The party's over -- after more than a year.
That's how long it took for the Montreal Canadiens to celebrate their centennial, which must be a translation thing since the Canadiens billed last season as their anniversary campaign even though their actual 100th birthday was Friday.
|The Montreal Canadiens moved to their current arena, the Bell Centre, in 1996. (Getty Images)|
Montreal is the most successful franchise in NHL history and among the most storied in all of sports, but the 15-month parade of events leading up to the anniversary, including high-profile affairs like the All-Star Game and Entry Draft, did more to undermine than to enhance the team.
The Canadiens began their odyssey on the heels of a stunning first-place finish in the East, but they have been crushed under the weight of heavy expectations, and are now hard pressed to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
There was an implosion in Montreal that began midway through last season when too many players made headlines for exploits off the ice rather than on it, and rumors about a trade for Vincent Lecavalier ran rampant.
• Recap: Canadiens 5 Bruins 1
Ultimately, that led to some major changes on the roster, behind the bench and this week in the ownership suite, but as the Canadiens finally blow out the candles on the birthday cake, there really isn't much to celebrate. Maybe they should think about doing Hockey 101.
News: Chicago coach Joel Quenneville gets his 500th career win
Views: The headline story from Blackhawks land this week had to do with the big new contracts for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, for good reason. Chicago found a way to massage the cap space enough to satisfy NHL number crunchers, and to be able to keep the roster together for the rest of this season, and most of it for next. That's a big two-year window for a really good team to win the Stanley Cup, and Quenneville's role in the process can't be minimized. Chicago has spent several years putting together a collection of talent to a level that few, if any teams can match. But it took Quenneville's arrival four games into last season to get it to work and essentially overnight. His personal milestone should serve as a reminder of his impact because of the 14 other coaches to get 500 wins, only Scotty Bowman and the great Toe Blake got there faster than Quenneville.
News: Russian boss says Olympic team will have strong KHL feel
Views: Russian hockey federation boss and legendary former goalie Vladislav Tretiak is in the midst of a scouting expedition through NHL cities to evaluate players for the 2010 Games at Vancouver, but on one of his stops this week, he told reporters than he expects half the roster to be made up of Kontinental Hockey League players. That seems steep even if several ex-NHLer's like Sergei Fedorov, Alexei Yashin, Alexander Radulov and Nikita Filatov are now plying their trade back home because the core of the team undoubtedly will still be NHL players. However, Tretiak's pronouncement is another shot across the bow by the Russian federation that has yet to agree with the NHL on a transfer fee for players and fears the league won't participate in the 2014 games in Sochi. In the meantime, the upstart KHL is backed by some serious oligarch money and hopes to woo more players back home, including Ilya Kovalchuk when his contract with Atlanta expires after the season. Making the league look more credible by adding its own stars to the Olympic roster can't hurt the effort.
News: Brendan Shanahan joins NHL front office
Views: In a conference call after being named the league's new VP of hockey and business development, Shanahan sounded almost rueful that no one from the players association approached him about getting involved in their muddled operation. That job seemed to be the perfect fit for him and something he hinted he would have welcomed after being a team player rep for nearly all of his 21 seasons playing. More important, the eponymously-named 'summit' he organized during the lockout-inspired rule changes that have been universally lauded and while earning him respect from players and owners alike. But the NHLPA regime overthrow in August was engineered by hard-liners and when an organization that is in such disarray turns to Donald Fehr for advice, it's pretty clear that someone who talks about working for the good of the game doesn't work. So instead, Shanahan gets to be involved with issues that affect the actual game, bringing a player's perspective to the proceedings while getting to stay in New York where he and his family have settled for the last few years. He'll be good for the NHL but he might have been better for the PA.
News: Commissioner insists expansion will come before relocation
Views: The NHL made the front page of the New York Times this week and surprisingly, it had nothing to do with a stick-swinging incident. That was better left to the video highlights courtesy of Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard. This time, all the news fit to print came from the Reuters Global Media Summit this week, where Gary Bettman was one of the many corporate panelists and, as is his habit, painted a rosy picture about the NHL and its finances. The crux of the story was how a stronger Canadian dollar was helping franchises north of the border better support southern cousins through revenue sharing. But the significance was Bettman insisting that all those places building lavish, new arenas should be stocking away their expansion fee pennies rather than hoping to entice a move. Obviously adding new teams to the loop doesn't make much sense in these economic times, and Bettman said as much. But even as he insisted that franchises playing before mostly empty seats were in good shape, Bettman made sure to remind everyone that relocation doesn't put any extra money in the owners' pockets the way expansion does.
News: Canadiens trade Chipchura for a fourth-round draft pick
Views: Normally a journeyman being dealt for a mid-round draft pick would warrant attention only on a transaction page. But the Habs are 100 so reflecting on some of their senior moments is fair game. Most of them have come at the draft table in the last few years, and the dumping of Chipchura serves as a useful example of how poor a job the team has generally done at restocking the system. While teams around the NHL have been drafting players who jump immediately into the lineup since the lockout, the Canadiens have had only two players from their last three drafts see any game time at all. Chipchura was taken before that -- 18th overall in 2004 -- because he has been a hard-edged captain of every team he played on, including his first minor league pro team. But he failed to crack Montreal's lineup on a regular basis for the last two seasons, and was a healthy scratch eight times this season. Ultimately, Chipchura punched his ticket out this week against Toronto when he was on the ice for two goals despite playing only three shifts. So maybe the Canadiens are coming out ahead getting at least a fourth-round pick for someone they thought was a first-round talent.