It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that we were talking about the Montreal Canadiens picking up an eighth straight win on the strength of a five-point night by defenceman Andrei Markov. That Friday night in late October found the Habs two wins shy of matching an NHL record. They were just the second team in history to start the year with eight straight victories. They’d eventually pick up one more before they finally lost.
Times have changed.
The Canadiens now sit with a 23-17-3 record, with things off and on the ice spinning into a venomous death cloud of hyperbole and general unpleasantness. It doesn’t help that the team went 3-11 in December, with a long-term injury to goalie Carey Price presumably kicking off the trouble.
After picking up a critical win on New Year’s Day at the Winter Classic, Montreal has gone 3-7 in their last 10. Contrast that against the division-leading Florida Panthers, who are 9-0-1 over their last 10 games, and people start asking questions and pointing fingers.
But the finger-pointing has lashed out in all directions, with everyone from local media types to Twitter experts trying to determine exactly what’s going on with the Canadiens.
That’s led to some unfortunateness, like how Zack Kassian was slapped in the NHL’s substance abuse program and dumped to the AHL before a trade to the Edmonton Oilers. This seems to have stemmed from a traffic accident involving Kassian as the passenger in a truck.
The latest news finds Alex Galchenyuk as the victim in a domestic violence dispute, with his girlfriend picked up on the morning of January 10. This has led to an anticipated pile of toxic “commentary,” with implications ranging from how the 21-year-old made some sort of mistake to how he was doing something untoward that led to the domestic violence to how he should’ve “toughened up” because “real” men don’t get beat up by mere womenfolk.
Fellow Habs player Devante Smith-Pelly was also present at the time of the domestic abuse incident, by the way, so you can imagine what stories were spun out of that.
Regardless of the off-kilter chronicle, the Canadiens decided to double-down by having Galchenyuk apologize for causing a “distraction.” Calling it a “lesson in life,” he went on to explain that he’s still a young guy and that somehow means something when it comes to domestic violence.
“It’s too bad it became public, but these are young guys and they’ll learn from it,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “You want them to be role models, to be perfect, but you can’t forget they’re young kids. All kids make mistakes.”
Everyone knows that any kind of “distraction” from the game of hockey is a bad thing. Whether it’s an injury or a violent incident or the birth of a child, hockey players are expected to leave behind any and all facets of regular life in order to play the game. Much of the radio talk about the Habs has amounted to allocating blame for “too much partying,” while the issue of domestic abuse is stuffed under the door because it really doesn’t matter that much.
The takeaway here has been that Galchenyuk will “learn his lesson,” whatever that is, and that the rest of the team will have a lot of “growing up to do” in order to start piling up those critical wins. But the real issue, the one people only interested in stats and scores refuse to talk about, will continue to plague this game.