Monday, October 24, 2011

Montreal Canadiens: Time for new shoes

Jacques Martin - Buffalo Sabres v Montreal CanadiensAs a letter carrier I have sometimes had the misfortune of stepping in dog poo. I avoid it whenever possible, but sometimes I just don't see it and put my foot down wrong. Then, attempting to tidy up, I scrape it off my shoe, leaving it all over the sidewalk. Even then it usually necessitates a power washing with a borrowed garden hose. Once I actually just gave in and tossed the shoes.

When it comes to the Habs, they too new shoes, or in their case, skates.

I've seen a lot of hockey, and a lot of Canadiens hockey in particular. Even when they were routinely Cup champs they still sometimes stepped in a pile and dragged it all over the ice.

But last night had to be one of the worst starts to a hockey game by the Montreal Canadiens I've ever witnessed, bar none.

I suppose I could just pick it apart, but I did so on twitter along with a bunch of savvier writers and today I'm too tired and jaded to do it.

But here's my five cents worth — really only two cents but adjusted for Quebec taxes.

A lack of communication is mucking everything up

Remember how Kirk Muller used to stand behind the bench with a headset in one ear? The other ear would be tuned towards Jacques Martin, and Muller would usually be nodding, lean over and pat the players on the back and whisper sweet somethings in their ears.

I have yet to see the "Randys", Cunneyworth or Ladouceur, doing any of that.

Why we need four coaches that don't talk to each other or the players is beyond me. Lars Eller said after the game that he was unaware that Jonas Gustavsson had taken over for James Reimer in the Toronto net for the second period.

There's your problem right there.

Linemates are also not talking to each other. All of the Habs vaunted leadership and chemistry has vanished. Likely lost to the same place my socks go whenever I throw them in the dryer.

Even players who tend to survive most of Martin's pureed line combinations seem disjointed. There were times when Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri couldn't find each other on the ice if they were wearing flashing neon signs, using a seeing eye dog and a GPS, let alone the back of a wide open net.

Flopping defense

On the defensive side, the defense corps is young and soft, but the veterans are not helping either. Josh Gorges is routinely making mistakes and P.K Subban is definitely experiencing some sophomore season slump.

As such, I hate seeing them paired up together.

In a couple of years the Habs blueline will be giving the opposition fits, but right now they are still cutting their teeth while I gnash mine.

The Coach

I know Jacques Martin is a favorite whipping boy of mine, but I really do try to be open minded with him. I want to like him and I want him to succeed, because that means my team succeeds and that will always be a good thing. And this regardless of who is wearing the jerseys or standing behind the bench.

Did anyone else notice Martin's demeanor on the Leafs first tying goal, as the Habs went into full panic mode? The usually bland-faced calm and give-nothing-away facade was gone and I saw nervousness, frustration and panic.

You didn't have to be a hockey fan or a Habs fan to notice it.

His nervousness, frustration and panic are not helping the Habs to overcome theirs—which is palpable from this side of the 50" high def.

His use of players in certain roles is head scratching to say the least.

Forget using Erik Cole on the power play anymore. How about anyone but Mathieu Darche—who has a grand total of three power play goals in his entire NHL career?

Darche also sees ice time on a 5-on-3 over proven goal scorers, in Cole.

Martin stated afterwards that Darche does good things on the power play in front of the net. Since he plays for the Canadiens and not the Leafs, I'm pretty sure clearing the puck down the ice does not qualify as a good thing. Though I suspect Ron Wilson would beg to differ.

Meanwhile, the Habs get scored on and they start running around like the Keystone Cops, instead of like a team that went deep into the playoffs two years ago. That same team took the eventual Cup champ, Boston Bruins, to sudden death overtime in Game Seven of their first round series last season.

I'm pretty sure I've seen better composure from QMJ hockey teams.

The Canadiens are two years into playing a puck possession, disciplined and defense oriented system. But right now, they look like they've either tossed their coach's system out the window or developed a severe case of retrograde amnesia.

I really don't know which it is, but if it's the latter then Martin ought to start whacking the players upside the head to see if it will help any. If you want confirmation that this strategy sometimes works, just ask my grandmother or mother.

Either Martin reminds them more forcefully or his players will end up tossing him out the window.

People crying for Martin's removal as Head Coach of the Habs - and yes I'm one of them - might want to take a moment to consider the alternatives. They're out there, but the leading candidates are not likely to thrill any kind of a majority, from what I can gather online or off.

The Habs need a boot in the pants. Another minor deal to augment the fourth line is unlikely to be sufficient.

Ultimately, like Jack Nicholson said: "Something's gotta give".

Rosalyn 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.

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)


On the post game show on CBC they showed the Habs bench on TO time out late in the game, RC and JM were having a chat. No one was talking to the players to give any instruction. Like you say, if Kirk were there he would be talking to the players.

Well said Ros! Something HAS got to give because things are really ugly so far. For me, the most damning stat was from Elliotte Friedman who said 7% of teams that are three points or more out of a playoff spot by Nov 1, don't make the playoffs.

