Tired and stunned. Bludgeoned. I was glancing at the headlines on the Globe website, and felt a cold chill when I saw the news. I, literally, had to lie down, and, no lie, moaned for a while, like I had a bad hangover, and I swore repetitively, catatonically. No exaggeration, it wasn't theatre. I needed to. Tomas Kaberle. I triple-checked that it wasn't April 1.
I sat around all day, disconsolate, glancing at my computer, dreading the monumental task ahead of me. I just had a framework in my mind of the many reasons why this was a colossal blunder for my favourite team. My team. I don't own the Canadiens, Mr. Geoff Molson and his group of investors owns it, along with BCE. But it's my team. Mine.
I wanted to intro with a reference to the Jerry Seinfeld quip that nowadays, in this era of player movement and free agency and salary caps (spit), we don't really cheer for a team, but cheer for the laundry. Go into a further disquisition how the jersey has become a brand, and those who are cloaked with them are merely replaceable cogs. Raymond Bourque is a Colorado Avalanche, and we're supposed to cheer when he 'gets his Cup'. Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter are snakebitten superstars who for some reason never could win or gain full respect. Somehow. Guy Lafleur decided to quit smoking, cut down on the blow, and make a comeback with the Rangers. Celebration time. LeBron James. Terrell Owens. Randy Moss. Adam Oates. Chris Pronger.
I was going to go over my formative years, and how I knew every Montreal Canadiens player, with their jersey numbers, as well as those numbers that are retired. I would rattle off the Expos' rosters, the teams whose games I used to listen to on CKAC broadcasts with Jacques Doucet and Claude Raymond, Cromartie, Dawson, Valentine, Rodney Scott and Chris Speier, Larry Parrish, Steve Rogers, Tim Gullickson, Dave Palmer, Scott Sanderson. Bill Lee with his beard, fuller and wilder than Steve Rogers'. I would talk about the Alouettes and how so many of the players spoke French, even the anglos, I wanted to grow up big and strong just like them. Dickie Harris. Randy Rhino. Tony Proudfoot. Gabriel Grégoire. Junior Ah You. Glen Weir.
I was then going to talk about heroes, the people I looked up to as a kid, and how today's generation don't have that. For them, training camp doesn't start every year with the same heroes as the previous year. I might have had maybe a couple of new young guys vying for my worship, but it was the same team. I knew that the Canadiens were the best team. They didn't win every game, they were human, but they tried hard, they fought every game. They conquered evil, Bruins, Flyers, Nordiques, it didn't matter. The Expos were young and had promise, and would win, if it wasn't for friggin' Dale Murphy and Willie Stargell and Dave Parker. Rick Monday. They'd win eventually, you just had to work harder. Believe. The Alouettes were the best, except that the Eskimos had this freaky quarterback, Warren Moon, who could throw the ball like you couldn't believe, my father would get all excited about his short delivery, even if he was on the wrong team. They also had this weird receiver, Brian Kelly, with a squeaky high voice, and he didn't look like much, but he killed us. You learned a lot from all this.
I'd then circle back to Tomas Kaberle, how he'd been a Maple Leaf forever, how it was shoved down my throat for so long how on the one hand he was such a great offensive defenceman but on the other how the Leafs forever tried to trade him but couldn't find any suckers to take him off their hands. How I don't necessarily even dislike the Leafs, but I hate the undeserved focus on them, I'm living out in BC now and have to listen to English broadcasts, and man am I sick of hearing how this year, this is the year they make the playoffs, every year, year after year. But now I do dislike the Leafs, they have these criminals playing for them, Tie Domi and Wade Belak and Darcy Tucker. Marchment. Now I do kind of hate them. And I hate this lazy, passionless defenceman they have, that guy with the red cheeks who looks like he's twelve years old. The guy who routinely skates back to his bench after a goal against, impassive, after letting some guy stickhandle around him and beat him like a meringue. I hate how they talk him up but he's so obviously incapable and lacking emotion.
I'd have to touch on his brief stay in Boston, and then Carolina, how both teams were hornswaggled into believing the Big Lie that he's the poor man's Phil Housley. I'd have to give props to Brian Burke, who simultaneously built up and undercut his man, dangling him forever as trade bait, but never getting anywhere near his asking price, to my delight, until the Bruins bit. I thought Mr. Burke should have been happy with a 2nd round pick to unload this stiff, but he got a bounty for him eventually. The Bruins got fleeced, the Leafs improved, I was conflicted.
I'd have to stipulate, as if this wasn't obvious enough already, that there are players who have disqualified themselves from ever wearing the bleu blanc rouge. Sean Avery. Ken Linseman. Jordin Tootoo. Nevin Markwart. Brad Marchand. Pavel Bure. Tomas Kaberle is obviously on this lengthy list of Untouchables.
If I had any resolve left by this point, I would have to talk about how this trade is horribly detrimental to our goal of winning a Stanley Cup. How Erik Cole was an example of a free-agent signing that has worked, while Mr. Kaberle was the posterboy for horrible wastes of cap space, how Carolina GM Jim Rutherford was already offering his mea culpas about it. I'd have to explain how this contract was going to hamstring the Canadiens for three seasons, while we needed cap space to go after impact free agents and sign our own.
I'd have to touch on how whatever skills he had were rapidly abandoning him, how 33 year-old players who were losing their touch were a bad investment, that we should have learned the lesson by now that you invest in young players, you buy low and sell high. Get players before they peak (<25), unload them, if necessary, while they're still producing (>30).
I'd have to bring up the poorly conceived tactical plan, how Mr. Kaberle is a passer, not a shooter like Mathieu Schneider, Marc-André Bergeron or James Wisniewski who fixed our powerplay in previous seasons. That our forwards are not deadly snipers who can finish his passes, that they know this and have lost confidence and pass the puck like a hot potato instead of slavering for it, in eagerness to score the winning goal and pad their stats. That opposing penalty killers would not challenge Tomas Kaberle like they did to Tomas Plekanec and dare him to shoot.
I might have got myself all riled up that Mr. Gauthier had ignored my frequent posts encouraging him to trust our trio of young defencemen and invest our organization's energy into preparing them for the future, instead of quick fixes, like he listened to me when I advised him to let Roman Hamrlik go and to re-sign Andrei Markov. I might have but I figure by then I might have been dejected and apathetic, and wonder why I'd bother.