Remember Michael Cammalleri’s comments just before he was shipped off to Calgary (between periods no less!)?
He basically said coach Randy ‘Parley-Vous’ Cunneyworth and the team were playing not to lose rather than to win. That was Jacques ‘Mr. Personality’ Martin’s system as well and it could be argued that playing-not-to-lose-(too-badly) kinda neatly sums up the Gainey/Gauthier era. Or as I like to put it – it’s all about the quest for mediocrity.
It was on display again Monday night when les Canadiens dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime to the surging Buffalo Sabres. The Habs scrambled to tie it up 2-2 in the dying seconds, with David ‘Big Heart’ Desharnais scoring with just five seconds remaining. It was indeed an exciting moment.
But when I heard the folks on TSN 990 saying this will be one of the great memories from the Habs 2011-2012 season, I felt like saying – puh-leeeeze. That kind of talk is all fine and good in Bob ‘Elvis Has Not Left the Building’ Gainey’s office but out here in the real world, Monday night was just another loss from a team that’s had way too many losses this year.
Montreal is in last place in the East. Last place, for heaven’s sake. There are no good memories to take away from this season. Then Cunneyworth went and defended his troops, with his excuses recounted in detail in Pat Hickey’s column in Tuesday’s Gazette.
On Daybreak Tuesday morning, sports columnist Doug Gelevan played a clip from Cunneyworth where the ‘interim coach’ (aka lame-duck coach) said: “Everyone’s working hard to emulate what (the Desharnais-Cole-Pacioretty line is) doing.”
To which Daybreak host Mike Finnerty quite reasonably asked – “How hard is everyone working?”
Then Gelevan played a clip from Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney who just roasted his players after they lost 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks Monday at Rexall Place in Edmonton. (Check out Doug’s blog for the audio of his item on the contrasting styles of Renney and Cunneyworth.)
“We have a few people who should look in the mirror,” said Renney. “You’re Edmonton Oilers….you’re a millionaire. Suck it up and play hockey.”
There you have it in a nutshell. In Edmonton, you have a coach who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and scold his players for giving up. Meanwhile in Montreal, the coach lamely tries to defend a team who’ve given up on him. There is one line that comes to play every night. That’s it. Has anyone seen Rene ‘Lost in Translation’ Bourque lately? Or how about Scotty ‘Send Him Back to Alaska’ Gomez?
So why is Cunneyworth making excuses for these millionaire underachievers? Cos that’s the Habs culture. On trade-deadline day, there was Pierre ‘Yikes!’ Gauthier telling media wags that the Habs were playing with a lot of pride. (Eds. note: Get that guy out of the vegetable aisle now!) No Pierre, they’re playing like losers, which is why they’re in last place, home to the biggest losers in the conference.
But that’s the mantra of the firm of G&G – strive for the middle and if you end up short of mediocrity, make sure to remind everyone how hard Les Boys are working. ‘A’ for effort lads!
Not depressed enough yet? Well check out how well a couple of our favourite ex-Habs are doing. Andrei ‘Where’s the Party Cowboy’ Kostitsyn scored the only goal in the shootout Monday to give his new team the Nashville Predators a 5-4 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. That’s Nashville’s third straight win and they’re now in fifth place in the Western Conference. Wouldn’t that be great if Andrei and his little bro (and fellow ex-Hab) Sergei ‘I Am the Party’ Kostitsyn, along with fellow former Hab Hal ‘Gentle Giant’ Gill end up going far in the playoffs while the Habs perfect their golf swings? Preds management best make sure to thank Ghost Gauthier for all the help.
Andrei Kostitsyn, by the way, has three goals and three assists in his six games with the Preds (and that doesn’t include the shoot-out goal). He’s scoring 30 goals next year, as I told you a couple of weeks back.
Then there’s my main man Jaroslav ‘Tony Espo Part Two’ Halak. Halak is quite simply on fire for the St. Louis Blues. They won 2-1 Sunday night against the Columbus Blue jackets with Jaro between the pipes. This comes on the heels of Halak being named NHL Star of the Week for a three-game stretch in which he let in just three goals.
Stltoday.com had a good piece on Monday titled: ‘How’s that trade for Halak looking now’. The short answer is – it’s looking mighty good for the St. Louis Blues and not so good for Montreal. In the article, open-line host Kevin Wheeler notes that Halak’s stats since Nov. 1 (after a shaky start) have been unbelievable – a goals-against-average of 1.56 and a save percentage of .940. Did I mention that the Blues are sitting comfortably in first place in the West five points ahead of the Canucks?
Wouldn’t that be great if the Blues end up going far in the playoffs back-stopped by Halak, maybe doing an imitation of his superstar heroics for the Habs during that miraculous 2010 Habs playoff spring? Blues management best make sure to thank Ghost Gauthier for all the help.
Ah the Ghost! I caught a glimpse of him on the sports news Monday night, coming out of the general managers’ meetings in Boca Raton, and I kind of did a double-take on the couch. My first thought was – didn’t Geoff Molson already fire him? My next thought was – why does this guy strut around with so much confidence? It’s like he’s proud of how he’s driven this once-great team into the ground. I guess it takes a special kind of talent to do that.
But tell me one thing. The Habs aren’t still paying him a salary right? Tell me he doesn’t still get a pay-cheque for wreaking this kind of havoc.