Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pulling another rabbit out of the hat

So, the Canadiens have apparently reached the bag skate stage of their March.

Guy Carbonneau put his players through a half-hour skate Thursday with no pucks, which back in the day would have been called a warm up, but today is considered a punishment. The point, of course, was not how long they skated, so in that sense I suppose a half hour should suffice.

Let's get the sequence of events straight here: First Bob Gainey decides not to make a move at the trade deadline despite obvious troubles among his group of defencemen; then Gainey calls on his players to play to their full potential, and his coaching staff to get them there; then the Canadiens come out and dominate the first period against the Buffalo Sabres only to wilt afterwards and lose 5-1; then Carbonneau decides its time for some tough love.

I've said it before and I'll say it again here, I don't know how to coach a hockey team. But it seems to me that the time for motivational ploys like this would be at a point in the season where it might actually make a difference, and not during the stretch drive towards the playoffs. Perhaps instead of that bowling day in Edmonton, Carbonneau may have wanted to crack the whip then? Or even before that, after dropping that 5-2 stinker at home to the Leafs? How about even before that, after that 0-2 trip through Florida in late January?

But to do this in March, when practices should be used for fine-tuning and not correcting deep-seated issues like a consistent lack of effort, appears to be a desperate grasp at straws.

On top of that, Carbonneau expressed some degree of doubt on Alex Tanguay's injured shoulder and how much it's really hurting, noting that he received clearance from doctors to play last week. Tanguay, for his part, says he was following doctor's orders to practice until Friday then see how it felt, and didn't appear to like the tone of his coach's comments.

Is this another motivational tactic by Carbonneau? I doubt it, because I have no trouble believing that Carbonneau does indeed believe that Tanguay could have been playing by now, especially considering the funk the team is in. I'm just not sure the coach should be telling that stuff to reporters the day before said player is about to be reinserted into your lineup.

He cast the same doubts on Georges Laraque earlier this season, as did I, but now it appears Laraque's back injury was indeed as serious as it appeared because his season is in jeopardy after re-injuring it in Buffalo on Wednesday and he may have to undergo surgery. Apparently the injury dates back to his time in Pittsburgh, which makes me wonder, how did this guy ever pass a physical? How did the Canadiens not know about a chrinic condition like this before offering Laraque a three-year contract?

So now, at the time of year where Laraque was supposed to be at his most useful, scaring opposing teams into good behaviour, he will likely be nowhere near the rink. But I'm curious about one thing: if Laraque is such a big deterrent simply by his mere presence on the bench, why did the Sabres take a run at both Alex Kovalev and Carey Price in that game in Buffalo? Should they not have been afraid of what Big Bad Georges would do to them if they dared try to push the Canadiens around?

Just asking.


TK said...

Well said Arpon. It is indeed very worrisome that the Habs have trouble maintaining a consistent effort level at this point in the season. Their record on the road is horrible (only 1 other team in our conference has more road losses), I wonder if that is indicative of anything?

I guess you are right about Laraques inefectiveness as a deterent, although it has taken me awhile to beleive it. Maybe they don't fear him due to his dogmatic adherence to his code. Like you said earlier, he should just grab someone and beat them up every now and then. I see little point in employing an enforcer who has to politely ask to beat you up.

Yves said...

At the start of the year... I really thought Laraque would be a deterent... and we saw a few occasions where he did seem to calm things down...

But as we've like in Buffalo.. .it didn't discourage anyone from taking runs at Kovalev and Price.

When Kovalev was hit I almost jumped my TV... and it drives me mad that no one did a thing... not big Georges... no one. Same on the Price hit.

I just remember Carbo talking about team toughness... and that his lineup has played anything but tough.

Put Gregory Stewart on all 4 lines???

Arpon Basu said...

That's exactly the problem with Laraque, is that he says publicly that he doesn't expect anyone except the heaviest of heavyweights to ever fight him. So if you're not, what prevents you from running into the goalie or throwing flying elbows at everyone you see. Even if Laraque is in uniform, you know he would never risk an instigator penalty because he's said so many times, and you know you're not expected to fight him because of the code. So essentially, he's there to give the team energy by beating up the other team's goon, like he did in the San Jose game, and in very few other games this season.
I also want to make it clear that I liked the Laraque signing, even though three years was a bit much in my mind. I thought he would be deterrent, but he clearly isn't.

Yves said...

I liked the Laraque signing too... but it certainly isn't going like I had hoped...