Friday, December 30, 2011

Asset Management

When this NHL season began, it was with a sense of hope. The Canadiens had taken the Bruins to OT in Game Seven of their playoff series just a few months previous. It could have been them making the Finals...maybe even winning the Cup...instead of their archrivals. Most promising of all, they managed to do it without the services of Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges or Max Pacioretty. One could just imagine how the presence of those guys could have held the Bruins to one fewer goal, or pushed that precious goal behind Tim Thomas instead. When Pierre Gauthier re-signed Markov, presumably with the understanding he'd be ready to play the majority of the season, then added much-needed power and size in Erik Cole, we had every reason to believe the team would be better than the one that pushed the Bruins to the brink last season.

Then the games began. Right from the beginning, there was something wrong with the team. Of course, it turned out Markov wasn't ready to start the season; far from it, and his erstwhile replacement, Roman Hamrlik, was in Washington. The injuries continued to pile up during the first few weeks of the season and there was something off with the players who remained in the lineup. They were working hard, but somehow not working together. Their effort, complicated by the inexperience of so many players, often seemed to be misdirected.

The losses accumulated as quickly as the injuries, and they started preying on the players' minds. The team became fragile mentally. Having blown so many third-period leads, they began to change their game in the third period and played with the fear of blowing another. Naturally, as they stiffened up and fell back into a defensive shell, their opponents sensed opportunity and seized it. The Canadiens problems began to snowball as one loss fed the next. Management didn't help matters by bringing in inadequate solutions like Tomas Kaberle, or firing coaches Perry Pearn and Jacques Martin. It helped even less when Geoff Molson effectively gelded new bench boss Randy Cunneyworth by saying the permanent coach would be required to speak French. Add to that his blithe assessment that the team, as constructed, could possibly be a competitive threat, and there seemed little hope for change from that quarter.

Now, after the latest blown lead to fellow bottom-feeder Tampa Bay, the Habs hopes for the post-season are as distant as Molson's statements from reality. This team will not make the playoffs, short of a semi-miraculous run in the second half of the season. Even then, the chances of making them in a favourable post-season position or of winning a round or two, aren't great. A squeak into eighth place and hope for another colossal playoff upset offer the best outcome a fan might expect at this point. What's more likely with a great roll right now is a finish between 8th and 10th and a crappy, mid-round draft pick...the kind Trevor Timmins blows with unfortunate regularity.

The fear we must face as helpless fans who are watching our beloved team founder, is that Gauthier will try to save his own ass by pulling out all the stops to get the Habs into the playoffs. The likelihood of his coming up short with this plan and ending up in ninth place (while probably losing his job anyway) won't deter him from doing it anyway. The essential problem with this is that it will result in poor asset management of the type we've seen in recent years, when Sheldon Souray wasn't moved at the deadline as Bob Gainey vainly hoped keeping him would give the team a push upward. Of course, it didn't work, Souray walked and the Canadiens missed a chance to pick up a valuable first-round pick for him. There are other examples, too numerous to detail outside a novel.

Now, Gauthier has to look...really the team he's got on the ice. He's got to make a list of players he expects to be part of this team in two years, and he's got to be ready to move the remaining people for parts that will help the team advance. He's got to ask difficult questions, like whether Michael Cammalleri's sub-par regular-season performances can continue to be overlooked because of his playoff goal scoring? If his poor play is a reason why the team misses the playoffs, then the answer to that is "no." A six-million dollar player who only performs in the post-season is useless if he can't help the team get there to begin with. If that's the case, then a playoff-bound team might offer a high return for what he can offer it on a Cup run. In that situation, Gauthier has to be willing to move Cammalleri in February.

Ditto for Hal Gill. Teams know he's a playoff beast on the PK and in the shot-blocking department. If he can bring a second or third-round pick, when he probably won't be back next year anyway, then Gauthier needs to move him. Tomas Kaberle should be gone as well, if there's a return to be had. Scott Gomez goes without saying. Travis Moen too, if there's a team needing a workhorse penalty-kill guy for the playoffs.

Essentially, there's a youth core the Habs can build on. Lars Eller, Louis Leblanc, Carey Price, P.K.Subban, Alexei Emelin, Raphael Diaz, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty are a good start. Veterans like Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges and Erik Cole who are earning their money and still performing can contribute for the next few years. Other players are extraneous and must be exchanged for parts that can add to that core, whether that be draft picks or promising prospects. Realistically, there's no player outside the core that can bring a truly game-saving return, so Gauthier (or his replacement should he be fired before the deadline) must try to get something helpful for them. Something that will add to the core and help build a competitive team.

