Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Did Pouliot wake up hungry this morning?

I don't have a whole lot of experience as a parent, about 32 months worth. But one thing I've learned in that time is that if you're going to threaten a punishment to your kid, you better well follow through on it.

At Canadiens practice today, Jacques Martin didn't do that. He didn't follow through on that threatened punishment because Benoit Pouliot was back on his regular line with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. I had suspected the demotion to a line with Sergei Kostitsyn and Maxim Lapierre at practice Monday might have only been a one-shot deal, but was kind of hoping it at least stretched into the first period of Wednesday night's game against Carolina.

Basically, Martin sent Pouliot to bed without dinner, then went to his room to give him a sandwich later. He grounded him for a week, but let him go to his friend's birthday party on the weekend. In other words, he tried to send a message that ultimately might fall on deaf ears.

Martin said today that Monday's demotion was an "outside appearance," that people didn't see the meetings the coaches held with Pouliot to show him video of what he used to do well and what he wasn't doing well anymore. But Martin knows full well that as soon as his lines are revealed at practice, there's a gaggle of reporters sending the information out en masse through twitter, and even via those outdated relics called "websites." Within minutes, a debate is raging in cyberspace on Martin's new line combinations.

Perhaps he doesn't care, but give me one good reason why Martin would have Pouliot on a different line for one practice if it weren't to try and teach the young player a lesson, to give him a wake up call.

But that wake up call likely would have been far more effective if it actually made it to game day.

Ultimately, however, it's probably pretty irrelevant, because we all know Pouliot was not going to be spending much time on a bottom six line, and that Mathieu Darche was not going to be playing with Gomez and Gionta for very long either. Pouliot does not have anywhere near the defensive responsibility required to play Darche's role, and Darche doesn't have anywhere near the hands or talent required to play Pouliot's.

Martin knows more about coaching hockey than I could ever dream to know. He's one of the most accomplished guys in the entire history of the NHL (just don't bring up the playoffs). He had his reasons for doing what he did yesterday and undoing it today. We'll find out tomorrow if the whole exercise was at all worth it.


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Anonymous said...

Here's one good reason: Pouliot isn't a child.

Why hockey pundits seem so convinced that demoting players onto lesser lines is a tried-and-true strategy for 'waking up' an under-achieving player I'll never understand. Perhaps I'm not watching the same games, but I've never seen it be effective. And in cases where players improve after some time on the doghouse line, how can we really know if it has anything to do with the improvement? We can't know.

My intuition is that there are far more effective ways for a coach to tease better performances from his players. It may be, after all, that the constant demotions subjected to Latendresse contributed to his poor consistency. I know you like to say that he didn't have a high ceiling anyway, but that remains to be seen. One thing is certain though, which is that Latendresse wasn't happy with his treatment, and while I'm not saying that players should be coddled (far from it), there may be nothing gained in subjecting them to the indignity of "going to bed without supper".

Arpon Basu said...

A line demotion has more to do with earning ice time, which is a principle that applies to the entire team. If you are being effective, you play on a line that gets major, premium minutes. If not, you don't.