Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Habs Pressbox

A Few Who Could Benefit From The Trip

From the sounds of things, Guy Carbonneau has noticed that his team isn't playing that well. It only took the man who nearly won the Jack Adams trophy 6 months ago a month and a fifth of the season to notice.

Whereas winning is the single criteria for that trophy. It is actually situations like these that separate the good coaches from the chaff. Heck, even Claude Julien looks like a genius when he's winning.

In my experience of coaching – which is admittedly quite limited – these times are also the times when you learn more about the athletes you are dealing with. Because for Carbonneau, this will be the first time he's had any problems with some of the guys (Sergei, O'Byrne, Halak, Tanguay, Laraque). I suspect what he'll find is that those players will fall broadly into two groups:

1) Those that respond to coddling and nurturing
2) Those that respond to hard line approaches

With his go-to tactic being line demotion and benching. He may also find out that athletes in the first group (like Kovalev) will start to stray from his control and his message. That is assuming he is just as terrible at communicating as he was in 2007 (Kovalev, Rivet) and 2008 (Ryder).

Sergei Kostitsyn
In all likelihood, Sergei Kostitsyn will be benched this evening. I have no problem with this benching, in theory. But we are about to find out what type of athlete Sergei is (up to now he's had an adversity free stint). Ad we must not judge his character by his initial reaction: I have found that even the hardest characters have a little bit of a sulk. The rebound comes after a suitable period of sulking – the sooner the better.

If Sergei is a type 2, he'll take the challenge of a benching and turn it into something positive. He'll probably start listening to instructions and playing with the zest and energy we long for from him. But, if he is a type 1, this benching could be a larger setback.

Consequently, the setback could greatly affect the team as well given that the youngster is the only person with any semblance of competence at the right point on the PP (all respect to Tanguay, but he's not a point man). And if he sulks for long enough, it means we are stuck with a replacement far his inferior (as we were with Ryder in the playoffs – though that was Carbo's sulk, not Mike's).

What I am getting at is that I hope Carbonneau knows what he's doing here. I hope he's learned something about communication from the last 2 seasons. Because Sergei's crimes do not merit a banishment for more than a game or two.

Luckily for Carbonneau I think Sergei has type 2 written all over him. I think he'll come away fine and stronger – it'll even leave the coach looking quite smart (though probably accidentally).

Guy Carbonneau
As a coach, I, like Carbonneau, preferred to work with people who responded to benching. I think Carbo was probably a type 2 player as well. Empathy and sympathy are not traits you see in the coaches glares.

But unless you are going to operate like Mike Keenan (i.e., mostly unsuccessfully considering how many years he's coached), one has to find a way to get something out of the type 1 needy players. This and communication (which strangely do tend to go hand in hand) have been Guy Carbonneau's Achilles heel ever since he started coaching. And troublingly, he doesn't seem to be able to learn his lessons.

It's a shame then that we can't also bench the coach. I for one think Carbonneau would respond really well to a few games in the press box while Muller or Jarvis took the reins. It's a shame that benching in coaching is a finality, because Guy (as stubborn as a 21-year old Belarussian) needs some motivation to see and correct his weaknesses too.

I don't want to lose Guy for him to learn that anymore than I want to lose Sergei so he can learn to be the veteran he thinks he is.

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