About 2012 … with audio

2012NewYears
There was a TV shot, late in the game, that provided a striking visual metaphor for where your Montreal Canadiens are at as a new year begins.
General manager Pierre Gauthier was alone, grimly watching his hockey team lose a game they had lead for the 15th time this season.
Beneath Gauthier, an arena billboard advertising “Daily Deals”.
It’s becoming painfully clear, with each dispiriting loss, that if Gauthier is still employed by the Canadiens at the end of February, he’s going to be dealing players to a contender.
Another blown lead.
Another ineffectual third period.
Another L, and another blow to hopes of seeing hockey in Montreal past April 7.

The Canadiens are 13th in the Eastern Conference. They are eight points out of a playoff spot.

The Islanders are two points back and have two games in hand.

“Si la tendance se maintient,” as the French TV commentators say, projecting early returns on Election Night, the Canadiens will have a lottery draft pick in June.

The more optimistic fanboys and fangirls in the Commentariat will be all over me for running up the white flag in the waning hours of December.

But just before the old year expires, let’s honour its memory by being honest with each other.

This team isn’t very good.

It was a mediocre-to-bad team for Jacques Martin, and nothing has changed since Randy Cunneyworth took over.

The kids are getting more ice time …. although Louis Leblanc was a healthy scratch against Florida.

Alexei Emelin has won a regular spot on defence … and had five bone-rattling hits against the Panthers.

Lars Eller, Raphael Diaz and Mike Cammalleri are playing well for the new coach.

Erik Cole would play well for Mario Tremblay.

But the Cunneyworth Era has produced one win in seven games – against a sieve-like Craig Anderson in Ottawa.

Other than that, it’s been more of the problems that plagued Jacques Martin’s teams:

• a defence corps that combines youth with well-past-their-prime vets and Josh Gorges, whose heroism – including a league-leading 101 blocked shots – is going to land him a sweet contract … somewhere.

• $18 million in salary cap out with injuries. And if anyone out there thinks Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Andrei Markov are coming back better than ever, I’d like to talk to you about a vacation condo in North Korea.

• Carey Price, who has to be perfect for the Canadiens to have a shot, lets in some bad, morale-sapping goals.

• Dumb, pussy-ass penalties. P.K. Subban took three of them. The team’s best penalty-killer, Tomas Plekanec, had two minors.

• As was obvious against the Panthers – who play in the image of their coach, Kevin Dineen – too many Canadiens are small, soft and don’t scare anyone.

In his pre-game conversation with Pierre Houde – and Kremlinologists can analyze why, unlike every other interview subject, the deeply weird GM sat on Monsieur Houde’s right side – Gauthier said a win in Florida might set the Canadiens up for the kind of January revival we saw 12 months ago.

Remember?

James Wisniewski’s overtime goal on New Year’s Eve gave the Canadiens a 3-2 win over Florida. After an overtime loss on Jan. 2 in Atlanta., the Canadiens beat Pittsburgh, Boston and the Rangers.

They won three in a row to start February, five in a row starting Feb. 26. Through the beginning of 2011, the Canadiens went 23-14-6 and entered the playoffs as the sixth seed.

Winnipeg will be at the Bell Centre on Wednesday for the Canadiens’ first game of 2012. Then it’s home games against Tampa Bay and St. Louis – Welcome back, Jaro – before the Canadiens travel to Boston.

The January schedule also includes home games against the Rangers, Washington and Detroit, plus a back-to-back on the road in Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Ottawa, sitting eighth, is on pace to finish with 90 points.

So let’s say the Canadiens need 92 to punch their ticket to the dance. To reach that number, they’ll need 57 points in their last 44 games.

Factoring in three-point games is beyond my math skills, but it basically means that in 2012, your Canadiens have to win twice as often as they lose.

Does anyone who has not dropped acid at a New Year’s Eve party think that is going to happen with a team that’s gone 14-17-7?

Maybe we should take solace from what’s happened in Florida.

The team that finished last in the Eastern Conference last season sits atop the Southeast Division. Under Dale Tallon, the Panthers have 10 new players – and 10 kids in action at the World Juniors, including blue-chip prospect Jonathan Huberdeau.

But Florida’s GM didn’t inherit the long-term contract mess that Bob Gainey handed off to Pierre Gauthier, who made things worse with the Markov signing and the trade for Tomas Kaberle.

Look, HIOers, I hate to be a Donnie Downer on New Year’s Eve.

Eat, drink, be merry and hope for health, happiness and peace in 2012.

But when you’re puckering up at midnight, kiss this season goodbye.

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