Bad HABits are Hard to Break

From Down East, Matt files on his boys from the Great White North, as his squad continues to struggle. What’s the fix? Maybe the problem isn’t the guys on the ice, but the man behind the bench?

“Most people have bad habits that they wish, usually half heartedly, they could get rid of and be done. I managed to overcome an over-fondness for alcohol and now it takes absolutely no effort to just drink no more than a couple of glasses of wine every few days. But smoking is a habit I can’t seem to kick. I did quit for 9 months back in 2001 but then the 9/11 attacks happened and I picked right back up again. As if I didn’t have enough reasons to quit, smoking for me now is also like letting the terrorists win.

The Canadiens also have a bad habit they need to kick. I’ve come late to this conclusion but I’m now in the large camp of those who think the problem with the team’s performance is the coach, Jacques Martin.

Driving hard into the Sens' net - Photo: Canadiens.com

Since my last post here, the Habs played 5 times: 1 win (over the Senators,
with a one goal difference), 2 wins in OT (Coyotes, Predators), and 2 losses (Rangers, Oilers). Or another way to look at it is that we won over a team that is near the bottom with us, won in OT against two teams in the middle of the pack, and lost against two teams that are currently in the top 10 of the NHL.

And all the wins were razor-thin at best.

The lackluster results, and the inability to play with “big boys”, is not the fault of the players so much (but I will come back to that) but seemingly from a lack of emphasis on playmaking by the chief, sloppy or non-existent defencive coordination, over-reliance on Carey Price to save the team’s collective muscular ass, using combinations of players with different skills that don’t mesh well, using players ineffectively (like putting poor faceoff winners in the dot too often), and a miserable power play that all too often has ended up in allowing cringe inducing short-handed goals.

Firing Pearn, the coach in charge of special teams, has not resulted in any improvement in power plays or kills. No, I’m concluding that this does all come down to coach Martin’s inability to lead and manage the team effectively. The problems the team is having, at least most of them, are due to his poor management. We need a new coach.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve yelled out during the game: Where’s the defence? I see other teams with one or two of their players right in front of the net in crucial moments but all too often when an opposing team is at Carey’s doorstep he has no help, the defencemen off in the wings. Big Hall Gill is great at checking opponents but I’ve rarely seen him near the net.

The Habs have a lot of truly great talent on the team and they’ve got the speediest skaters this side of a Dutch speed skating oval. If only there was some direction, playmaking, and coordination of this talent it could really be exciting to watch.
Some positives:

Dreamboat Carey

Carey Price – Definitely one of the best goaltenders in the league, and kudos to him for remaining fairly cool-headed when Spezza, in the Senators game, ran Price and knocked him down – ending up with Spezza sitting in his lap in the net.  Something tells me Carey was not in the mood to… bottom at that moment.

 
Gill – Big, slow, great checking, but are you allergic to Price?

Subban – Say what you will, he does seem to get the team a lot of PPs since everyone seems to go after him. Lots of talent in this youngster, but still a diamond in the rough.

Plekanec – Top as far points on the team so far. He can drive hard in my five hole anytime.

Pacioretty – Great playmaking and scoring critical goals.

Gionta, Desharnais, and Kostitsyn – Great efforts at assisting, though not enough checking in my opinion.

Markov - May be back later this week. Hopefully up to snuff again but can’t imagine it’ll be the same. He could take the place of both Emelin and Diaz since they aren’t doing much!

Eller – Cute in that blond Scandinavian way, has his moments of brilliance.

          

Those of you who know the team may have noticed a conspicuous absence to my list. Cammaleri. Because I think he’s “the weakest link” and he’d be ripe for a trade. Or a swift kick in the ass to jump-start him at least.

We’ve got four games coming up this week. Two against top-tier teams (Rangers and Sabres) and two against teams even suckier than the Habs at the moment: the Islanders and the Canes. Hmmm, I wonder. Will the results be similar to that in the last two weeks? Wins against Islanders and Canes and losses to Rangers and Sabres? If Martin keeps going with the same style of coaching and non-play making then it’s as good a bet as any.

Hopefully at least there won’t be a repeat of the last game against the Rangers where some ignorant Rangers were rooting for their team by chanting “USA! USA! USA!”. As if it were the Olympics and the Canadiens were Team Canada.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but notice how the language used by hockey announcers to describe games in action may, not so subtly be a draw for gay fans. When I hear them say that two players are “battling hard, stick to stick”, or “he had full wood on that shot”, or the aforementioned “driving hard into his five hole”, or “he’s battling deep within Carey’s crease” I snap to attention. And then laugh at my immaturity in finding sexual innuendo even in sport announcing. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have moments of lightness when my team’s organization and playmaking has been sloppy at best.

Let me in that penalty box!

Here’s hoping they get some good wood on the puck and drive it in hard for the fans.

The Canadiens better get their act together. Because I have promised to quit smoking if they win the cup.

At the rate they’re going I’ll still be smoking next summer. I can’t do it on my own. It’s got to be a team effort! I’ll trade you 25 years of smoking for cup#25.”

Follow Matt on twitter or he’ll blow smoke in your face: @mattsko

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