The Mighty-Ish Habs
Last spring the Montreal Canadiens visited the ACC late in the season and had their playoff epitaph written for them.
Not quite twelve months later, the Habs return as one of the conference's best teams to take on a Leaf team tomorrow night that has already eliminated itself from the playoffs. Once again, Montreal's dominant place in Canada's hockey landscape over the intermittently competitive Leafs has been asserted.
But not all is well in Montreal. The hockey club itself is fine, but a controversy has erupted relating to the ugly violence in Chicoutimi last Saturday for which former Habs star goalie Patrick Roy and his son were suspended by Quebec junior hockey authorities.
Roy's conduct was dreadful, and for that reason, and others, some in the Quebec media are now saying that unofficial plans to deify Roy by retiring his number next season - the season of the Montreal franchise's centenary - should be postponed or cancelled entirely.
Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette, the greatest authority on all things bleu, blanc et rouge, has taken the position that the Habs should not honor Roy.
Fisher referred back to Roy's demand to leave Montreal in 1995 and a variety of ugly off-ice issues over the years, while remembering all of his great victories.
"Those were on-ice moments to cherish, but there also have been off-ice issues that people cannot forget or forgive. Ugly moments. Controversial moments. Disgusting moments such as Saturday's brawl," wrote Fisher.
If the Habs do choose not to honour Roy, it will make next season truly forgettable for the former goaltending star, for it seems almost certain his all-time record for wins in an NHL career (551) will be broken by New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. Brodeur has 534 already with his 36th birthday still two months away, and it seems like Roy's record will not only be reached by Brodeur, but utterly demolished.
It's a tricky issue for the Habs, who value class and tradition more than other NHL teams, and are now reaping the benefits of some intelligent building after a series of losing seasons.
In their 100th season, you have to believe they will not wish to welcome the controversy that would come with honoring Roy.
He is, in a reverse sense, Montreal's Dave Keon. The Leafs would love to honour Keon but he won't participate; Roy would certainly want to be so honoured, but now his former team may prefer to look the other way.