Mike Cammalleri's Displaced Anger
Among all the controversies, all the language debates, all these trivial issues that seem to plague many people in and around the city of Montreal this hockey season (and that I’ve been categorically trying to ignore), there’s an overlying issue that tends to get swept under the rug more often than not with this team.
The Habs just suck.
Blame it on the Anglophone coach, blame it on the incompetent GM or the face-saving owner, but when push comes to shove, the onus of the win-loss record and performance of the Montreal Canadiens falls squarely on the shoulders of the players, and the players only.
Is it Randy Cunneyworth or Jacques Martin’s fault that Tomas Plekanec is on pace to limp towards the same, disappointing point totals as last season, along with a -12 rating? Is it Pierre Gauthier’s fault that while Carey Price is likely to play the same, ridiculous amount of games he did last year (72), his stats leave little to be desired, considering he should be basically a top five goaltender in the league? Is it Geoff Molson’s fault Mike Cammalleri would be lucky to put up 20 goals when the dust on the season settles?
In some ways, probably. The problems of this team from a managerial perspective are always well-documented by myself and other writers. But it’s also about time that the stopped making excuses for some of these players. With the money they’re getting paid, and the opportunities they’ve been given, they’ve simply run out of excuses for their poor performances.
I’m not a sports psychologist or a former player or coach, so I can’t tell you what’s going on in these players’ heads and between them in the dressing room, and maybe I shouldn’t try. Maybe it’s a snowball effect from having a slow start, or maybe all these controversies and problems with the coach and GM have forced these players to mail it in for the season. Who knows?
After 42 games, it might not even matter anymore. The Canadiens are currently sitting seven points out of the playoffs, where they’re likely to stay until the end of the season. Even if they miraculously manage to start playing better and more consistently, they don’t have that clutch nature that would allow them to make up nearly ten points over half a season. As for as the 2011-12 season and the 2012 playoffs are concerned, the year is pretty much over for the Montreal Canadiens. But you’d think that they’d still have some pride. You’d think that the big-money players would want to prove that this team didn’t make a mistake by bringing them here.
Erik Cole, who recently played 27 minutes in last week’s win against Winnipeg doesn’t seem to have a problem playing well. Tomas Kaberle, who I was especially hard on last month, is doing a decent job of what he’s being asked. Lars Eller, Andrei Kostitsyn, David Desharnais, Alexei Emelin, these are players that are having good seasons so far in the middle of the mess that has been the Montreal Canadiens.
Others don’t seem to be taking it as well. The one player who seems to be having an especially bad time this season is apparent sniper Mike Cammalleri. The $6 million dollar man currently sits tied for fourth on the team in the goal tab with goalscoring machine Travis Moen. With only 9 goals, Cammalleri will be lucky to finish the season with 20, marking the fourth straight season where his production will likely decrease. Yet his paycheck remains the same.
"I can't accept that we will display a losing attitude as we're doing this year,” said Cammalleri in a post-practice scrum today. “We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose. When you display a losing attitude like we do now, you lose more often than you win and you stay in the same place. When you show a winning attitude, you are not stifled by mistakes and you respond to a mistake with 15 good plays at the other end, you win and you get out of misery. This is not what we are doing here now."
You’re throwing a lot of “we’s” and “you’s” out there, aren’t ya Mike? It’s fine that you think the team isn’t playing up to par as a group, and they aren’t, but maybe you should take a long hard look in the mirror before disassociating yourself from the problem. You’ve been a non-factor for this team for 42 games. In half a season, you’ve been replaced not once, not twice, but three times as the team’s go-to guy for goals, first by Max Pacioretty, then by Andrei Kostitsyn, and most recently by Erik Cole.
Cammalleri can lay the blame on the team as a whole, but the simple truth is that we can name more than enough players that have actually contributed to this team, especially in the goalscoring department, where the Habs figure to have a 30 goal scorer for the first time since Alex Kovalev put up 35 in 2007-08. Cammalleri’s done nothing but make fans regret the excitement they felt when the Canadiens’ first announced his signing in the summer of 2009 as his contract continues to wear on, and today’s outburst, no matter how it was intended, is just another notch on the belt of sorrow for our good friend Mike.
The Richmond Hill, Ontario native signed in Montreal off the heels of a 39-goal season. At 27 years of age, most agreed that he was just starting to hit his stride, and a 40-goal season wouldn’t be out of the question for the forward. He put up 26 goals in his first year with the Canadiens, and that was fine, since he missed a considerable amount of games with a knee injury, but still managed to get a career year out of Tomas Plekanec. Last season, that number dropped to 19, but again, people expected it because he got injured again, and, well, it’s tough coming back from a shoulder injury when you’re a sniper. Not to mention his heroics in two straight playoffs.
But Cammalleri is now unfortunately out of excuses. While he’s faced injury troubles yet again, Cammalleri should be heading into the second half of the season chasing Cole for the team lead in goals scored, not crossing his fingers and hoping he doesn’t finish behind Moen.
At the literal halfway point of Cammalleri’s contract with Montreal, I think we have enough information to make the assessment that the Canadiens either acquired damaged, injury-prone goods, or that Cammy simply doesn’t have the cojones to play in a city like Montreal. It’s great that he’s proven to be a playoff performer, but why can’t he bring that extra level of intensity to the regular season?
Cammalleri seems like a smart guy, so it’s interesting to see him unravel in front of the media. Maybe he’s trying to fire his teammates up, but to me, it just sounds like he’s trying to make more excuses for his poor performances and throw his teammates under the bus along with him. Cole doesn’t deserve to be looped into those statements. Pacioretty and Kostitsyn don’t. Neither do Desharnais, Eller, Diaz, Emelin, Price, and others. While the Canadiens’ problems definitely aren’t limited to one player, the problem is due to a team playing like a team of individual. And the source of that is usually with the spoiled millionaires, a group that Cammalleri finds himself at the forefront of.
Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta have been in and out of the line-up for a couple of months now. Maybe Cammalleri should think about joining his fellow stooges to complete the trio and save us a lot of grief.
Either that, or, you know, start playing well and finally earning that $6 million that Mr. Molson is paying you.