It’s a beautiful fall Sunday in Montreal. I’ve already played two top-drawer sets of tennis and wolfed down some tasty Pad Thai. So why the long face?
Well there is the small matter that Nos Glorieux are now in the cellar of the Eastern Conference. Last place. Our record is 1-6 by my old-school measurement. One win, six losses. Our worst start in decades.
The Canadiens lost in overtime Saturday to the dreaded Toronto Maple Leafs and, appropriately enough, pesky, oh-so-talented centreman Mikhail Grabovski potted the winner and it was a beaut. Take a look.
Pretty nice eh? So why, as a Habs fan am I celebrating this? Cos this is instant karma in action, man. Sort-of-ex GM Bob (‘I’m still lurking in the building somewhere’) Gainey traded Grabovski to the Leafs in July 2008 and it was a classic Gainey/classic Habs-style trade. The team dumped the Belarusian centre not because of what he was doing on-the-ice but because he was perceived as a problem off the ice.
That’s a Habs specialty. They are a quintessential authoritarian organization. Either you’re on-board or you’re chucked overboard. Chris Chelios? Parties too much, let’s trade him – and watch this Hall of Famer play stellar hockey for a couple more decades. Mike Keane? He dared to say you don’t need to speak French to be the captain of the Habs. So let’s throw this class player out like yesterday’s Kleenex. Guy Carbonneau? Yeah he’s won us Cups and bled blue-blanc-et-rouge but he gave the finger to a Journal de Montreal photographer. Let’s trade him to Dallas and let him help Gainey win a Cup there. Mike Ribeiro? He also parties too much and Saku Koivu fears he might steal his job as the No. 1 centre (a job Koivu no longer deserved). So let’s send him to Dallas even though he’s a talented playmaker and is a hero for our city’s Portuguese community (where he hails from). And the list goes on.
Anyhow back to our friend Grabovski. His sin? He was, by all reports, in a feud with fellow Belarusian team-mate Sergei Kostitsyn and he got in a fight with management about his ice-time. So he was given the heave-ho. In return, the Habs got prospect Greg Pateryn – drafted 128th by the Leafs and yet to play for the Habs – and a second-round draft choice. Montreal used that draft choice to pick-up rights to Robert Lang, who had a good run with Montreal in 2008-2009 ’til an achilles tendon injury ended his season and then the following season he ended up in Phoenix.
In the meantime, Grabvoski’s become one of the Leafs top forwards. In his first season with the Leafs, in 08-09, he had 20 goals and 28 assists. The next season he racked up 10 goals and 25 assists in 59 games, and last year, he had 29 goals and 29 assists. Those 2010-2011 stats by the way just happen to be better than the stats of any player on the Habs last season.
Just another incredibly bone-headed Habs trade fueled by hubris, weirdness and lack of hockey sense. If you really need to dump Grabovski – a questionable point at best – at the very least send him far, far away to a team in the Western Conference that’s not going to come back to haunt us every second Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada.
So that’s why we’re celebrating Mr. Grabovski today. In that spirit, check out this shoot-out beauty from last season (research courtesy of my son Keane)…..and weep.