Here’s why the Montreal Canadiens haven’t been contenders in 20 years

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

How often have you had that discussion? Over beers, or coffees, we sit there and wonder aloud – Why do the Habs break our hearts every year? Why is it that they haven’t fielded a truly great team since 1993? And while we’re on the subject, can we admit that even the 92-93 squad wasn’t actually a truly great team? They were over-achievers with lots of heart with one not-so-secret weapon in the greatest goalie in the history of hockey. Yes it’s impressive that they set that overtime record in the 93 playoffs but that also underlines that the Habs had to go to overtime ten times that post-season to prevail over some pretty just-OK teams, like the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders.

So why is it that the Habs have been such a pale imitation of their former superstar selves over the past two decades? Sure there’s been some terrible managers – take a bow Mr. Corey and Mr. Houle – but to consistently not compete means it’s not the fault of one or two mediocre bosses.

Well I have the answer courtesy of Forbes magazine. Forbes has just published its annual rundown of the value of the National Hockey League teams and there’s lots of intriguing fodder for future blogs there. But let’s just focus on one detail today – the value of the Habs. The esteemed business magazine estimates that the Habs are worth $575 million, which is what Geoff Molson and his partners paid for the team three years ago.

But the eye-popper here is the Habs’ profit for 2011-2012. The team made a cool profit of $51.6 million on revenue of $169 million. Think about that one for a second. Molson and his colleagues made more than $50 million for what was arguably the legendary team’s worst season since World War II. The team finished dead last in the Eastern conference and 27th out of 30 teams in the league. In short, the season was an unmitigated disaster for all the reasons we’ve detailed ad nauseum in this blog.

So where’s the incentive to excel? The sad reality is the Habs are slipping dangerously close to a Toronto Maple Leafs-like situation where the team delivers a sad-sack performance on the ice and rakes in big bucks for the suits. The Loafs, by the way, generated $81.9 million in profit last year and Forbes estimates that they have become the first-ever NHL team to be worth a billion bucks.

Hey mediocrity pays!



  1. Yats says:

    Surely a cup-winning Habs would bring in much more profit! No? Mediocrity pays (in T.O. and Montreal) but excellence pays way more, so there’s definitely an incentive. They just have to put together a cup-worthy team (no mean feat).

  2. Mike Chamberlain says:

    Brrendan, I don’t see the causal connection between profit off the ice and losses on the ice. This “argument” (I hesitate to call it that, because it’s more an assertion without much evidence to back it up) makes no sense. Management wants to win. Bad draft choices and lousy trades have done the Habs in. The profit-loss sheet has nothing to do with it.

    And BTW, Patrick Roy was not the greatest goalie in hockey history. Martin Brodeur was, by a good margin.

  3. Mike Chamberlain says:

    Oh yes, and incredibly stupid GM hirings. But you knew that.

  4. topshelfbk says:

    I have respect for both of you guys’ opinions and also the hockey thoughts of my Twitter pal Justin Knotzke (who of course puts his comments on Twitter rather than here), and you make some good points. Of course the Habs have been badly managed for two decades. But the fact is that if these sucky teams had led to dips in ticket sales and TV revenue, management would’ve given more serious thought to fixing things. Look at the Gillett regime. Really the perfect example. That team won nothing yet Uncle George made a cool profit of a few hundred million personally on the deal. Supporting a mediocre team leads to further mediocrity. Just look at the Leafs.

    • Justin says:

      Ah yes, Brendan but you forget to mention that Mr Gillett took an organisation that was losing money and turned it into a profitable company.

      Money isn’t the issue. The habs are up to their ears in salary cap. They can’t spend more even if they wanted to!

      The problem is how they spend that money.

      Your suggestion then appears to be that the Habs aren’t spending more wisely because they are turning a large profit.

      I’m not sure if it’s a lack of will as much as it’s a lack of know how. Two horrible, and I mean horrible, GM’s have left the habs with a really nasty stable of lame horses.. It takes a while to clean that up. I think with the hiring of the new GM, things will hopefully move in the right direction.

  5. The 92-93 team was not an overachieving unit as the dominant narrative suggests. That team won more games (48) than all but two other NHL teams (Pitt, Bos). Many league observers weren’t familiar with how great certain players were, as well; Desjardins, Leclair, Damphousse, Schneider and Keane were all relative unknowns who were eventually much more widely recognized as top-tier players. And the team had some high-quality established vets to go along with Roy (Muller, Bellows, Skrudland and others). Carbonneau’s contributions, in particular shutting down Wayne Gretzky, continue to be underplayed. He neutralized Wayne Gretzky in that player’s prime. It’s worth a study.

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