To accomplish this, the GM needs to have a plan. In the last several years, there hasn't been one. Bob Gainey had an idea of the type of team he'd like to build, but seemed to be derailed by the immaturity of some key players and the ennui of others. The complete blowing-up of that team three years ago appeared to be the result of frustration and anger on his part. Therefore, even though it's pretty widely accepted that a competitive team in the cap era must be built through the draft and good player development, Gainey went old-school and tried to buy a team through overpriced free agency. He lucked out in that the guys he brought in were of good character and got along with each other well. He failed to realize, however, how quickly their on-ice performances would deteriorate and how their inflated salaries would make it difficult for the team to move them if necessary.

That's got to be fixed now. The Canadiens need a GM with balls enough to move the players who have value but won't be with the team long-term. It needs to happen this year, at the deadline or before, because the Montreal Canadiens will have little choice but to be sellers this season. They've got to sell, to buy themselves a future.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Miracle

The Scene: Bob Gainey's office, seventh floor, Bell Centre. The phone rings.

Gainey: Hello?
Glen Sather: Bob? It's Slats.
Gainey: Oh, hello, Glen. How are you doing?
Sather: Fine, fine. Listen, Bob?
Gainey: Yes, Glen?
Sather: I've...been going through some things. All that drinking we did back in the '70s? Well, it stuck with me. I couldn't shake it. You've seen some of the contracts I've handed out, right? Well, that was the booze signing those deals. No...don't interrupt. It's okay now. I'm doing the twelve-step thing, and I'm at the part where I have to make ammends. I can't, in good conscience, keep Ryan McDonagh. We were drinking, I bought the last round and...well, it wasn't well done of me. I took advantage and stuck you with Gomez, so I shouldn't have stolen McDonagh as well. Listen. I'm trading him back to you for a seventh, okay?
Gainey: Um, okay. But you'll have to clear it with Pierre first.
Sather:(laughing) Yeah, right. So, we've got a deal?
Gainey: Of course!

An hour later, Gainey's phone rings again:

Gainey: Yes?
Scott Gomez: Bob? Hi. It's Scott.
Gainey: Hello, Scott. How's your recouperation going?
Gomez: Well, here's the thing, Bob. I've found Jesus.
Gainey: What? Was he missing? Ha ha.
Gomez: No, seriously, Bob. My new physio has shown me the light. He says we've all got to be responsible for what we take from the world, and make sure we give the same back. I'm taking too much, Bob. I need to retire from hockey and start giving something back.
Gainey: Seriously? You want to retire?
Gomez: It's the right thing to do. Hockey's been great, and I've earned a lot of money playing it, but it's time for me to be the giver, not the taker. I know this is hard for you to hear Bob, but I'm going to have to leave Montreal.
Gainey: ALL RIGHT!!...I mean, right is important. As in, the right thing. Scott, I'm proud of you. Do the what's right for you.
Gomez: Thanks, Bob. You're like a second dad.

A little later, the phone rings again:

Gainey, warily: Hello?
Sidney Crosby: Hi, Bob? It's Sidney.
Gainey: Sidney! How's your recovery going?
Crosby: I'm ready to go, Bob. But, you know what? I don't know how much time I might have left in the league, and I want to play where my heart is. I mean, I love Pittsburgh because they drafted me, and Mario's been really great. I won the Cup here. But my heart's always been in Montreal. I love the Habs and I want to end my career there, no matter how long I've got left.
Gainey: Well, Sid, that's great. But we just don't have the assets to trade for you.
Crosby: It's okay. My lawyers say the Pens didn't take proper care of my health and we have a helluva lawsuit here. They're willing to let me go for a token return.
Gainey: Yeah, right. Like,say, Diaz?
Crosby: Well, you'll have to do better than that, but if you sign and trade Kostitsyn, that might work. They need wingers for Geno.
Gainey: Thanks, Sid. I'll get on it.

Larry Carriere: Bob? Hi. It's Larry. I've...found something.
Gainey: You found something?
Carriere: Yeah. It's kind of weird.
Gainey: What do you mean?
Carriere: I found an old fax machine. Probably 20 years old. But there was a piece of paper stuck in it.
Gainey: So?
Carriere: Um, yeah. It's a contract. It says Scotty Bowman agrees to be GM and coach of the Canadiens until otherwise notified.
Gainey: Seriously? Is it signed?
Carriere: Yup. If we want to push it, he's ours.
Gainey: Push it.

