October 25, 2011
"It's not like we're doing everything bad."— Tomas Plekanec(notes), Montreal Canadiens center, after the Habs' 2-1 loss to Florida.
Well, no, but you're also not doing anything good, which is the problem right now.
Now it's become a complete mess with anonymous accusations of favoritism and locker-room rats getting power-play time, which always bodes well for a struggling team. (The story in question has since been deleted from the site that reported it. Check Dave Stubbs' feed for more. Shoddy work by Habs Talk Radio.)
Insight or B.S., that's the sort of thing that starts trickling out when the season's slipping away, or when a coach is losing the room. The latter may be happening; the former definitely is happening.
But would firing Jacques Martin turn those fortunes around?
Let it be said that, right about now, Martin's popularity ranks somewhere between cat vomit and a parking violation ticket.
The Canadiens have lost their first five games at home for the first time in over a century, which is either a tribute to their historic success or a damnation of this current collection.
Martin's been cast as befuddled, clueless, unable to motivate his players. Credit for the Habs' success in recent years has been handed to former assistant Kirk Muller, now in the AHL, because he was in charge of special teams units that are now quite bad without him there. It's all very Jacques Martin as Dubya and Muller as Dick Cheney.
Martin's recent highlights include playing Mathieu Darche(notes) on the power play ahead of players with actual offensive results in their stats histories, leading to an embarrassing, doltish move for the coach when he condescendingly mocked a legit question from a female reporter about it — only to see the rest of the mainstream writers pick up the narrative in the next 48 hours.
Cowhide and Rubber is up to 32 reasons why Martin should be fired. Grade 12 students at Penetanguishene Secondary School are calling for his head. Bodog is taking odds on whether Coach Jacques Martin will be fired before Nov. 30.
Is there any way out for Martin from under this media/fans gang-tackle?
Devil's advocate for a moment: What if the Canadiens kept Jacques Martin? To wit:
He's Earned a Benefit of the Doubt. Say what you will about the man, but he's 2-for-2 in playoff appearances and had a 44-win season with nearly the same roster … except for the changes on the blue line. Which brings us to …
The Defense Is an Injured Mess. The top four defensemen in shifts this season are P.K. Subban(notes) (251, and rebounding from a terrible start), Josh Gorges(notes) (243), Yannick Weber(notes) (214) and Raphael Diaz(notes) (203).
If some pundits are willing to give Scott Arniel a break in Columbus because Carter and Wisniewski were injured, the injuries to the blue line of the Canadiens, in this defensive system of Martin's, should buy him some leeway, no?
His Scorers Aren't, You Know, Scoring. The knock on Martin is that his system chokes the life out of offensive creativity. The Habs had a goals-for average of 2.57 last season, 21st in the NHL. Seven of the nine teams behind them missed the playoffs.
But this season, it's on the players so far. Scott Gomez(notes) has an assist in six games. Travis Moen(notes) is leading the team with four goals. TRAVIS MOEN! Looking at this roster, would you put the responsibility for the team's staggering offensive start on the coach or the roster's construction?
What's The Alternative? Sure, fearing the lesser of two evils is still fear. Yeah, the best course of action is sometimes simply avoiding inaction.
But if not Jacques Martin, who?
Sean Bell wants the coach and GM replaced, with a Pierre McGuire/Patrick Roy tandem. As bloggers, we wholeheartedly endorse this for the sheer copy it would generate, but would it translate into wins?
Ken Campbell doesn't see anyone out there. Pierre LeBrun floats the name of Michel Therrien, the former Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins coach. You want a retread? How about Guy Carbonneau Deux, too?
Does Kirk Muller have an out-clause in Milwaukee? Is it too late to trade two first rounders to Boston for Claude Julien?
Oy vey … pretty difficult to mount any defense for a team that isn't playing any right now. (And please, people: Just like pinning the Blue Jackets' mess on Steve Mason(notes) is misguided, tossing Carey Price(notes) under the bus is lazy. Watch the games — it's not on him, despite the save percentage.)
Martin is inching closer and closer to the volcano's edge, ready to be sacrificed for this team's intrinsic problems. Pierre Gauthier isn't going to push him in before making a significant trade, most likely for a defenseman. But the natives are beyond restless.
I wonder how long before the Occupy the Bell Centre movement either demands mass refunds or razes the place to the ground?
Glancing at this schedule, we'd go with "soon."
(By the way: Read this about Martin from JT. You'll laugh.)