TORONTO, ON.– I’m frustrated. It all began with the Gomez – Gionta (GioMez) line not performing.
Before the season started, lots of people gave their two cents on the “If I were Jacques Martin, this is how I would line up the team” idea. Even I did (for the forwards). I did, however, include my long disclaimer of how I’m really just a passionate fan who isn’t quite knowledgeable enough to take over Jacquie’s job. So although I’m not the kind to say “I told you so”, I do want to point out that I had in fact put Michael Cammalleri on the first line alongside Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec.
The season opened with Line 1 the way I expected. Line 2 was 67 per cent what I expected – because the fixings in the GioMez sandwich kept getting changed out (I know it’s a winger who was getting switched out, just humour my analogy, okay?). We had a Darche Vader sandwich, a Pouliot sandwich, and did we have a Moen sandwich? I got so dizzy, I can’t recall who else was there. The spot on that line became a revolving door. Basically, the GioMez mojo was missing. Neither Captain Little Giant Brian Gionta nor Scott “Big Bucks” Gomez were firing. No goals. Did they even get any points? The line was… uhm… dry? And no matter how many forwards Jacquie cycled through there, we couldn’t get the good stuff to flow.
I (like many others) screamed for Lars Eller, but it seemed like the poor rookie was doomed to grind it out on the fourth line until he had served his time – the hazing for being the newbie.
Finally, Jacquie did the one thing I feared he would do. He broke up the only line we had that worked. He put moved Andrei Kostitsyn down. That failed. AK had been an absolute monster on Line 1 – scoring at least one goal in every game (it helped being part of a great combo with the wonder that is Pleky and the play-making master that is Cammy). On Line 2, he lost it all. He wasn’t even a blip on the radar anymore.
Having already mucked up Line 1, I guess Jacquie though it couldn’t get worse. So he moved Gio and AK to Line 1 with Pleky and banned Cammy to Line 2 with Gomez and the still ever present revolving door. Seriously?!
Pleky and AK got Gio firing (yay!), but Cammy, our PRIME sniper was now burden with the $8M dead-weight of Scott Gomez. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Gomez is just going through a slump. I’m sure that he’s going to come out of it and show us the money (don’t let me down, Scottie). But I was adamantly against the idea of using Cammy to try and get him going. Why? Because now we’ve got $14M (Cammy’s $6M a year, right?) not producing. Not only is that bad business, but it also was not good for Cammy.
Every game, you could see him get frustrated with being unable to make a play. He’d try and he’d be spinning his wheels. It was very sad and depressing. Cammy and Gomez are great team players so when Cammy scored a goal that was credited to Gomez, Gomez went and told the refs that he didn’t touch the puck and it should be credited to Cammy. He could’ve taken it, but he’s just not that kind of guy.
Meanwhile, Cammy was still quite low on production and high on frustration. Moen was elevated to the Cammy-Gomer line. Oh… that was *such* a bad idea. Now we’ve got someone who’s lost his mojo and someone with Stone Hands sitting on a line with the sniping play-maker. What’s a sniping play maker to do? “Oh, I’ll pass it to… oh… I can’t. Oh, I can… crap… where the heck is he?? He’s going that way?? Why?? If I do… darn… That’s not gonna work either. I got it! I’ll…oh… SCREW IT! I’ll just SHOOT THE THING MYSELF!” And in all his frustration, that little rubber projectile goes wide or over the net or just in some random direction.
I’m not saying that JM is stupid. He’s not. He does, after all, get paid the big bucks to make these all important decisions. And despite all the issues, our boys are sitting pretty in fifth place over all (or we were the last time I looked). So even though I disagree with everything, he’s got to be doing *something* right.
That said, maybe he was just too close to the action. Because he obviously couldn’t see that the burdening of Cammy was just wrong. After trying one or two games (see, I’ll give him more than a couple of shifts), if he sees it’s not working (which it wasn’t) he should pull Cammy out of there and put him back with Line 1. At least then, we’d have one firing line, instead of no firing lines.
It really was a sad state of affairs when the only producing line was the PHD line. It was great for Poulliot, Halpern and Darche, but if your 3rd line is the only line scoring goals, you have a SERIOUS problem. Just imagine how much damage we could’ve done if we had both Lines 1 and 3 firing at the same time. A slumpy Line 2 would have been more tolerable than our non-existent power play if we had two scoring lines.
This past Saturday, the Habs played the Leafs. Not that I would ever cheer for the Leafs, but I was okay with them winning because, you know… there was a big ceremony, and Toronto had been so down in the dumps lately that although I wasn’t happy about them winning, I also wasn’t terribly crushed by it.
The first period had not progressed well. Lots of bad things were happening in the second. But guess what… almost immediately after unleashing the proper line number 1… WE SCORED!! Yup…that’s right… Cammy went in there with the force that is Pleky and AK and we shot that shutout dead. That’s the kind of game we should be playing. I speculate that the conversation on the bench went something like this.
Cammy: “Seriously, J. Put the line back together.”
Jacquie: “I don’t know. We’re down 2-0 and I don’t want to get completely embarrassed in Toronto.”
Pleky: “THIS SUCKS!”
Jacquie: “What should I do?”
Cammy: “Put the line back together.”
Jacquie: “No. I need to figure out what I should do.”
AK: “How about you put the line back together?”
Jacquie: “Who was talking to you!? You wanna play for the Preds too!? Or should I just send you to that blue bench over there?!”
Pleky: “COME ON!!!! JUST PUT THE LINE BACK TOGETHER!!”
Jacquie: “You know what? I think I’ll put the line back together. But if you don’t score, I’m gonna be…”
Pleky-AK-Cammy fly onto the ice before Jacquie finishes talking. Seconds later… LE BUT!!!!!!
Jacquie: “Well, I’ll be damned. How did that happen?”
It’ll be interesting to see if the proper Line 1 stays intact for the next game (I’m really hoping it does). I didn’t see the third period of the game, so maybe he already dismantled it. I don’t know. But I guess we have until Wednesday when we open the doors of le Centre Bell to the Philadelphia Flyers. There’s also this thing with the Habs having called up Patches and Gomez being injured. So although I’m hoping Jacquie has finally seen the light and will not break up Line 1 again, I’m not holding my breath.
As long as we win, right?
GO HABS GO!!!