Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Problem With Us

Now that Cammalleri is gone without filling Habs fans appetite for complaining, we have turned our attentions elsewhere.

The unfortunate recipient of the majority of our attentions of late has been PK Subban.

I actually wrote what I thought was a nice piece on why Subban should be suspended but not traded yesterday. Alas, it was lost when I idiotically pressed backspace to set my browser back a page. For some reason it wasn't autosaved at all. Anyway, the gist was he made a dirty hit (at least one) near the boards that was penalized but not harshly enough for my liking. But that this by no means affects his standing as a core member of the team going forward in my eyes. I think I actually noted he was THE core member.

So I wrote it, but you've read the same elsewhere. Let's move on.

Once again my fascination with the team and its players is matched by my fascination with those of us who follow. Incidentally, it was PK who brought this to the fore, this time with a quote:
“I have a great relationship with Randy and I’d hate for you guys to ruin that,” Subban said “I’m a young guy and I need to be coached and that’s what he’s doing. Coaches and players are never going to agree on all things but at the end of the day, I’m 22 years old and so it doesn’t matter what I think. He’s the coach.

“You can’t be messing up drills,” Subban said of the incident Tuesday. “One of the drills I screwed up and he let me know about it. That’s a part of the game. I don’t think that’s a big deal.

“He’s going to tear a strip off me again this year, maybe a couple of times, but if we’re going to make a deal out of it every time, that’s not beneficial to our team,” added Subban. ‘I’m not the only young guy here. He does it for the other young guys. And he doesn’t for the veterans too.”

Fascinating quote really. It cuts as sharply to the bone as one of his sharp defensive end turns (which incidentally I can't perform myself, as Tobalev will attest).

Subban is right you know. Coaches do yell at players all the time. My coaches often yelled at me, shunned me, scowled. Of course they also praised, explained and coached. But this isn't a treatise on coaching methods. It's about observers of that.

What about a coach yelling at a player is newsworthy?

In Subban's mind, the answer is nothing at all. But that's not how the Montreal media work. Subban is part of a running story line right now and this fits into that very nicely. The story goes that the coaches are unhappy with Subban and that his place on a pedestal (again assumed) is no longer available to him. Indeed, from that we must extrapolate that his place on the team is no longer safe. For some more sensational yarnspinners, he's being offered actively around the league.

Subban of course is right. To the coach, this is not news. To the player this is not news. It could only constitute news to those unfamiliar with the workings of a hockey team. Or perhaps those that need pieces to fit a budding narrative.

I liked how he handled the microphones here. Even if he was misquoted by typo "And he doesn’t for the veterans too".

Us vs. them

The other fascinating things about Subban's quote is the way it opens: "I have a great relationship with Randy and I’d hate for you guys to ruin that..."

What did the receivers of this quote think Subban meant by ruining it? Perhaps they might have thought he meant publishing stories about being yelled at in practice? That seems to be in keeping with the rest of his thought.

So precisely what he hoped might not happen is what indeed did happen. This story is on every outlet. Including (and this is important) this one.

Important. I have been reading it. You have been reading it. I just wrote about it and you are reading about it again now. When Subban said "you guys" we shouldn't feel exempt from the statement the way Pat Hickey obviously feels himself exempt from being tarred with the media brush.

We, bloggers, readers, media, fans. We are all part of this ridiculous machine that takes power from its own momentum. It is fascinating and fun to watch and comment on. But you know what? It's nowhere near as fun as a playoff win, or a graduation from from a playoff round.

I think it's high time we take a serious look in the mirror here. While it's fun for armchair GMs to contemplate their power over a team, we must admit that on all evidence the power we wield is mostly disruptive. A positve report on a player or a surprise inclusion in a dome is not news, but a player missing a practice, a bit of hard coaching is.

In reality, the Canadiens and PK wouldn't seek a separation unless there was a real problem lurking under the surface. But real problems might have been patched before, whereas as now under the constant watch of twitter, there's little room to breathe let alone let off the necessary amounts of steam.

If we are putting the team in a position of weakness, we only hurt our own hopes. If we are brining scorn on the city by lapping up this common, yet widely unreported, BS, then we deserve the reputation we are breeding.

Good on PK for putting it so eloquently. He may yet coach us to the slick hockey savvy population we hold as image for ourselves.

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