Three days before the team's big blowout 100th birthday party, on the very day that ownership changed hands, with not one but two champions in the house, and finally while the facing the hated Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs went out and embarrassed themselves Tuesday night in a listless 3-0 loss.
Seeing the Montreal Alouettes receive a rousing standing ovation prior to the game when they came out on the ice with the Grey Cup in tow, perhaps some of the Habs felt the people had already gotten their money's worth for the evening and decided not to show up. Give the Leafs some credit here, as they took it to a team that was sitting at home waiting for them after they played the night before, and this despite losing their starting goalie after one period.
But mostly, the Habs were really horrendous on this night, a game that was their worst on home ice this season, something head coach Jacques Martin had no trouble agreeing with.
To me, the juxtaposition of the Canadiens performance against a bitter rival that is below them in the standings versus what new owner Geoff Molson was saying just a couple of hours before the game was too rich to ignore.
Molson and his partnership group received approval from the NHL board of governors on Tuesday, and in addressing the media he expressed no concern whatsoever about the direction the team was going. Bob Gainey and Pierre Boivin received the traditional vote of confidence, and everything looked fine and dandy in Molson's eyes.
“I think Bob Gainey has done an excellent job re-building this team,” he said. “The team has an enormous amount of depth. There have been injuries and people have come up, and done their job, and done it well. There are many new players, there’s a new coach, there’s a new owner. And I feel we are in the process of building a great organization.”
One poor game doesn't necessarily make what he said any less true, but it certainly doesn't help the optics of the situation.
Frankly, after spending over half a billion dollars of various people's money acquiring the team, Molson wasn't going to come out and say the team needs to be blown up and everyone's fired. But the fact is, the organization is in a tough spot and likely won't contend for a Cup any time soon. No, the team is not horrible, it might even be good. But it's not a contender.
“The profitability of the team we bought depends on its success as well, and we will do everything we can to try and win with this team,” Molson said. “We feel we have the right people in the right places to win.”
That, of course, is up for debate, but what I was most interested in trying to find out was how this multi-tentacled ownership group was going to function. The fact Geoff Molson was there alone today spoke volumes.
“The general partner of this partnership is me, and I will be the chairman of the board and the CEO of the partnership,” Molson said. “I’m also going to be the governor representing the team with the NHL and quite involved on a daily basis as the lead general partner of the partnership group.”
Molson said there is some sort of agreement in place with the partners as to how much say they will have on major decisions like taking on a big contract or trading a popular player, but he wouldn't say what that agreement consists of. So, if you happen to be worried that, for instance, one of the partners might insist on making outlandish trade and contract offers in an effort to acquire every Quebec-born player in the league, there's no way of knowing how much pull he will have in making that happen.
However, Molson strongly suggested that it will be the hockey operations department who will be making the hockey decisions, which means the chance of having a whole gaggle of meddling owners is pretty minimal. For now.