The Montreal Canadiens and their rookie netminder Carey Price need to shape up and shake off their doldrums quickly because, well, because this entire country needs them.
Face facts. Canada is depressed, and not only because of its living costs. The condition of the nation’s sporting franchises also is woeful as its organizations in the NHL, the NBA and in MLB have regressed lamentably and are not close to winning titles.
The Canadiens are the lone exceptions. They’re the only post-season squad Canada has these days. And they’re no sure bet, either.
They trail the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in their second-round playoff series after dropping two consecutive games in which Price has deteriorated from pillar to sieve.
Three of Canada’s six NHL squads — the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks — failed to even qualify for the playoffs, while the Ottawa Senators couldn’t win a game in them. The Calgary Flames took the San Jose Sharks to the maximum seven games before falling in the opening round, yet there’s concern about them, too.
“The media and fans in Calgary drank (general manager Darryl) Sutter’s Kool-Aid, but he’s created a mess,” e-mailer Rich wrote yesterday.
“The Flames are the Maple Leafs of the West. Huge cap issues.”
And while it’s still relatively early in the baseball season, Canada’s MLB team offers little promise.
The Blue Jays are in the AL East cellar. The recognizable players they’ve dumped — Troy Glaus, Reed Johnson and Frank Thomas — are excelling elsewhere. The Jays, meanwhile, could be the first club this season to fire a manager and/or general manager. Both John Gibbons and J.P. Ricciardi are on thin, if not melting, ice.
Canada’s NBA team qualified for the post-season but was eliminated quickly. The Raptors have slid downhill. Coach Sam Mitchell and several players may be discarded.
The good news, perhaps, is that the CFL season starts relatively soon.
Granted, this league is laden with flaws and shortcomings. For instance, it still has no drug policy and simultaneously has become a haven for renowned drug-users, such as the Toronto Argonauts’ newest receiver, David Boston. The league’s general talent is so-so. Ditto for its officiating. And it has a salary-management system in which cheaters are fined for exceeding the cap but still are allowed to win championships, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders were last year.
Nonetheless, the CFL can instil genuine pride in Canadians. Because U.S. expansion was aborted long ago, you can rest assured that whoever takes the Grey Cup this year will, at least, be a team based in Canada.