Let me tell you about “the Motherfuck.”
It’s a gamlbing term. Actually, come to think of it, it might not even be. I’m not sure. It was a term used amongst the individuals at the OTB that I partially grew up around (you may have questions about my parents. I have them as well). So it must be a gambling term. These people got it from somewhere. And if they invented it, it’s only a gift to the lexicon.
Like most gambling terms, it was used to rationalize a loss without taking responsibility for one’s inept handicapping. Like most gambling terms, it could be pretty flexible, It could be when someone bet on the same horse you had, and the horse proceeded to take something of a Sunday stroll around the oval, not getting caught up in the business of, y’know, winning or placing or the like. Or it could be declaring to the room that a given horse had no chance in a race, only to watch him channel the lovechild of Secretariat and Snowpiercer and win by a couple minutes.
It’s been applied to sports, and followed me around for my writing career. Back when I was simply producing a drunken gameday rag for Blackhawks home games here in Chicago, on more than enough occasions to erode my credibility I would hold a player up for scorn in a preview, only to watch him have a four-point night. Or vice versa, as a lauded player would proceed to spend 60 minutes with his stick in his ass. This train was rarely late.
And now, I’ve brought it to this platform. We cannot outrun who we are, dear readers.
Just over two weeks ago, I wrote this about the Montreal Canadiens. They were riding high, with the most points in hockey and atop the North Division. All of their metrics said they belonged there. Everything was clicking. It appeared as if they had found the solution.
Since then, they’ve gone 2-4-2, and spent the week losing two shootouts to the Ottawa Senators, which is when the kid who eats worms is laughing at you. Today they fired coach Claude Julien, and replaced him with Dominique Ducharme (and if my long-bald father were still here, upon gazing upon this Ducharme character would certainly bellow one of his catch-phrases, “Look at the hair on this asshole!”). They’ve dropped to fourth, though they have two games in hand on the Jets and Oilers right ahead of them, and still have some cushion ahead of the Flames for the last playoff spot.
Yeah, I Motherfucked the Habs.
Except the thing is … I really didn’t? Not if you look at their process, which NHL teams still fail to do on an unfathomable level. Yes, the Habs only have two wins in their last eight games. That’s bad! Yes, they’ve lost to the Senators three times, and that’s really hard to do. But looking at this stretch, they’ve really only thrown in a couple of stinkers. And one was to the Leafs, who are just humming right now. That’ll happen. No one in Montreal will ever accept that, but it’s true. The Leafs are good. After all, it’s not the playoffs yet.
Here’s something: In February, Carey Price’s save-percentage is .889. What exactly is this Max Headroom-impersonator Ducharme going to do about that? In terms of metrics, Corsi and expected-goals percentage, the Canadiens have only been on the donkey end in just two games during this stretch. They’re doing just about everything right. They get more shots, more attempts, more chances. They have the second-best expected-goals per game in February. Except the part where the guy in the mask is supposed to stop the puck. Was Julien fired because he didn’t play Jake Allen over Price enough? Their starts are six for Price and four for Allen this month, so that can’t be it.
Ok, the special teams both rank in the bottom-third. But again, Price’s SV% while shorthanded is .818, good enough for 31st in the league.
But the Motherfuck doesn’t care about metrics. It doesn’t care about what should be. It doesn’t care about process. It’s a results-based curse. It’s only there to sit on your reputation like Jabba The Hutt. So to all my Habs-following friends, I’m sorry. I thought I was free of this burden. I didn’t think it would be ready for a larger platform. I was wrong. I Motherfucked the Habs.