Friday, December 2, 2011

Tell the Truth

Whenever I was reluctant to spill some piece of information I knew would land me in hot water as a kid, my mother would look me in the eye and say, "Tell the truth and shame the devil." She'd skewer me with equal parts guilt and a gimlet eye and before long the story would come spilling out. Sometimes I wish my mother could pull that trick on Pierre Gauthier, because, really, there's no need for the way he refuses to tell anybody what's happening with our team.

Gauthier needs to get over himself. He's not the head of CSIS or the chairman of the United Nations security council. He's the general manager of a fairly mediocre hockey team with some depressingly serious problems. He talks (when he talks) about the need for employees to communicate in both official languages, which he's more than capable of doing. Yet, he chooses to hide away in his seventh-floor office and remain unaccountable to the people who, although the organization seems to disdain them, actually pay the bills.

Right now, the ridiculousness of the Andrei Markov saga is making the Canadiens management look like a poorly-written spy show. On Canadian TV. Markov was practicing with contact in a regular pairing and made the trip to California, obviously with the intent to play at least once on the three-game sojourn. Instead, reporters tweeted Markov wasn't on the ice in Anaheim. Then he wasn't in San Jose at all, and speculation about whether he'd stayed behind in Anaheim or gone ahead to L.A. ran rampant. People began to question whether Markov had had another setback and was seeking medical help. The only sound from Gauthier's office was the echo of lettuce crunching in the silence.

If management's intention in suppressing information is to keep a lid on the bubbling cauldron of gossip in Montreal, it fails miserably. When no one's saying what's really going on, people start imagining all manner of possibilities. That's how the rumours the Habs hate so much get started in the future. A frank explanation would be much more effective in quashing unwanted speculation.

I'm not saying Gauthier should be obliged to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for every drop of information he can decant for the masses. Of course, the Canadiens are a business operation and some things, like who's targeted in a trade or who's high in draft consideration, should be kept in-house. However, when an important player like Markov is having setbacks, the fans and media deserve to know. Nobody's asking to see his MRI, for God's sake. People would just appreciate it if the organization had the decency to say, "Andrei's not feeling quite up to playing yet. He's gone to see a doctor in L.A. We'll have more information after that, and a better timeline for his return." Unfortunately, the arrogant cone of silence descends and the usual trickle of information becomes a dried creek bed.

And, it is arrogant, without a doubt. Why should Pierre Gauthier be allowed to disregard honest questions about what's happening with the team and its important players? Yes, the Canadiens are a business, but a business is only as strong as its customer base. Gauthier's decision to ignore the fans simply reveals his comfort in the knowledge that if one person quits coming to the Bell Centre, there'll be another there to take his place before the ink on the ticket is dry. He and the Canadiens take the fans for granted because they can.

We're not asking for much. We'd just like to have some kind of idea whether the team we pay through the nose to watch will be healthy at any point this season. We'd like to know if there's a chance we'll see our favourite player on the ice at last. Whether Gauthier's refusal to tell us the slightest bit of the truth comes from paranoia about revealing internal secrets or from disdain at our temerity in asking in the first place, it's not acceptable.

Come on, Gauthier. Tell the truth and shame the devil.


Tara said...

Fairly mediocre hockey team. How sad is that to write about our Habs? History aside, it's tough to defend the last 18 years to new-comers to the game. We find ourselves saying things like, "Yeah, but we've won a quarter of the Cups ever awarded. OK, we might not even make the playoffs this season, but really, this team was amazing." It's like defending the geek at school, "He's not pretty or popular, but he'll be your boss one day."
I love our boys, and even at their worst I find the best in them, but I feel no compunction to do the same for the so-called management. Is there a petition to sign to get rid of JM and the other buffoons before we lose ALL the good coaches?

AndyF said...

I wouldn't say that the fans deserve to know anything about Markov. But I *would* say that it's probably in the best interests of the Habs organisation to explain what's happening. They should do it for the sake of the organisation, not for the sake of the fans.

Can you imagine what a pitiful bunch of managment we have? It's the 2-martini minimum, big-roller marketing guys that you expect to see in Bell or Yellow Pages Group that run this team. And as long as they sit on one of the biggest hockey cash cows on the planet, they keep thinking that it's their genius that's making all that money for the organisation.


Anonymous said...

I imagine, and like all fans imagine a lot, that the team simply has no comment to make. Markov is a pretty valuable asset and they have said repeatedly that he will come back when ready to play. Hysteria doesn't demand you reply with like manner. The media winds itself into a frenzy. That sells. The Habs don't make anything off the hysteria. They are busy with their own hype.