And so, the Canadiens suddenly freed up seven million in cap space, which enabled them to sign Shea Weber. They traded a seventh-round pick to get Ryan McDonagh back. They traded a fifth and Andrei Kostitsyn for Sidney Crosby and they signed Scotty Bowman as GM and coach. The next season, they won the Stanley Cup and all their fans rejoiced.

And that, my friends, is my Christmas miracle story for you.

Merry Christmas, happy Hannukah and a very happy holiday for you who celebrate a different tradition. I'll see you for the tank in 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Montreal Canadiens: The Museum Exhibit

The Montreal Canadiens are in an interesting position these days. While nominally maintaining their position as an active NHL team, they are, in fact an historical curiosity. The great Flying Frenchmen, the team that cloaked Quebec in the pride born of victory, are gone. That, however, doesn't stop the current, slickly packaged, version of the team from pretending there's still a semblance of that great franchise in existence.

In 1982, Ken Dryden wrote that the Canadiens going forward could either be good, or be French. A number of factors, from expansion, to the draft, to free agency to an influx of foreign-born players would inevitably mean that the best French Canadien players would not be so easily available to their local team. That's come true in many ways. What Dryden perhaps didn't foresee, however was the salary cap that would put the squeeze on so many teams, the Quebec tax structure that makes Montreal salaries 25% less than those in some U.S. states, the drop in the number of Quebec children who play hockey and the mid-nineties insistence on drafting big and tough rather than looking for the good local guy. Add bad management and poor drafting and the team Dryden knew deteriorated perhaps more quickly than he expected.

Many, many factors contribute to the league-wide parity that means the slightest disadvantage can make the difference between winning or losing. The Canadiens, rather than recognizing that the past is the past and winning today requires playing on the same level as every other team, insist on limiting themselves to only French-speaking candidates for important positions like GM and coach. So, since Jacques Martin has been fired, the team has installed Randy Cunneyworth as interim coach. Yet, right from the start, he's hamstrung by the language issue. Geoff Molson, with today's statement that the coach must speak French, tells Cunneyworth that no matter what he does...even if he were to drag this underachieving team into the playoffs and somehow win the Cup...he'll be let go at the end of the season unless he can learn French between now and then. What kind of motivation is that for a coach?

The irony of the insistence on French speakers at the management level is that there's very little regard for having French players on the ice anymore. Serge Savard, in the recent book "Behind the Moves," which offers a look inside the philosophies of winning NHL GMs, said he believed in making up to half his players local. He said those guys lived in the city, so if they performed badly, there was no place for them to run and hide during the summer. They had a vested interest in winning. They also had a sense of local pride, having grown up cheering for the team. Savard said the Q was underappreciated in the NHL, so a team willing to take a chance on Quebec players would find some gems. He said he never would have passed up players like David Perron or Claude Giroux in favour of American guys. Not, he said, that the players the Habs picked were necessarily bad (although, in David Fischer's case, he's got a more than valid point), but taking a chance on the guys who grew up as Habs fans in the team's own back yard would have paid off in those cases.

In any case, the Habs as they used to be...the dominant, winning team...are gone. For nearly twenty years they've been a bunch of also-rans or worse, while preserving the precious illusion that they're still the pride of Quebec. Certainly Quebecers are proud of the history of the team, but I wonder how many of them are proud of the current incarnation? How many of them would honestly say it's better to preserve the team's place as a cultural and historical icon than to pursue winning in the modern NHL?

Maybe it's the majority. Maybe people are willing to accept mediocrity, as long as the coach and GM can mumble meaningless platitudes for the edification of the French-language media. If that's the case, then the Habs are nothing more than an historical oddity; a once-great team wallowing in the increasingly distant memory of its own glory. The question is, how much longer will the marketing team be able to disguise the reality of the on-ice product? With no reasonable chance of topping the league these days, the vital youth fan-base, most of which don't remember the Habs winning the Cup at all, won't keep buying what management is selling.

The thing is, there are a lot of Canadiens fans who just want to see a winning team, who don't give a crap if the coach can speak French or not. So, for us, it was very, very disheartening to see Molson tell Cunneyworth he's not good enough because he doesn't speak the right language. For those of us who cheer for a hockey team, not a cultural institution, it was disappointing. About as disappointing as the cultural institution has been on the ice for this season and most of the last twenty.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

No Excuses

Many Canadiens fans are celebrating today, and not because Christmas is only a week away. The Jacques Martin era, much maligned by those disgruntled enough not to care who replaced him, is over.

