It's been a pretty big buzz word around these parts recently. It was a lack of communication skills that seemingly cost Guy Carbonneau his job, and now it appears there are a couple of Habs players being sent some very direct messages by Jacques Martin.
The first is Andrei Kostitsyn, who watched the second half of Saturday's game in Edmonton from the bench after his lazy, cross-ice pass in the defensive zone was picked off and wound up in the Habs net.
Kostitsyn faced reporters at practice on Wednesday, and he obviously wasn't very chatty. That's understandable, because his English is still very limited, and I think he's just a timid guy in general. When asked what he thought the message was in that benching the other night, Kostitsyn summed it up in four simple, yet powerful, words: "Not work hard enough."
OK, message received, I guess.
But there has been some question as to whether or not Kostitsyn is able to properly communicate with both his teammates and the coaching staff, considering his limited grasp of the language.
His centre the past two years Tomas Plekanec was asked how open the lines of communication are between he and Kostitsyn, because at times the winger seems isolated. Plekanec's initial response? He broke out laughing. He couldn't help himself. Then he went about answering the question using the appropriate words when discussing a teammate.
"Maybe it doesn't look like it," Plekanec said, "but he talks."
To me, the initial reaction to the question said more than the answer itself.
Later, Plekanec was asked what language he uses to communicate with Kostitsyn on the ice.
"Czech, Slovak, Russian, English, we're trying everything right now," he said jokingly, though I wonder how much truth was actually behind that answer.
Even if there are communication issues with Kostitsyn, it shouldn't be that huge of a hindrance to his performance. Evgeni Malkin couldn't string together two words of English when he arrived with the Penguins, yet he had immediate success (before you all start freaking out that I'm comparing Malkin to Kostitsyn, I'm not. They are different players living through similar linguistic challenges, that's where the similarity ends.)
The language of hockey has always superseded everything else, and for Kostitsyn to succeed he needs to simplify his game and take what's given to him. Both Plekanec and Martin agree on that point.
"The problem with him is that sometimes he doesn't want to shoot the puck, he tries to pass too much," Plekanec said. "He has one of the best wristers in the league...so he just needs to shoot the puck."
Martin said the same thing, noting Kostitsyn's shot is his strength and that he needs to use it, but he also wants to see some more passion in his game.
"I want to see an improvement in his involvement, his intensity," Martin says.
Meanwhile, I had a chance to chat with Guillaume Latendresse about the subject of my blog post yesterday, namely the lost opportunity to play alongside Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. Latendresse said that if you asked any guy in the Habs room, they would all say they'd want that spot. But he says he feels comfortable on his line with Maxim Lapierre and he'll make the most of his chance to play on the second wave of the power play.
Not to beat a dead horse, but here's what Latendresse said of his role on the power play.
"My job is really in front of the net," he said Wednesday. "To leave that spot there's really going to have to be a loose puck or something, because I plan on planting my feet there and not moving."
We shall see if he actually does that, but he's been saying those things for two years now. It's time to actually do it on the ice.
Martin was also asked about his decision to pass on Latendresse and use Travis Moen on the Gomez line.
"I tried that for one game in the pre-season and felt that's not the place where he could best help our team," Martin said. "He still has to battle to find where he fits best."
I might be reading too much into things, but to me that's a coach communicating directly to a player that if he wants to top-six role, he hasn't earned it yet.