Here's fact. The Habs are not mediocre. They are 10 wins and 16 losses. They are in the bottom third of the league. Their pp went south with Muller. Their attitude as well. Now they get a lead and cough it up. The media love Weber. Weber is a liability right now.

I think the mistake Gauthier is making is sticking with Martin as coach. Yes he is a very capable student of the game. But he is not Scott Bowman. Heck he isn't even Torts. Young men need leadership, inspiration, and direction.

The Habs are a perimeter team. Perimeter teams don't win cups. This year they are unlikely to make the playoffs and will have a very weak draft year to get high picks in. Yay.

Anonymous said...

What I'd suggest, if possible, would be to organize a "no-show" date. If ticket holders (or potential ticket buyers) could agree to boycott a single game, maybe management would start paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Gautier/Martin, are not the right type of people to run a team like the Canadiens.

Anonymous said...

Very well written...i think its time the Habs get a REAL Coach and GM now...Gainey was controversial but managed to put a decent team together but last 2 years PG screwed things up just when we started gaining momentum and the new team started gelling...didn't resign a few good workers and replaced them with MORE farm hands...

patience is a virtue said...

As you said, if the Montreal market was frustrated enough to punish PG's secrecy, he would talk. As it stands, he doesn't have to, and it not only keeps us guessing, it keeps opposing teams guessing as well.

Also, it may be a tough call right now and in Andrei's court as to when he starts (as Hickey speculates). Or, far worse, Markov may be out a while yet and PG may want that kept quiet while he looks to make a Wiz-like trade.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. There is no way that the rumour mill in montreal stops spinning just because the media/fanbase is provided with some information. If PG had revealed Markov's appointment with his doctor, we would have seen all kinds of speculation regarding his recovery or lack thereof. That's the problem with Montreal, no matter what happens, there's always speculation.

By keeping injury-related news to within the organization, the Habs ensure that other teams are not savvy to their players' status. Furthermore, the players have a modicum of privacy in this hockey-crazy city, which is very valuable.

Speaking of arrogance, who are we to demand to know what's happening with another person's medical recovery?

dusty said...

I think it's clear that ownership is to blame for all the woes that beset our beloved team. There is no passion for winning. Return on investment is what is important. This mentality leads to PG as GM. He's a corporate man for a corporate team. His arrogance is just the image the Canadiens have adopted since Bowman was turfed and Grundman took over as GM.

Our once proud franchise has become a joke. The firing of Savard and Demers, the dumping of Roy, the 100 year cash grab, the total mediocrity on the ice and rioting on the streets after first round playoff series wins demonstrates to all what the Habs have become.

It was the Molsons reacquiring the Habs from the Bronfmans that signaled the end of the era of excellence and now with a Molson leading the way again, there is no telling how bad the organization will become.

PG is indeed an arrogant incompetent but will continue on as GM for the foreseeable future. JM must stay on because he is the only coach strong enough to survive this horrible situation. And, as seems apparent, often the problem is the players not the coach.

I will always cheer for the Habs but the time has come to develop other relationships so as to have a dog in the fight when the playoffs roll around.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear. Other GMs communicate with their fans. Corporate CEOs communicate with their constituents. It's good business. PG believes he's above good business, which might be acceptable if he had won something. He hasn't done anything to deserve his self-anointed holier than thou perch.

Sadly, mr. Molson doesn't seem to want to change communication policy or other matters that.

We all suffer in PG's silence.

V said...

Mediocre team. Perimeter team. No passion for winning. Franchise has become a joke... just some of the comments from above.

We'll see. But one thing we do know right now, none of you will be held accountable for slagging the team when they are struggling. When they start to win (as I hope and suspect they will), everyone will jump on the bandwagon and join the ride.

What a bunch of quitters and hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

@V raises great points. Are fans expressing dissatisfaction with the team's play for the past 18 years quitters and hypocrites? Having followed the team long before any of the current players were born, let alone acquired, traded, or demanded out I am not sure about the "quitter" label. I haven't gone anywhere yet, or arrived recently, but have needlessly pointed to some shortcomings on the team. I think likewise a hypocrite would be the person who pretends to be a fan but really is a NBA type, or perhaps a Leaf fan. Someone who says one thing and does another.

But are you a hypocrite if you critize bad, sloppy, and unmotivated play? If you point out that patches left his man to run Letang? Or note that Lucic never threw an elbow at Millar but that Millar threw one at Lucic then attempted to decapitate him with his stick?

Or are you guilty of not agreeing with some other fans and debating the issue in a public forum without hurling insults? I hope that is all it is. JT writes a great column and allows varied opinions. I think that is the way it should be. For me oblivious devotion to anything is a bad sign is life and in sport.

Howard said...

