Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Markov And Schneider Saga

Very ambiguous reports have been circulating about the injuries to the Canadiens two PP-point men, Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider. The best reports tell it like it is (that is we know little), the worst are filling in the injuries, treatments and prognoses all themselves.

It's hard to know what to think and believe, but one has to be sceptical of anything but reports directly from the team. Reports such as RDS's 3-4 week recovery time for Markov are easy to believe, yet as unsubstantiated as me telling you Markov will be back for the Pittsburgh game. RDS will claim a source, but let's not forget that old chestnut gets trotted out every time Lecavalier or Gaborik are headed to Montreal. Let's not forget the journalistic integrity they strive to achieve is slightly below the standard of discussion forum poster (see the Kovalev on the way out story they posted within minutes of it breaking on a website, without checking the source), or perhaps remember the desperation that caused them to fabricate rumours about players in substance abuse programs when they were simply rehabbing. Petty, petty stuff.

Pat Hickey and colleagues at the Gazette are more transparent about their coverage when they say things like:
Markov has an upper-body injury, unless he has a lower-body injury. RDS reported Monday that the defenceman will be out for three weeks, while the Canadiens will concede only that he is out indefinitely with an upper- or lower-body injury, which is as indefinite as you can get.

They remain restrained for the moment, but are bursting at the seams to be able to write the season off with a solid prognosis.

The media subplot

The subplot that encompasses the medias tears over Gainey's secrecy is more amusing than watching a Canadiens PP at the moment. It seems the pretenders are being separated from those who have actual material and thoughts to write about, as their total reliance on quotes is revealed. Some experienced journalists delay their exposure by making a story of their frustration. The best just move on to other topics until the time the reports are forthcoming. RDS having speculated like drunken bankers on 12 hours daily coverage of the Habs don't even earn the tag journalism the vast majority of the time.

NHL and Habs policy being observed

The NHL policy is that teams don't need to divulge details of injuries to their players. Back in January, when the rumour mongers were awhir, Gainey let it be known that Carey Price's injury was to his ankle and Georges Laraque's was his back.

From that point, it was decided that team policy would be that if an injury is short-term, it would be kept confidential, but anything longer than a few days would be disclosed. The catch is that if the player doesn't object to the speculation, the Canadiens are happy to go with upper, lower or any combination of the two vagaries. Apparently, this policy was a decided at a meeting between Carbonneau, general manager Bob Gainey, assistant GM Julien Brisebois, head therapist Graham Rynbend and the team's media relations staff. The media may not like it, but they have no say (besides their wild speculation)...

The real issue – winning

Regardless of who plays and who lies under the surgeon's knife, one thing hasn't changed. If the Canadiens want to win the Cup this year, they must find a way to win at least 16 more games this season. If they are to hope for any reinforcements, it would sure help if they won on Thursday to buy some time.

The question is, without Markov and Schneider (and Lang and Sergei and Bouillon) is it feasible?

The answer has to be yes. Why? Because two of the Columbus Bluejackets, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators will be playing in 2 weeks time. If those talent-bereft lineups can win games, so can anyone. Those three teams would love to get a sniff of a player like Andrei Markov, or to have players like Markov, Tanguay, Kovalev and Koivu all in the same year.

But teams with less talent can still beat teams with more. It is the reason to watch games. For the Canadiens, it will certainly take some doing (since they've been relying on Markov's talents for a while), but is not unattainable. I'm not writing anyone off or anyone out just yet...

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