I really couldn't care less if a player's injury is reported as "upper body" even when it's his left knee, or when teams lie about the severity on an ailment.
But Bob Gainey staring at reporters Monday with a straight face and simply stating "I can't verify that" when asked to comment on the RDS report regarding the injuries to Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider is a whole other level of lunacy.
And really, at the end of the day, it's basically an insult to the intelligence of your fan base, one who so devotedly follows your every move, and one who legitimately deserves to know if the team's best player and top power play specialist will miss the first round of the playoffs.
Maybe Gainey didn't appreciate the fact his hand was being forced by some pesky reporters, working for the team's rights-holder, no less.
Or maybe he sincerely can't verify the report that Markov is out three weeks and Schneider is done for the year, despite the fact the two were supposed to undergo MRI exams and results from those arrive very quickly if you happen to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
But I don't think anyone with half a brain believes that Gainey has not received a report from his medical staff giving him a timeline on those two players.
Instead of "I can't verify that," Gainey would have been far more honest had he said, "I won't verify that."
He did do everyone the service of confirming that neither Markov nor Schneider will play Tuesday night agianst the Rangers in New York, and a Canadiens spokesman told repoters afterwards that Schneider will in fact be on the team flight to New York. Of course, that could be simply that Schneider would prefer to have his surgery in New York, or there's a specialist there he would like to see, but that's not a detail Canadiens management would ever see fit to share with the public that pays their salaries.
In any case, confirmed or not, it's pretty clear that Markov and Schneider will be out for a significant chunk of time, and the first glimpse of life without them Monday night was not a very pretty one.
A 5-on-3 power play in the first period of this 3-2 loss to the Senators saw Gainey send out Alex Tanguay, Saku Koivu and Georges Laraque with Alex Kovalev and Patrice Brisebois on the points, and Laraque missed a sure goal when he couldn't tap in a perfect feed from Tanguay in front. The power play was disjointed, to say the least, in being shutout on three opportunities for the first time in seven contests.
Brisebois and Roman Hamrlik were the top pairing and did a decent job in an impossible situation, but Brisebois credited the Senators aggressive penalty kill for the Habs lack of success. Except that aggressive penalty kill is a direct byproduct of not having Markov and Schneider on those points, because you can't run right at the puck carrier if you're worried about him moving the puck quickly and finding an open man.
With Brisebois and Hamrlik back there, that concern simply isn't there, and the forwards on top of the PK box can go back to cheating on Kovalev or Tanguay on the half boards and pressuring them into mistakes, just like they were doing before Schneider arrived.
"Andrei’s not there, Mathieu’s not there, so we’re going to have to do the job," Brisebois said Monday night. "We know the power play is a huge asset in our game and we’re going to have to score one or two goals a night if we want to win games."
I'm just not sure how that's going to happen when, essentially, the power play now has to start over from scratch with a week left before the start of the playoffs. When asked how he can re-build a power play at this stage of the season, this is what Gainey had to say:
"We went out and acquired a player like Mathieu Schneider because we felt it was a need that we had. That position on the power play is critical. When both those guys disappear at the same time it hands that responsibility over to other guys, who do their best. But part of the reason our power play was good was because of them."
Thanks Bob. That was enlightening.