Martin's dismissal, on its own, won't do a whole lot to change the Canadiens' fortunes unless Randy Cunneyworth steps into the top job with a radically different approach to the game. As mentioned here before, Martin wasn't necessarily a bad coach. There are, however, several indications that he wasn't the right coach for this particular bunch of players. And, while nobody will admit to having quit on Martin, there's a chance some of the offensively-inclined players under his charge might have been getting sick of the style they were required to play.

The thing about Martin is, up until now, he was able to take a diminished group and, through tightly controlled defence, help it overachieve. He began to lose control when his defence was so badly depleted through injury that it exposed the weaknesses of the forwards hobbled by The System. It's one thing to be unable to score more than two goals when the D keeps the other team to just a single. When the defence, however, gives up three or four, the losses begin to pile up.

Pierre Gauthier said today that pre-game preparation was an issue in Martin's firing, as was sustained compete level throughout the game. All those statements mean is that Gauthier is a shithead. Nobody can reasonably believe a coach who's been behind the bench for as many games as Martin has suddenly lost the ability to formulate a game plan. And there's no way he's been telling the team to slack off when it's up a goal with fifteen minutes to go. Pierre Gauthier, the same as countless GMs before him, has no answer to the dismal performances of the players he's acquired...other than to blame the coach.

Cunneyworth may benefit from the early post-firing soul searching most players experience. They feel guilty, knowing Martin probably couldn't do a whole lot more than he did, and so they'll start looking at themselves for a moment. Mike Cammalleri must know if he was scoring goals, his coach might not have lost his job. Ditto Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta.

In the end, though, the early guilt-fuelled energy following a coach's dismissal doesn't last long. When it passes, all the excuses are gone. All the "If only the team had a different coach...different system...different philosophy" lamentations have been realized. Now we'll know what we've got here. And what it'll come down to is that the Habs aren't really that good. Cammalleri isn't Claude Giroux. David Desharnais isn't Martin St.Louis and Josh Gorges isn't Shea Weber. Outside Carey Price, this team doesn't have a star. They are what they are and their only hope is to find a way to work together to be better collectively than the sum of their parts should be. That's not outside the realm of possibility, of course. Other teams have done it and gone far with that kind of strength-in-numbers approach.

We'll see if Gauthier's sacrifice of Martin is worth it. Cunneyworth is in the spotlight now and he's got a fair piece of work cut out for him. He'll have to convince the Canadiens that whatever their individual talents or the system they're asked to play, they have to buy into working together. Otherwise they can book their early-April tee times now, regardless of who's behind the bench.

Friday, December 9, 2011


For your viewing (dis)pleasure, a video re-enactment of today's trade between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes. Starring Jim Rutherford as "seller" and Pierre Gauthier as "gullible customer." Also featuring a cameo by Tomas Kaberle as "Albatross."

Enjoy. If you can wipe the tears away long enough to watch.


I have a confession to make. My excitement regarding the Canadiens' season has been reduced to the moment each morning when I check my email news alerts to see whether Jacques Martin has been fired yet. When I learn that he hasn't, the sense of disappointment caused by knowing almost from the moment the season started that the Habs won't be in the playoffs is renewed.

The funny thing is, I don't think Martin is necessarily a bad coach. In fact, not knowing much about what really goes on inside an NHL dressing room, I would guess he's at least as good as most and probably better than some others of his colleagues. Sure, he makes inexplicable personnel decisions, is stubborn to a fault and is as emotionally demonstrative as a stone Buddha, but those things don't necessarily make him irredeemable as a coach. He probably wouldn't have spent as much time as he has in the NHL if that was the case, especially when he's got no credibility as a player to fall back on.

No, the reason I look with anticipation for Martin's dismissal is because I'm hoping something will happen to shake up the bunch on the ice before it's too late. Perhaps it's not fair that a coach should have to pay the price for failing to motivate a bunch of men overpaid to play a boy's game, but when those man-boys lose enough games, something's got to give. Maybe the guilt of knowing they cost a man his job will inspire them to actually hold onto a lead for once.

This is getting depressing to watch. All the excitement we should be feeling and the fun we should be having watching hockey is absent. The end results...blown leads, wasted PPs, futile shootouts, too-many-men, Carey Price left hanging...are becoming so predictable, the only thing the Habs are inspiring is Geoff Molson's accountant. This is the first fall in the last five in which I didn't go to Montreal to take in a game at the Bell Centre. Having seen some of the dismal performances the team has handed in at home and comparing the results to the inflated cost of a ticket, I couldn't justify it.

