There were too many flaws in the Canadiens’ game, even when they were winning, for Guy Carbonneau to be safe as head coach. And so today he was fired, because Bob Gainey knows his team is tinkering on missing the playoffs, which simply can’t happen. Never mind the pride and tradtion involved, that’s only for us, the fans. In a business like pro hockey, the playoffs is where all the money is made. It’s the gravy on the meat and potatoes. Players’ salaries, travel costs, uniforms, advertising, property taxes, everything right down to meal money, – all the dollars needed to operate - are calculated from the regular season profits. The playoffs are where owners make their money to buy and furnish their mansions, stock up on cigars and buy big cars. The playoffs put big smiles on owners and management’s faces.
Guy Carbonneau just couldn’t get it done, even when, on rare occasions, the team looked reasonably good. He couldn’t motivate Alex Kovalev, and whether you agree or not, it was his job to do this. And it wasn’t just Kovalev. Andrei Kostitsyn isn’t the star we thought he’d be this year. Brother Sergei flopped like a fish being pulled into a boat. There were rumours of infighting in the dressing room. The defence has been pitiful, allowing teams to blast away at will at both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak most every single night, which is completely unacceptable. Mike Komisarek and Patrice Brisebois make on-ice decisions like drunken sailors. Same for most of the rearguards. It’s all been very sad.
The line-juggling became a head-scratcher, with almost every forward playing with different linemates nightly. Players wouldn’t know from one game to the next who they’d be with, and so of course, chemistry was non-existent. Why couldn’t Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec, for example, stick together on a regular basis, even after bad games? If something worked well last year, why wouldn’t it work well this year? Carbonneau never gave anyone a chance to sort things out for themselves on the ice.
Was Carbonneau the reason Carey Price sank in the mud? Or why Georges Laraque, when healthy at least, wasn’t even close to the role he was brought to Montreal to do? Was the coach the reason for the lacklustre play throughout most of this season, or the ridiculous amount of penalties the team takes on most nights. Maybe he was.
I’ve always believed in Bob Gainey. He’s a smart, thoughtful man, and this decision to let go his old friend and teammate must weigh heavily on him. But I’m sure he’s been thinking about this since just after Christmas, when the team began to tank. And don’t forget, under Carbonneau, the Habs were completely outclassed by Philadelphia in last year’s playoffs. It was then the cracks started to show.
The Canadiens, as we all know, have been terrible for most of this year, a year which was suppose to be of celebration and smiles all around. Put them up against teams like Boston, Detroit, Washington, and others, and they look on most nights like only a good American Hockey League team. But they shouldn’t. Montreal’s a good team, as good or better than last year. But something’s been horribly wrong for months now. And imagine the Montreal Canadiens being dominated by the Boston Bruins. It goes against the forces of nature.
The crunch is on now, playoffs are just around the corner, and something quick needed to be done. Guy Carbonneau had to go. It only makes sense. Now let’s see if players will play for Gainey. Let’s see what they’re made of. The coach could only do so much. And for that, Montreal players need to look long and hard in the mirror and tell themselves that much of the problem has been their own doing, not the coach’s. It’s time now to stand up and be counted.