The Montreal Canadiens are an elite organization, and it’s safe to say their fans, for the most part, match them in terms of class. Attending a game at the Bell Centre is an experience in of itself, and an absolute must for hockey fans looking for a unique atmosphere.
But with this fan base comes great expectations. The tickets aren’t cheap, and if a player coasts his way through a performance, he’ll hear it from the fans. While this may contribute to the reasons the electricity inside the Bell Centre is unmatched, it may also keep the more timid players away from the city once Free Agency comes along.
This city, after all, has a history of turning on their own, from Patrice “Breeze-by” Brisebois, to Vladimir “Skier” Malakhov and recently Scott Gomez. Each time, a high-profile, well-paid player was booed mercilessly out of town for their lack of effort, skill or commitment. Brisebois headed to Colorado, Malakhov was dealt to New Jersey and Gomez was bought out.
Whether or not the fan reactions are warranted it or not doesn’t matter. The fans pay for their tickets, and they have the right to let their voices be heard. However, there is now a new whipping-boy in town, a player who has something the others don’t: a chance at redemption; a chance to salvage his reputation and reclaim the admiration of the fans.
With his big contract and inconsistent play, David Desharnais has turned into the new scapegoat for all that is wrong with the Montreal Canadiens. You don’t have to look too far in order to find an angry Hab fan calling for his head. In fact, open your Twitter feed and search his name, and you will find all sorts of hate. What really sets him apart is that this time, the city’s mayor has joined the pitchfork crowd.
But Desharnais has a chance to do something special: redeem himself. There is no denying that Desharnais is talented. In 2011-2012, he tallied 60 points in 81 games centering the top line of Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole. He has shown flashes of being a special player despite his size.
The truth is, while Montreal fans are tough, they are suckers for effort. Desharnais doesn’t have to become a superstar in order to win them over. He doesn’t even have to play up to his 3.5 million dollar contract as even the occasional hockey fan can see he is somewhat overpaid. All he has to do is put in the hard work that this level of hockey requires. He has to show up to every optional skate, every optional practice. He needs to put back on some of the weight he “shed” in the off-season in order to “get faster”. He needs to be better.
It would be a nice change of pace to see a player overcome the fans turning on him for once and show them that they were too quick to judge. He’s certainly on the right Habs team to do it. With Gallagher, Eller and Galchenyuk’s kid line, with Price, PK, Parros and Prust, this team certainly has a cast of easily lovable characters. A true, redeemable feel good resurgence from Desharnais can cap a special team’s story, a team that is certainly headed in the right direction.
It’s up to him, and him alone, to do it.
On another note, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman was on TSN 690’s Melnick in the Afternoon last week and he relayed a story told by former NHL goaltender Mike Vernon. The story, which Vernon had never told before to anyone, is a must-hear for Hab fans.
Vernon was in Montreal for a game one day when he bumped into Habs’ goalie Patrick Roy in a local restaurant. The two didn’t really know each other well, but Roy waved him over. As the two goalies got to talking, Roy told Vernon that he felt as though he lived in a fishbowl, and was stressed out about playing in Montreal.
Vernon, a Calgary kid who started his career with the Flames, basically responded that he understood how Roy felt, and that his life became a lot better once he was traded out of Calgary. Later that night, Vernon dressed for his team, the Detroit Red Wings, as they pummelled the Montreal Canadiens. The date? December 2nd, 1995, the final game Patrick Roy would ever play for the Canadiens. After the game, Vernon skipped his shower and headed to his hotel, not wanting to deal with the aftermath, scared he would get the blame.
This is a mind-blowing revelation that puts a new perspective on the whole ordeal. It would be interesting to get Patrick Roy’s take on this story. Did that early morning discussion have anything to do with his decision making process?
Earlier this week, my good friend Derrick slipped into a coma. Derrick is a die-hard Philadelphia Flyers fan and an amazing rugby player. More importantly, he is an amazing person and since his wife is expecting, he is going to be a great father. I am lucky to call him my friend. Thoughts and prayers are with his family and here’s to wishing him a complete and speedy recovery.