March 10, 2009
It's hard to argue with new Montreal Canadiens Coach Bob Gainey's logic in replacing Guy Carbonneau, even after a victory on Sunday: The Habs have underachieved, have been inconsistent and haven't looked "emotionally engaged in games."
The question is whether any of these things change with the GM behind the bench.
Gainey's making immediate changes for the Canadiens, who begin the day fifth in the Eastern Conference with 77 points. He's putting Alexei Kovalev on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Matt D'Agostini, and he's reuniting Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek as the No. 1 defensive pairing.
Pat Hickey of Habs Inside/Out also reports that the team is moving game-day practices from "Bell Centre to the team's training facility in Brossard." Is that cosmetic, hockey voodoo or a psychological change?
Eyes on the Prize has an amazing transcript of Gainey's press conference yesterday that translates all of the French-language questions and answers. This answer from Gainey about protecting Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak was revealing:
"I would like to see our goaltenders protected better. I'd like to see our team play better defensively. Goaltending is one of our strengths. It's not acceptable to me that other teams have double the number of scoring chances that we have against them. That's one of the areas we'll be concentrating on. A change in attitude. A change of tactics. A change in results. It's to give our goalies and defense the opportunity to play games where the play in less in our own end."
That's a huge difference between this year's and last year's Canadiens: Price was protected as a rookie in a way he wasn't as a sophomore. Whether he should have been able to make the leap to a goalie that didn't need that level of protection in front of him is a point of debate; but Gainey clearly wants to see the team revert back to last season's system of good defense in front of the goalie and offense that forces the issue up front.
As we do every Tuesday and Thursday (though I'm off this Thursday), Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period and I will be chatting and taking calls on the Puck Daddy/TFP podcast beginning at 12:30 p.m. EST. Give us a buzz at 646-929-1165 and listen live or later with the player below.