Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Maybe we're not as good as everyone thought we were"


That's not something you usually hear coming from the mouth of the head coach. Not in training camp, not halfway through the season, and definitely not in February.

I understand what Guy Carbonneau was saying, that expectations were high for his team and they're not living up to them. That the city was amped up by the centennial and last season's surprising results. That maybe what happened last year in the regular season was a bit of a mirage and this team is closer to what we saw in the playoffs.

But you know what? I think Carbonneau should have altered that statement made to reporters in Edmonton Tuesday after the team went out bowling instead of practising on the ice. Instead of "everyone thought we were," Carbonneau could have added, "including us."

One thing I've gotten pretty sick of hearing out of Carbonneau and his players this season is talk of last year, as in "We just need to get back to what we were doing last year" or "The offence and power play will come around because of what happened last year" or, well, you get the idea.

Carbonneau's mantra from day one of training camp should have been that no one is allowed to talk or think about what the team did last year. That this was a new season and a new team, one that had to almost start from scratch even though many of the same players were back. A lot of the talk early in the season was about managing expectations, those of the fans and the city, and those they had for themselves. A great way to do that would have been to focus on this year, forget the "success" of last season and approach the year with a chip on your shoulder.

That's what led to last year's success, that belief they were being disrespected by the hockey world when most pundits predicted they would miss the playoffs. They took that disrespect and used it to fuel a phenomenal regular season.

But the playoffs ended too quickly, and in a pretty embarrassing fashion, so you would think it would be easy to focus on that instead of the supposed success of the regular season, which doesn't count for a whole hell of a lot.

This is a team that still has something to prove because its performance in the playoffs provided a glimpse of the fragility we're seeing now. The Flyers did nothing spectacular to oust the Habs from the playoffs last year, they simply took advantage of a struggling goaltender while getting bailed out by a hot one in their own net.

But the Habs should have used that embarrassment as this year's rallying cry. Instead, almost since the first day of training camp, we've heard references to last year used almost exclusively in a positive sense. Of course, finishing with the best record in the East is a positive, but the major reason they got there is that the Habs, to a man, wanted to shove their success down the throats of those who didn't believe they could do it.

Lacking those negative voices this season, with the great majority of experts picking them to win the conference, the Habs could have manufactured that motivation themselves. How? Anytime anyone asked them about last season, simply talk about the playoffs, how they lost in five games in the second round, and how they plan to go much farther this year. That would have kept the Habs in the mindset that it's them against the world, a formula that worked so well last...

Ah, I caught myself, just like the Habs should have been doing all year.


Arjun said...

Every time you go into a press conference now you should ask about the playoffs. I dare you.

Sliver24 said...

I'm not worried about the Habs catching themselves. Right now I'm more concerned with the Rangers, Sabres, Panthers, Hurricanes and Penguins catching them. ;)

You're 100% right that last year seems to be the reference for everything Habs this season. As a long-suffering fan I think that sentiment stems from the fact that it's the only glimmer of hope we've had to cling to in the last 15 years.

The good news is that I think they have the talent to be a successful team.

Look at it this way: How many times have you heard that you need to lose before you can win? That you need to fight through some adversity to learn what it takes?

Well this is the Habs' double serving of adversity, piled right on top of last year's embarrassing playoff performance.

I truly believe that they'll be a better team coming out of this mess than they were going in.

pmk said...

WOW.UNBELIEVEABLE. Here are the lines as per habs inside out. with Carey Price getting the start in goal:

A. Kostitsyn-Higgins-Kostopoulos

On defence:


TK said...

Hmm, the unconventional approach to line combos. I see what you are doing Mr Carbo. Eight defenseman? Higgins at centre?
This season is getting progresively wackier with each embarassing loss.

Sliver24 said...
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