Thursday, March 8, 2012

Roz's Rant: The Montreal Canadiens' Double Edged Sword

Pierre Gauthier - 2011 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7
There is a double edged sword that goes along with being a fan of the Montreal Canadiens lately.

On one hand, it totally sucks. It is maddening and unacceptable that the team I fully expect to at least scrape its way into a playoff berth will not manage it this year. On the other hand, if they start winning now they'll blow out my wishes for them to pick high in this year's entry draft.

I'm unaccustomed to wanting my team to lose.

It feels all wrong and it seems I'm not going to get used to it. Also, the Habs are hell bent on making me crazy, mounting near comebacks that have me yelling at my TV for them to simultaneously win and lose the game.

I can't have it both ways but I accept that for the near future I'm going to be walking this fine line of hockey madness.

What I find more concerning is what will happen after this nightmare of a season is finally finished — not a moment too soon.

Will Geoff Molson finally oust Bob Gainey and his cohorts once and for all, preventing them from continuing to make a hash of this organization? Your guess is as good as mine.

Gainey has made a hash of things for years now, and his disciple hasn't fared much better. I'll grant that Pierre Gauthier has made a few nice moves, but he's made some questionable ones as well. Often, his main goal appears to be not getting fired.

If Gauthier has a detailed plan, an actual strategy, to fix what is arguably one of the worst incarnations ever of the Montreal Canadiens then I'll gladly eat some crow. But this guy's big focus seems to be almost exclusively on "fixing leaky roofs".

The acquisition of Tomas Kaberle to aid the power play is his latest patch job and not a particularly good one at that. Chris Campoli was another patch that didn't hold out the water.

Then there's his sacrificial lambs of Perry Pearn, Jacques Martin and the mid-game trade of Michael Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames.

Regardless of what good Gauthier may have thought he was doing for the team with these moves, how he executed them hardly instills faith in the man. His actions do not leave the impression that he knows what he is doing or fully appreciates the legacy of this organization or the high standards to which its fans hold this club off the ice.

A rudderless ship will always run aground.

While I may have a modicum of faith in Trevor Timmins and his scouting abilities, I lack faith that this team will not pick another David Fischer or a defensive prospect when they've been needing a true number one center for far too long.

I lack faith that any desirable unrestricted free agent will actually want to sign here because of the language laws that impact their children, the higher tax bracket and the intense public scrutiny.

Erik Cole signed here despite all that, partly because of how the Habs routinely make the playoffs, and less than a year into his contract that hasn't worked out so well. That makes Montreal an even harder sell for other UFAs now.

I lack faith that Geoff Molson will keep his word and make this team great again, or tamper with it in any meaningful way while he's still turning a substantial profit. It would take years of tanking before the Habs losses would have to be addressed.

Then there's his boyhood connection to Canadiens legends like Gainey whom he no doubt reveres and defers to regardless of the his actual track record in hockey management. If Molson's a loyal fan like me, as he has claimed to be, then Gainey and the pack of underlings he has compiled to run the Canadiens are more untouchable than Carey Price.

So while I watch the players continue their attempts to thwart my wishes for a top five draft pick, I'll exercise some more of my sorely tested patience. I'll try to enjoy watching the kids play, and enjoy the online interactions of my social networks.

Just don't expect me to have much faith that this is all going to get magically fixed in the summer.

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 Getty Images North America)


Excellent piece, Roz!

I quote "...the Habs are hell bent on making me crazy, mounting near comebacks that have me yelling at my TV for them to simultaneously win and lose the game."

I almost spit my coffee out, laughing so hard when I read that line!

You are so, disturbingly, spot on with this rant, Roz. This is such an ugly mess and most can't wait for the season to be over.

The players too, many of whom look like they've already checked out - cough, cough, Carey Price - seem content to just ride out the remaining games and wait for the winds of change to hit this summer.

I have a little more faith than you, however...not based on any kind of track record, but merely based on giving Geoff Molson the benefit of the doubt.

I believe he is/was a fan of the team and wants to restore them to their proper place in the hockey universe. As such, I am willing to give him this summer, and this summer only, to sweep out the management that has ruined this team.

If he fails to do that, or only does a partial sweep (e.g. keeps Gainey around as a advisor), then my faith will be lost. Not only that, but this team and it's fans will be in for a world of hurt for years to come...


Your lack of faith is justified.

But many people will continue to hope, including yours truly.

With Price, Subban, Pacioretty, Eller and other youth in the system, this team could be quickly retooled - in the right hands. And therein lies the rub.

Will Molson make the culture change necessary for this team's success?

And on a positive note, Patrick Holland was signed to a contract...

You have captured the feelings of Habs fans everywhere. It feels so counter-intuitive to want them to lose for the pick, but that is obviously best.

I have no confidence that we will draft a genuine top-6 forward, never mind a #1 centre. Plus, the draft is always a wee bit of a crap shoot. No guarantees the transition to the NHL will work out. CBJ would be stupid to do it, but I would love to see us trade up for Nail. He seems like the surest bet, and it would be good to see Pleks get a chance with a real talent.

I also have no confidence Pierre Gauthier is going anywhere. Less so that Gainey is. If this is the case, the whole lot of them should be relieved on Sunday, April 8. The team and the fans need to see Molson is committed to fixing this thing completely.

For me, that includes Cunneyworth. After the crap PG pulled, I was hoping he would succeed. But truthfully, he is over his head, and I hate the way he is dealing with Pleks.

I'd love to see you write a piece about your preferences for coach and GM and the reasons for your picks.


@Kamal Glad I made you chuckle. Humour for us fans is hard to come by these days. I'm trying to give Molson the benefit of the doubt, but it's a hard row to hoe.

@Louis Even if Molson is willing to do it who are the "right hands"?

@Anonymous I'm with you on pretty much everything, including Cunneyworth (unfortunately). I did write a piece on my preference for GM. It's under He Said / She Said and since we haven't done those for a while it should be easy to find. My coaching preferences are still up in the air as I haven't really looked at genuine candidates for awhile, but if I find the time I'll try to oblige you. Thanks!


I'm the right hands, obviously ;)

@Anon / Roz

Here is the He Said / She Said piece referred to above:

Now that's a rant!

I can appreciate the mixed feelings, I think we are all going through that now.
Personally I am a glass half full type so I don't think it is reasonable to expect our team to be in the top 16 out of 30 every year and bad patches are going to happen. We do have a lot of negatives that surround this organization and it is going to bite us every once in a while.
A clean up at the top has got to be a no brainer and I don't see how Molson can keep Gauthier after this season.
I do believe he has some loyalty to Gainey and he will likely stay on as an advisor.
The key is to bring in a strong GM, who is a leader of men. Then surround him with the best available, experienced advisors. This job is difficult enough, the more brain power the better chance of success.


Seriously, jokes aside, I think a guy like Jim Nill and Claude Loiselle, who you mention, could be good. But my issue is the quantity of leftovers from former eras. Gainey, Houle, Boivin's son.

It doesn't matter who the GM is unless there is a complete review of the team's culture.

Well Roz lets think about this for a minute shall we, nothing the Canadiens have done this year or for the last 19years for that matter. Since they won their last Stanley Cup in 1993 wow next year is twenty years, can you believe it. I'm not sure who to blame ownership or general managership, I thought when Gainey came in he would right the ship seeing has he played his whole career with the Habs. But alas not so neither him nor his cohorts have done a thing. now mind you I do put some of this blame on Bettman and his plan to stretch the NHL out so thin that teams would never be able to stay where they had been placed. You might say what has that got to do with the Canadiens and their woes as they always sell out, but I think that the bigger the NHL gets it also stretches the talent level out. Now I'm not saying the Canadiens don't have talent on their squad they certainly do at least one line D.D., E.C., M.P. .... And on the back end of course there is P.K., J.G. and Emlin seems to be showing up also,but there is certain lack of help after that for Carey who is hung out to dry more often than not.

The trade of Gill may prove very good if Geoffrion lives up to his name, we will have to be patient with that one I guess. It hurts when you stay up late to watch the Habs out west and go too bed severely disappointed. But there is one thing that thrills my heart more than any other, and that is the Toronto Maple leafs are sinking faster than the Titanic. And I hope their big mouth GM Burke goes down with them along with his stupid idea that Toronto is the center of the hockey universe. Oh Joy what thrills watching them float away like piece of drift wood!!!

I wish I could add my own $0.02 but Rosalyn's brilliant assessment (and incitement) of our once-proud team says it all. I would like to shake your hand next time I'm in Montreal, Roz. A Habs fan for (gulp!) 40+ years, this has been the hardest year ever for me. And yes, it goes so much against the grain hoping for them to lose (Go Oilers? Yay?) but I ALSO agree with Charles above, that being in Toronto, my only solace is watching the Leafs slip just out of the playoff picture (but hopefully not so far out that they get a great pick either!) at the same time.
Would it be too much for hope for an Ottawa-Vancouver final? Dare to dream!

I'm more worried about the level of management above the operations group.

Boivin, who never got involved with the hockey stuff, was a very experienced professional who made a very good impact during his tenure with the club. Geoff Molson gently put him out the door and assumed the role of President of one of the greatest sports franchise ever. What worries me is that he's very young (read inexperienced), and that he's mostly been a marketing man. I'm tempted to mention silver spoon somewhere in here and insinuate that he's been propped up by his family and family name rather than attribute the gains in his career to actual talent - but i can't prove that.

However, it's that unknown that eats away at me thinking "this guy doesn't know much, decided to take over the entire show, and is relying on the advice of legacy members (Gainey) to make educated decisions." That honestly doesn't inspire the thought that much is going to change here. I mean, were the Canadiens not superbly marketed under Boivin's team? That's the most notable credit to Boivin's time here in that he rejuvinated the brand of CH with the people. Geoff must think he's got some mojo going on if he plans to do better things - or at the least think that improvements could be made over Boivin. That to me was the first sign that this guy might not know his arse from his elbow.

From what i've seen, it's been status quo since he acquired the Habs, and it'll be status quo for the near future. He hasn't sent any type of message other than that. He flubbed his support for RC, and wasted an oppertunity to fire a warning shot against the rabid and passionately ignorant French media along the lines of "We will focus on a system of merit where the best possible coach will be chosen, not the coach with the best possible language skills who also happens to know hockey." Burke would have told them to politely go have sex with themselves if he was suggested to base his decisions on the cultural insecurity of a nation (ha) still living 40 years in the past, living in a league that doesn't exist or work the same way anymore, and living in a world where Quebec is still the focal point of hockey talent.

Like a diplomatic PR man, he buckled under pressure, appeased the whiners, and subsequently ran over his employees. A lot of folks attribute that to part of what is wrong in this organization. There is a lingering stink that just hovers over here, like a bad corporate culture where people just aren't buying into the message.

It's often the first few moves you make, while being a new leader that decides how your people will follow you. Perhaps that's what is bleeding down the levels of management and into this team.

Personally, i just think our PP sucks so bad that had we 15-20 more goals this season, we'd have 5-10 more wins and probably be hovering around 8th as per usual. But that's just me!

great articles , i am a huge habs fan , gainey is overrated as a gm , trevor timid (or timmins )i like timid better ,is overrated ,
one thing i need to know is , is that story about gomez saying no to being traded to the islanders , is it true or not , if it is true , i would have sent him to the minors so fast it would make him retire


I think you are being a little harsh on Molson.
So far he has done what he said he would do, which is stay out of Hockey decisions. They same way Boivin did....and don't forget Boivin's comments when HE hired Gauthier....we turned over every stone to find the best man available that met our criteria (or something to that effect.
He also didn't make a panic move and fire the GM during the season which would have really limited the candidate pool.
This off season will be Molson's first real test as President when he has to decide on the GM position.
I bet he fires Gauthier, the key is who replaces him.


Everyone likes to blame the GM and certainly Gomez for all the problems. However, i think we have the tools to have success here. I really don't think this team is as bad as they appear on paper. Stats-wise, we could in theory be in the same standings (division notwithstanding) as the Panthers. Their goal differential is like -21 compared to our -15. I kind of left the door open in my post in suggesting a stronger power play (say top 10) would be the difference maker here.

Unless we're a fly on the wall, we're all pretty much speculating about what's going on within the organization, what PG has tried or hasn't, what leadership and culture is being bred here. It's just my take...and i hope i'm wrong and proven so.


So basically what you are saying is it's Molson's fault the Habs aren't a mediocre 8th place team , which would be the same "lets just make the play offs and keep the fans happy" mentality that this organization has made its fan suffer for the last 19 years !!

@Hockeyhype I also think & hope this is the exception, not the rule. I don't even want Gainey as advisor anymore truthfully.

@Louis - other than you as GM I think we agree on this issue for a pleasant change and thanks!

@Charles - I also think Bettman is a general nightmare for hockey fans and does little to make the sport better or more appealing.

@Mineral - very thoughtful and I thank you for taking the time. Like you I have little faith in Molson, but I think Kamal & Hockeyhype are likely right in that if he does anything to "earn his stripes" so to speak it will be this summer. There's little point in making change this close to season's end, as much as we would like him to do so. And valid point there on the PP. There are games that clearly could have gone either way with a luckier bounce, etc.

@Tino - I really don't think the story is true, for what it's worth.


Circle the calendar. We agree on something ;)


I second Roz, I have never heard anything that leads me to believe there is truth to the Gomez to Islander story.

Mind you, the Isles do have a reputation of taking on dump contracts, which is probably why this rumor got traction in the first place.

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