MONTREAL, CANADA - DECEMBER 8: Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks deflects the puck in front of Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on December 8, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The Canucks are back in action tonight at Rogers Arena, with the Montreal Canadiens popping round for a visit. While our friends in Toronto seem to draw a good portion of ridicule from Canucks fans (that unbeaten streak certainly isn't helping the Leafs case), they've certainly been better than the Montreal Canadiens this season. An organization with as much history and pride as the Canadiens must certainly be feeling sick about the current incarnation. While the dismal record is something we've rarely seen from the Habs, this was years in the making. Something's just not right with this team, the way they do things seems to be so diametrically opposed to the way things used to be. From scandals involving the on and off ice actions of players, to the coaches and management that seem to have forgotten what the crest on that jersey stands for, it's clear more than ever that this is not your father's Montreal Canadiens. It seems so bizarre that hockey's most storied franchise is a team not just desperate to make the playoffs, but to find an identity.
While they don't enjoy the same dominant relationship with the Habs as they do the Leafs, Vancouver's certainly not minding the downfall of this once mighty empire. Ask any lifelong Canucks fan about the rivalry with the Canadiens and you're sure to get stories of admiration and frustration as they used the Canucks as whipping boys for a generation. The Habs owned the Canucks. Hell, the Canucks first ever playoff appearance saw them draw the Canadiens as their reward for finishing 1st in the new Smythe Division. The Habs won the series in 5 games, but for years to follow, the Habs continued to be one of the dominant teams in the NHL. Since their last Cup win in 1993 however, there hasn't been much glory for Les Glorieux.
When you look at this team now, they hardly strike fear into their opponents, and their record backs it up. No one jumps out at you as a star on this team. Carey Price is a good goaltender, but has a on again off again pedigree that makes you wonder why so many people attack Roberto Luongo. PK Subban is a great young talent, but his penchant for questionable hits, unwillingness to drop the gloves and his mouth seem to be his calling card. Even their best player, Max Pacioretty, is more known for nearly being crippled by Zdeno Chara than the fact he's got 30 goals this year. Off the ice, they're a mess. GM Pierre Gauthier still having a job baffles many, and then the situation of firing Jacques Martin in December and replacing him with Randy Cunneyworth was a PR disaster, many Montreal fans and media outraged over the fact that Gauthier and team owner Geoff Molson had the audacity to hire an anglophone to coach the Canadiens. I guess Scotty Bowman being so far in the past, they had forgotten about him.
And that's the problem as I see it. While I understand the delicate cultural sensibilities of Quebec and their relationship with the Canadiens, the game of hockey has changed. The Habs are no longer a team where nearly every player is Quebec-born and raised. The league is now a melting pot of North Americans and Europeans. Expecting the Canadiens to keep up a quota of Francophones over getting the best players and indeed coaches for the job is detrimental to their chances of success. As painful and alien as that may be, Habs fans would do well to understand it's the crest on the front, not the ethnic makeup of the player in it, that is their identity.
As far as the Canucks, their Quebec-born players need little motivation to get up for this game, as you know we can expect fired-up performances from Roberto Luongo, Maxim Lapierre (a former Canadien along with Chris Higgins), newcomer Marc-Andre Gragnani and Alexandre Burrows. Having put together one of their better efforts in a while against Winnipeg Thursday night, it's likely we see a carryover effect, and I would not at all be surprised if the Canucks' struggling superstars Daniel Sedin and brother Henrik bust their slumps tonight against a rather banged-up Habs squad, who are coming off a 5-3 win in Edmonton Thursday night.
KICKASS METAL SONG OF THE DAY
In honour of our visiting guests, I thought I would delve into the rich tradition of metal in La Belle Province. The Quebec metal scene continues to churn out some of the most amazing, and innovative extreme metal acts, bands like Cryptopsy, Neuraxis, Gorguts, Anonymus, Martyr and today's band. Kataklysm. Better known outside of their homeland, Kataklysm like many Canadian metal acts often play to massive crowds at festivals across Europe.
And as a double shot, check out the insane blast beat of former drummer Martin Maurais. He joined the band after meeting them in a music store, having never played in a band before...
Finally, click here to check out a live version of this song, with a kind of funny interruption from a drunken stagediver.