TORONTO, ON — When Bob Gainey chose Jacques Martin to be the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens in 2009, Montreal was expected to excel under his game plan of defence-first hockey, which has worked well throughout his coaching career and during each of the past two NHL regular seasons as head coach of the Canadiens. But this isn’t football. You need offense to win in this sport. Passive, counter-strike hockey is Jacques Martin’s coaching style and it simply doesn’t work.
After a poor 1-4-1 start to the 2011-2012 season, fans have been very open with the fact that Martin isn’t doing his job. After only six games, the Habs faithful have flocked to the internet to express their displeasure over the way the team has played, and how long it will take before we see a new coach on the bench. Like always, there were rumors created about who would be head coach of the best team in the world. Some names mentioned were Patrick Roy, Marc Crawford and Ken Hitchcock. A change in scenery could spark new life into the team that has struggled immensely since the start of the pre-season.
It may not be fair to blame Martin for the teams struggles. Andrei Markov, Chris Campoli and Jaroslav Spacek are out for a lengthy period of time, and the Habs best forward, Michael Cammalleri, missed three games after getting his leg cut by teammate Yannick Weber’s skate blade. He returned to the lineup on Thursday against the Penguins, but couldn’t provide the offense to beat them as the Habs lost 3-1.
Montreal has outshot their opponents by a total of 221 – 155 in their opening six contests yet have been on the outside looking in when it comes to the scoreboard. It’s not that they aren’t shooting, its just the team isn’t playing well under Martin.
As the 29th head coach of the storied Canadiens, Martin is in his third year with Montreal. The current average time for an NHL coach is 2.86 years. He hasn’t gotten that far yet, and despite the fact the season is still in its baby stages, its possible he will be sitting at home in the near future. Martin has a .450 winning percentage in the post season. If the team wants to ever win the Cup, it can’t be under this guy. Martin has only won two game 7′s in his entire career as a head coach, so again he doesn’t do well in important situations.
Some believe that the loss of Kirk Muller as assistant coach is impacting the team in a big way. Muller was an offense first type of coach, and while Montreal is getting a lot of shots, they are not getting any goals. Muller signed on to be the head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, the farm team of another offensively-stuck team, the Nashville Predators. Many thought that Milwaukee would be last in the entire AHL, because like Nashville, the team doesn’t have much offense. But as of today, they are third overall the league. You can’t blame the lack of offense on the departure of Muller, but the team just can’t score.
Martin admits there is a concern with the way his players have performed through the first six games of the season, but notes that the season is still early and there is still time to improve. But if the team continues to play badly, Habs fans will want Martin’s head. He doesn’t have time to just sit back and hope for something to happen, they need to do something now. If that means trading a defenseman for a top six forward, then do it. I’m not saying that Montreal needs another forward, but if they don’t score, they need to change something. With injury issues plaguing the Habs once again, it would be pretty risky to move someone on the back end. If Markov was to come back and stay healthy, it’s always possible.
I would like to see Montreal win Cup number 25 with Jacques Martin, but it doesn’t look at all possible. We shouldn’t be too concerned right now, but like Toronto has noticed the last few years, every game counts. Montreal currently sits 27th in the league, way out of a playoff spot. It only takes a few wins to put the team on top of the Eastern Conference and back to the promised land. Last year. the New Jersey Devils who got off to a rough start, made a coaching change, and was the best-improved team in 2011. They didn’t make the playoffs due to their 2-10 start, but had a great turn around. As much as we would love the Habs to replicate the success New Jersey had, I think every single one of us would like to see Montreal play in the Spring. Elliotte Friedman says if a team is more than three points out of a playoff spot on November 1, they have a seven per cent chance of making the playoffs. Currently, on October 22nd, they are three points behind eighth place New York Islanders. Yes, this start is that bad.
Tonight, the Canadiens are facing their rivals from Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto is 4-1-1 this season due to the high flying scoring of Phil Kessel. Last year, Montreal and Toronto split the season series 3-3. Toronto has been a pain in the ass to Habs fans for a few years now. A loss to them is like a death of a friend. Montreal fans will have Martin punted if they lose for the second time this year against the hated Leafs. The game is in Montreal this time around. Martin and the entire team will get booed off the ice if they lose again.
So my question to you: How many games do you see Jacques Martin coaching the Habs? Personally, I say five more games if they continue to play the way they are. Some change has to be in order in the next couple days if Montreal is going to have any form of success this year.
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