Rabid Habs

Looking Ahead

Habs fans

Depending upon the setting it is not uncommon that within minutes of meeting someone for the first time, I introduce the topic of hockey. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, maybe it’s a Canadiens thing, or maybe it’s just my thing – I really don’t know. While it is extremely impolite to ask someone their religious opinion, political party affiliation, or income, it never seems offside (no pun intended) to talk about the good old hockey game.

After raising the subject and declaring my allegiance I am left to evaluate the subsequent response. More often than not, I find myself speaking with a fellow Habs fan. However, in those instances where I have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a non-Canadiens fan (it just seems so weird saying that) I am left to evaluate the exchange. The opinion that other fans hold of the typical Canadiens supporter is one of extremes. In many cases, the one constant is the belief that all Canadiens fans live in the past. I do believe that there is truth to this assertion, however not in the traditional sense. Although many Habs fans, myself included, enjoy reminiscing about the great dynasty teams of the 1970’s or the overtime streak during the ’93 run to Lord Stanley’s Cup, where Habs fans become most guilty of living in the past is upon the subject of trades or player personnel decisions.

Ten years have passed and I still have conversations, unproductive as they might be, regarding the topic of the 2003 NHL draft specifically the decision to select Andrei Kostitsyn 10th overall. Of course, some Habs fans believe that rushing Guillaume Latendresse into the league as a 19 year old impeded his ability to become a perennial 40 goal scorer. Of course, in what might be the single most talked about trade in the storied history of this great franchise, who can forget the decision to deal Ryan McDonough? Not us Habs fans, that’s who.

Last year, the masses plied their knowledge declaring, almost unanimously, that the deal sending Raphael Diaz to the Vancouver Canucks for Dale Weise was the beginning of the end for Marc Bergevin. Fast forward a full calendar year and it has become increasingly clear that maybe, just maybe, the Canadiens leadership team, specifically Bergevin and Rick Dudley know what they are doing. This however is not to say that mistakes can happen, which brings us to present day.

Jiri Sekac, despite having played exactly 50 games with the Montreal Canadiens is now enjoying a lasting legacy. Once again, the fans are RABID, drawing lines and declaring a trade winner after 10 games. Although an early declaration seems to work in the political sphere, I don’t believe that a 10 game sample size affords enough opportunity for either player to fully realize their potential. Sekac, who appears to have the ability and skill to play within the top six, has shown flashes of brilliance. In exchange, the Canadiens received a player who they hope can fill a physical void, while skating within the top 9. As sides have been taken, projectiles have been launched within the Canadiens fan base as combatants vie to dismiss their co-hart’s assertion of one player versus the other. A maddening case of friendly fire has ensued. And upon each extreme we rest our case. When Sekac was scratched by the Ducks earlier this week, the press box pass was deemed validation that coach Therrien was justified in not providing Jiri a greater opportunity to skate within the top six. On the other hand, having amassed points in his first few games, the Sekac supporters were quick to announce that Bergevin had misjudged the prospect and erred in removing him so quickly. Ultimately, the deal will be judged on the merits of both individuals, in addition to their ability to introduce a specific skill or ability into their respective lineup. There is a fair chance that Bergevin was wrong to have traded Sekac so quickly. On the other hand, perhaps Devante Smith-Pelly becomes the better player, improving his ability to consistently perform at the highest level. Additionally, what we fans have no access to is the information which exists behind the scenes.

Although we see a single dimension, deals are often multiple faceted. Did Sekac ask to be traded? Were there issues behind the scenes specific to locker room chemistry? Could this be an extension to the previous deal involving Rene Bourque? Although none of the before mentioned examples appear to be prevalent, it is likely that there are motivating factors beyond our limited grasp. How this turns out is anybody’s best guess. What is certain however is that Canadiens fans will continue to labor their points and quickly rush to update a Facebook post, twitter timeline or blog entry following any point, scratch, hit, fart or first kiss.

So, we continue to live in the past. It is in the past that the organization has enjoyed its greatest triumphs and has also tasted its most bitter defeats. So much as I would like fans to move on from the Sekac trade, I have been around long enough to know that this is simply impossible. The only possible thing that will exhaust, nay dampen, conversation surrounding DSP for Sekac is the next personnel move, which will be dissected, chewed on and ultimately rehashed over and over and over again. So my parting message is not one that will ask the impossible. It is simply to say, consider the future. Looking ahead there is reason for great optimism. The greatest thing of all might be that the organization finally has the depth to gamble with a potential building block such as Sekac and, in the big picture, not be any the worse for the loss. The organization essentially landed the equivalent of a top 50 draft pick via free agency and traded him for a former second rounder. Looking back, such a loss would have been devastating 4+ years ago. Now, having established depth and having begun a talent pipeline, the organization rolls ahead in search of a 25th Stanley Cup.

Yes, there is a lot to look forward to, even if we can’t help still looking back.

I welcome your feedback and look forward to discussing all things Canadiens via Twitter @LWOScjcasselman.