No More Excuses: Time For the Habs to Make a Splash

The Montreal Canadiens have lost 6 of their last 7. We don't need to go through all the losses, you know what's happened. From the physical romping in Boston to the utter embarrassment last night at the Heritage Classic, it's been mostly downhill for the Habs this month, and it's been pretty evident that they've been unable to get a streak going, and unable to get motivated for big games.

It all came to a head yesterday in Calgary, where the Canadiens entered (or rather exited, since the game was outdoors) a unique event against the Flames looking to rebound from a bad loss in Edmonton a few nights before. The conditions were bad on the ice, with plenty of bad bounces, and it was cold as Hell but none of the players were complaining. Old-time hockey out on the pond, what's not to love and get excited about?

Fans from both cities were gearing up for a real good match, but instead, the only team that would leave satisfied would be the Calgary Flames, after a 4-0 ass-kicking of the Canadiens.

The Habs would start off extra cold, allowing 19 shots (to their 8 ) in the first period. Carey Price would keep them in it, letting in only a single goal. In the second, the Canadiens would throw an astonishing 21 shots on Miikka Kiprusoff, but it would be the Flames who would score twice on their 11 shots. They would add a fourth for good measure in the final frame, and that would be all she wrote for this one.

While I understand that this was sort of a special game where certain logics of regular season play may not apply, there were some mind-boggling decisions by coach Jacques Martin yesterday in Calgary.

For instance, Andrei Kostitsyn, who has no goals in 11 games, no points at all in 9 games, continues to get way too much ice time. He played 17 minutes yesterday, a decision that I can't begin to comprehend. In the span of 11 games since his last goal, Kostitysn is a ridiculous -8. He is completely lost out there. Even if he scores 5 goals in his next three games, it won't make a difference because he's just going to go on another cold streak again after he's done making up for his lack of play in previous games.

Scott Gomez played nearly 20 minutes. He's hasn't scored a goal in 7 games, and only 2 in his last TWENTY FIVE games. Sure, he's supposed to be more of a playmaker, but he only has 2 assists in the last 11 games, the same span since Kostitsyn hasn't scored a goal. He is -9 in that span.

Not even the workhorses on the top six, Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta, can get motived, but the coaching staff is content with playing them all their regular minutes, while burying the youth of this team which actually seems eager to perform in what seems to be their absence.

It's time for a serious question: What the Hell is Jacques Martin doing?

There's no excuse for continuing to give these players top minutes. We get that guys like Plekanec and Gionta will likely bounce back, but how can he know that's not the case with Kostitsyn and Gomez? They have tools at their disposal to replace them. David Desharnais, Benoit Pouliot and even Lars Eller to a lesser extent are all offensive players who get benched after a bad shift, yet alone a bad game, a bad week or a bad month. But they still manage to produce despite a clear lack of confidence from the coach, and continue to chomp at the bits when it comes to earning their ice time. Instead, Jacques Martin is fine with playing two losers who are clearly content with cashing their paychecks and doing nothing to earn them.

As fas as I'm concerned, Andrei Kostitsyn may as well pack his bags. If I were the coach or GM of this team this guy wouldn't play a single other game in the Canadiens uniform. Instead, he gets the most ice time out of nearly everyone?

And I'll usually be the first guy to defend Scott Gomez. He's a character guy, a leader, and does more than just put up points. But enough is enough. $7.5 million for 29 points through 60 games and a team worst -18 rating? It's unacceptable. Teams like the Rangers and the Oilers would have nothing of this, they'd bury his piece of crap contract in the minors and find better uses for the money. It's not even a matter of showing respect or being a classy organization anymore, at some point you just have to cut your losses and do what you need to do to compete. They have centers in the organization who can take his spot, there are options via trade to bring in a better center. Instead, they're content with giving Gomez ice time and hoping for the best, while someone like Lars Eller ends up playing wing, a spot he's clearly not comfortable with, getting no chances to shine, and David Desharnais has to make the most of his limited ice time.

People will say that you don't fire your coach while sitting in a playoff spot, the season after making the conference finals. And I'd have to agree with them. But it's time for someone to step in and tell him that things aren't working. The Canadiens are VERY lucky to be in 6th place in the East right now, within reach of the Caps in 5th place and the Bruins in 3rd. They're VERY lucky that teams like the Sabres, Leafs and Devils had extremely poor starts that have put them way behind the Canadiens, despite their recent push to make the playoffs. And ya, in the end, the Canadiens will likely make the playoffs, and they have a shot of doing some damage with the proper match-up.

