KAMLOOPS — Steve Shutt played 12 seasons in the bleu, blanc and rouge, during one of the greatest eras in the Montreal Canadiens franchise history---twelve seasons during which the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup five times.
These days the 65-year old Shutt's connection with the Canadiens is coaching the alumni team (last night at Memorial Arena in Kamloops), and watching the Habs flounder in the NHL standings.
"I think everybody that's played with the Canadiens, they still have a vested interest." says Shutt, "They want the team to do well, and when they see them struggle the way that they have, I think everybody gets a little bit frustrated."
Long gone are the days when Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock drafted astutely and picked the pocket of nearly every team in the league in building Stanley Cup contenders and champions.
For the better part of the last two decades draft picks have been hit and miss --- mostly miss --- and most of the trades would have Pollock rolling over in his grave.
"I look what they did with the team, I look at some of their trades --- you know in todays game if you don't have a rushing defenceman, or a couple of rushing defencemen coming up in the play, you're not going to get any offence. The league is too good to beat somebody two-on-two or three-on-three, so you need that defenceman to jump up in the play. Unfortunately the Canadiens have traded them." says Shutt.
Patrice Brisebois, who now plays on the alumni team coached by Steve Shutt, played on the last Canadiens team to win the Stanley Cup in 1993. Like it is for Shutt, it's painful for Brisebois to watch the current Canadiens.
"To be honest, it's hard." says Brisebois, "I was expecting a good season --- because they have good players. I think they have the best goalie in the league with Carey Price. The trade for Drouin --- that's going to bring more offence, but that did'nt happen --- year after year it's going to be harder to make the playoffs."
For years there has been a mystique about the Montreal Canadiens. Even as they struggle now, the Canadiens remain a big draw when visiting other Canadian rinks --- often with as many Habs jerseys as hometown team jerseys in the crowd. But that mystique is in danger of being lost, not only around the league, but in Montreal too.
"I don't know what Marc Bergevin (general manager) is going to do." says Brisebois, "But I'm sure he needs to do something, because the fans in Montreal they're not too happy."
Says Steve Shutt, "Uh...they better draft well."
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