There are injuries, of course, and replacement players who are either not ready or not very good, but few teams have escaped without those issues. The difference between winning teams...even those with less talent than the Canadiens have on paper...and losers is that they have a plan and they work together to execute it. The Habs aren't not working, precisely. Most of them appear to be trying. The thing is, they look like they're trying all by themselves. It's like watching a tug-of-war with three people on one side and fifteen on the other. The team that's pulling together inevitably wins. They're able find the extra bit of energy when they're down a goal or two, and the Canadiens, hauling like hell in five different directions, don't.

Judging by the amount of writing he does in his little notebook, Jacques Martin probably has a plan. If he does, however, the team isn't executing it. The question is, why not? If it's because they don't understand it and what they're supposed to do, it's up to Martin to find a way to get the message across. If it's because they don't have the manpower to follow the plan, then it's Martin's job to change the plan to suit the people he's got available. In either case, the spotlight's got to shine on Martin and what he's doing to give the team a clear blueprint for winning. Using the abyssmal power play as a glaring example, there's obviously a breakdown between the plan and the execution. It's probably not helping that players are rarely on the ice with the same teammates for more than a game or two. There are legitmate questions Pierre Gauthier should be asking Martin right about now.

It always comes back to the coach in any case, because a GM can't fire a player like Michael Cammalleri, who, for the low, low price of six million a year is weak as watered wine in his own end and isn't producing points either. He might be money in the playoffs, but this team, as it stands, is not going to be in the playoffs. Something has to change immediately because the team is rapidly approaching the tipping point at which post-season hopes disappear.

People will scoff at that and say the Habs are only a point behind Ottawa for eighth place. They fail to point out that there are two other teams a point out of eighth as well, both of which have played fewer games than the Canadiens. One of those is Washington, which can reasonably be expected to pick up points at a better pace than they have been doing recently. The Canadiens have an uphill battle to the post-season, make no mistake about it. And that's only IF they turn things around right now. They're more than a third of the way into the season and things only get tougher as more teams feel desperation setting in.

Whether Jacques Martin is a good coach or not is immaterial at this point. The team needs a kick in the ass and he's not providing it. Perhaps his removal would do the trick. If not, well, this team is losing with him and can lose just as well without him. The hope that maybe a change in the coaching department would spark some kind of turnaround is becoming enough of a reason to let Martin go. Whether Molson feels the same way, knowing he's on the hook for a year and a half of Martin's salary and reported early-dismissal penalty of two million, remains to be seen. The looming loss of playoff revenue may help him make up his mind.

Some fans aren't too worried because they figure a playoff miss will mean big, positive changes in management and on the roster, as well as a good draft pick. The problem is, they're not bad enough to beat out Carolina or the Islanders for a lottery pick and yet another middle-of-the-pack Trevor Timmins special won't change a thing. It's time for action now, if the team has any hope of clawing its way to the top half of the conference. Now, I've got to go check my email and see if there's any news.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Baby Boom

Photo courtesy of Josie Gold.

First, it was Michael Cammalleri. He came to training camp a first-time new dad and people have been wondering all season why he doesn't have quite the jump we'd like to see from him every night. He was caught failing to pay adequate attention to his surroundings when he allowed himself to be cut by Yannick Weber's skate. The "injury" meant he could rest at home with his little daughter for a couple of weeks.

Then, it was Hal Gill. His third child was born this season and he's been looking slower and more klutzy than ever with the puck. Sure, his shot-blocking has been fine, but he developed a mysterious infection after getting cut in the leg last month. Not coincidentally, he ended up spending more time at home with the baby while recouperating.

Now, it's Tomas Plekanec. His first baby, a little boy (pictured above), was born on Sunday and already he's missing practice to spend time with his family. How long will it be before he develops some strange ailment or borderline injury that will require him to stay away from the team? And if he doesn't disappear altogether, can we expect his play to remain as consistent as it usually is?

With all the analysis of the Canadiens' sub-par performance this year, few people have pinpointed the real reason for it: babies. Babies whine, cry, poop and demand, keeping hardworking hockey players from their pre-game naps. These guys have to be in tip-top shape, but how are they supposed to work out when they're pushing a stroller? These underhanded miniature people are undermining our team, and must be controlled at once. After all, if Plekanec has been subverted, it won't be long before the rest of his teammates follow suit. There could already be others we just haven't heard about.

Then again, on the plus side, it's only 18 years before Plekanec Junior is eligible to be drafted by the Habs. Okay. In that case, congratulations to the proud new dad!

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.