Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Anderson: Is it a rivalry if one of the teams is a total disaster?

Ty Anderson
January 18, 2018 - 6:10 am

The 2009 Canadiens that the Bruins swept out of the postseason had more fight than the Montreal team you saw on Wednesday. The 2011 Canadiens team that gagged a 2-0 first-round series lead away to help propel the B’s to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years had more heart than the team you saw on Wednesday. The 2014 Canadiens made up for their relatively unknown roster with some of the most loathsome players you’ll ever come across in a seven-game series. This current Habs roster is all “Who?” but without the accompanying hate, rendering them irrelevant and fitting of their current rank in the conference standings, which has them sitting uncomfortably in 14th.

Not even Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, who made the (somewhat shocking) switch from the Bruins to the Canadiens in a week’s time last February, can save the remnants of hope you had for this present era of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry.

That’s because the Canadiens are an abject disaster, and with no definitive end in sight.

Following Wednesday’s lifeless loss, the Habs now sit a dooming 16 points behind the B’s (they’ve also played two more games than Boston, too), and find themselves nine points short of the second wild card in the East. The B’s, meanwhile, sit 15 points above the playoff line thanks to the straight-up woeful Atlantic and its pit of misery (dilly, dilly).

“I think those are questions you need to ask the players, not the coach. I can’t answer for them, so it’s important for you guys to ask the right people. That’s part of your job,” an undoubtedly irked Julien told the media when asked if his new team is quitting on him. “My job is to tell you that we weren’t good enough tonight, and we need to be better. I think that’s my response. Really, I need to get this team to play better, and no matter what they’re thinking, they need to change their approach if that’s the case.”

Quitting or not, Julien’s team is now in the same survival mode he worked the Bruins into for three straight seasons before Don Sweeney had seen enough, and wake up on Thursday morning with a 1.7 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason.

In typical Beat-Defending-Claude fashion, I think it’s worth noting that not all of this is Claude’s fault.

The Habs found a way to match the idiocy of the Tyler Seguin trade by moving P.K. Subban for an older, more expensive player in Shea Weber (making a cool $7.8 million ‘til 2026). They then moved their best defensive prospect (Mikhail Sergachev) for a top-line winger (Jonathan Drouin) they’ve spent -- though I’d prefer the term ‘wasted’ -- half a season trying to play as a center. Oh, and to the shock of no one, they're still looking for a high-impact defenseman.

The Canadiens have also given Julien a roster almost entirely made up of players that seem like the opposite of Claude’s wants if he's going to truly build this team in the image required for them to legitimately compete within his system.

(This sort of mismanagement borders on incredible, and should make you all the more thrilled with the job that the once seemingly in-over-his-head Sweeney has done.)

Now, given the fact that their logo largely represents traumatic memories as a B’s fan no matter the generation, you obviously do not care about Montreal’s struggles, and I understand that hearing all of this is enough to turn you giddy.

But it’s also embarrassing given how important we typically consider these games to be.

It felt wrong to have to wait until the third period before the Garden broke out the “Car-ey” jeers, and that the mocking Ole chant happened by the time the building had emptied out (likely out of boredom given the Canadiens’ refusal to even compete). It also felt beyond weird to see the crowd have absolutely nobody to boo, and to consider the notion that Subban was the Ignitor Supreme and thoroughly missed by this rivalry.

Of course, rivalries can sometimes be cyclical and this may just be the final stages of its ‘quiet’ time. It wouldn’t be the first time you’ve experienced this, as rivalries with the Sabres and Flyers seem as if they’ve been put on hold in recent seasons. The new NHL schedule, which features a four-game season series versus the war-inducing eight-gamers from just a decade ago, certainly plays a part in this, too. It’s taken the familiarity out of these showdowns, even with Wednesday being the second meeting between these teams in just five days, and with a third head-to-head in seven days set for Saturday. It almost finds a way to make your closest neighbor feel foreign, and ironically enough, takes the sizzle and animosity out of matchups meant for maximums in each. 

Right now, Bruins-Canadiens has become just another game on the schedule.

And while that’s awful, it's clearly not as awful as the Canadiens.

Which is something I always thought would be a lot more enjoyable to watch.

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