Well that didn’t last long did it?
One game into the era that was supposed to be all about the new tough Montreal Canadiens, it appears like the city has already soured on the whole goon concept. Both La Presse and the Gazette published pieces in their sports pages Saturday suggesting going the goon route is misguided.
La Presse has a break-page feature titled ‘La violence ne paie pas’ that makes the case that fighting does not win you Stanley Cups. Per the La Presse stats, only five of the last 20 Stanley Cup winners were fight-friendly teams. The punch-up Cup winners were the Devils, the Avalanche, the Ducks, and, of course, the big bad Bruins. Journalist Gabriel Beland notes that last year’s winner the Chicago Blackhawks had only 16 fights all season. The pre-tough-guy Habs has 25 fisticuffs sessions last season – and won a whole lot less playoff games than the Blackhawks (that would be one compared to Chicago’s Cup-magic 16!).
Pat Hickey’s column in The Gazette, ‘Habs emphasis on toughness might do more harm than good’, touches on the issue much more briefly – much of the piece is actually about the state of Max Pacioretty’s health (short version – big question mark). But it opens with a pretty devastating quote from Patch that appears to covertly criticize GM Marc Bergevin’s off-season decision to go the tough-guy route by picking up Ivy League fighter George Parros and big D-man Douglas Murray, who are both on the injured list.
“I think we got away from what we do best,” Pacioretty told the veteran Gazette columnist. “We’re a speedy group of players and we have to use our speed to create chances.”
Ouch. If I’m Bergevin, I don’t like seeing that quote this morning.
But Patch is right on the money. Look what happened Tuesday. The new-look Habs got into five fights. Travis Moen woke up after a Rip Van Winkle-like season of snoozing and did some punching, young buck Jared Tinordi banged some heads, and, most famously, the Minister of Moustachery – aka the fellow the National Post dubbed “the most interesting man in hockey” – tangled twice with Colton Orr, the second fight ending with Parros falling violently on the ice, face-first. He’s out with a concussion and no word as when he’s going to be back in action.
So how’d that work out. Parros is out indefinitely and Montreal lost to the Leafs, 4-3. What really mattered Tuesday was that Leafs netminder James Reimer was better than Carey Price, the Canadiens’ defense looked about as uneven as expected and the Loafs scored more goals than the Habs did.
Yes Montreal is in a tough division where you have to protect yourself against hard-fighting blue-collar teams like the Bruins but Parros and Murray ain’t gonna win you hockey games. You to need toughness, yes, but what you really need are tough guys who are also very good hockey players. For the purposes of today’s argument, let’s call that type of player Milan Lucic.
Fact is that today Montreal’s top forwards are still too small and the D aren’t big and tough enough. Patch is right that the team needs to use its speed to win – and they tried to do that Tuesday with the swift skill of Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk – but it wasn’t enough. And pummeling some guy’s head with your fists adds nothing to the box-score except penalty minutes.
Well it was an interesting era while it lasted.