Friday, January 28, 2011

Habs Notebook: All Star Edition

A few thoughts as we stare down a weekend without real hockey:

-P.K.Subban's attendance at the festivities in Raleigh could have a beneficial effect on his reputation around the league. He'll get a chance to show off his skills in a setting where showing off is welcome, but, more importantly, he'll have the opportunity to share ice in a casual setting with some of the guys who've been critical of him. Perhaps if someone like Mike Richards sees Subban up close, without the blinders of competition limiting his view of the kid, he'll realize Subban is not an ass; he's just an enthusiastic rookie.

-It's unfortunate that Carey Price has to give up a week of R&R to take part in the All-Star weekend. As one of the busiest goalies in the league, and his team's most valuable player, he really could have used the time off. The really unfortunate side effect for fans is that we now will get suckered into watching the "draft" by the all-star team captains, just to see who picks Price and when.

-Most real fans deplore the All-Star game because it's not real hockey and it adds to the workload of the league's best players. There are a couple of side benefits for the players, though. For one thing, south of the border, where hockey is often the fifth or sixth most popular sport, it's a rare occurrence for even star players to get the spotlight all to themselves. The red-carpet treatment is a nice perque in exchange for giving up their weekend to glorify the league. This kind of event also gives the players who will one day be the movers and shakers behind the scenes a chance to make contacts and develop relationships that will serve them well when their playing days are over. Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake were once the guys who networked at All-Star weekends. So were Joe Nieuwendyk and Steve Yzerman. In the insular world of hockey, where it's not what you know, but who you know, those connections can be important.

-Even if you're not a Sidney Crosby fan, you have to be appalled that the reason he's not at the All-Star game is because he's dealing with a concussion...and even more appalled that there seems to be so little reaction to that by the NHL brass. In a time when head injuries are forcing players out of the game, it was irresponsible and stupid for the Penguins to allow Crosby back on the ice after the original head shot from David Steckel. It was negligent of the league not to make an example of Steckel in this situation. Crosby, love him or hate him, is the face of the NHL and probably the best all-round player in the world. If he can be hit in the head and knocked out of the game with relative impunity, what chance does the average player have? Crosby's injury gave the league an opportunity to act decisively on the matter of head shots and it failed miserably. Colin Campbell's ineffective and unpredictable meting out of justice is doing nothing to help stem a problem that's destroying some fine hockey players.

-This week on the run-up to the All-Star game, Kirk Muller was in the news because some of the Montreal media have clued into the fact that some other team will probably hire him as a head coach this summer. The only surprise there is that it's taken so long for that realization to surface. Muller had a big role in preparing the team for last year's playoff run, which didn't go unnoticed by GMs around the league. He's a serious competitor who doesn't see himself in an assistant's role for much longer. And he knows as long as Pierre Boivin is running the show, anybody in line for the Canadiens head coaching position must speak French. The only thing that could make a difference to Muller's decision to depart, should he, as expected, get coaching offers this summer, is Geoff Molson's arrival as club president. Molson is young, a Habs fan as well as an owner, and an astute businessman who's more likely to choose the right man as coach, rather than base his choice on language. If he can give Muller reason to believe he will succeed Martin behind the Habs bench, Kirk might be patient and stay. Otherwise, he's gone and the Habs will be poorer for it.

-At the All-Star break, the Canadiens are ten points better than they were at the same time last year. A lot of people are getting really excited about that because it must mean the team is better than it was then, right? As it turns out, the Habs' 59 points in 50 games is actually on par with their performance for each of the last five years, barring last season. The team was lucky last year that the rest of the Eastern Conference also performed poorly, and the Canadiens were able to scrape into eighth with a low 88 points. This season, even though the Habs are putting up more points, so is the rest of the conference. After an anomoly last year, things have returned to normal in the East which means the Habs are still fighting for a playoff spot. The Canadiens will likely need about 35 points in the remaining 32 games to secure a berth in the postseason as a low seed. They'll probably need 40-44 to catch the Bruins for the division.

-After the All-Star break, the next big item on Pierre Gauthier's agenda is the trade deadline. If the Canadiens are on track for a playoff position, he's got to decide whether to spend the money he's got because of Andrei Markov's injury and become an asset buyer. It's likely Gauthier won't be interested in a rental player. If he does move at the deadline, it will be for someone whom he can likely re-sign and who fits a pretty stringent list of criteria including youth, cap number, character and skillset. If there's nobody Gauthier can get to add to the team beyond this spring, he won't likely make a big move just to fund a playoff run that may or may not get out of the first round.


Paul B said...

What do you mean calling Colin Campbell unpredictable ? Isn't he nicknamed Colin" 2 games" Campbell?

I fail to see why Boivin is to blame for the "coach must speak French thingy". Goeff Molson has clearly stated on french TV that he more than agrees with this policy.

I also fail to see what is the damn problem with this policy. Do you think the coaches of the big time soccer clubs in Europe can't speak the language of the people of the country where they work ?

It's only simple a matter of decency and respect for 85% of the population of the Province. And anyway, there are always at least a few French people qualified to do the job. Just because people not living in the Province of Québec do not know them, it doesn't mean they can't do the job. Outside Québec, who knew Guy Boucher 3-4 years ago.

Btw, Jacques Martin's French is so lousy he might as well speak Russian...

