Here we are, 19 days into October. The leaves are falling. The world is upside down, the streets a masked parade of anxious souls.
And it is 39 years since Blue Monday, the day the Dodgers and Rick Monday wrecked the Expos’ World Series plans and, arguably, sent the organization on the road to extinction.
By coincidence, the anniversary also falls on a Monday. The original Blue Monday in 1981 was a personal low point as well. My marriage had fallen apart, I was in the process of moving to New York City and while I was in town to close my apartment I got pneumonia and spent two weeks in bed. I didn’t even have a working phone and my only entertainment was watching the Expos playoff run on a tiny black-and-white TV in a nearly empty apartment.
Then Monday hit that bleeping home run off Steve Rogers. If not for the splendid care of my physician, Dr. Sam Shuldiner, I might have expired on the spot. Dr. Shuldiner was a young buck in those days and he actually made house calls from his office around the corner during his lunch hour, just to see how I was doing.
Now Dr. Sam has retired, I’m considerably older and Blue Monday is still with us, like a mildew smell on old clothes.
After the game ended on that fateful day in 1981, I managed to make it down to the Cumberland Pharmacy on Queen Mary to renew a prescription – and even the old ladies in line were talking about the Expos defeat. The whole city felt it, but there is nothing quite like the combination of Blue Monday and pneumonia to get you down.
Here we are, decades later, with the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that might have played part of its season in Montreal, preparing for the World Series – and it still hurts.
Meanwhile the unquestioned champion of the NHL off-season was…
You’ve got it. Mr. Big Pipes himself. Marc Bergevin the prankster. I’ve been trying to tell y’all for years that Bergevin was a better GM than people thought but the argument is difficult to make when the team keeps missing the playoffs.
For reasons I never understood, Bergevin was winning deal after deal (the Phil Danault trade, the Max Domi trade, the Max Pacioretty trade) but the team wasn’t getting better.
Then came the oddest summer in NHL history. A Canadiens bunch that admittedly did not belong there not only made it to the playoffs (and forget that silly “play-in” vs. “play-off” designation) they knocked off a strong Pittsburgh Penguins team and went the distance with the Philadelphia Flyers, the top seed in the east.
Making the round against the Flyers put the Habs out of contention for the top seed in the draft (a lottery they were unlikely to win anyway) but it made them a legitimate destination for free agents and helped make possible an astounding offseason for Bergevin.
In quick succession, he added a superb backup goaltender in Jake Allen, picked up big defenceman Joel Edmundson from Carolina for a fifth-round pick, traded disgruntled forward Max Domi to Columbus for Josh Anderson and signed free agent winger Tyler Toffoli.
Then Bergevin signed Heart-and-Soul Brendan Gallagher for six years and Allen for two, completing his offseason sweep.
All in all, Bergevin had the best off-season a Canadiens GM has had since 1992 when Serge Savard traded Shayne Corson, Brent Gilchrist and Vladimir Vujtek to Edmonton for Vincent Damphousse, then hooked up with Minnesota North Stars GM Bob Gainey to deal Russ Courtnall for Brian Bellows shortly before training camp.
Those two deals set the stage for the Canadiens 1993 Stanley Cup run. Will the Canadiens repeat in 2021 with Allen, Edmundson, Anderson, Toffoli and highly touted Russian Alexander Romanov added to the lineup?
It’s still going to be enormously tough. It always is. Seems everyone else is better too, especially the Ottawa Senators. But Bergevin has finally closed every hole on this team from center ice to backup goaltender to left defence to the absence of size. He has the team he wants.
Now it’s over to Claude Julien to make it work. But no pressure, guy.
Houston, we had a problem: Jocks do a sick thing. When they’ve done something terrible and they know it, rather than offering a genuine apology and showing contrition, they turn it around and use it as motivation.
The Houston Astros are as good an example of that as you will ever see. In the wake of their defeat at the hands of the low-rent Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS, the Astros were boasting about team unity and how they all pulled together.
The Astros are the worst gang of cheaters this side of the Russian Olympic team. The cheating was organized, team-wide and pervasive, not the action of one or two bad apples. If not for jelly-spined commissioner Rob Manfred, the team would still be serving a postseason ban and players like Jose Altuve would be gone for life.
Instead, here they are taking a bow for doing the “us against the world” thing. On behalf of the world, I would like to say: Screw you, Astros.
Bad juju in D.C.: What is it about Washington D.C. that it seems to attract the scum of the earth? President Batshit, Mitch McConnell, Stephen Miller, Republicans in general – and Daniel Snyder, owner of what it now called the Washington Football Club.
From day one, Snyder has been an example of all that is wrong with billionaire owners in the NFL. Abusing employees, refusing to back down on his team’s racist moniker and running the organization into the ground.
But the comment on the team’s cheerleaders, delivered to the director of the cheerleading team, was the capper. “You better keep them skinny with big tits,” Snyder allegedly told Donald Wells, “or I’ll fucking kill you.” What a sweetheart of a man.
Lies, rumours &&&& vicious innuendo: Has anyone told Ottawa Senators boss Eugene Melnyk that the team is spending money? Or has hockey’s equivalent of Daniel Snyder been cut out of the loop? …
Has anyone told Leafs GM Kyle Dubas this isn’t fantasy hockey? Dubas seems to believe that it’s all about accumulating big-name forwards. …
Love Bergevin’s draft stunt when Lou Lamoriello was still GM of the Maple Leafs and about to announce his pick when Bergevin dialed his number. When Lamoriello answered, Bergevin said, “sorry, butt dial” …
I’m sure opponents would agree: Chase Claypool should be illegal. Claypool is going to be a huge NFL star for a long time – and that fabulous physique was made in Canada. …
Gotta love my two grey-haired sisters in Colorado. (Less grey-haired than me, I should add.) They’re working long days making phone calls and doing mailings in support of Joe Biden and Democratic candidates in Colorado. They were attending quiet Black Lives Matter protests on Sunday mornings when a Squeegee-brained Trumpkin came (with his family, no less) and stood across the street with an AR-15 – and they didn’t back down. And through it all, they wear matching baseball caps that read: “Vote, bitches!”
Heroes: Marc Bergevin, Brendan Gallagher, Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Randy Arozarena, Cory Seager, Cody Bellinger, Evan Bush, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, &&&& last but not least, Dr. Sam Shuldiner for looking after his lousy patient for all those years.
Zeros: Eugene Melnyk, Rob Manfred, the Houston Astros, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Daniel Snyder, Jerry Jones, Nick Saban, Ron MacLean, Don Cherry wherever he is, Claude Brochu &&&&& last but not least, David Samson and Jeffrey Loria.
Now and forever.