I've got to admit that I fall victim to it as well.
That tendency for sports fans to only think in one year increments, forgetting what happened in the past and not allowing for proper interpretation of what will happen in the future. When it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, I feel a lot of people's memories are far too short these days.
With the year the team just went through, that would be an easy trap to fall into, so I felt like maybe I would try to add a little dose of perspective to the proceedings as Habs fans continue to chew on the notion that the entire leadership core of the team will not be back next year.
But what is left is a blue chip goalie who will only turn 22 next month, yet already has 93 NHL games under his belt, a top-flight defenceman who is among the best puck-movers in the league, and a very talented 24-year-old winger who is taking a little longer than others to break out of his shell.
Carey Price, Andrei Markov and, admittedly to a lesser extent, Andrei Kostitsyn are still the group that will decide whether or not the Canadiens have any degree of success this year. And there is nothing saying that all three of them will not have career years.
Of course, there's nothing saying they will either, but at least in the case of Price and Kostitsyn we can speculate with some degree of assurance that the chances of them bouncing back from last season are still pretty good.
Let's start with Price. I went over this back in early March when Price was having trouble seeing straight and also felt the game was best seen from his knees, but I felt it warranted being re-hashed at this point because I think a lot of people are forgetting just what kind of a talent Price can be.
Patrick Roy's exploits in leading the Habs to the Stanley Cup in his rookie season are legendary, but not nearly as many people mention the fact that in his second year, it was Brian Hayward that got the bulk of the playoff duty to lead Montreal to the conference final. Roy had a very successful sophomore regular season, finishing second in the league in goals against average and fifth in save percentage.
But in the playoffs it was a different story, as Roy allowed an average of four goals per game in the six he played, compared to 13 games played for Hayward that year. Didn't anyone have their doubts as to whether Roy was a one-year wonder after a playoff performance like that, plus the one the following season when he went 3-4 with a 3.35 GAA and .890 save percentage?
In Roy's fourth season, he led the Habs back to the Cup final.
When it comes to Martin Brodeur, the most interesting comparison is the one I made back in March, that his worst statistical season was his second in the NHL, when he posted the second-highest GAA and lowest save percentage of his career. A season after that Brodeur led the NHL with 30 losses. Another season later Brodeur was a second team all-star, finishing first in the league in both shutouts and GAA and second in wins.
Again, as I pointed out in March, I'm not comparing Price to either of these legends. I just want it to be clear that Hall of Famers like Roy and Brodeur had some bumpy roads on their way to greatness, and maybe Price is going through the same process now. No longer having Rollie Melanson around - who appeared to be confusing his young protegé more than anything else - can only help matters.
As for Andrei Kostitsyn, it's a bit more complicated simply because it's not quite as clear if he has a very high ceiling. Is he the player who scored 20 goals over his final 46 games two years ago, or the one who looked lost and disinterested most of last year?
I feel he's closer to the former than the latter.
People love comparing Kostitsyn to the forwards the Habs passed on who were still available with the 10th pick in that fabled 2003 draft class. Yes, Jeff Carter (chosen 11th), Dustin Brown (13th), Zach Parise (17th), Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Mike Richards (24th) and Corey Perry (28th) have all turned into elite NHL talents. But every single one of them has also played at least 100 more games than Kostitsyn has, so they are obviously further along in their development even though they're the same age.
Kostitsyn was seen as an exceptional talent back then, one that would have likely gone in the top five were it not for his history with epilepsy. As a 16-year-old at the 2002 World Under-18 championships he finished 15th in tournament scoring with 10 points, and he scored three goals in six games at the World Juniors that year as well playing against competition four years his senior.
But Kostitsyn spent another year playing in Russia after he was drafted then the better part of the next three seasons in Hamilton, so last year was only his second full year in the NHL.
In Carter's second full year in the NHL, he got 37 points. In his third he had 53, including 29 goals. Brown had 46 points his second year and 60 in his third. Getzlaf had 58 points his second year and 82 in his third, Richards jumped from 32 points to 75 and Perry from 44 to 54, including 29 goals. The lone exception in the group was Parise, who jumped from 32 points as a rookie to 62 as a sophomore, then flatlined for a year and exploded in year four to 94 points this past season.
So while all those players have made the Habs look pretty negligent, particularly Carter and Getzlaf considering the team's still unfilled need for a big centreman, Kostitsyn is very early in his NHL career and could very well be due for an explosion of sorts.
The departure of Alex Kovalev should also help Kostitsyn, in my view, because it always appeared to me that the kid in Kostitsyn had a tendency to defer to the Russian hero in Kovalev. Now, perhaps, Kostitsyn will be able to take his rightful place on the Habs pecking order, at least in his own mind.
Even though Bob Gainey went out and bought himself an entire first line and a third of his defence in a 24-hour span this week, I still believe it will be the play of Price, Markov and Kostitsyn that will make or break this team.
And I would venture to predict that all three of them will be up to that challenge.