It doesn't take a reader here at HNIM long to figure it out. I don't like the organization running this team. Whether it is their ridiculous hiking of ticket prices, the fact they seem to settle for "average" (bordering on mediocrity) year in and year out, the alumni complaining that they don't feel welcome or the late-to-the game response from the owner when it comes to serious social issues like Black Lives Matter, it's been hard to feel a connection here. To want to root passionately for my childhood team.
Adding the fact that the Canadiens have had little in the way of success these past 3 decades (2 semi-finals since 1993- and in either of these cases did one legitimately believe they were serious Cup contenders), their knack for trading away or not resigning popular players (Subban, Koivu, Radulov come to mind), or the lack of a true superstar to raise fans from their seats, and you have a classic case of an organization that has repeatedly disappointed its fan base.
Sure, they do a fantastic job of broadly disseminating the Kool-Aid (and many fans and media alike, sadly are more than happy to chug it down), their marketing is second to none, but a lot of the fans, like me, haven't been hoodwinked or duped by the repeated false promises of a better future.
However, during these playoffs, something has felt different. Finally. A glimmer of hope.
And not because the Canadiens now find themselves 8 wins from a Stanley Cup or have played well during these playoffs. But because they truly have young players with real promise. Nick Suzuki (who I had expressed significant concerns about earlier this year), Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Cole Caufield, have all shown that they not only have a lot of talent, but that they can play at a high level in the most pressure-filled situations (hey, a Montreal-Toronto series, in this country, albeit without the fans, is a lot for any player to handle). Alexander Romanov also has a ton of promise, and players like Jesse Ylonen, Cayden Primeau and Ryan Poehling are knocking on the door, likely to be regulars on the Canadiens starting next fall.
There is also hope because for the first time in a long time, the Canadiens appear to have a coach who is not promoting an ultra-defensive, torturously boring, brand of hockey. Case in point trusting a young player like Cole Caufield with significant playing minutes, even on the road during these playoffs is something I hadn’t seen in years (hard to imagine Jacques Martin, Michel Therrien or Claude Julien doing the same).
Furthermore, the enthusiasm brought by newcomers like Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Joel Edmundson, even Corey Perry, seems contagious. These guys look like they genuinely want to be here. Toffoli's letter about how he was meant to be a Hab seemingly came from the heart, and it definitely touched a chord even with an old, disgruntled (dejected, throw in the adjective that you please) Habs fan like me.
And so regardless how this team fares against the seasoned, skilled, and physical Golden Knights, for the first time in a very, very long time, it feels like we're on the verge of something good.