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Time Out

by Archives February 17, 2009

When you write for a newspaper, you’re then allowed to make predictions (and even when you don’t write for a newspaper, but humour me). You’re then on the record. People can scrutinize you when they disagree, and even more when you’re proven wrong.
I’ve made enough baseball predictions to feel the wrath of Yankee fans. Although, in fairness when I was proven right and they missed the playoffs, the Yankee faithful were left silenced.
Last April, I wrote about the Montreal Canadiens. Basically, I warned fans not to count their Stanley Cups before they hatched. Those young players that show great potential one year, can disappear the next. To illustrate the point I used the example of the Montreal Expos of the 1980s.
Fast forward to this season. The Canadiens are going through their worst slump in recent memory, and this was a team that had been favoured (along with the Pittsburgh Penguins).
Why is this? Well, most of the Canadiens’ top scorers from a year ago (the Kostitsyn brothers, Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins) have struggled this season. Ditto for goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price. Even Mike Komisarek and Josh Gorges have struggled as of late. So much for building off of last season.
I didn’t even factor in the disappearance of Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov, two veterans who have taken steps back.
Sure, I should be gloating right now, but I’m not. You see, until I have a job that requires me to cover the NHL, I will openly be a Canadiens fan. I just wish this was an instance where I was wrong as opposed to being dead on.
Perhaps it isn’t ironic that Penguins head coach Michel Therrien was fired hours before the Canadiens’ 4-2 loss to Vancouver. These two teams have a lot in common. High expectations, key injuries, not very good results.
Guy Carbonneau has a lot to be worried about. If this team loses one more game on this road trip, I think his time as head coach of the Canadiens is over. The Eastern Conference is too tight in the race for playoff positioning to go on losing like the Canadiens are, especially when you consider their expectations in this, their 100th season.
Carbonneau seems like he’s in a sinking ship and instead of fixing it, all he’s doing is rearranging the furniture. Sure, Sergei Kostitsyn deserves to be on the fourth line, but what is his role on a line with Georges Laraque? You can’t have a scoring line with Tom Kostopoulos on it. You just can’t. Sure he works hard, but the problem is he can’t finish.
Sure, it’s not Carbo’s fault his goaltending has imploded, but Bob Gainey has already set the precedent with that. When Claude Julien was the head coach of the Canadiens, and Jose Theodore was going through his worst season, Gainey fired Julien and became head coach himself. By the trade deadline that year, Theodore was traded.
I don’t think Gainey would take over, but there are enough head coaching candidates to take a look at, and that can shake up this team. It may not be Carbonneau’s fault, but something has got to give.
But, perhaps, Gainey isn’t without blame himself. Maybe it would have been better to lock up some of his 13 free agents before the season started. Perhaps, even, this has given Gainey the way to go the “I told you so” route. If he had signed some of these guys after last season, there would be a lot of people screaming for the GM’s head for giving out too much money.
That’s what Montreal is. When you’re good, they put you up too high, and when you’re bad, they dig you in a hole too deep.
So, as the Canadiens leave the Pacific and Mountain time zones winning one out of four and being outscored 19-9, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that they finish up their road trip in Pittsburgh.
Similar expectations, similar circumstances, similar reality. Maybe the fate of their head coaches will be similar as well.

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