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Archive for Monday, November 20, 2000

Once-mighty Montreal now hapless Habs

Canadiens have worse record than expansion Wild, Blue Jackets

November 20, 2000

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— The worst record in the NHL belongs not to the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets or Minnesota Wild, but to the team that more than any other has been the champion.

The Montreal Canadiens, once the haughty lords of hockey, are dead last among the 30 teams and struggling to find ways to both win and quiet the growing ranks of critics.

"Embarrassment Night In Canada," the Montreal Gazette called it on Sunday, a day after the Habs lost 6-1 at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs to remain stuck on 12 points from 20 games.

While the 24-time Stanley Cup champions were losing at Molson Center in a nationally televised match, the first-year Wild were beating Boston 6-1 to raise their point total to 14 and leave Montreal in last place.

"Disgusting," said Sunday's headline in Le Journal de Montreal.

"The Canadiens were humiliated from coast to coast," wrote Le Journal hockey writer Marc de Foy, who then called on Canadiens president Pierre Boivin to "act quickly, please.

"The fans have been waiting more than a year for you to make a decision. After such a long wait, no one will accuse you of acting rashly."

Boivin has denied reports that the Canadiens were waiting for the team to be sold before making any changes and cautioned that it was unwise to make rash decisions just because the team is losing.

Boivin expects the club to be sold before the end of December, with the new owners likely bringing in their own management team. Fans already are calling for replacements for general manager Rejean Houle and coach Alain Vigneault and might not wait another month, with the team in a 1-10-1-0 slump and facing the prospect of a third consecutive year out of the playoffs.

"I'm not at all concerned about that," said Vigneault, in his fourth year behind the Habs' bench. "I just try to get the team to play well.

"I don't think about those things. We're working hand in hand with management. We're trying to find solutions. It's tough for us and the fans."

Vigneault was nominated for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year last season after the Canadiens missed the playoffs by just two points despite injuries that cost them a league-record 536 man-games.

On Saturday CKAC, the city's largest AM radio station which broadcasts Canadiens games, announced that Houle and Vigneault would be fired on Sunday. The station later retracted the information, which had been phoned in by an anonymous caller.

Gazette columnist Jack Todd said the Habs have become "a standing joke around the league" under Houle.

"Does this team have to lose every game from now until April for Pierre Boivin to realize, finally, that Rejean Houle does not have the stuff to be a general manager in the NHL and that he never did," Todd added.

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