Games in Montreal are always fun, even when there isn’t a lot of “meaning” in the game. It’s always been this way, even when the Leafs struggled at times in the ‘70s and ‘80s and the Habs were so strong. When I was a kid in the 1960s, (it’s hard to imagine this, I’m sure, for young Leaf fans nowadays) but the two teams met 14 teams a season- seven times at the Gardens and of course the rest of the time at the equally legendary Montreal Forum.
The '60s battles were remarkably intense just about every time out. When you play that often there is a natural rivalry of course, but throw in that the two Canadian franchises represented very different and passionate fans bases and you had a recipe for tremendous hockey most nights. (Check out the great old Harold Barkley photo at right, of long-time Leaf captain George Armstrong sandwiched along the boards by Hab defenseman Terry Harper and former Leaf great Dickie Duff on the left...)
The Leafs almost always got up for games at the wonderful old Forum (I’ll never forget the first game I ever saw their, live, in the mid 1970s…the lights were so bright, it felt like being at an opera or the theater or something along those lines…) and that seems to have continued in the new building where the Habs play.
So it’s a nice way to end the season- one that was filled with so much promise back in September, seemed to meet or even exceed expectations at times, and then, as we ll know, kind of fall back in the second half and down the stretch.
So with the season at a close, I’ll hopefully pull together some season-end thoughts over the next couple of days, but today I really wanted to get some input from you— the tremendous and thoughtful readership that has evolved here at Vintage Leaf Memories.
Specifically, with one game left in the regular-season, I’d like to hear from you with some objective views (as best you can, once you get past the emotion), as you stand back and reflect on what has transpired over the past six months or so with this hockey team, on what happened lately—and where this team and this organization goes next.
Are you discouraged or encouraged? Do you still believe in Burke’s “plan”? Are you hopeful that the young players have what it takes to develop and be contenders starting next season?
Are some of our youngsters over-hyped and over-rated? Will they ever be more than third or fourth-line guys?
Are we on the cusp of something, despite this winter’s setback, or are we so far away from Boston, New York, Philly and the Penguins that we can’t even see them?
Are we going to be in the mix next season, or are we still two or three seasons away from being a team that will make noise in the playoffs?
Give it some thought and let me know. I always enjoy hearing different perspectives, and appreciate the great contributions that you all make to this site.