The Montreal Canadiens will head out for one final round of the battlefield Friday night when they take on the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m. at the Bell Centre.
It hasn’t been a great season.
When the 60 minutes and the change in ice time are over, management, coaches and players will be forced to look at the remnants of a disastrous season.
It’s like when Tony Stark in “Iron Man” after he was captured and held prisoner in a cave in Afghanistan by the Ten Rings, who ordered him to build a Jericho missile.
Less than a year after fans’ hopes of a parade with the most inconvenient cup on earth were dashed, forcing them to watch a bunch of dudes on Sea-Doos pass (and smash) the NHL award ; the Habs ended up at the bottom of the points list.
A cave, barrel bottom, chained in the cellar — choose your metaphor.
Like Stark, General Manager Kent Hughes and the rest of the crew in the right places must now try to put together at least one first-generation Iron Man suit before October.
Fun Facts: Iron Man was released in 2008 as the Montreal Canadiens were preparing for their 100th year of existence. The Habs retired Patrick Roy that year, swept by the Boston Bruins in the first round to end the season.
U.S. actor Robert Downey Jr. poses with a life-size ‘Iron Man’ as he performs during a news conference for his new movie ‘Iron Man’ in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday September 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)
“I have seen many wounds like this in my village. We call them the living dead because it takes about a week for the barbs to reach the vital organs”, – Yinsen
As unpredictable and unbelievable as the 2021 Canadiens Cup journey has been, the same could be said for the dive in 2021-22.
How quickly things go from a Jericho missile to a failed ex-wife missile (see Iron Man 2).
The Canadiens have been downright bad this year.
It should come as no surprise that Montreal isn’t at the same level the team left it in the summer of 2021.
The Canadiens started the season limping with a massive attack down the center of the team in the form of Shea Weber (badly injured), Philip Danault (signed to LA) and Carey Price (emotionally and physically injured).
With all due respect to Christian Dvorak, Jesse Ylonen, Kale Clague and Sam Montembeault, it is fair to say that the craters left by the departures of goalkeepers-defenders-attackers were not adequately filled by the dearly departed Marc Bergevin.
That, and the team had to deal with so many injuries and infections that the incredible (in a bad way) of the team shouldn’t be cause for too much panic.
Beards must be removed and vital organs must be saved.
“Oh my God! Is that what keeps you alive?!” – Pepper pots.
“It was. It is now an antique.” – Tony Stark.
Is it too early to talk about Carey Price’s long-term injuries?
Let’s move on.
Ottawa Senators center Josh Norris (9) scores on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) during second period NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Saturday, April 23, 2022. LA CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
“Why should I do anything? They’re going to kill me, you, anyway and if they don’t, I’ll probably be dead in a week”, – Tony Stark.
Stark fails to bandage his wounds in the cave, resigns and dies; Stark gets to work.
In hockey, that means one thing: no tanking. Not like any Montreal team could ever tank on purpose.
Hughes seems to be doing something similar to Stark, which is a good sign.
He, like Stark, walked the cave, so to speak, and, if the pundits know anything, did pretty well by the trade deadline.
Hughes may not have made a miniaturized arc reactor to function as a core, but he picked up a Smilanic, Barron, Schnaar and a bunch of draft picks, including a first-round couple to work with.
He has added parts and has space to add more, cause for optimism.
It could be worse.
Is Price still the arc reactor? Too early to ask?
Let’s move on.
“Stick to the plan!” -Tony Stark
Stark dresses and prepares for battle, and Yinsen has to buy him some time. So he runs through the cave, the gun on fire and ends up dying.
However, Stark has the time he needs.
Young teams always, always need time, and they also need the support of quality vets lest they fall into the Buffalo Sabres, forever in lottery draft mode.
The key is not to overpay too quickly and find yourself burdened by a Phil Kessel contract or 28 draft picks, but no player with more than five years of professional skating and batting under his belt.
Hughes seems to know these things, which is comforting.
Iron Man’s original suit didn’t last, but it was effective enough to allow Stark to escape and build a new one, then another, then another.
This season of the Canadiens could be the start of something that will last whatever the equivalent of 27 very long Marvel movies featuring adults in pajamas talking superhero gibberish.
It could also be like the Hulk. A movie franchise that never seems to take off, no matter how many reboots it does.
Man, how many superhero movies have we all seen?
I feel like we’ve all wasted a good chunk of our lives.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes answers a question during a press conference on NHL trade deadline day in Brossard, Que. Monday, March 21, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
“Find an excuse to leave one of them off the chain, and I personally guarantee you the bad guys won’t even want to come out of their caves,” Tony Stark said.
Interim coach Martin St. Louis needs weapons that will scare his opponents.
Here are the numbers for the year:
- Goals for, 204 (third from bottom);
- Goals against, 312 (bottom);
- Goals per game, 2.6 (third from bottom);
- Goals against, 3.9 (bottom);
- Shots against, 34.5 (third from bottom);
- Power play, 13.5% (third from bottom).
Less Iron Man 2008, more Captain America 1990.
In addition to the crop of draft picks, the Habs need to splurge on a solid, decisive scorer who can back off a bit.
Maybe get two players.
If Jeff Petry is dealt to another team, get something back.
Johnny Gaudreau, Kris Letang and Patrice Bergeron are all UFA this year (imagine poaching the Boston captain?!), but a Bryan Rust guy could be a nice snag.
Oh, PK Subban is sitting there too…
Let the expert speculation storm begin!
Montreal Canadiens fans hold up a sign in support of Nashville Predators PK Subban before an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
“There’s nothing but that. There’s no opening art, no charity, nothing to sign. There’s the next mission, and nothing else”, Tony Stark .
It’s been a tough personal and physical season for the 34-year-old shooter who doesn’t carry. 31, but let’s drop this one and think about October.
It’s time to put the pieces around him and repay him for the years of service he’s performed since Batman Begins hit theaters (2005).
Guy Lafleur’s passing showed Habs fans a harsh reality (pun intended): This team hasn’t been great for a long time and it’s had exactly two consistent superstars since 1980: Patrick Roy and Price.
When it comes to teams that have fought the good fight and lost, the Montreal Canadiens haven’t been a team feared by anyone other than Toronto or Ottawa for decades.
There should be nothing on the whiteboard for Kent and his team but the following words: Become a force!
None of this ends in eighth place for a tough Vancouver Canucks style, five-game first-round loss to the Pathers, Hurricanes or Lightning.
With the trumps, draft picks and cap space available to the team, there should be no excuse for putting a team on the ice that Florida teams won’t want to face.
Number 31 deserves better.
Number 10 deserves better.
Guy Lafleur’s number 10 is shown on the big screen during a ceremony at the Bell Center before an NHL hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins in Montreal, Sunday, April 24, 2022. Lafleur died on April 22 at age 70. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes