Monday, October 24, 2011
Jack Todd called for heads today.
We thought about doing that too.
Call for heads, ask for a change. Rattle off a long list of failed draft picks, trades, line changes, timeouts. Demand a revolution. See everything in black. Perceive ineptitdude everywhere.
Had the team been 6-1 instead of 1-6, we would have interpreted everything Gainey and Gauthier have done as the stuff of Mensa. Drafting PK, drafting Price, having the inner fortitude to trade Halak, signing Cammalleri, reeling in a leader like Gill...and so on.
Brian Burke laughs at media criticism. He aptly says, if these people knew anything about hockey, they would be in hockey (that must hurt, Pierre McGuire).
So where does that leave the media? And the poor bloggers? Are they not to criticize because they don"t know what they're talking about? Are they reduced to silence because they're not in the room with the boys? Can we not draw any conclusions?
It's so easy to fall prey to the fire the coach banter. It's just as easy to indulge in overhyping when things are going right.
All in all, neither really belongs.
When evaluating the talent pool in the NHL's teams front offices the prevailing sentiment is that there are about 4 or 5 phenomenal general managers, while everyone else is fortunate to occupy the position. That isn't to say that these GM's are incompetent, it just means that their natural skill set isn't as polished as the privileged few who year in, year out, find the way to ice a very competitive hockey team, regardless of cap, injury or drafting issues.
Pierre Gauthier has made some incredibly questionable moves, some a neophyte would have hesitated on. I think Bob Gainey and Gauthier knew when they signed Gomez that he wasn't getting the star player from New Jersey. Gomez had already lost a step in his Ranger years but he wasn't playing in the intelligent Devil system that, incredibly, while focusing on stingy defence, still affords the star players the platform to bury the net. (We criticize the Devils for having killed hockey but while they were allegedly doing that, guys like Gionta, Elias, Gomez, Holik, Guerin and company were still putting up better individual numbers than most Habs have compiled in that time.)
One thing is for certain, when compiling the cons list for Gomez, Gauthier could easily point to a heavy contract but not to the possibility that the forward would suddenly become the newest 40-40 guy on the team. That is to say, scoring a goal every 40 games while barely reaching 40 points on the season.
Gomez and Cammalleri struggled offensively last year. They had the worst seasons in their respective careers. Is it the system Martin has implemented? Does that really make sense? That's not really his track record. Players like Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa and Daniel Alfredsson blossomed under his tutelage. Both Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden had strong offensive contributions. All Martin needed was a quality goaltender to make a dent in the playoffs.
We can point to Gauthier's caving to the Markov camp and aquiescing to their demand for a third year on the contract...
Are Martin and Gauthier really that bad? They may, they may not be. We don't know what the inner dynamics of the team are. As an organization, rest assured, their primary goal is to turn a profit, the largest one available. On a whole, the Canadiens are succeeding admirably at doing this. And this is where we may be very justified in pitching tents on de la Gauchetière.
The beef we have with Gauthier and Martin lies in their inability to relay anything of substance to the public. This disdain for the media and the right to convey any message of meaning or importance to the fans that line their pockets is nothing less than offensive. I don't need them to be Michael Winslow from Police Academy rattling off every sound and noise under the sun at a press conference. But give us something. The corporate greed that has seen ticket prices rocket since the lockout, the profit obsessed mentality that has seen the brass carve out the seating chart at the Bell Centre to squeeze every possible penny out of your pocket while the team has won so little in the playoffs - they speak to a sense of priority that isolates the sense of belonging a fan yearns for. The seating chart today looks like a board game on an acid trip. The team has begun to speak through silence. We don't care about you, because we are market proof and whatever we do, you have shown us that the number on the board game in game out reads 21 073.
It's a dangerous game to play and the lead now belongs to Geoff Molson. Some will say forget it, as long as they win I don't need them to be Brian Burke. I disagree. While I don't need the forthcoming candour of the Leafs colourful GM, I do expect some shades of charisma from at least one of your bridges to the public - the coach or the GM. Why? Because it's in harmony with the "feeding off" factor. The team feeds off the public, often times a deciding contributor on the ice. And the public feeds off the team and how it presents itself. Phil Esposito made a passionate plea for patience and understanding to the masses when Russia was showing Canada the ropes during the Summit Series in 1972. All of a sudden, the country empathize with the players. Win or lose, they would be a team Canada could be proud of.
The fact is, the team is tanking today and Gauthier is still giving us the bizarre distant descriptions of a "Monsieur Gomez" here and a "Monsieur Price" there. MONSIEUR?!! Are you serious?!! Have you guys completely lost touch with what this team represents to the public? They are not Monsieur. They are Guy, Patrick, Cammy. They are Carey, Larry, PK. They feel like family. They aren't a Canada Revenu agent.
Is it early to ask for firings? Maybe it is. Do we know on what grounds? The record isn't enough. Coaches have been let go with decent records on their performance sheets. Look at Marc Crawford last year, fired after a 95-point season. If emotion is required to will this team back to life, there may be cause for concern. If Muller was in fact the spark that made the room feel tighter, warmer, closer then the intangible that is communication becomes just as important as the ability to score on the power play, or make an important save, or dive for a key shot block.
Can that passion be relayed to the players? The fans do not see it and the code of omertà that has shrouded this organization for years may create a disconnect that may begin with 21 072 and counting...