Tara said...

Excellent points about Sid being the poster child of the NHL, but I wonder if the NHL isn't specifically saying we don't play favourites by not dealing with the hits? Sid's detractors call him a cry baby for some reason, and I wonder if this is the NHL's backward way of saying he's just like the rest of 'em?

Now, how does one go about bribing the Habs organisation to keep Kirky. If he goes, I'll miss the insanely good play after the timeouts. Say, if he becomes the coach, does that mean the boys will play that well all the time? Does one dare dream?

We've all got dream teams, but I'm curious: who do you want to see brought in and who would you let go?

GoldenGirl11 said...

@Paul B
The question that true hockey fans ask is why a coach must speak french when the team he actually coaches does not speak the language. Yes, it's a sign of respect to speak the language of the city in which you work but not everyone who is qualified for the job has the ability to pick it up in order to please the masses. Have you seem Joel Bouchard interview Muller between plays? He ALWAYS says 'merci' before going back to the bench. That is respect. That he can't master the language is irrelevant. Quebec based corporations pick the right person for the job, not the right french speaking person for the job. Period. And Molson should do the same. Hire a translator and win a cup.

Anonymous said...


Agreed. We've hired too many bad coaches, and let too many go (or passed them over) because of this policy. Can we please just get the best people in all positions and stop the nonsense?

Anonymous said...


Just wow. That's what I have to say about your comment. I've been staring at amazement at the screen for five minutes because I can't wrap my head around what you said.

For starters, the question that TRUE hockey fans ask about why a coach must speak French? Are you insinuating that people like Paul B or me are not TRUE hockey fans because we don't sit on the same side of the fence as you do in terms of the language thing? Excuse me? Must I really answer this?

Second. True, not everyone qualified to coach the Habs can speak French, but the same can be said for the counterpart, i.e., there are many qualified coaches out there who do not speak ENGLISH. They are eliminated from consideration as well, so really, when you think of it, a bilingual coach seems reasonable, no?

Goldengirl, the main idea to have a bilingual coach is so this person can communicate to the media (interviews for instance) and the fans at home sitting on their couches can actually *understand* what he has to say. Is this really too much to ask? Considering our teams has three guys behind the bench, two of which speak only English (I think) and one of them that seems to run the show (your Kirky), I as you, are you not being so overly ridiculous with the whole French drama thing???

As for the corporate input, I doubt very much that a company such as Molson would jeopardize any revenue by shooting themselves in the foot in hiring a dude who is monolingual. It just ain't gonna happen.

As far as you questioning why a coach must speak French when the team he actually coaches does not speak the language. What? This is crazy talk again, Golden. We have an INTERNATIONAL team. Take a look at the roster. Many are European. Most Europeans speak TWO languages, AT LEAST. It would be no surprise to me if some of these guys know French. And if they don't, they don't have that same backward attitude you have. Sorry to be on the attack here, my frustration level with this is high. Understand Girl11, the guys in room do not go into panic mode if they don't understand the language. And you can be assured that the strategic discussions are in English.

What I'm saying is you have your cake and your eating it too. You are too blind to see that.

Finally, that Muller says "Merci"...the whole world can say "Merci".

Paul B. said...

to GoldenGirl11

It's not only a matter of respect and decency. At the present time, who can say that Kirk Muller would be a better coach for the Canadiens than say Benoit Groulx or Dany Dubé. Do you even know who these guys are without googling them ?

And who could say that Bob Hartley would not have better results with the Canadiens than say Lindy Ruff or Barry Trotz ?

Anonymous said...

P.K. might also get to hang with some guys who have paid their dues and open his eyes a bit.

If Price takes the game seriously it will be a shame. Too bad he couldn't latch onto Tim Thomas for an evening.

You are bang on about the Crosby situation. There was the league's poster boy fouled twice by what the league claims is it's number one issue, and nothing was done. Lip service to the problem. Just like the Habs declaring they will work on those hard season because that costs money you know.

Finally, a voice of reason on the playoff chances. Yep, same old. Now the big boys come out to play and the points are fewer to steal. I know you like Halak but the Habs lost their way into the playoffs last year. Two times lucky? Only if someone else has crappier luck.

MC said...

@ Paul B. It may not seem like a big deal to require a French speaking coach, but there is no question it puts the Habs at a competitive disadvantage as compared to the other teams in the league who have no such requirement, especially when they can also hire away the few qualified French-speaking coaches like the Lightning did. With the parity in the league, small disadvantages like this can be the difference between winning and losing. I suspect that most of the people who would be "outraged" by a non-French-speaking coach also don't give a crap if the Habs win or lose. This is frustrating for real Habs fans.

And let's admit that there is no practical requirement for the coach to speak French. All the players can speak or are learning English. All of the French media are bilingual, so there is no need for translators. And respect can be shown in other ways by the coach. The only requirement for French is purely political. It's too bad the Habs feel the need to bow to this pressure.

At least the Habs have one of the qualified coaches right now. Not everyone likes JM, but he took the team to the conference final in his first year, that success cannot be denied.

moeman said...

Jacques Martin and Kirk Muller are two solid dudes.

Number31 said...

Mike Richards ain't at the All-Star Game. PK wins.

And PK just won the hearts of pretty much everyone with the skills competition tonight. I love it!