2010 The Year for Change
So Jacques Martin is now the head honcho in La Belle Province!
This guy has a great record in the regular season, and has coached some of the better players in the league over his tenure in Ottawa. I don't think the 10 less than 500 rating he has in the playoffs is truly something Habs fans have to worry about. Currently with 10 free agents to attend to Martin and Gainey have their hands full of work. I don't know that his time as GM in Florida is a big asset or simply a tool for Gainey's use, but at this point it can't be bad to have a coach with GM experience.
There's a lot of talk out there that the Habs are in for one boring season with Martin's legend of being a defence laddened coach. I don't think that's the case. Or so I hope. With Martin having one of the highest scoring teams in Ottawa 4 or 5 yrs running I think the Habs could at least upgrade from last season's woeful display. Having a D lead the team in scoring is awesome, and horrible all at the same time. With having 10 free agents to work with, or decide they aren't meant for this new regime, the Habs will look very different than they did this past year. I am a sentimentalist at heart and hearing that Koivu might just be set free to do as he so choses leaves me a little melancholic. But such is the risk of being in your mid 30s now in the New NHL... I rather liked the Old NHL.
NOw I am guessing that Gainey and Martin can begin to assess and review what they already have, what they are willing to part with, and what they are willing to pay. Looking foreward to some change..l will have to accept that which I do not have control over. Here's to 2010.
So another year has passed, and yet again the storied franchise did not make it into the big books.
With the amount of big name injuries (Markov, Tanguay, Lang, Schneider) during the playoffs its really no surprise really. The media surrounding this years 100th anniversary team was quite overwhelming. Some may say it took its toll on the team. Gainey himself mentions his conversationsations with Tampa Bay regarding Vinny LeCavellier and it coming to light as a distraction the team did not need, and it was unfair for the young Canadians players to have to push through the year knowing they had been mentioned in trade rumors.
The reality is, those mentioned in the trade were having an off year prior to their names coming out in the media circus. Higgins was injured early, and Plekanec did not come anywhere close to the player he showed to be in 2008. Josh Georges did not show any ill effects even if he did know he was linked to a trade to TB.
No, this year, the year the team celebrated its 100th birthday, was supposed to be a glorious one. One that would be remembered for all time. Instead, it was one that will be remembered for its mediocrity, for lackluster effort, and many young team mistakes. Yes, veterens were supposed to be having highlight years, and they would only offset the miniscule mistakes of their younger teammates. But as Koivu, Kovalev, Higgins, Plekanec and Mr. Kostitsyn did not live up to expectations, as Price faltered with a heavier workload, the dream of 25 in 100 died.
Many will question what Gainey was thinking when he took over the bench duties, when he asked Carbonneau to leave. I think it was a case where Gainey and the Canadiens brass had other ideas about where the Habs would go, they did not want to marr Carbo's stellar record as a coach where they would be going. Some would have you believe that the team tanked due to some inexplicable miscommunication issue that Carbo had with the team. The reality is, Gainey realized before the team made the playoffs that they could not be the 25th Cup winners of the bleu, blanc et rouge. He knew deep down the team did not have enough in the tanks to be able to knock off the top ranked Bruins and further themselves in the playoffs. Gainey, in my humble opinion, was assessing the team. He put pressure on Kovalev before the end of the season, which brought about a miraculous turn around in him, he also placed a lot of pressure on Price. Not the same effect.
Unfortunately, Price felt the weight of the organization come down on him, the weight of the 100 yr history. Despite coming into camp as favorites, despite Price coming in almost 30 pounds lighter, he could not have understood what pressure he would be under during the last half of the season. It showed. Gainey felt that the pressure was necessary, because if Price is the man who is going to be the starting goalie all the way through, he needs to know right now what that means. Whether or not Price realizes it remains to be seen. However, in 2010, the team that will be in front of him will be quite different. We know, with the change in ownership, the change in the team dynamic, change in the coach, and possibly change in the general manager, will bring with it a season of hope and chaos. We hope as fans that the chaos is short lived, and that the changes we see are all a part of the master plan to obtain illusive #25.
With the possibilty (not likelihood) of losing Koivu, Kovy, Lang, Tanguay, Komisarek in one year is a scary one. I do not believe they could manage to lose all of this talent and be able to find it in the free agent class of 2009. It would be undaunting to try. More realistically it would seem that Gainey and the Brass have ideas of how to maneuver their free agents (Unrestricted and Restricted) and the draft to their advantage. For them to put together a team which will not only compete throughout the season but overcome the nasty image of the year that wasn't.
Excited and scared we all are.
Here's to 2010 and what might be. Hold on to your seats, its going to be a rough off-season!