As the season closes in, I'm always amazed at the variable levels of optimism and pessimism from fans and reporters for their given teams. The Habs are no exception. If anything, the peaks and troughs seem higher and deeper in Montreal.
Overall, I'd have to say I am getting a vibe of general optimism form Habs fans these days. Despite a relatively quiet summer and little overall change to team make up, the Canadiens supporterate is upbeat.
So upbeat, in fact, that I am finding myself reading more often than not that the Canadiens have a baseline level from which they can only do better, and that baseline seems to be well within the playoff threshold by most accounts.
Every year this happens, not just with the Habs, but with all teams. Analysts take the past and use some imagination and rational projection to prognosticate on what will come about.
The issue I take with this approach is that it generally focuses far too heavily on the positive direction. In most schemes all young players progress, all career best years are only foundations for more career best years and few ever decline.
Progress it seems is taken for granted.
Rarely do I read that Erik Cole might have an Edmonton debacle as he did his only other time outside North Carolina. Few and far between are the reports of Gionta possibly dropping off or Plekanec slipping in offensive production. I don't think anyone has dared write that PK Subban might be susceptible to a sophomore setback that the vast majority of his peers are not immune to.
All I read is about Gomez having nowhere to go but up. Eller continuing to make strides and the like.
I just thought that for a true balance, we should probably have a look at what we all, honestly, are probably taking for granted this season:
1) Tomas Plekanec posting 20+ goals and at least 57 points
2) Carey Price providing top-10 NHL goaltending
3) Hal Gill not getting figured out by fast forwards
4) Brian Gionta in the higher 20s in goals
5) Max Pacioretty scoring at the rate he did on his curtailed streak
6) Markov and Subban clicking on the PP
7) Emelin, Diaz or whichever AHLer having few growing pains
8) Not missing Hamrlik
9) Cammalleri repeating playoff magic
10) Team morale staying high no matter what happens
I very much hope the team does well. Yet I don't take for granted this will happen. Every team has its surprises and every team suffers setbacks, no matter how good. It may not be one of the things I have listed above, but something on the Montreal Canadiens will go awry and decline from the idealized painting we have in the endless August prognostications.
I do still despite this balanced head find I have more hope than some years that the team will close the season with a few games in the 82 to spare.
I won't make a prediction on points or on placement, but I will predict this: we will have reasons to cheer and reasons to fret in 2011-12, and we will have to watch the games to see how this new group of 23 players will fare against the 29 other new groups of players.