It tends to be hard to be inspired enough to write about a hockey club that is doing so poorly. When a team who had been steadily working from October to December, dives into a tailspin, one which spans almost 3 months, it’s a little bit hard to digest. I keep thinking, maybe a bit naively, that one day they will just come out of it, and resume their hardworking philosophy that seems to have been long forgotten. We all thought this would happen at the beginning of March, when Carey Price finally seemed to have found his game again, and Jaroslav Halak was winning games despite facing inflated amounts of shots every night. The team was starting to follow. But then came that game in Dallas, and shortly after Carbo was gone. And the truth is, it was a mistake to fire Guy Carbonneau.
Last night after our horrendous showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who usually bring out all of our emotion, even in the worst of times, Bob Gainey said that the team does have momentum, but it’s in the wrong direction. So what does this have to do with Carbonneau, you are probably wondering? When Carbonneau left, the team was finally winning. The goalies were great, and slowly the team was starting to follow. But as we all know, the firing of a coach usually results in a momentum swing, this time in the wrong direction. What message does it send to the players if a coach is fired when the team is finally starting to find its feet again? We know that not all of the players agreed with Carbonneau’s style of coaching, and I could get into the whole communication debate, but I’d rather not. Was Carbonneau the right coach to bring this team back around? We’ll never know, but my point is not that he shouldn’t have been fired, it’s that he shouldn’t have been fired when he was. We had been in a slump for weeks before he was fired. Why did Gainey wait until the team was turning around to fire his friend? He should have done it earlier, or not at all.
It’s too late to do anything about that now, but something has to be done to jumpstart this team. We’re running out of time. There are 10 games left, 3 weeks, and if Florida didn’t lose last night, we’d be sitting in 9th, 1 point out of the playoffs. Some players care. You can tell by the way they speak about hockey in general, by their body language on the ice, and by the way they analyze their teammates. Case in point: Guillaume Latendresse. After the game last night, he was on the post-game show on RDS. Although the media obsession with him has always driven me crazy, I never realized how smart and perceptive he was. Yes, he talked about a lack of confidence, and that when the other team scores, the whole team deflates. He spoke about his good friend Max Lapierre, who is playing his heart out. He talked about many things we already knew, but he was so insightful (although he really seemed at a loss when trying to explain why some players are playing like they care, and others aren’t). The point is: we can’t say they don’t care.
We have been talking about the horrible defence for months on end it seems, but it’s not getting better. Markov is definitely the team MVP. Without him, we would probably be at the bottom of the standings by now. Hamrlik is great one-on-one, but isn’t as good as he was last year. Gorges plays his heart out, but makes a few mistakes here and there. All Komisarek does is make mistakes. Schneider was great the first couple of games when he got here, but something happened and now he really isn’t playing to his potential. O’Byrne has been alright, but was pretty awful last night. Breezer has his moments, but they are usually followed by defensive errors. This brings up the question: Why isn’t Dandenault out there? We can only hope that Gainey at least gives him a chance, because honestly, what can it hurt?
Our offense is lacking just as much, as it seems that only Plekanec, Lapierre and Latendresse are capable of scoring. A lot of goals are determined by timing, but it seems that as a team, we are just off lately. We can’t complete passes, we don’t know where the other players are on the ice, we are moving too slowly at times and too fast at others. All this adds up to a team who just isn’t a contender.
It is something that at this point is no longer about technique, it’s all mental. We have all the skills, (just watch Kovy’s DVD). We have the talent. We know we are able to have the drive… but where is it? It’s in players like Kostopoulos, Lapierre, Latendresse, Higgins, Markov, Plekanec (excluding last night’s game) and Pacioretty. They want to win, and are working for it. I don’t think that the rest of the team doesn’t care. I think it’s just that they are discouraged. Gainey told the media he wanted 3 points this past week. The team got 1. When you don’t achieve goals, it discourages you even more. He needs to tell them to forget about the rest of the season; that they need to imagine that they are starting fresh and have a new 10-game season starting now. 6 games at home, 4 away. Only 4 of those teams are in the playoffs as of now. For most teams, that would be a good thing. For the Canadiens, it’s hard to say. When you beat teams like Detroit and San Jose, and then lose to the Islanders and Atlanta, can you really say it will be beneficial to play the latter teams?
Only time will tell. But if the Canadiens don’t stop coasting, they can forget about the playoffs. In their centennial season. What a nightmare.
That’s not to say they can’t do it. For all we know they could win the next 10 games and be primed for playoff hockey. But a change needs to happen, and since Sergei Kostitsyn was just called up from the AHL, we can only hope he brings along with him the same hope and drive he did last year at this time. Because without a little hope, there’s not much anyone can do to help.