The Upper Canadien
Well, the predictable backlash has begun. After 30-odd years of the unwritten rule being only a Francophone could coach the Habs, the Canadiens yesterday changed the rules - for Randy Cunneyworth of all people.
All is not well in La Belle Province, and this TSN article sums it up well. Editorials are slagging management, the calls are pouring in to radio stations, and separatists are calling for a boycott of Molson beer. And, funnily enough, none of this has to do with the performance of the team. How dare he speak only English.
Only in Quebec. But that’s part of what makes following this team so great.
That’s the story. Dysfunction. Why do I say that? Well, let’s analyze the firing of Jacques Martin closely:
The Canadiens experienced early success with Martin, making the Eastern Conference Finals. They came one goal from beating the eventual Stanley Cup Champions last year. Through all of that, Kirk Muller was Martin’s lieutenant, and the heir apparent for the job.
In the midst of those two semi-successful seasons, the Canadiens, admirably, allowed Guy Boucher to leave and become head coach in Tampa Bay. He has since flourished in that role.
Muller, anxious for his own chance to head a team after years as an assistant, left in the off-season to coach Milwaukee, Nashville’s farm team, in the AHL. While gone, he was still a candidate if Nashville would let him go.
Two weeks ago, that call came.
The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Jacques Martin. He has been replaced by former Assistant Coach Randy Cunneyworth. More to follow.
A PK Subban mistake late in the game, a disallowed goal - regardless, the Canadiens are back in the loss column this morning. Montreal lost 4-3 to a Flyers team that should have been reeling, after the losses of Chris Pronger and Claude Giroux to injury, but instead are firing on all cylinders, with 7 wins in a row.
David Desharnais played what may have been his best game as a Canadien, scoring a beautiful goal, while Carey Price looked fairly regular. For no apparent reason, Mathieu Darche played close to a full period of hockey. Almost time for Jacques Martin to go?
Louis Leblanc scored his first goal as a Hab - and was promptly benched the rest of the game (except for about 40 seconds. Seriously. This happened. It makes absolutely no sense, but it happened). Time for Jacques Martin to go?
On the whole, this team, with its losses late and frustrating lack of consistency, reminds me of another team - the Montreal Canadiens circa 2009-2010.
The Canadiens won their second in a row, blowing a 3-1 lead but eventually beating the Islanders 5-3. Isles’ goaltender Al Montoya wasn’t particularly sharp on this night, and the difference for the Canadiens was largely the fourth line, but a wins a win and Montreal will take it.
Quick highlights: Tomas Kaberle notched an assist, he now has three in two games as a Hab, and he is certainly making an impact on the powerplay. It’s very easy to see how Kaberle slows the play down and makes a first pass as the pp sets up. Something the Canadiens have been missing all year.
Doug GIlmour, Yanic Perreault,
. What do they have in common? They were all Leafs. Then, they were Habs. 2 of the 3 made big contributions in Montreal.
Welcome, Tomas Kaberle. Adieu, M. Spacek.
There’s a lot of angst amongst Habs fans. Kaberle is old. Overpaid. Overweight. But many are forgetting one thing: he has run very successful power plays in years past, and he has averaged approximately 20 powerplay assists a year through most of his career.
It’s getting cold in Montreal, but winter will be much, much worse. Les Canadiens are flatlining. And it’s December.
A terrible performance last night against Columbus in front of their home crowd, who have seen just four wins thus far, sealed it for me. This team just doesn’t have it - and it goes a lot farther than Scott Gomez. Sure, injuries are a large part of it, and there are bright lights, such as Louis Leblanc, Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole, and Alex “Drago” Emelin, but something isn’t right.
Are changes coming? I’d have to think so, if things continue on this path. However, the Habs never seem to do much of, well, anything (I guess no one does, that’s the CBA for you), so I’m anxious to see if owner Geoff Molson steps in and demands some changes.
Until then, a great article on the state of the Canadiens by SI’s Michael Farber, one of my favourite sports pundits and a level-headed voice on everything hockey-related. Enjoy:
The Upper Canadien is back at 100% and off the IR. The Habs, however, are not. As everyone now knows, Andrei Markov’s knee is close to ready, so GM Pierre Gauthier said yesterday - and that, logically, is why he’s having surgery in the next few days. Right. Oh, and he’ll be out for 3 weeks “or so.” The dreaded or so. My bet? Markov isn’t back until January, and that’s optimistic thinking.
Scott Gomez is still on the shelf, resting multiple muscle injuries and a goalless season. One in which he himself said he needed to step up and deliver. Gomez makes over 7 million dollars, Markov almost 6. That’s close to 20% of their salary cap room right there. Not to mention Jaro Spacek and Ryan White on the sidelines, and various players like Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri who look like they’re playing hurt. Bottom line, almost a quarter of their salary cap allocation has been virtually invisible since training camp. What does that tell us?
Well, it explains a few things.
The Montreal Canadiens hit Anaheim this evening as the struggling Ducks look for a rare win. As everyone knows, rumours of change are swirling in Anaheim, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a move if the Ducks drop this one to the Habs. That said, it’s also a big game for the Habs: Louis Leblanc makes his Canadiens debut.
Leblanc, the Canadiens first round pick in 2009, slots in for his first NHL game, and has been practicing with Lars “ill timed penalty taker” Eller and Travis “trigger” Moen on a possible third line. However, as everyone knows, with Jacques Martin coaching, he could be on the first line by the second period, or he could be nailed to the bench. You just never know. Leblanc has been a solid addition to the Hamilton Bulldogs this year, second in team scoring in his first year as a professional after spending 2010-11 with the Montreal Juniors. The Habs haven’t exactly developed a plethora of first round draft picks in recent years (David Fischer anyone?), so anytime one makes his debut, let alone a hometown boy, it’s a pretty big deal.
I’m still recovering, and thus have someone else typing this for me, but a quick thought on Pacioretty/Letang: it shouldn’t be a suspension. Very similar to the Ryan Malone hit of earlier this year, more body on body than anything else, and I don’t believe there was any intent visible. Max Pacioretty did not intend to hurt Kris Letang.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pacioretty gets a game. Why? Gut feeling. He’s got a phone hearing, and Letang was bloodied. With the crackdown and all, I could see this being punishable. But I reiterate: I don’t believe it should be a suspension.
About The Upper Canadien
The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.
I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.
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