Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Let the witch hunt begin

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."

And how.


pierre said...

Asn't witch hunts always been trigger through history in order to avoid self critism ?

Its definitly clear at this point that Carbo as a coach has failed with the launching of his team into a new season..... all the dreadfull signs indicating missfiring have been on display from the early going, at the 10 games point with 8 wins in the bank I doubts if Carbo himself wasn't even conscerned at that point..... if he was then he missed on a golden opportunity for fixing it ( we had a couple of 5 day breaks at this crucial point in time to boot) before everything started falling apart.

Personally I tend to associate an NHL's team's good start into the season as being directly proportional to the talent of its coaches.... players usually show-up in excellent shape, refreshed, and as anthousiastic and responsive as you'll ever get them to be at any other time.... I believe this moment to be a critical one for the visionary coach who wants his philosophy and strategies to be the rallying points around wich the players will measured their worth as contributeur to the team and the season ahead..... all coaches want that to happen but not all succeed...... a team lacking focus and structure running around to find its identity in the early going is a sign of substandar preparation as far as I am concern.

Alot of questions remained unanswer in so far as our malaise is conscerned..... watching the next two games should provide significant answers to our questions.

Arjun said...

Captain Koivu and the Trebeks! That's the best rock band name ever.

Anonymous said...

according to habs I/O Carbo changed up the lines. Unfortunate for your catchy nickname

Anonymous said...

wow. those are not encouraging words from the coach. the only player i see taking the ice with a 'follow me and we'll be okay' attitude is koivu. i wouldn't be pointing the finger at him despite a bad game against carolina.