But management and even ownership needs to take a serious look at what's being done to run this team, because clearly, there are a lot of things that aren't working. Performances like the one we saw yesterday at McMahon Stadium are unacceptable. And you can blame the players all you want, but when you have a coach that's clearly incapable of motivating his team and is content with playing experience over, you know, actual ability, there needs to be a serious discussion about what this team does heading forward.

That being said, we're a week away from the trade deadline. No one's being fired this season, nor should they, really. The Bruins, the Bolts and the Flyers have improved on their already great teams. The Sens and the Leafs have set up their future and improved in different ways. The Caps and the Pens are still in play, and who knows what else can happen.

Whatever may have been said about the Canadiens above, and about where this team is going, there's no excuse that's great enough to justify giving up on the season and not making a major move. No one in the top six has been performing as of late, and Jacques Martin is too afraid to play anyone outside of the people he's used to going to. The defense is decimated and porous, and Carey Price needs all the help he can get.

What issues does Pierre Gauthier deal with first? What players does he go after and how much does he willingly give up to improve this team in the short run? All difficult questions to answer, but as we have seen last week with all the trades that went down, there are plenty of options. And reward never came without risk.

The Canadiens HAVE to make a big move. They owe it to themselves, to the fans that pay good money just to see lackluster performances from their team, and they owe it to the teams that have already improved their line-ups. "We're not that good enough anyway" or "we don't that many assets to spend" are asinine excuses. Gauthier said he wants the Canadiens to be top contenders every year. Last year, he got lucky. This year, it's his team, and his moves to make. And it's time he stepped up and lived up to his promises, instead of hiding in the shadows and trading irrelevant picks for depth players.

The time is now to respond, to make a trade. I don't care who they pick up or even who they trade other than a select few, but there are no more excuses, and not much time left. Get it done, Gauthier.

Prax
www.betterwithpopcorn.com
www.twitter.com/GeorgePrax

8 Comments

Phil T's picture

I agree 100% with everything said

feuerfrei514's picture

also agree 100%
I know people say gomez helped us land gionta and cammy but honestly at this point i dont friggin care. He is a highly overpayed useless player i see no effort from him and would like to thank the rangers for that asinine contract ohhh and chris drury thanks you too. AK46 needs to get ak47'nd he is terrible the effort i have always said never looks like its there, you see occasionally in glimpses and you maybe see what the habs were thinking that infamous draft year but we dont need another (worse then) michael ryder on the habs.

Paul Mara was a idiotic trade IMO, he was useless before and not a huge help (regardless of what people think). I also have this fear of habs trading for kovalev again.

I agree the players deserve a good portion of the blame for lack of effort. But open your eyes and look at management. Gauthier I wager will not do anything to help the team before the deadline. As well mr jacques martin the tribe has spoken you need to be removed your defensive style and inability to adapt to teams strategies isnt cutting it.

George Prax's picture
feuerfrei514 wrote:

also agree 100%
I know people say gomez helped us land gionta and cammy but honestly at this point i dont friggin care. He is a highly overpayed useless player i see no effort from him and would like to thank the rangers for that asinine contract ohhh and chris drury thanks you too. AK46 needs to get ak47'nd he is terrible the effort i have always said never looks like its there, you see occasionally in glimpses and you maybe see what the habs were thinking that infamous draft year but we dont need another (worse then) michael ryder on the habs.

Paul Mara was a idiotic trade IMO, he was useless before and not a huge help (regardless of what people think). I also have this fear of habs trading for kovalev again.

I agree the players deserve a good portion of the blame for lack of effort. But open your eyes and look at management. Gauthier I wager will not do anything to help the team before the deadline. As well mr jacques martin the tribe has spoken you need to be removed your defensive style and inability to adapt to teams strategies isnt cutting it.

Totally agreed with Gomez and AK, I'm done defending them . I know there are coaching issues but it's beyond that for those two players right now. They need to go.

I don't mind Mara. He was forced into too big of a role last year. Now he's a depth forward who's basically just here so that Brendon Nash doesn't have to play, or when we get another D back Picard. It's a band-aid, but one they needed. No problme with that.

kyleroussel's picture

We've both written posts about this today, and mine is the complete opposite take. I totally disagree that a big splash is required now, and you made the argument for me.

