Jacques Martin Is A Defensive Coach?

When Jacques Martin signed with the Montreal Canadiens, he said he’s a defensive coach.
A defensive coach whose team allows a blitzkrieg of shots and inexcusable loose play almost on a nightly basis.

It’s enough to confuse Confucius. This is a team that needs to tighten up.

And yes, as they say, his post-game interviews could make drivers fall asleep at the wheel.

Add to it the fact that if it wasn’t for Jaroslav Halak and his legendary three rounds of sparkling playoff performance last year, as reader Mathman points out, Jacques Martin’s showing as coach of the Montreal Canadiens has been no better than dismal and mediocre. The team barely squeaked into those magical playoffs in the first place.

But regardless of a coach not doing a good job, the fact remains that he can’t go out on the ice and do the job for the players.
Opposing players are left wide open in front of the net and should be cleared away like a snowplow plowing. Hal Gill and Ryan O’Byrne especially should be playing the role of extremely angry young men who take no prisoners. The crease should be where men fear to tread. Instead, all too frequently, players on other teams just keep pounding away looking for loose pucks which often find their way to the back of the net.

Martin can’t control it when one of his players shoots the puck over the glass and gets the team in penalty trouble. He’s not on the ice when a phantom penalty is called in the last two minutes of the game and an infraction to the other team isn’t in overtime, who then quickly skate away with a win that sends daggers through our hearts.
And it’s not his fault when important players are felled by injury.
What Martin can do is not use players who don’t deserve to be used – and there’s a few in this category, and demand that tougher players like Travis Moen charge the net like a wounded animal. We don’t want a team of sweethearts, we want a combination of sweethearts and rough tough rotten bastards.
I don’t think there’s a team in the league that is intimated by the Habs. Others might be wary of the Habs’ speed and trickiness, but when it comes to the physical stuff, it’s a non-issue. Say what you want about Maxim Lapierre being what he is, but at least he plays with an edge.
There’s also a delicate line to be walked between trying to curb some of PK Subbans exhuberance while allowing the kid to also play the only way he knows how.
Martin’s been coach for not just three games but a previous 82 games and playoffs, and we’re still waiting to see a brilliant stategist arise from behind the bench. But the wait might be a long one.
I don’t know. Can we wait?

22 thoughts on “Jacques Martin Is A Defensive Coach?”

  1. i know i’m being repetitive and i will be until you buy this f%&^& team and put me out of my coaching misery. i have thought jm a useless piece of shit as a coach, i’m sure he is a fine human being, from day 0. some excellent coaches slipped by this off season and were hired by our enemies. as someone else said, the list grows smaller. when will kirk muller be snapped up by someone?……………… as far as language goes, if a coach can speak french as well as brian gionta that’s good enough for me and it should be good enough for everyone. the french people can live with a coach whose french language skills are not the best as long as the team plays well and wins……… language is not the issue, shitty coaching is.

  2. i couldn’t agree more. This language requirement sucks. Let’s just get a coach who can coach. Unfortunately we’re stuck with the shit we have for another 2 years I think. Put Muller in there. I think I’ll start a facebook page (or does one already exist?) If one doesn’t exist, one should.

  3. Dennis, your comments of Oct 18, 2009

    So far, Jacques Martin hasn’t exactly had raving success as new coach of the Montreal Canadiens. So the question is, is he the right man for the job?

    It was certainly important to find a French-Canadian coach, or at least one who is perfectly bilingual. The Montreal French media in particular wouldn’t have accepted anything less, and a non-French-speaking anglophone probably would have been run out of town.

  4. you are right about the french media beatnik. and of course there are not enough francophones on the team either. i’m tempted to mention dick irvin sr. but those were the jim crow days of the nhl………. how good was scotty’s french?….. i don’t want to turn this into a language debate like the french media would i just don’t want to lose because of it.

  5. Dennis, at the risk of charging you 2 whole cents for this, my answer is Yes. He’s a defensive coach. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself and has at times proven effective (see Caps and Pens last year’s playoffs), but what he needs is some balance.

    Habs currently cannot complete a tape to tape pass. OK, they can, but it’s not the norm. He needs to work on their offensive game too, because frankly, it’s offensive at this point.

    Habs seem determined to try to sit on a 1 or 2 goal lead. Is this JM’s fault? In part I’d have to say yes because he’s likely telling them to watch for mistakes. He wants them be defensively responsible. So they’re largely so focused on that they seem to sometimes forget that the best defense on the ice is ramming the puck down the opposing goaltender’s throat.

    Cammy said before the game they had to play to win, instead of just playing to not lose. I guess they forgot, yeah? JM needs to do his bit and remind them.

    Otherwise I shall be extending the claws. You have been forewarned.

  6. Hobo-that was from Dennis’ post a year ago.

    (I don’t what to get into that “French-English”debate-not sure if politics and hockey mix)

  7. Martin is a defensive coach, but only in the sense that his system calls for his team to do a lot of defending, and certainly a lot more defending than attacking. That doesn’t mean that his system limits chances against, or indeed, produce anything that would be considered “good defense”. That’s as much a misnomer as him calling his system a “puck possession” system.

    A true, capable defensive coach would emphasize neutral zone play, play the dreaded trap, prevent opponents from entering the zone at speed, and try to keep the puck away from the net. They would be cautious and emphasize backchecking and perhaps take few chances on offense, but they would also be proactive with their defense. This would perhaps not be exciting, but it would be tactically infinitely better than the way the Habs are playing right now.

