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.


theosaurus said...

"All those statements mean is that Gauthier is a shithead."


It's all there.

DT said...

I don't think PG is so bad. It would be easy to mortgage the future by trading assets or draft picks right now to save the season and his own job. But he hasn't done that. JM was Gainey's man, but RC is PG's man. Let's see what he can do.

Raj said...

In your second last post here, JT, I was on record as being opposed to firing JM until the injured players were back -- if the team still sucked then, it would be time.

Today's decision worries me -- about the team and about Randy Cunneyworth. I don't want RC to fail but, as I said before, I would hate to repeat 1995 again, when we jumped from the frying pan into the fire when Demers was let go and Tremblay stepped behind the bench. RC has more coaching cred than Tremblay, having done a good job with the Bulldogs last year. But he's not Barry Trotz, Lindy Ruff or Mike Babcock, not just yet. He has a much harder job then any of them. He has to run the gauntlet of the Montreal French language media without being able to speak French -- who will put him under the microscope. He also has to carry the weight of the fans who've been starved for a Cup for going on 19 years. for his sake, I hope he's not been set up to fail. Babcock, Trotz and Ruff never had to deal with that kind of pressure. If RC is allowed to do his job without a lot of superfluous media and fan interference, the team has a chance to make the playoffs and do well. If not,it would have been better to have tanked the season and started out fresh next season.

Anonymous said...

Glad that you are back JT-PG is a 'shithead' !!
RC won't be able to do too much with the talent at hand. Shithead has to go and will be gone at the end of the season if not sooner.

Raj said...

Well, that game sucked. 1 game wasn't ever going to be a test of anything but whether the team as constructed has potential -- it obviously doesn't. I think it shows we NEED Gomez, Gionta and Moen, and especially Markov, back. Heck, even Diaz. Let me perhaps ask the unmentionable -- so JM wasn't the problem? My sympathies are with RC. I hope we either make the playoffs or end up in a good draft position. A middling finish would really suck.

dusty said...

Comment from Cammalleri after firing...11th place isn't good enough. How about 13th, because that's where this team is heading. Can't believe all this under achieving talk from people who should know better even Red Fisher. They are where they are because nobody in management wants to face the truth. The Habs are crap.

Crap you say? Well how's this. Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri, Markov and Kaberle = 28.35 mil cap space for 2 more years after this debacle is over. None will bring anything in return in a trade especially with shithead in place.

So, can the Habs knock the leafs out of the playoffs? I'm hoping.

the Baruch said...

Well said as always JT. What would I do without you? Oh yeah, probably quit caring about the habs altogether. RC's post-game presser was not promising. (not to mention Pat Hickey's very audible desperation), but he did help a depleted Bulldogs team go pretty far into the playoffs last year, I guess we'll see whether any other approach can beat 'the system R.I.P' with these guys. Basically the problem with the system, besides being boring,stifling, and having us win games we should have lost, was that other teams could figure out how to beat it. I hope we see more intelligent, informed spontaneity from RC. And I hope he manages that magic trick to get them to really care, like a fan like I seems doomed to. Prost!

V said...

I had been defending Martin this year for pretty much the reason you state here - his ability to get them to play as a team over compensated for injuries (most games lost to injury than any other team).

I read somewhere else that with 3 wins instead of losses in their shootouts and they were in 6th place (or something like that) and none of this likely happens. They get to work through things till some of the injured are back and we really see what we have.

The media and sites like this one - you have been unfairly critical of Martin and not nearly as even-handed as you are above - have contributed to the mob mentally that probably cost him his job. I sincerely hope you were right, because you got what you wanted and he's gone.

And now apparently PG is a shithead - partly because of the 'dismal performance of the players he's acquired'. I can't believe how inaccurate and unfair that statement is. Let me guess, you want him fired as well.

This thing is in danger of coming apart completely because people can't distinguish between the wins/loss column and what is happening on the ice. Habs fans may be the most knowledgeable in the league. But knowledge isn't much use if you can't control your emotions long enought to use it.

Anonymous said...

I think the team won't win anything important until there is a change in philosophy. Martin did it his way with what Gauthier gave him. The Saturday firing with a statement that RC would be the interim coach for the rest of the season smacks of anger and a sleepless night.

The Montreal Canadiens are a perimeter team. Fans and media, including the very accurate Red Fisher, still long for the days of Guy streaking down the wing and burying a blazer from the top edge of the circle. That isn't the way games are won. Games have never been won that way. Sometimes the play of the game is that way. Because it is pretty. Most of those shots are no problem for an NHL goalie. Bouncing wristers and chips from 15 feet out through screens are. Shutt and Lambert scored a lot of goals that made Guy's beauty look memorable in a win, not as a useless goal in a forgettable loss. Check out NHL com's shot locator if you don't believe where goals come from.

