1992-93, 1989-90, 2013.
Without hesitation those are the three most enjoyable seasons of Montreal Canadiens hockey I’ve seen in my life. 1989-90 was special because it was the first year I really started to understand the game; it was also the year I became a goalie full-time and started to worship at the altar of St. Patrick. 1992-93 was special because I was 12 years old and the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. 2013 was special because it was the first time in my life that I’ve seen the Canadiens build towards the bigger picture – and they were exciting along the way.
25 years of changing winds
Growing up during the Ronald Corey/Serge Savard era of Canadiens hockey, you never knew which way the wind was blowing. One year they seemed competitive, the next it seemed like they were getting ready to blow the whole thing up. Patrick Roy was always on the verge of being dealt, they traded Chris Chelios for Denis Savard, and even Pat Burns was run out of town. That said, they won more than they lost and I had fun being a fan.
For all of their weaknesses, when Corey, Savard and coach Jacques Demers were shown the door, the team went into an extended tailspin of terrible trades (Roy & Keane for Thibault, Rucinsky and Kovalenko? Did that really happen?!?), awful draft choices (hello Jason Ward and Terry Ryan), and just a total lack of direction.
When George Gillett bought the team, he started to set things straight, but the best his group could do was provide a whole of of sizzle with very little steak: Mike Ribeiro, Alex Kovalev, the whole 100th anniversary… all of it was overblown, loud, and ultimately unfulfilling.
Moving past the Gainey/Gauthier era and the glory of 2013
When Geoff Molson acquired the Canadiens a couple of years ago he set out to relaunch the franchise. He broke the Gainey-Gauthier chain last season and kicked off the Marc Bergevin era. Bergevin was able, in a short time, to take advantage of Gainey’s best asset – scout Trevor Timmins, and quickly built a core based around young stars-to-be like Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
Combined with established stars like Carey Price and PK Subban, those players form the basis of a team that is going to be very good, very soon and for a very long time.
So for the first time in a generation, the Habs are set for the long term and maybe a few championships in the near future.