    What the passive defense does is basically give the opponent free reign to attack, and while they’re doing this the Habs are generating no offense. The Habs are fine at limiting chances on individual plays, but they give their opponents so many cracks at it that they are bound to break.

    Martin’s strategy, under the guise of being conservative and low-risk on individual plays, is actually high-risk, low-reward over the span of an entire game. It’s like playing prevent defense for an entire game in football — it’s fine when you have a big lead and are killing the last minutes of the clock, but otherwise, it prevents you from winning.

  8. The Habs are not the Jersey Devils of old. The Devils would get a lead and hold it. The Habs give up way to many late period penalties and goals to be a defensive team. The are a non-offensive team. There’s a difference. It’s subtle, but huge.

  9. @Hardhabits I’m so sick of these late period penalties and goals as you say. It knocks the crap out of every Habs fan. You’re absolutely right – a non-offensive team is a huge and subtle difference from a defensive team. For some reason, the rink is tilted in the final minutes towards us and something has to change. Otherwise all these so-called experts who predict the Habs out of the playoffs will be right. Thanks for this.

  10. Mathman – I wish I would have said that. Every time you comment you make great sense. Defending sucks. We don’t want simply “defending.” We want the puck out of our end. Thanks for some very intelligent comments.

  11. But Tyg, even in those series against the Caps and Pens, Halak was facing about 50 shots a game. So there’s definitely cracks in the system. They also forgot to play to win, as they do way too often. A one goal lead late in the game more often than not turns ugly for us and speaking for all Habs fans if I may, we’re all quite sick of this. When you go to Montreal in a few months and nothing’s changed, please get the claws out and put the hammer down on this team before it’s too late. Man, when I own this team……..

  12. Hobo – before we go to rock and roll heaven we need to see the Flying Frenchman making their magic again.

  13. Mayo, as soon as I figure out how to do it, I’m visiting the Muller facebook page. Great idea and thank you.

  14. Hobo, when I buy the team everything changes. Clean sweep. Keep some, not others. Change the coach regardless of language. It’s going to be excellent. Seriously, for me, I’ve decided that the French media in Montreal have had way too much say in the coaching situation. If they don’t like a coach who can’t speak French but brings a Cup home to Montreal, they’re just going to have to get over it. Why are $75,000 a year French journalists making calls like that to an organization like the Habs? Same with these political people. They all have to stay out of the business of sports and throw away the handcuffs. A Stanley Cup is a Stanley Cup and a handfull of people shouldn’t dictate what kind of coach etc. for the millions of us. No wonder the Expos didn’t last.

  15. Hey Dennis,Yup theyc have to play a little more defensive for sure,I know we are missing Markov,but that doesnt excuse what went on last nite.As I predicted though ,Carey Price is on his way back into it.

  16. I agree with Tyg and especially with MathMan. My impression is the Canadiens play 5-on-5 like a team short handed. They give up the blue line to force the play to the boards and make it difficult to get in front. They’ll allow lots of low percentage long shots, block many of them and hope the goalie saves the rest. Then they wait for the opposition to make a mistake.

    This actually worked fairly well against against the faster skating Pittsburgh and Washington who would skate towards the empty places Montreal wanted them. But when grunts like Philadelphia were willing to fight to their way to the net Montreal had no response without interfering. The effectiveness/ineffectiveness was magnified by Halak’s ability to make the quick saves but was flustered when his crease was entered.

    The NJ trap defence would stop teams from crossing the blue line. The Flying Frenchmen defence was that the best defence is a great offence.

  17. @Christopher, It’s not a matter of working better against skating teams and more poorly against physical teams. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the “system” was effective in the playoff against the Caps and Pens. Both those teams absolutely murdered the Habs and shelled them with umpteen high-quality scoring chances. They outplayed the Habs to a much greater degree than the Flyers ever did.

    The big difference was Halak standing on his head, and nothing more.

    In fact the Habs outplayed the Flyers at the start of every game, except that the Flyers would score first, then go to a left wing lock system (see, a REAL defensive system, mostly played in the neutral zone) and Martin’s Habs had no idea how to deal with this simple defensive scheme.

  18. MathMan, this time I have to disagree.
    The Caps and Pens had many good chances, but I feel very few required extraordinary highlight reel saves.
    My general opinion is that goalies get too much credit for making saves. If they see the puck or position themselves properly they should always make the save. It’s the screened shots second shots that are difficult. The official number of scoring chances are always obscenely high. For a goalie to have a great game he needs his defence to have a great game too.
    Halak gave up many big rebounds but it was always a Montreal player that would knock the puck away from in front of the net giving him time to recover. The defence also ensured very few second shots made it through.
    I know this is blasphemy, but I feel the same way about the ’93 playoffs. Roy typically gets all the credit, but I claim that it was outstanding defence that won. I give him more of the credit for the ’86 playoffs.

    I’m not claiming that it was a great Martin coaching strategy for playing the Caps and Pens, it was just they way they play and it happened to work out. Great strategy would involve changing the strategy for the opponent. His idea of strategy is to bench Pouliot.

  19. It might be a bit late to answer, Chris, so I don’t know if you’ll see this, but go on ESPN.com and look at the shot charts for the playoff games. There was a large number of shots being fired from prime scoring areas — shots from the slot, areas where even a well-positioned goalie may be beat. There was a lot of talk about how there was a lot of shots and very few scoring chances because the shots were from the outside, but a few glances at a few shot charts reveal that for the myth it is.

    The Caps and the Pens smoked the Habs everywhere but the crease. Halak had to stand on his head the whole way for the Habs to eke out two narrow series wins.

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