Rabid Habs

The Forum: Why Can’t We Be Happy?

Habs vs Islanders
The Montreal Canadiens are in first place overall in the Eastern Conference. Carey Price is having a Vezina/Hart caliber season. PK Subban is picking up some Norris trophy steam. Max Pacioretty has emerged as one of the best pure goal scorers in the game. Last week alone the Habs defeated both of our bitter rivals in the Bruins and Leafs. This is arguably the best things have been for Canadiens fans in a couple of decades. And yet, the buzz out there surrounding the team can be  fairly negative.

So this week we ask, why can’t we just be happy?

Damon (@DTA23) -I think you failed to mention the loss to Edmonton, which could be a reason for the lack of euphoria.

More importantly I think that what everybody wants is – if not a Stanley Cup – at least a trip to the Finals. We’ve had regular season success, but no one cares about that. Do we want to be the Sharks and hang regular season banners from the rafters? I think the reason people aren’t happy is because we won’t be happy if the best thing to come out of the season is a first place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good place to be as fan. I don’t think that the fan base is unappreciative of the season, I think we just have higher expectations. I mean wouldn’t we all rather finish 4th in the East if it meant a trip to the Finals as opposed to a first and second or third round exit?

Right now the Habs look like a very good team, but the losses to teams like Edmonton don’t really spell out Cup contenders, which is why Habs fans might not seem as euphoric as they should be.

When you’re the most storied franchise in a sport you don’t celebrate regular season victories. You measure success in parades, no matter how long it’s been since the last one.

I’m glad that as a fan base we’re back to not placating ourselves with playoff appearances.

We’re the goddamn Montreal F-ing Canadiens.
Ça sent la Coupe
Go Habs Go
Long live PK

Zach (@ZachVanasse) – Unlike some, I’m actually a fairly big proponent of analytics and the “advanced stats” movement. I think there is plenty of insight to be gained from looking at a variety of metrics when evaluating talent/team play. So when I look big picture at the 2014-2015 Canadiens I am certainly aware of some of the red flags the analytics community have thrown up regarding this squad and their possession issues. There’s no denying that Price is covering up many of the team’s problems.

That being said, for most of my Habs watching life the Canadiens’ M.O. has been: try to make the playoffs and hope to win a round. That was all we could ever really hope for.

In the MB Era, that is no longer the case. The Canadiens are – for the moment – small ‘c’ contenders. And so we’re left wanting more than simply playoff appearances. Anything less than an Eastern Conference Finals appearance will be considered a step-back. In turn, our expectations increase. We want to see evidence that this team won’t just succeed in the regular season, we want the regular season numbers to reflect potential for true Big ‘C’ contender status.

The expectations have been ratcheted up for the first time in a generation, and I think that that’s okay. Actually, that’s great. This is the most storied franchise in NHL history. There’s nothing wrong with being not quite content with first place in February.

All that being said, you gots to enjoy what you gots when you gots it. Who knows how this season is going to end for Montreal? There’s an outside chance (that outside chance’s name is Carey Price) the Canadiens could win Cup No. 25 when the curtain comes down on 2014-2015.

I think we need to recognize that this team isn’t perfect, and maybe far from it.
But we also need to recognize that what we are watching – as Habs fans – is kind of special.

From Price to Patches to PK, the wins, the evolution of Galchenyuk, Beaulieu and the youth movement, the fact that Marc Bergevin is an active buyer with the deadline approaching… all of this is indicative of a very enjoyable season for Canadiens fans.

All eyes are on the Cup, and rightfully so. But let’s not, as fans, get so lost in that we forget to enjoy what has been – to this point – a pretty awesome ride.

John (@LWOScjcasselman) – In the context of where I thought the team would be, I’m absolutely ecstatic. Heading into the season I believed that we were poised to take a step backwards, as I thought we would integrate a number of younger players who would fail to fill the void resulting from the departure of our outgoing veterans.

Last week, the Canadiens iced a lineup that featured 12 forwards with an average age of 24.55. To put this in context, this forward group was over a year (on average) younger than the Edmonton Oilers’ forwards and almost a half year younger than the Ottawa Senators, two teams continually referred to as “youthful.”

The fact that the team continues to win with 19-year-old de la Rose and 22-year-olds Gallagher, Sekac, Bournival, and Thomas in addition to the very-recently-turned-21 Galchenyuk bodes well not only for the present, but the future. The key components within the organization are all under 30 years of age which suggests the potential for both short and long term success. So, in this context, I couldn’t be happier.

Over and beyond the Habs success is a much improved Hamilton Bulldogs team that features a number of prospects who appear capable of playing in the NHL. Our top prospects in the CHL, NCAA and Europe are enjoying productive campaigns, further entrenching my overall positive outlook.

It’s easy to forget the positives following a loss to the Sabres or Oilers. The fact that Edmonton, Arizona, Ottawa and Buffalo have combined to go 7-1-1 against the Habs is unbelievable, but it shouldn’t distract from the overall success. Just don’t mention that 15 minutes after a loss. After all, we live and die with this team. A loss to a team fighting to land the first overall pick is like Rory McIlroy losing to a club pro in 18 holes of golf. It just shouldn’t happen.

Kyle (@kyleroussel) – Why can’t we be happy? There’s two answers, depending on your viewpoint of advanced stats, because that’s where most of the unhappiness comes from, and it really came to a head the other night on Twitter (which I’m guessing served as inspiration for this question, amirite?).

(Editor’s note: You are “rite”)

1) “Traditional” fans say that the Propellerheads won’t let us be happy. We aren’t allowed to be happy after wins, unless the Corsis and Fenwicks permit it. Said another way, we should instead celebrate the process (once perfected) over the results. Play the “right way” (i.e. win the possession battle), and everything will take care of itself over time.

2) The advanced stats crowd say that Therrien is setting this team up to fail. With the one-size-fits-all breakout scheme, to the dull powerplay, to the frequently less-than-optimal roster choices, and finally, constantly on the wrong end of the possession battle, this team wins despite Therrien’s meddling. So while Price is putting up a thick layer of plaster over the team’s cracks and flaws, it will all come crashing down the minute he stops putting up the gawdy Hart-calibre numbers he’s been posting. He’s due for a regression, you know.

(Editor’s note: Never!)

Personally I am tickled pink to see the Habs riding high in the standings despite all this talk of “unsustainability” or “riding percentages.” The fact remains that just one team will win the Cup, and therefore a lot of teams with great advanced stats will not hoist the Cup. The constant warnings that the sky is about to fall are getting old and tiresome. I think most people are painfully aware of the pitfalls of relying on Price as heavily as the Habs do, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be happy.

I always hear people say that Therrien is holding the team back, and I’m not sure I understand that, despite some of the obviously odd choices. The team is currently a studly 37-15-4. What *should* their record be today if Therrien made all the “correct” decisions? Should they already have 43 wins and be closing in on 90 points? Should this be a team capable of 120+ points, if only the coach would get his head out of his ass? Is that what we expect now from this group? High expectations are great, but let’s keep things in perspective. The Habs best player is carrying the bulk of the mail, and the second tier of players are also putting up elite numbers.

If a team’s best players perform as such, and the result is 1st place, what kind of legitimacy can we assign to all the bitterness?