Monday, June 01, 2009

Livingston Ends Search For Stanley

It was in 1871 that explorer Henry Stanley finally stumbled upon his ailing friend and famed African adventurer Dr. Livingstone on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. While Stanley had the chance to greet Dr. Livingstone; don’t expect to hear Scott Livingston uttering the reciprocal “Stanley, I presume” anytime soon.

Livingston’s “withdrawal” from the Canadiens organization is the news of the month for the Habs (slow month). I feel it comes at a good time for the team – as it looks set to take on a new coach, many new players and maybe even a new approach, it may be a blessing that the conditioning coach (always good, never great) could see a replacement.

Paying for results

It appears that 2009 is the year that members of the Canadiens coaching organization will be held to account over the results they provide.

First, it was Carbonneau. He who was too stubborn (or unskilled in the art) to go out on a limb to communicate with difficult players in the dressing room. He who was too focused on wooing the media to get embroiled in the details of strategic developments.

Now, Livingston. Dave Stubbs at HI/O, clearly mourning the loss of a favourite quote, heaps praise on the departing coach:
In addition to tending to the daily fitness and rehabilitation needs of the players, he has sent the athletes into the summer with specific training programs to get them back to training camp in excellent shape. Arrive early at a practice at the Bell Centre or the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and chances are you'd see Scotty on the ice working an injured player back into the lineup.

Even so, I don’t think many will end up describing the Canadiens of Scott’s tenure as the fittest team in the league. It might be a stretch to call them fit at times (visions of Koivu chasing Kobasew come to mind…).

In the pursuit of excellence, there isn’t room for sentiment or hesitation. Livingston should be scrutinized for his record. He should be held up and compared to his peers around the league: why were Boston so much fitter than the Canadiens? He should be questioned for not only his rehab work on Tanguay, Latendresse, Koivu and Higgins, but also for his role in the work ethic issues on this team. No one on the Canadiens could be accused of fitness fanaticism (a la Slava Kozlov, via Detroit – aka the only modern dynasty).

Indeed, that’s why I hope it was at the Canadiens request that he decide to go gracefully into the world of personal training. “Have you ever thought about how much money you could make by going private, Scott?”, asks Gainey…

The next logical candidate to declare the need to search his soul and options should be goalie coach Roland Melanson. Like Livingston, he has been good, but seems stuck there. Bringing in a new coach may not right the ship completely, but could it possibly hurt? I don’t see the evidence that it could.

The news about Scott Livingston is about the only thing I appear to have missed during my very nice sejour in the south of France. A trip that meant I missed the chance to comment on more ridiculous Russian reports – the disappointment of having suffered wine over rumours, believe me, is hard to take.

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