I don't know if anyone is that surprised that Sergei Kostitsyn was sent down to the minors, what did catch me a bit off guard was the timing of it.
Jacques Martin came to Montreal with a reputation for a lot of things, and one of them was a strict disciplinarian, which is really what someone like Kostitsyn needed. Instead of taking that as a challenge to prove he was mentally ready to be an NHL regular, he blew it.
Missing the bus to Quebec City for an exhibition game was bad enough, but blaming it on construction around the Quartier Dix 30 near the team's training facility in Brossard was simply a horrendous excuse. And if I didn't buy it, God knows Martin didn't.
The media made a big stink about Kostitsyn getting reamed out by Martin (myself included, as you can see in my game story here), but I'm pretty sure Martin's mind was made up on this guy by that point, which is why he made for a pretty convenient target for Martin to show the rest of the team what he expects from them in practice.
But sending Kostitsyn to the minors today rather than wait until the end of training camp tells me Martin didn't want to have a bad seed infecting the rest of squad while he did his little "team-building" session at Teen Ranch in Caledon, Ont. Most notably, I would have to believe that Martin wanted to keep Kostitsyn away from his older brother, which may give Martin a better chance in getting through to the elder Kostitsyn to explain to him just how a player of his talent should approach his work in the NHL.
In essence, Andrei needs to approach his job the exact opposite of the way Sergei approaches it.
Based on their personalities, it's pretty clear to me that Andrei follows Sergei a little bit, even though it's his little brother. Sergei has lived in Canada longer than Andrei, thanks to his playing junior hockey in London, Ont., and his adjustment to this culture has made for a bit of a role reversal between the two. I'm saying that as if I know it to be true, but I don't. It's just a feeling I get.
And I think the Canadiens organization gets that very same feeling, which is why it may be a good idea to get Sergei away from his brother, at least for a little while.
I mean, does anyone truly believe Ben Maxwell is making this team? Or Mathieu Carle? Or Tom Pyatt (despite being very impressive in camp)? No, everyone knows these guys will be in Hamilton pretty soon and they are only trying to impress the coaches for an eventual call-up. Yet those players are still in camp, but Sergei isn't. Why would that be other than what I just mentioned?
Besides the timing of it, I think the Habs want to see how Sergei responds to this demotion. Does he work extra hard to make it back to the NHL, or does he pout in his corner of the bus on its way to Binghamton? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining Sergei's future in the organization.
With Sergei officially out of the equation, it leaves Gregory Stewart, Matt D'Agostini, and Yannick Weber ostensibly battling for two spots, with Weber's future hinging on whether or not Martin wants to keep eight defencemen or not, and Stewart's hinging on Laraque's wonky groin. If indeed Martin is being honest and everyone will be healthy enough to start the season, I'd have to believe Stewart will be in Hamilton and Weber will play the same roving role he played last year.