Saturday, October 23, 2010

Is Head Coach Jacques Martin Playing Favorites?

by Tyg

Outside of his hard work ethic and his ability to chill without complaint in the press box, I just don’t get Mathieu Darche. What else does he bring to the Montreal Canadiens, who re-signed him for league minimum to another year?

He’s weak defensively and offensively. He’s far too slow on his skates compared to the rest of the team. He’s a perimeter player, a fourth line grinder who can log minutes when someone goes down to injury.

The thing is, no one is currently injured, and Darche is about to see ice-time again tonight as the Habs gear up to take on the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank. Cooling his jets this evening will be Dustin Boyd.

Boyd is, without question, a better skater and a better grinder, with more skill and ability than Darche. He’s also got a bigger cap hit, the same solid work ethic and is not currently injured.

This is Jacques Martin, playing one of his favorites. I saw it last year with Marc-Andre Bergeron too, and I didn’t like it then either.

Even when Bergeron was constantly turning over the puck, throwing blind passes through the neutral zone, and failing to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Jacques Martin kept him on the ice and kept Ryan O’Byrne in the press box.

Speaking of Ryan O’Byrne, is he even still on the team? If he is, I suspect he won’t be for much longer. He’s assumed the role of Sergei Kostitsyn, which means he’s now the Alpha Dog in Martin’s doghouse. I’d bet serious money he’ll be offloaded before the trade deadline, and it’s really to his benefit, because he will never fulfill his potential under this coach.

Also unlikely to fulfill his potential under this coach is Benoit Pouliot. He’s got top-six potential and was not drafted or projected to be a third or fourth line grinder. It’s the same with Lars Eller. Yet Martin seems to think that instant magical chemistry will develop for the second line with Travis Moen, Tom Pyatt or even Darche before it will develop with Pouliot or Eller.

Pouliot and Eller are the only two on the roster with the skill set to potentially compliment the Scott Gomez–Brian Gionta pairing. But Martin seems to have little to no faith in the two youngsters.

I thought Martin was hired in part for his ability to get the best out of young prospects and help their development. I don’t know what Martin did for Spezza, but I do see what he’s doing with these kids, and I don’t like it.

This year, goaltender Carey Price’s confidence is growing, as it should. He’s a solid goaltender who can and will morph into one of the greats as long as he doesn’t keep getting pulled in favor of his backup. That's an option Martin no longer has, thanks to the trading of Jaroslav Halak, and Price will benefit from that more than anything Martin really does.

Jacques expects too much, too soon, out of players that need nurturing, not constant punishment. Make no mistake, demoting Pouliot to the bottom two lines is not a show of confidence in his abilities.

Pouliot, to his credit, is working hard and is near the top of the league in hits, averaging three per game. He packed on 12 pounds of muscle in the offseason as his coaches asked and is more likely than not to battle for the puck to try to force a turnover. His effort and hard work are a refreshing change.

It’s not getting rewarded. I’ve never been a fan of the kid because I’ve always thought that while he had the potential, he lacked the focus and desire. I don’t really believe that anymore.

When I first started my current job, it took me weeks to find and follow the rhythm of my co-workers, to step into their groove and follow their lead. Now I do it without thinking.

If Martin wants chemistry on the second line, he might want to try giving it more than three lousy games to develop.

I’d also really like it if he’d stop playing favorites with his roster. It might not be the biggest problem the Habs have right now, but I fail to see how it helps anything to send that kind of a message.

Tyg used to frequent the old Forum during her early childhood when her father was a corporate season ticket holder, where she fell in love with Larry Robinson, so her lifelong obsession with the Habs is entirely his fault.


I agree with you entirely! Martin is pairing 3rd and 4th line wingers on the top two lines, and its a complete waste of time and talent. Pouliot and Eller were acquired as top six forwards, and deserve a chance to show what they can accomplish with players filling that same role. You don't ask a plumber to do your electrical work, do you? I'd like to see Eller play with Gomez and Gionta for the next few games. There are two games against the Islanders this week. I don't think they will be very tight defensively. There should be lots of room to skate and for Eller to show his play making skills. I know his natural position is at center, but Gionta and Gomez need something to get them going and this might fit the bill. Its got to be better than pairing them with Pyatt? Who knows, maybe Eller could play center between Gionta and Gomez? That couldn't be worse than having Pyatt on the LW.

Excellent piece, Tyg!

Well, I have to start my saying that yes, JM IS playing favorites cuz, well, that's what he does!

He seems to find certain players that he loves and others that he doesn't and he treats them accordingly.

Patrick: you are bang on!
As we saw in last night's game, Eller's talent is completely wasted playing on the fourth line with Darche and Moen. He needs to be playing with talented wingers in order for him to be successful.

Look what happened with his one shift with Andrei Kostitsyn!

I think that right now, Gomez is the problem and that it is time for JM to give Eller a shot as the second line center.

What's the worst that can happen? He can't be LESS effective than Gomez has been so far!

Patrick - nice analogy with the plumber and the electrician comparison. Pouliot hasn't really had much of a chance, and you're right in that Eller's talent is currently being misapplied. Thanks so much for the feedback!

Kamal - I know JM is playing faves and it's a major pet peeve of mine. Doing what's best for the team should outweigh his little lovefest with Darche or Pyatt.

I think Gomez sometimes makes lazy plays and lazy decisions, but then again so did more than a few of them last night, including Plekanec who had a stupid giveaway at one point.

I'd love to see Gomez dropped back to the 3rd line and Eller centering Gio and Pouliot, but I think Jacques lacks that kind of creativity and frankly, cojones. He'd much rather do the mad scramble for an insta-winger with the game tied 2-2 and about to go into overtime.


Tyg: I think tomorrow night's lineup will go a long way in determining what JM wants to do.

Let's see: Eller on the third line wing = invisible player.

Eller on fourth line, as center, = invisible player.

Eller on third line center with Lapierre = a scoring opportunity

Eller with AK46 in OT = game winning goal.

Hmmmmm....tough to figure out how to use him isn't it?


Martin is a professional, he plays lineups that will win him games, this line up is winning games. To think anything otherwise is ridiculous.

@Ryan.babington yeah says JM will roll the same lineup vs. the Islanders on Wednesday. Until this lineup drops a game I doubt we'll see any more tinkering from JM, unless he's doing the mad scramble late in the 3rd again.

Not sure panic line formations are the way to go at that point though. Not sure Darche instead of Boyd and Pyatt on the 2nd line are really making all the difference to the team winning the last two games, but I guess Jacques disagrees.

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