Fire Carbonneau. Fire Gainey. Trade Koivu (but before you do strip him of his captaincy). Fire Muller. Fire Jarvis. (What about Rollie Melanson while you're at it?). Bring in more French guys. Aye yaye aye, here we go again.
And the mental giants in the media have it all figured out. Alex Kovalev is hurt because Sheldon Souray popped him when they got into a fight during the closed door meeting following last saturdays loss to Ottawa. Saku Koivu is playing poorly and taking too many bad penalties because his buddy Craig Rivet was a healthy scratch. Kovalev is telling everybody who hates him to fuck off by saying that he won't continue to play hurt. Bob Gainey is an idiot because he wouldn't go on the record with Journal De Montreal hockey writer Marc De Foy during an encounter on the road at a coffee shop. None of this is true, as far as I know, except for Gainey and DeFoy briefly sharing the same air space in New Jersey.
I'll pick up on this in a moment, but here's an early candidate for e-mail of the year:
From: "Bill Maslen"
Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 3:48 PM
Subject: Montreal Maroons or Morons ?
> People wonder why quality free agents don't come to Montreal? Look no
> further than the dump Samsonov campaign after half a season, or the "is
> Kovalev really hurt" propaganda running amok in the public and the local
> media. Why have the captain and Les Boyz "run out of gas"? Why are the
> goalies looking more like Theodore than "Close the door"? Has the coach
> lost the room? What a joke folks, you need to relax!
> We're begging Gainey to trade our biggest offensive weapon on defence
since Larry Robinson instead of trying to find out if he will stay here at a
> reasonable cost. The minute you become a star in Montreal, you're never
good enough any more. People forget that Guy Lafleur was booed towards the end
of his run here, and we all know what happened with St. Patrick.
> At this rate, we will be holding a 40th anniversary of our last Stanley
Cup in a few years if the fans and media around here don't get a grip on
reality and develop the patience and understanding necessary to develop a real
positive atmosphere to draw players here instead of repel them.
> Please give these guys a break and be realistic with your expectations.
> Hounding and chasing the stars away is not solving anything, and frankly,
I can't wait until Carbo has had enough of the dumb questions and flips the
> bird at us again.
Nicely done Bill.
Guy Carbonneau is going to develop into a terrific NHL coach. He's learning, like Claude Julien before him, how to do it on a daily basis, without the previous pro experience that Julien had. His hand-picked assistant Kirk Muller is spending his first pro season behind a bench. Mistakes have been made. Not fireable offenses.
Save for comments strictly relating to possible NHL rule changes (to Mathias Brunet of La Presse) Bob Gainey has not spoken publicly since the death of his daughter Laura. He never comments on trade rumours and is hardly going to issue one of those dreaded votes of confidence for his coach. So DeFoy and his allies are insulted. Like that's got anything to do with the state of the team.
Has Gainey made mistakes? Absolutely. Ribeiro for Ninimma doesn't loook good. I thought he would make a trade following that awful loss to the Leafs in Toronto following the all star break. Not knowing what's been offered, it looks like he might have waited too long. Perhaps showing too much confidence, especially in some of the players he acquired.
Let's take a closer look at some key forwards on the Canadiens and what could have been reasonably expected of them offensively(De Foy did a nice job this week pointing out that the top four forwards on the Habs this season are a combined minus 57):
Actual Typical Diff
Koivu 45 pts (47) (-2)
Kovalev 38 (46) (-8)
Ryder 36 (43) (-7)
Samsanov 40 (23) (-17)
The first table is how many points each player currently has. The second is where they should be based on a typical NHL season through their respective careers. Clearly, there is some juice missing. After scoring 25 & 30 goals in his first two seasons, at age 26, Michael Ryder has found the unlikely ability to slide backwards. Kovalev has been playing hurt and Samsanov has been the biggest free agent bust since Mark Davis. http://www.retrosheet.org/
So did Carbonneau lose the room when Rivet was scratched? Or merely his captain?(a captain who beat an aggressive form of cancer, nearly lost an eye while his team went down without him, but still gets dumped on because he's not Vincent Lecavalier) Did Cristobal Huet fail to get home by midnight? Even without Richard Zednick and Jan Bulis are there still too many Europeans on the team? Not enough French guys? Oh, so many deep questions to ponder.
For two seasons in a row the Canadiens have hit a wall at Christmas time. Last year they were re-energized by the coaching change and Cristobal Huet. This year, it appears a nasty virus has, in part, knocked them toward the bottom of the eastern conference. I've spoken to several respected scouts in the last week or so and theyre all in agreement. The Habs' gas tank is on empty. Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever told me this week the same thing happened to his team until Jaroslav Halak stood on his head and stole a couple of games. Barring a dramatic player move or two a second wind this time around is going to have to come from an unexpected source. Halak? Andrei Kostitsyn? Samsanov? David Aebischer?
And Darcy Tucker is about to re-join the Leafs. This could get worse before it gets better.