Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Jacques Martin

Gotta Go?

Every few days bloggers like myself receive comments about the team, its players, its management. Since Jacques Martin was hired, it's a pretty good bet that comments about him having to go come along just as frequently.

Just yesterday, a Guest posted this:
JM has to go ...he is a dinosaur holding back a fast team in the name of the almighty trap....he says nothing when we get jobbed by refs....dump him...etc., etc.

It was a comment among many similar comments seen at LIW and HI/O and FHF, and any Canadiens discussion forum. Usually I would respond to this comment in place. but as it seems to be a recurring theme, I thought a more lasting form of response was fitting.


The complaint

As far as I can tell, the common elements of the complaint against Martin are that:

a) He is boring
b) He employs a boring system of hockey (sometimes named "the trap")
c) He is stifling the team's talent
d) He doesn't yell enough behind the bench
e) This is costing the team wins
f) He has never won anything


These are very fair points. He is quite a boring interviewee (Personally, I deal with that by not listening to any of his interviews). He does favour some defensive responsibility, a variation on the trap. And he certainly never yells at the referees. All true.

Where I start to take issue is with the notion that we extrapolate these things into our personal conclusions. That defensive play is stifling the talent, that this is costing the team wins. That not ranting over calls is costing points and wins.

I think some of these stretch the imagination. Don't you?


To those who really believe he is stifling the team. I ask you to consider an honest assessment of the talent on the team. What sets this group apart from the 9 teams ahead of the Canadiens that they should supposedly be putting points over on?

I think an honest look shows that we don't have a Crosby, Zetterberg, Datsyuk or Ovechkin, or even a Gaborik, Backstrom, Richards, Carter, Chara, Thomas, etc. Right now the team is being led by Plekanec, who works at a formidable rate, but still paces well below a point a game (a pace that would be lower if he played defences as good as Philly's game in, game out). An honest assessment would show that the Habs are doing just as they should with the group they have. Probably even better considering their injuries.


Complaints about the system are just as porous. Necessity is the mother of invention and necessity has created this system.

When Jacques Martin was in Ottawa he coached a team that scored more goals than anyone, because he had the goalscorers to carry the strategy. In Florida he didn't. In Montreal he hasn't. Necessity in Montreal is a young (and, until recently, fragile) goaltender starting all games. Necessity is 3 veterans who can't skate all that fast, but who can compete when a system allows them to. Necessity is having two rookies make up the other defensive numbers. necessity is playing to Gomez and Gionta's strengths, which include a grounding in New Jersey hockey. Necessity is the absence of people to pick up any real slack beyond the top 6 forwards.

What other system would we have him employ? Opening up the ice doesn't look great on Hamrlik and Gill. Nor does it seem to suit forwards who despite being named fast, somehow always manage to find their coverage before the blueline. We'd all love to be Detroit, but years of good as well as lucky drafting aren't yet behind this team.


Finally, can we give a rest to the notion that Jacques Martin hasn't won anything?

What we mean is that he hasn't won a Stanley Cup. How many coaches have? A handful. How many have won with a team like these Canadiens? Less. Martin has won well over 600 NHL games. He's won the league, the division, the race to the playoffs more times than not. He's won something. he's won a Memorial Cup (one more than Guy Boucher).

No he's not Scotty Bowman, but Scotty's not coaching anymore.


It's fine to criticise the coach. I 'll do it in the future, I'm sure. In fact, criticise all you want. But if you alternatives enough can't be found to list against the complaints, consider before posting that maybe that's because there might not be very many.

And if your team sits well above the position of the year before and the one before that, consider that maybe the coaches are doing something right in amongst all their wrongs.

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