Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can you have too much depth?

Because if you can, then that's what the Canadiens seem to have right now. And if it were up to Guy Carbonneau, he would gladly send some of that depth out of town.

After watching his team build a 1-0 lead after two periods in Carolina that it didn't deserve, Carbonneau had reason to believe that perhaps the Canadiens would wake up in the third and put the game away.

Instead, the exact opposite happened.

"The game was decided in the first three shifts of the third," Carbonneau told reporters.

Those three shifts were played by Carbonneau's top three lines, and he says their unwillingness to get the puck deep and simply put pucks on net to keep the pressure on the Hurricanes is what ultimately switched the momentum in Carolina's favour and led to Tuesday night's 2-1 loss.

There's only so many times Carbonneau can say his players aren't working before people have to ask why. Why is a group of guys largely unchanged from last season suddenly so unwilling to put in the hard work necessary to get results? How can a line with Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay combine for three shots on goal, with all of them coming from Kovalev? Why is a power play that was so dominant for two years straight suddenly such garbage, despite the goal scored in Carolina?

Carbonneau said after the game that maybe it's time for someone to get up in the room and take the team by the hand to the promised land, which to me sounds like the words of a desperate coach who has run out of of answers.

The only answer I can find thus far is that Carbonneau is having trouble adjusting to life with so much talent on his roster, with so many skill players who aren't necessarily all that adept at the grunt work that wins you hockey games.

Last year Carbonneau had a guy who he felt wasn't doing enough, and that guy was Michael Ryder. So what did he do? He sent Ryder to the press box, he relegated him to fourth line duty when he did play, and he essentially cut him out of the team.

This year, however, Carbonneau hasn't yet played that card, but it appears it's not too far on the horizon.

When asked Tuesday night why it is that last year after a bad game his team was always able to come back with a solid, 60-minute effort, whereas this year they can't, Carbonneau was very clear.

"Maybe it's because players have more experience and they don't have that danger of being sent to the press box or to the minors," he said.

Asked if that danger still exists this year, Carbonneau mentioned that if the league's rules didn't prevent him from doing so, then that danger would definitely exist.

What he meant, of course, is that there is practically no one, aside from Ryan O'Byrne and Sergei Kostitsyn, who can be sent to Hamilton without first clearing waivers. But there is no league rule stopping Carbonneau from making someone significant a healthy scratch, and maybe that's what he needs to do.

I have no idea who that healthy scratch should be, but that's why Carbonneau is the coach, and I'm not.

Thank God for that.


Topham said...

I think your question is an interesting one.

If you ask it straight, I think the answer is no.

But what I think your piece implies is that the question realy revolves around having too many players of a similar type. I think in this case the answer could be yes.

That said, I don't think the Canadiens should blow up the blueprint here. On the surface the Kostitsyns, Kovalev, Tanguay and Lang are alike. But I think there are differences that could be accentuated with a bit of coaching.

for example, Carbonneau could tall Andrei and Sergei to play their rough and possessed style more frequently. Lang could be asked to be the responsible one on a line with two offensive wingers. Kovalev, well, he probably can't be changed...

Finding the right mix is a complicated business. Koivu and Tanguay seem to have a nice thing. Plekanec and Kovalev seem to understand that the puck is Alex's to keep, so they can succeed together. it's finding the right third that is proving difficult I think...

pierre said...

The 3 post lock-out Cup Champions were all high scoring teams... if a team possesses 3 players of 40+ goals each in their roster than they might do it without having true scoring depth.... otherwise they need to have it if going all the way is what we are talking about.

Offensive depth goes to waste though if a team has a lousy puck possession time.... that is our problem.

Our puck possession time last season was not all that great when playing 5 on 5 neither but by surprising many teams with our speed we drawed many power play opportunities to ourselves.... those power plays is where we got ALOT of our goals during last season.

There is only two ways for a team to gain additional puck possession time in a game.... the first one is to shorten the time you spend in you own zone running around defending.... the second is to keep the puck down low in the opponent's own end through efficient forechecking.... but those were weak aspects of our game last season and were thouroughly exploited by the Bruins and the Flyers who kepted up the pressure in our own end throughout the series.... now all the teams are doing it to us the same way.... they get in our zone and stay there outshouting us with players in front of our goaltenders.... we never adapted and we never changed our ways for the better... thanks to Carbo stuburness about the outdated use of the passive box formation in our own end we are spending way to much of our time in there.... we should try to aggressively outnumber the puck carrier like most-all teams do and use it as a transiton for offense instead..... and the sooner the better.

Another wastfull way about not using the scoring depth of a team is to limit the forechecking... some teams do a 1 man forechecking, most use 2 and some use 3..... all teams use 3 against us because of the weakness of our system in our back-end..... but for ourselves 3 men forechecking is the way to go if we want to take full advantage of the offensive depth that we possess..... wether we do or not is not clear to me..... but one thing is obvious... we are not all that good at it...... until Carbo demmand that some of his players stand firm in front of the net we will never be all that good at it anyway.

Things has not really change from our last season when 5 on 5 and the teams knowing about it make it worst for us this year..... our 2 weaknesses are better exploited by our opponents this season and what make it worst is that our PP killing machine of last year is no longuer balling us out of trouble as it was last season.... and trouble we have... big time.. Streit where are you ?

Arpon Basu said...

Great points by both of you. Topham, you got my point in saying that Carbo has too many of the same kind of skill guys, I guess I should have expressed that clearly. I do think the makeup of the team can work, but it will take some adjustments by Carbonneau. Which brings me to Pierre's comment and his bang-on analysis that Carbo needs to change his forechecking system. I agree with you 100 per cent, it's time he started putting intense pressure on the other team's defence to create turnovers in the neutral zone and even the offensive zone. The way he's doing it now, there's only one passive forechecker and four guys waiting in the neutral zone. In other words, it's a trap, which is a system you play when you have little talent. The Habs have tons of talent and speed, and it's time Carbo started using it. As usual, great analysis Pierre.

Andy J Smith illustration said...

HA! These players are ALL overpaid. MILLIONS to PLAY a game!?!? Good luck getting ANY of them to do what you'd like. If they want to coast and collect a paycheck, they will happily continue to do so.

Coaching pro sports can't be much different than baby-sitting elementary school kids. If you send a few Kovalevs and Higgins etc to timeout it might give them a needed boost or it might more likely cause the expected tantrums and sulking.

Go Habs Groan.