KA-THUNK! (rattle rattle)
That was the sound of my heart falling when I heard Jacques Martin will be the Habs' new coach. You know what came immediately to mind? A passage from "The Game," in which Steve Shutt is teasing Doug Risebrough about his boring suits. He said, "Dougie, I didn't know 'drab' came in so many colours." That's pretty much how I feel about Martin. He's drab, he's boring and he's got a reputation for coaching a really painful style of hockey.
BUT...there's always a "but..."he's also experienced and speaks French, so two of the "Montreal requirements" have been met. He's never won anything, but I guess there's a first time for everything. More significant than his past or his facility in both official languages though, is what his hiring tells me about the direction the Canadiens are taking.
Bob Gainey intends this to be Carey Price's team, like the Devils are Martin Brodeur's team, or the Canucks are Roberto Luongo's team. Gainey has staked his best-ever draft pick, his team's playoff fortunes for two straight seasons and his reputation as a team-builder on the success or failure of a kid goalie. But he's now giving him the best possible chance to make a real go of it.
Rollie Melanson is out, and whether it's fair or not to the ex-coach, you can be sure it's because he did not further Price's development. The new goalie coach will be someone who either has worked with Price in the past, like Olaf Kolzig or Eli Wilson, or someone with an impeccable reputation as a coach, like Francois Allaire. The Franchise's development will be priority number one when the new coaching staff takes the ice in September.
And Martin's hiring fits in with the "project Price" philosophy too. One of the biggest problems Price had this year, aside from letting in bizarre and deflating goals at bad times (which, hopefully, the new goalie coach will address) was that his defence routinely allowed odd-man rushes and failed to clear rebounds out of the crease. Under Martin, that will stop. He will have the team playing a sound defensive system that will be clear to every player on the ice. Once the defence is organized, Price will be free to play his game and not worry about the shot-barrage he routinely faced this season.
So, while Martin is boring and drab, his role in Montreal isn't to be exciting. His job is to make the team in front of Carey Price play better so The Franchise can do his job to the best of his abilities. Gainey wants to be vindicated for his faith in Carey Price, and he wants to see whatever spark that caused him to be drafted at number five overall fanned into the flame of stardom.
Make no mistake. Carey Price is the Montreal Canadiens, for better or for worse. Bob Gainey has hired Jacques Martin to make sure it's for better. We'll see. And we'll try to stay awake while we're waiting.