frustration this season is watching Erik Cole. Last year I finally warmed up to Cole because he was a hard worker who used his size and speed to drive to the net. He's got good hands and when he decides to play he's enormously talented and fun to watch.
It took me a while to warm up to Cole after he signed with the Habs just because I used to hate him killing them when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes. But the things that helped me to appreciate him more have gone baby gone and I just don't understand it.
I know he was upset about the lockout, running his mouth and frankly pissing me off. I'd have overlooked that had he come back to the team with a fresh attitude and some hard work. But neither is apparent this season.
If he's indeed thinking of retiring I truly hope he does it sooner rather than later. He's either disinterested in the play or else he's gotten arthritic. I don't know and I honestly don't care anymore. His lack of offensive contributions aside, he's oftentimes a defensive liability. Sure the text to his teammates was nice, and he did step it up for a game or two after that, and that's about as much good as I can say about Erik Cole this season.
This team could really use his size and speed and leadership right now, and instead the line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Cole - which led the team last year and was expected to contribute most of the offensive production this year - has become its worse. Pacioretty is finally kicking into gear again after and Desharnais is looking more like last year's version, but Cole remains an enigma.
One player the Habs did sorely miss last season and now have back and working hard is Andrei Markov. I adore Markov. He's a funny guy and his coach calls him The General for good reason. Markov can calm down a play and has some of the best "hockey sense" on the team.
But he's also the wrong side of 30 and after two major rehabs he's lost a few steps. His communication with Alexei Emelin is nice, but they're often times put up against top lines when frankly Josh Gorges and PK Subban would be a safer choice. While I'm talking about the defense corps, I have to admit Raphael Diaz surprised me pleasantly this year. I didn't see him coming.
Other things I don't currently get / like / understand about the Montreal Canadiens and the NHL in general:
- constantly icing the puck. If they're going to keep doing it at least bring out a cake onto the ice to justify it.
- the power play. Can we fix this please? Five on five play rocks, but the Habs are missing too many opportunities that are constantly coming back to bite them in the patootie.
- the penalty kill. Note to PKers: you're not allowed to take the night off. No excuses, remember?
- the TV commentators constantly saying that the NHL refs are the best in professional sports. Just because you say it doesn't make it true. Make up calls are obvious to even the casual hockey fan. If my 90 year old non-hockey watching grandmother can see it, it does in fact mean you suck as a ref.
- three games in hand for the Boston Bruins. Whoever draws up the NHL schedule, do they use an app for that or go the old fashioned way and use a dartboard while blindfolded?
Lastly, I still completely resent my many years of waiting for the Canadiens to develop some sort of killer instinct when facing bottom dwelling teams, especially if they have a rookie learning to get his first NHL goal ever. The Habs will always roll over for these guys and the rookie always gets his first goal against them.
It's so tiresome. Really.
Team spirit and unity is all well and good, but why is it so seemingly impossible to develop a bit of the opportunistic bastard? Isn't this team supposed to be going back to a winning mentality? Why does it always go AWOL against the craptastic teams? I realize that the players are very nice guys, but they might want to use PK's "I hate everybody and I want to hit everybody" mantra once the puck drops.
Yes they're still atop the Eastern Conference, but there's only a couple of points separating them from their divisional rivals with whom they've already struggled against this season. The top of the ladder is always a precarious position.
I've never seen a Cup winner that doesn't possess the ability to beat down a vulnerable team when the opportunity arises. The Habs might want to take note.