With six more days until November 1 and the Habs are currently four points out.

Not looking so good so far...

@Anonymous To tell you the truth I'm surprised as all get out that RC and JM were even talking to each other at all. But based on their on-ice total disjointed-ness (I know it's not a word sorry) and Eller's post-game remarks I'm thinking Muller was a bigger factor than most thought, including me, and I pretty much thought he was running the show anyway. Go figure. Thanks for taking the time!

Kamal I saw that stat too and I didn't like it much either. Friedman is always solid and if he says they're on the cusp I take it as a clear sign it's time to push the panic button. And tonight with Max Pacioretty's wrist injury which may or may not be broken, I can only project more dark moments for the immediate future.

I think the answer is simple, the coach has lost the room. This is a team that was built with 3 solid offensive lines and a more than dependable 4th.

We knew we needed to add some size so Gauthier went out and acquired Emelin, Cole, Woywitka, Blunden who are all 6'2 or bigger but at the start of the season only 1 of them was in the line-up and he saw less than 15 minutes of ice time.

Every analyst knows that we need to get bigger and meaner yet Martin decided we are better off with Weber as a 4th line winger, with a player in Engqvist who we all knew was not ready for the NHL and with a D-core who apart from Gill and Gorges were all 6'0 or smaller.

Playing Moen last night with 1:30 left in the game when we needed a goal. Giving the go ahead for PK and Weber to help out the forwards with 30 seconds left and desperately needing a faceoff in the offensive zone.

Not making the players aware of a goaltending change, regularly going with Gill in overtime or playing him last night when we were pushing for a goal. Allowing Weber to play almost 4 extra minutes than PK. Darche on the PP.

At what point to we say enough is enough?

We have the right players, we have a good mix of young and old, skilled and gritty, we just need a coach who can adjust to suit the skillset of this team and not a coach who demands veterans all of sudden become things that they are not.

Bryan good points all and clearly JM is not on the same page as PG if you ask me. PG gets what we need (Cole et al) and JM uses them rarely in situations where they can succeed. Cole's average 11 minutes of ice time is an insult to that man's talent, work ethic, and a shoddy use of an expensive asset. Last night he got the power play goal, something that - as was astutely pointed out on twitter - was a strategy suggested by a reporter that JM rudely dismissed.

However while I feel it is clear that Martin is struggling with his strategy, his stupid outdated and ineffective system, and to get the players all on the same page, I'm not convinced he's lost the room.

The players are still clearly trying. They aren't getting it done, but they are trying, and last season for Cory Clouston the Sens absolutely stopped trying. Maybe it's just that the Canadiens players are stand up guys who love their fans and won't quit. I don't know.

But a loss is a loss is a loss and it's time for Martin to pay for it. It's not us who needs to say enough. It's Molson and Gauthier. I don't get what they are waiting for. Another couple of losses to Boston and Philly? WHY?

In all honesty if we bomb then I hope we implode. The opportunity to draft the 1st overall would be amazing.

I am embarassed to say that when martin was hired I was happy. Afetr the failures of Carbonneau, Therrien, et al we needed experience.

In hindsight man was I wrong.

I have heard many names circulating out there as to who could handle the job. I think the answer comes down to a select few.

Guys like Hartley won't cut it. We need to either bring in someone who's felt the pressure in this city or someone with such a track record that the players have no choice but to listen to.

To me that comes down to Robinson, Roy, Muller. and dare I say it jacques Lemaire.

The problem now is that martin has this year and next at what price tag. i've heard around $3 million. Ad the cost of his assistant coaches and we're talking about Molson eating $5 million a year. Thats a price tag that's higher than 2 home games in the playoffs so why pull the trigger now?

@Bryan/Ros: I was never a fan of the JM hiring, except for that fact that after more than a decade, the Habs had an experienced coach.

JM was a dinosaur when he was hired and still is. That he seems out of touch is an extension of his style. It too, and his philosophy on how to run a team, is out of touch.

I don't think PG or Molson will make a quick more to replace a coach. There is a lot of upheaval involved in that process and if there is one thing we know about PG, he never reacts...

That's why Montreal still gets pushed around by teams like the Bs and Leafs...but I digress...

Gauthier will fire JM, imo, under pressure from Molson.

As for replacements, Lemaire openly said he'd never come back to Montreal. Robinson would, and maybe Muller too. I like Roy as an option...he'd certainly bring the fire back to the team...but, again, he has no NHL coaching experience...

Not even I think they need to look elsewhere.

For now, the team is in a tailspin and in desperate need of a rudder.

@Ros: to your point about losing the room, I agree. I don't think JM has lost the room least not all of it. But I think he has definitely lost some of it.

Did you see Cammalleri on the PK yesterday? He was doing nothing. Just standing still. That and he also looked disgruntled last season.

He looks like a racehorse who can wait to break loose.

We'll see what the next week brings!

I am proud to be a fan of one the most historic and successful teams in the world. Things hasn't been going well for the red, white, and blue. But still... GO HABS GO!!!!
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