We look up and down the top 6 and everyone has stopped producing. Why? Coaching. Martin cannot get the best out of his players with the antiquated system he plays. Why go out and waste assets that the team will need, just to get a big name that Martin's system will strangle? Then we'll cry that Gauthier made a stupid trade for the wrong guys.

The first thing that needs to happen is a philosophical change from Martin, and he won't do that.

I have no problem with trading dead weight, or Gomez' big contract (as long as a legit centerman is brought in to replace him).

If Gauthier makes a big splash, he will have to move a Subban, a Pacioretty, a Leblanc, a Tinordi, a Kristo, an Avtsin, a 1st rounder...

Now is NOT the time for that type of move. If Markov and Gorges were around, I'd say to go for it. Get a big forward, or the shut down d-man. Take your shot. But the Canadiens are too far from real contention to justify a big trade in my view. Their best chance is for Price to steal series for them, which he can do.

Gauthier should not get in to a contest right now with the likes of Boston and Philly in what is essentially a dick measuring competition. Let those guys blow their load, fall on their faces and let the Canadiens then rise up in their wake and peck at their carcass.

George Prax's picture
kyleroussel wrote:

We've both written posts about this today, and mine is the complete opposite take. I totally disagree that a big splash is required now, and you made the argument for me.

We look up and down the top 6 and everyone has stopped producing. Why? Coaching. Martin cannot get the best out of his players with the antiquated system he plays. Why go out and waste assets that the team will need, just to get a big name that Martin's system will strangle? Then we'll cry that Gauthier made a stupid trade for the wrong guys.

The first thing that needs to happen is a philosophical change from Martin, and he won't do that.

I have no problem with trading dead weight, or Gomez' big contract (as long as a legit centerman is brought in to replace him).

If Gauthier makes a big splash, he will have to move a Subban, a Pacioretty, a Leblanc, a Tinordi, a Kristo, an Avtsin, a 1st rounder...

Now is NOT the time for that type of move. If Markov and Gorges were around, I'd say to go for it. Get a big forward, or the shut down d-man. Take your shot. But the Canadiens are too far from real contention to justify a big trade in my view. Their best chance is for Price to steal series for them, which he can do.

Gauthier should not get in to a contest right now with the likes of Boston and Philly in what is essentially a dick measuring competition. Let those guys blow their load, fall on their faces and let the Canadiens then rise up in their wake and peck at their carcass.

(link to that blog if people want to read it: http://www.cowhideandrubber.com/630)

The obvious solution to me has always been to fire the coach, but we know that's not happening. But you have to figure if Gauthier goes out and trades serious assets in exchange for a big name player, he's going to put the pressure on Martin to use him properly. Because if he doesn't, it's the GM's ass on the line as well.

I definitely agree that Martin is where the problem stems, but at least for now, we're stuck with him, and regardless of him, they have to make a serious attempt at remedying the issues in another fashion. And right now, that's through trade.

And I don't think we'd have to move one of the players you mentioned. Subban, Pacioretty, and Leblanc are obviously going nowhere. I could see Tinordi, Avstin, or Kristo getting traded for the right player but still unlikely. That 1st can get us more than you think, and in this year's draft I have no problem trading it.

You mention the Bruins and Flyers, but I totally think they need to respond to them even if it is just a dick measuring competition, as you mentioned it. They were going to have trouble getting past them before the moves they made, now they have no shot, and they owe it to the fans to at least try and get to their level, even with all the injuries, and I don't think it would be as difficult as some people are making it out to be.

kyleroussel's picture

The only way I'm in to trading a first round pick is if it's for a young player that is a fit for the Habs for years to come. If Gauthier trades it for a 29 year old UFA that turns out to be a rental, I'll drive to Vermont and burn his house to the ground. Any big move in my mind has to be done with today AND the future. High-priced rentals in my view are the opposite of what the Habs need right now.

George Prax's picture

I'll agree with you on that point, but I don't think that there are many pending UFAs that fit the bill and would cost a first left. That's why we're seeing Chris Stewarts and James Neals being traded.-

feuerfrei514's picture

on a side note i think the avalanche GM did some bad acid with those trades he did :-S