Yesterday a summer of building optimism came to a screeching halt. And it wasn't because the sun isn't there when the alarm goes off anymore.
Yesterday was the day we fist got corroboration that Andrei Markov is not perfectly healed.
Now, from what I've seen, every rosy scenario that places the Canadiens in a more favourable position to last season included a healthy Markov. Every scenario dismissing the loss of Hamrlik and Wisniewski because the returnees would fill the gap and more.
Now that those scenarios are showing this hole (filling with water on the knee, apparently), staunch optimists have been seen fleeing for the hills.
What I want to say to this is: be calm. All is not lost.
Last season, my good friend, who's had these ACL surgeries himself, and I spoke all the time about Andrei Markov and the sense in bringing him back for November. My position at the time was that the man healed fast, so why not. His that the healing takes time for everyone, so why rush?
He was right. The recurrence of injury in part due to the curtailed rehabilitation sessions.
Now a season on, Markov has learned his lessons. The Canadiens medical and hockey staff have learned their lessons. And we fans must too. Rushing the Russian talisman back is not a strategy that we want to toy with. Even if it means a few weeks of adjustment to pace and significant early season games lost to the lineup, a healthy Markov on return is better than a vulnerable one.
So the conservative approach is what we should be looking for. The conservative approach when we see it (such as yesterday) is something we need to celebrate with a big "phew, they won't repeat the same mistakes of the past."
I'm happy to see that our old pal Arpon Basu landed right on this philosophy in today's analysis. I'm hoping that others will come around.
That's one reason to be calm.
The other is simple arithmetic. If optimism of contention was brimming for Markov's brigade a couple of days ago, it should not suddenly be emptied to the dregs.
The task of the Montreal Canadiens for 6 months is to make sure they are among the top half of outfits on the Eastern side of the board. Contention comes later. If you have honest questions about whether the Habs will be able to make the playoffs without Markov for 20 games, 40 games or 80 games then you probably should have been asking honest questions about those thoughts on contention anyway. If you believe Markov takes the team from outsider to parade planners then you should probably also honestly ask a few questions about how much you remember Markov and what he can do for the team.
Andrei is a formidable player, the best overall package on the team by a margin at the moment. But he's one guy. He's one guy who plays 1/3 to 1/2 of the time at the best of times. Really the team will carry the load.
So step down panic stations. Optimism be tempered (it always should be) but not lost. Markov, his advisors and the Canadiens are doing this right this time.