When you look at the players the Habs have acquired you see they are designed for an advantage situation. They put all their eggs in one basket. A little tweaking, a little mayhem in front of the opponents net, and a refusal to throw away the puck because it is line change time (putting your team on the defensive again) would certainly help RC's chances but I firmly believe he could win the Cup this season and still be drummed out of town.

Dead man walking.

Anonymous said...

Hard to say, yet, whether Martin dragged a bad team through some playoff rounds or failed to allow a good team to succeed.

I hope Cunneyworth:

tries a more aggressive forecheck and a more offensive system. It may fail, but at least we can rule it out.

Allows rookies to succeed without actively trying to destroy their confidence. There can be value to guys who are not immune to random benching.

Holds the vets accountable. I don't know what is up with Cammalleri, but either he is not trying or he's hurt. Sit him or get him to try. Get the older guys to do something to earn ice time.

Even out the ice time a little. Martin was shortening his bench and it killed some of the guys, notably Gionta. The small, fast guys need fewer minutes. I noticed this happened last night (Subban did not play 28 minutes, the forwards were pretty even, the 4th line guys were on for more than 5 minutes) and it may not have helped but changing the coach is a pretty big distraction.

Does not run young players out of town. There are ways to dump guys who are not working out, but destroying their value is not the best way.

Builds the value of some of the guys who will have to go to make room to sign Price, Eller, Subban, Diaz, Emelin, and others. If he can get Gomez to the point where another team will take him it would be a huge success. Kaberle is heading this way (5 points in 4 games), not that he necessarily should be dumped, but the habs may not be able to afford to keep him.

Will not bench players for hitting or scoring.

Evaluates players, and especially player development properly. Martin and Carbonneau appeared to go with their initial judgement of players (Streit, Perezhogin, Sergei, O'Byrne...) and ignore any progress.

Has some serious luck in terms of player health.

At least PG has stopped dumping draft picks. The future would look much brighter if they had the picks they gave up for Moore, Tanguay, Wiz, and others. Easy to say now, though. The team did well with those guys, but PG needed to think a little longer term, either keep those guys or not acquire them. He should probably start the re-signings early (unlike Gainey) if he can, as well.

dusty said...

Well, I for one, can distinguish between wins and losses and what is happening on the ice. On the ice the Habs look like a team that has lost 20 games and won only 13. Their best center, on most nights, is 5'7" and came out of the ECHL. Gotta love the little guy but let's get serious. The Habs need a complete overhaul AGAIN. When the Bruins started 3-7 that was not indicative of the team. 13-20 is very indicative of the Habs.

If I was Cunneyworth, I would have given a lot of thought to turning down this opportunity. He will build a losing reputation for himself (undeserved) that will follow him going forward.
I really feel for the guy.

Anonymous said...

Leigh Anne,

JM was to my knowledge was never accused of not being able to generate a gameplan, what he was guilty of was generating the same gameplan regardless of the opposition and a total reluctance or inability to make any in-game adjustments of his engraved in stone gameplans.

He was too rigid and not an innovator. His game analysis was replayed over and over game in and out!

His attitude towards young players, whom he blamed for losses repeatedly surely was his undoing!

Anonymous said...

I think the firing of Jacques Martin is huge, and WAY overdue. I also think that Cunneyworth is going to improve the team's performance in the short run and may even squeak us into the playoffs.

Ultimately, the difference has to come from roster moves and player personnel decisions. Gauthier has done well with his SMALL tweaking moves to improve the team -- but has made no MAJOR moves to improve/overhaul the team. No guts, no glory, Pierre.

Weaknesses that need to be addressed:
1. Lack of size and physicality everywhere, but particularly on defense, as opposing players take liberties in front of our net and with Carey Price);
2. Misuse of players (Cammalleri, Emelin, Pleks, Eller, Weber, Leblanc);
3. Useless power play;
4. Lack of production, passion and leadership by the so-called leadership group (Gionta, Gomez, Cammalleri). I say strip Gionta of the captaincy, and give it to Josh Gorges -- At least he sounds like he CARES.

I don't know if I would use the word "shithead." I do know that Gauthier's performance as the leader and architect of this team has been inadequate.

NorthCoastHab87 said...

Cunneyworth is in a tough spot now. The entire coaching staff has to be near the bottom of the league in NHL experience. Carriere, in addition to having next-to-nil time behind the bench will serve as a spy for Gauthier. This does not bode well for the 'interim' coach or for team chemistry moving forward.

RC was a successful coach in Hamilton and Rochester. Plus he was a hustling, hard-working player wherever he went. If he can get the team playing like he did, then 8th place should be in their grasp.