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|A day that will live in infamy|
|Written by Denis Gorman|
|Monday, 02 April 2012 16:57|
The cities of Montreal and Toronto shared an historic bond when it comes to their hockey teams. This year, the bond shared between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs is one of epic disappointment that will end without playoff games in either city.The bond shared by the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs Maple Leafs is equal parts genetic and eternal.
Their histories mirror that of the NHL as two of the league’s historically significant franchises proudly boast the privilege of being the DNA of the league. Montreal and Toronto have won 38 Stanley Cup championships.
One hundred and six legends inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame wore the CH or the Maple Leaf on their chests, 53 athletes apiece.
Excellence is not merely a requirement in Montreal and Toronto. It is an expectation.
That is why what has occurred this season has been so cataclysmic for two proud hockey markets.
Montreal (29-35-14; 72 points) is last in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Toronto (33-36-9; 75 points). So for the first time since the 2006-07 season, and for only the fourth time overall, the NHL’s most storied market and its most significant market will be observers rather than participants in the playoffs.
That two of the NHL’s most important cities will not host playoff games is another indignity in seasons that will be remembered for their ignominy.
One day in particular will resonate with both franchises for the foreseeable future:
March 29, 2012.
The humiliation began early as Geoff Molson, the owner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadiens, announced in the late morning that general manager Pierre Gauthier had been relieved of his duties and Bob Gainey would no longer act as an advisor to the organization.
“It is my responsibility to rebuild the winning culture this franchise demands,” Molson said.
Serge Savard was installed as the new advisor. His duties will include meeting with potential candidates for the general manager’s job.
“It goes without saying that we are very disappointed with our performance this season,” Molson said “Everyone in our organization including our players expected better.”
What they got was chaos.
Montreal started the season with a 2-5-2 mark which prompted Gauthier to fire assistant coach Perry Pearn two hours before a game. Weeks later Gauthier replaced coach Jacques Martin with Anglophone Randy Cunneyworth, which prompted a linguistic debate that has not settled in La Belle Province.
The former executive dealt Jaroslav Spacek’s expiring contract for the remaining two years and $8.5 million on Tomas Kaberle’s deal. Finally, in most bizarre fashion, he traded Michael Cammalleri to Calgary during the middle of a game.
Dissatisfaction mounted as the losses piled up and players and coaches were shuttled in and out.
Following a 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils at Newark’s Prudential Center on Feb. 2, the visiting dressing room was empty, save for Carey Price and a trash can that held the Canadien goaltender’s paddle, broken into two pieces.
Price was asked if he and his teammates lost confidence after the Devils tied the game at 3-3 early in the third period. The Canadiens held a 3-1 lead after the first 33 ½ minutes.
“I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t [expletive] know,” Price said before stalking into the night.
The frustration is equally palpable 336 miles to the west. The Leafs’ self-immolation has been as thorough as it has been sudden, prompting a wide-ranging autopsy even before the body has cooled. None have been spared.
Midway through the third period of Thursday night’s humiliating 7-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, a loud percentage of the announced 19,415 in attendance at the Air Canada Centre chanted “Let’s go Blue Jays.”
The rhythmic symbiosis was a public message of derision and disgust for a team that has lost 19 of its last 28 games, and saw coach Ron Wilson replaced by Randy Carlyle.
Carlyle, who himself was replaced as coach of the Anaheim Ducks by Bruce Boudreau on Nov. 30, has routinely reiterated that the Leafs are “fragile” and “the fear factor around our group is very high.”
Just one more phenomenon shared by the Leafs and the Canadiens.
You can follow us on Twitter @HockeyPrimeTime and @DenisGorman
Photo by Getty Images
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 03:02|