Gasp! Swoon! Michael Cammalleri of the Montreal Canadiens had the audacity to call a 12th place team — one that's fired its coach and was most recently seen bowing to conquering hero Jaroslav Halak on home ice — a bunch of losers. No one calls the 24-time Stanley Cup champions losers while wearing Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge!
(Or maybe he didn't. The La Presse version had the quote above; Arpon Basu of NHL.com claims "Cammalleri never called Habs organization or teammates 'losers.' Strongly suggested they are playing with 'losing mentality.' Big difference." But let's not make this into another language debate.)
Cammalleri also had the audacity to suggest that his reduced ice time under interim coach Randy Cunneyworth might be related to his lack of success on the ice.
Since the coach's promotion on Dec. 17, Cammalleri has five points (three goals) in nine games. His ice time dipped below 17 minutes in six of those games; in his previous 28 games, Cammalleri played less than 17 minutes six times (not including an early game against Winnipeg during which he was injured).
With Jacques Martin gone, with criticism of an interim coach ineffective, with finger-point at GM Pierre Gauthier well-established and with Scott Gomez … well, what's the point? It's time for a new scapegoat.
Mike Cammalleri makes $6 million against the cap through 2014, isn't producing and has a big mouth. So Habs fans and media are now asking for his departure from Montreal, despite having been their best non-goalie playoff performer in the previous two postseasons.
François Gagnon of La Presse — who had the disputed "losers" quote — believes that Cammalleri's words and attitude mean he wants out of Montreal, and envisions a team like the San Jose Sharks as a potential suitor for the "overpaid" forward. (Rough Translation)
The Canadiens blogosphere, meanwhile, has soured on Cammy.
If Cammalleri is seriously unhappy and showing few signs of breaking out of a season-long slump, it might be best for the team to move him if possible, just to release a player who never fit well into Jacques Martin's system, heavy on defensive responsibility. It would also signal the rebuild and give Cammalleri a chance to succeed elsewhere. If the team plans to start again with youth, it doesn't need an unhappy, underperforming veteran influencing the young players. Moving him could free up quite a bit of cap space as a bonus.
If Cammalleri isn't really done with Montreal and his words came from frustration, well, he might still have to go. The team that's stuck with the Gomez contract can't keep another one like it. Cammalleri, if he doesn't come up with a major turnaround soon, is at risk of becoming another albatross. He wants more ice time to prove himself. Cunneyworth and he need to sit down and discuss the issue, and the coach should probably take a flyer on giving the player more ice, with the caveat that if his interest level and own-zone play don't pick up...a lot...then he loses that privilege in favour of players who work harder.
As Gazette hockey writer Dave Stubbs rightly points out, if those comments came from Carey Price or Erik Cole, fans and media alike would embrace the player's passion. Whether or not he deserves it, Cammalleri has a cultivated a reputation as a diva and a whiner. Combine that with being paid six million dollars for 9 goals and 22 points in 37 games, and no amount of brutal honesty is going to generate a sympathetic response.
It's another ugly chapter in an ugly season, and it further hamstrings the Canadiens as potential sellers at the trade deadline, when not a lot of teams will be clamoring for an overpaid underachiever with an attitude.
If Cammalleri isn't happy and would prefer to move on, that's fine. Maybe the dressing room would be a happier place. And maybe the guy replacing him would put up better numbers.
You can take what you want from all of this. Cammalleri could very well be out of the Hab's uniform soon and it might be in Montreal's best interest to do just that. Not everything that Michael Cammalleri said was entirely wrong, but if he feels that they are playing like losers out there, he probably should have said that he was going to take initiative and step up.
It's one thing to complain about what is happening, it's another to recognize it and do something about it. Cammalleri also said that he was not disappointed when he heard the boos but that he more so probably expected it. Well, in my opinion, if you expected it then you know you are not performing to Montreal's standards. Wake up and make a positive impact out there Cammy, all eyes are on you.
Finally, The Rookie over at Hab It Her Way (great name) tries to find some middle ground:
When a player uses the word "losing" in an interview and it's the end of the world. Fans are suddenly upset because Mike Cammalleri said the team doesn't have a winning mentality. As if he were criticizing his team, and not stating a fact. Instead of using this statement to reflect on the state of their team, most fans are flying off the handle, probably getting ready to burn their Cammalleri T-shirts or something.
We, as fans, already know that this team isn't playing well. Cammalleri, as a member of the team, obviously knows, even better than we do. And maybe he has a better idea than we do of why the team isn't winning. Fans: you can't actively wish for a team to fail, and then whine when a player admits that his team isn't doing well.
Cammalleri's frankness is expected. He's one of the best interviews in the NHL, and if he doesn't have a future in broadcasting then broadcasting probably doesn't have a future.
Cammalleri's frustration is expected. This isn't some ham-and-egger whining about a demotion from the third or the fourth line. This is a guy who has stepped up offensively when others have disappeared in the postseason, a player who worked his ass off to overcome physical limitations to succeed in the NHL.
If he wants out, fine; he wouldn't be the first to trade in his Habs sweater. But if he's being crucified for candor, it's an injustice.
Montreal is a losing team. Cammalleri has the will to win. Why ignore that truth or jettison that will?
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