Monday, April 27, 2009

2009/2010 Habs; what should we look for?

Over the next few months, the Montreal Canadiens will begin to paint the picture of what the 101st team will look like. Then it will be very quiet, then a host of activity before training camp.

What the Canadiens need is a culture, an identity, and a core of players who own the team and define it. Other players will then fit, or definitely not fit, and can find a new place to play. Take for example the 2007/2008 season: the culture was most definitely founded by the Russians -- Russians and Rookies I used to say -- Kovalev leads the team by example, scoring timely goals and dictating a playmaking style. Markov lead by quiet example, and players like the Kostitsyns, Plekanecs, and Mark Streit bought into it. Higgins and Komisarek and Smolinksi filled their roles as need be, to support the core: Ryder, on the other hand, fell to the wayside.

I think Carbo recognised who was leading the team, and went with it. It goes back to their public feud over not calling timeouts in close games, etc... The coach coaches, the players respond and play from there. in 2007/2008, it all worked. In 2008/2009, it fell completely apart.

This year Lang and Tanguay were brought in to the fold, and the leadership and culture were in doubt. Tanguay and Koivu were suddenly the scoring line: Lang was the go-to guy, breaking games open for the team. Komisarek made Associate Captain... but who owned the room? not Carbo, he got fired. Not Kovalev; he went to bed and never got up. Its tough for the new guys to take over...

Koivu? Get real. Great guy, nice guy, but as far as I can tell (from my comfy seat in Toronto) he has never owned this team. He can inspire them, but not own them. He can get them past the first round of the playoffs, but not past the second.

So who, or what, will define this team? Do we go the Higgins / Lapierre / Latendresse / Komisarek route, and rebuild while they develope into leaders? Or do we go back to the Kovalev well and try and get him back in line? Or perhaps we scrap Kovalev and find a new set of leaders; putting our hopes in a new core to inspire the younger talent, until they are ready to take over?

Tough call. Hard job -- rebuilding a family that has just been ripped apart and left in tatters.

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