Mr. Gauthier must have been reading your column. I just wish he would lose the Mr. crap. So pretentious! He reminds me of a guy who never speaks to the media.

V said...

You are a hypocrite if you call yourself a fan and then come on these sites and state, 'Mediocre team. Perimeter team. No passion for winning. Franchise has become a joke'. I feel the team is better than their record - the microstats bear that out - and I am willing to wait for the 3/4 of the season that is yet to be played before drawing
firm conclusions. At season's end we can see who was right.

'Oblivious devotion' ia a lazy conclusion. Just because I won't slag the team does not mean I don't recognize their shortcomings. Why should I go there when I can count on so many for their 'oblivious criticism'?

I agree JT writes a great column. But my resistence to 'oblivious devotion' won't allow me to condone her columns/poster comments that don't bear water IMO.

And as I write this from the St. John's Sheraton on a business trip, I am confident JT will recognize my desire to 'tell the truth and shame the devil' by calling out the quitters and hypocrites that consistently call this team out without fairly acknowledging all that is going right.

pfhabs said...

it's interesting that many want MR Gauthier to come clean. this is the same fellow that told Ottawa fans that he wasn't leaving their club for anything but personal reasons. 2 weeks later he appears as the new GM of Anaheim. while in Anaheim he declared Selanne and Kayria would not be traded and then he traded them both. MR Gauthier has made a few other public statements whose veracity were then found to be less than zero. MR Gauthier is who he is and Molson fiddles while the CH burns. hopefully this painful music stops soon and MR Gauthier can ply his version of the truth elsewhere...then again the cash box is full so why make any change---Harold Ballard made a small fortune operating his club that way for many years...the no-show option would certainly send a message but I'm afraid too many fans have also sipped at the kool aide fountain created by Boivin, Gainey & Gauthier

Hadulf said...

All of this saga made me realize that WE need to get over ourselves as well. We are fans and that's it. We do not control the Habs, we do not give out contracts, we do not know squat about what's going on and frankly, should we care, really?

I know we LOVE this team but it is 'only' entertainment after all.

Anonymous said...

@V....You are a hypocrite if you call yourself a fan and then come on these sites and state, 'Mediocre team. Perimeter team. No passion for winning. Franchise has become a joke'. I feel the team is better than their record - the microstats bear that out - and I am willing to wait for the 3/4 of the season that is yet to be played before drawing
firm conclusions. At season's end we can see who was right.

I can't believe there are still people who think the team is good.....We are not going to make the playoff and it’s a fact. From my point of view, I am realistic and you are delusional.

It’s been more or less 15 years that this team struggle....what do we call it again Plan Quinquénal. The team will suck as long that people like you support mediocrity.


pfhabs said...

@Hadulf; a short course in economics-- if we the fans dont show up nor buy the trinkets, jerseys etc; Molson, the team and the fools running this ship are in deep do do. like any product if there's not a consumer the product dies. yes we are fans but we are important in the economic viability of that product. pointe finale, bien entendu ?

@Anon re MR V... it's almost bizarre that I would come to MR V's defense but I will in a sense. to me V is polyanna but he has maintained a glass 3/4 full for a period of time longer than I think is sane but that position has been steadfast, unwaivering and ubiquitous over many posts and many sites. personally I think that position is the position that the CH PR department would proferr but V has told me and this site he is independent of them. so although I respect V's position I think it's based in folly.

the man front and centre that told Gainey Koivu could be discarded and replaced by Gomez who was "the 5th best skater in the NHL" was Gauthier. the man that put together the trade for Lecavalier that Bettman killed was Gauthier. (btw; that was Gorges, Plekanec, PK and Higgins for Vinny). MR Gauthier has been in charge of pro moves since 2003,. the team is not mediocre it's an average team consistently on the bubble. MR Gauthier is not Milbury but he's only 1/2 as smart as he thinks he is.

V is ultimately positive about the posibility that the CH are better than their record but the team is only in the mix for the playoffs but never an elite team in the mix for the Cup. 2010 was an aberration; notwithstanding Halak's 940 average, Cammalerri's 13 goals in 17 games and the defense of Gorges & Gill they were shutout in 3 of 4 games in the conference final by a 3rd string goalie they themselves discarded the year before and who played for a team that got in the playoffs on a shootout win.

V has his opinion, which I think does not bear scrutiny, and he feels the same about my opinion. I have history to point to, V has hope. the future this year will bear out who is correct just as it did last year. the CH is an average club that will be in or out of the playoffs by about 5 points but they are not in any danger of vying for the Cup.

neither of us are hypocrits but my expectations of the most storied franchise in NHL history is that we strive for excellence on and off the ice. V has other expectations. time will tell who is correct but V has Gauthier on his side and so I really really like my chances at being correct again :)