The 2012-2013 season (if there is a season) marks the twenty year anniversary of the last Montreal Canadiens team to hoist Lord Stanley. You can forgive Montreal fans if they skip out on this anniversary celebration. In the twenty years since winning the Cup, the team has had very little to cheer about.
During the 1992-93 NHL Stanley Cup Finals, goaltender Patrick Roy led the Habs to three consecutive overtime victories against Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings, en route to a 4-1 series victory. Twenty long insufferable years later, the Habs are experiencing withdrawal, still looking for the opportunity to take a swig from their elusive 25th Cup.
The year was 1993: Bill Clinton was in the first year of his presidency, the World Trade Centre was bombed (for the first time) and ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack by the late Whitney Houston was the best selling album. While at one time, the Habs could have employed the services of Kevin Costner’s character to keep hordes of adoring fans from mobbing players, there has been no such need for the bodyguard in recent times.
In the previous twenty seasons, the Canadiens have finished first in their division and have accumulated over one hundred points only once (07/08). Such anemic production would have never been expected (nor tolerated) from a team who had once notched eight consecutive division titles and 100+ point seasons (74/75-81/82). This was an outfit which could routinely sleepwalk through the regular season and still reach the 100 point plateau.
More amazingly, during the twenty year drought, the organization has seen ten head coaches come and go and come again. You do not need a trusty early 1990’s pocket calculator to figure out that an average of one coach every two seasons has not translated into much success on the ice. Cirque du Soleil has not been the only circus in town these past years.
During this down time, the only thing which has continued to work successfully for the Habs has been the revolving door. Long gone are the days when the Canadiens required the services of only two pilots behind their bench for over a quarter of a century (Dick Irvin and Toe Blake). Certainly, job security as Montreal Head Coach is not what it used to be.
With rookie General Manager Marc Bergevin at the helm, the organization is looking to turn the page and start anew, attempting to leave the past two decades of turmoil behind. Emulating their old formula for success and bringing stability to the franchise has to be high on the list of priorities for the rookie GM. Of course, the blueprint starts with the head coach position, which has enjoyed about as much stability as an 8.0 earthquake.
If the team once again sinks out of playoff contention, there will be pressure placed on Bergevin (by fans and media alike) to reassess Head Coach Michel Therrien, who is in his second stint with the Habs behind the bench. Patience is in short supply for the once spoiled Montreal faithful. The high turnover rate at the coaching position is a clear indication the natives have gone beyond the restless stage.
There appears to be a catch-22 situation at play: without stability you cannot attain success and without success you cannot have much stability. If the Canadiens can whip together a cocktail which combines a little patience, stability and success, they may be on the road to recovery. After a relatively long dry spell, there is no better treatment for the withdrawal symptoms than enjoying a few sips of the bubbly from the Stanley Cup.
It remains to be seen if the Habs’ new mixologists can blend together the proper ingredients for a winner. Even in the best case scenario, do not expect the bodyguard to come out of retirement anytime soon.