Jeremy Jacobs the NHL lockout, hockey fans had to wait a few extra months for Montreal management’s annual “what the fuck” moment. But the wait is over, and that moment has finally arrived. Rejoice!
Last year the team fired assistant coach Perry Pearn for no apparent reason, which led to much speculation and whispering. He must have done something behind the scenes that wasn’t kosher, right? Well, maybe, except that he was hired almost immediately by the Winnipeg Jets, which would make one think that he probably wasn’t stealing hockey sticks out of the back of the equipment truck or tweeting pictures of his Perry Pearnis to underage Habs fans.
Montreal management followed up that gem by pulling arguably its best forward, Mike Cammalleri, out of the lineup MID-GAME to inform him he’d been traded to the Calgary Flames. Oh, and they allegedly demanded $1,250 from Cammalleri if he wanted to keep his Canadiens game-worn jersey as a souvenir. Classy, classy stuff.
This year, the Canadiens played chicken with top young defenseman, and probably the team’s most important player outside of Carey Price, PK Subban. A restricted free agent, Subban reportedly wanted a long term deal that would pay him what you’d expect an elite defenseman to get paid in the 2013 NHL. Montreal didn’t want to pay for potential, and were looking to sign their blue chip blueliner to a short term, “prove yourself” type deal. The Habs started hot without Subban, his leverage went from little to none, and ultimately, the deal Montreal wanted was the one PK ended up signing. Sure, the Canadiens risk another holdout in two years when PK goes RFA once again. But at least they’ll still own his rights.
This is where Montreal decided to get extra stupid. Let’s recap: First, the Canadiens essentially told their best player that he’s not as valuable as a myriad of other players around the league who are considerably worse at hockey than PK Subban is. Then, a team that has a very fresh history of mistreating its players (see: Cammalleri), refused to sign a guy who WANTED to stick around long term to a long term deal. Smart moves? Not really. But hockey is a business. The Habs have two years to heal any wounds they might have opened during Subban’s holdout, right?
Wrong. The Montreal Canadiens celebrated the signing of their best skater by promptly banning his post-victory tradition of “triple low-fiving” starting goaltender Carey Price. Apparently, the Montreal Canadiens think that allowing Price and Subban their secret handshake (which, I might add, has been a staple in professional baseball for years, and has caused exactly zero team morale issues) sends a message that personal celebrations are somehow above team celebrations. What. The. Fuck.
Forget the fact that without Subban and Price, there would be far fewer victories for the team to celebrate. Forget the fact that a secret handshake between your two best players endears them to a fan base that was uber-pissed to see Subban unsigned to start the season. Forget the fact that this infuses a teeny, tiny bit of personality into a sport largely devoid of marketable characters. Let’s look at this for what it is — A not-to-subtle “fuck you” tossed PK Subban’s way after the Canadiens got him for the exact terms they wanted all along. And with another contract negotiation less than two calendar years away, one really has to wonder: What the fuck is Montreal thinking?
This feels gross. It feels personal. It feels culturally intolerant, much like the ugly dynamic that has developed between Evander Kane and the Winnipeg media. Montreal will be lucky to get this guy under contract again in two years. And what really sucks, especially for Montreal fans, is that they love this guy. They don’t want to run him out of town. But that’s the way things are headed if management continues to behave like a British prep school headmaster in a Roald Dahl novel.