With Guy Carbonneau's comments Tuesday night about some players perhaps feeling too comfortable because they have more experience now and can't be sent to the minors, members of the media covering the Canadiens in Ottawa felt the coach must have been talking about Sergei Kostitsyn, so they asked him about it.
Let me see if I get this straight: Carbonneau talks about players who can't be sent to the minors because they would have to clear waivers, and people take that to mean he was really talking about one of only two players on the team who don't need to clear waivers to be sent to Hamilton?
Does that make any sense to you?
While I agree that Sergei Kostitsyn has not been anywhere near the same player he was last year, is it not the least bit possible that Carbonneau was referring to Guillaume Latendresse when he said that because he does need to clear waivers to be sent to Hamilton? Just like Maxim Lapierre? Or even Christopher Higgins?
To me, that was a shot at Latendresse, who was given a huge endorsement by Carbonneau in training camp as being a lock for a spot among the team's top nine forwards and, before the season is even two months old, finds himself back on the fourth line.
I hate writing this because Latendresse is such a polarizing figure among Habs fans. Some believe he can do no wrong because he's a big, local kid, while others believe he can't do anything right and the only reason he's even on the team is that he's a big, local kid. But facts are facts, and Latendresse is clearly playing on the fourth line right now, while Lapierre has been a healthy scratch two games in a row.
But honestly, the Habs problems right now do not lie with Latendresse, or Lapierre, or Sergei Kostitsyn. They lie way further up the Canadiens food chain and Carbonneau mentioned as much speaking to reporters Wednesday in Ottawa, though he didn't go so far as to say the problem lies with him, which may in fact be the case.
"We’re at a stage right now where the players need to stop looking elsewhere," he said. "They need to stop looking at another player and saying that if he's not giving everything, then I won't either. I’d love to have a leader who can get on the ice and say, 'I'm going to work, follow me.' That's what we need right now. We need a guy who's willing to say, 'I'm going to play a good game tonight. Follow me, and we'll be all right.'"
That's not a message to fourth line players, or second-year guys from Belarus, or young veterans like Higgins and Tomas Plekanec. That's a challenge to the captain Saku Koivu and his current linemates Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay. It's as simple as that.
If Carbonneau keeps those guys together on the same line in Ottawa, and it appears based on the lines at practice Wednesday that he will, then we'll see if that message got through or if Carbonneau is on the verge of losing his room.
OK, that may be a bit drastic, but when the coach says something like that, it's with clear targets in mind. And, as far as I can see, there are no clearer targets than Saku and the Trebeks (pretty catchy line name, no? All I need is for them to score a goal now and then, and I'll start printing t-shirts).
The one advantage Carbonneau has for getting his message across, and he acknowledged it Wednesday, is that the next two games are against the hated Senators and the reviled Boston Bruins.
"The one good thing I can see is that we have a pretty good rivalry with the next two teams we're about to face," he said. "If we can't get up mentally or physically for these two games, then we have a bigger problem than I thought."