Season previews are out and it seems like the Habs have gotten worse. Some say slightly worse, some say much worse. I don't know how I would do if someone asked me to predict how each team would finish (on a deadline), but I don't think it's easy. My problem with their assessment of the Habd is not so much where they end up, as the assumptions upon which their predictions are based. The one that has got me most up in arms is the total void of leadership left behind when Rivet and Souray departed.
My issue is this: if Rivet and Souray were the leaders of the Canadiens last season (if), then where exactly were they leading us?
We were a playoff team who missed the playoffs, or a non-playoff team who almost made them. We did not clinch in February or March. We did not sweep aside our first round opponents. We did not win the Cup (right?). Our leaders led the club to the golf course.
If you base the success of a season on the final result (as most should and do), then 9 teams in the Eastern conference alone outperformed us. Chances are the 9 teams also had a better leader than we did in Rivet and Souray. Toronto had Sundin, the Rangers had Shanahan, Buffalo had Drury. But who did the Thrashers have? Well apparently, not all the leaders in the league are recognised leadership guys. Maybe Holik led them, who knows. He couldn't save the Rangers all those years, but with the right defense behind him...
Rivet and Souray may talk a good game to the cameras, but if he was so blessed in leadership, why couldn't he talk to Samsonov, Kovalev and Perezhogin?
We need to face the fact that the Habs were in disarray from February on, and Rivet and Souray nor anyone else was not leader enough to unite the troops to the cause.
So, if they weren't the solution to the problem, what were they? Well here's the unasked question:
Were Craig Rivet and Sheldon Souray part of the problem?
Rivet was traded during the slump, maybe there's something in that.
Souray was never really given an offer he would accept, maybe that was intentional.
We know Gainey cleaned house when he got rid of Dagenais, Theodore and then Ribeiro. Maybe Souray and Rivet were always slated to leave. Maybe they aren't good with the younger guys. Maybe they aren't willing to adapt (ahem, pass the puck on the PP) when the going gets rough.
I don't think it's likely that either guy was what people call a cancer in the locker room, but players that are in the plans are kept no matter what (read: Andrei Markov). Both are gone, and both have been replaced. I don't think we are too worse for wear having lost them.
All this gushing praise for their leadership and intangible qualities simply ignores the fact that the team achieved nothing of note while they were part of it.
Obviously, this implies that every player we have had in the past 14 years has been a washout. So do we throw everyone out and start over? Of course not. But I like to think that the people in charge are sticking to a plan and keeping the components they need to achieve their goals.
I look forward to a season where the team makes the playoffs, someone new speaks to the reporters and we anoint someone new the leader of the group. To the season...