Monday, 24 March 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

It’s that time of year, time for excuses.

The weekend was good for the Montreal Canadiens, bad for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Something we’ve seen over the last two weeks that’s evident, the Habs have character.

To overcome a three-goal deficit against Ottawa, beat Colorado in Patrick Roy’s return to the Bell Centre, and dispose of the Leafs in a rivalry game on the road has been impressive.

Not only that, Montreal has been delivering games that are very high on the entertainment metre.

GM Marc Bergevin’s favorite word might be character. We hear it come draft time (and will hear it again this summer) and we’ve heard it during free agency. And this roster has a ton of it already. You win as a team and with character and there’s no reason to be believe that this team can’t make a run in the playoffs. Even the two teams that are clearly “better” than Montreal, Boston and Pittsburgh have lost both home and away games against the Canadiens. Against quality opposition, Montreal has actually faired pretty well.

Leaf land meanwhile, is the land of excuses.

And everyone is in desperate search for a scapegoat.

Travel, media, goaltending… you name it, they’ll use it as an excuse. 

This comes from the top. As a coach it is your job is to know how to get the most out of ALL your players. That’s what gives you the best chance to win. You need to know the personalities on your team and what they will react positively and negatively to. Randy Carlyle has not gotten the most out of this group.

The two examples that couldn’t be more clear-cut, James Reimer and Nazem Kadri. I’d throw Jake Gardiner into the mix, but during their five-game losing streak, his game has been strong. Those players are “whipping” boys for Carlyle and clearly their games have suffered as a result.

The coach created the story of bad goaltending. If Carlyle uses a more diplomatic answer when being asked about Reimer’s game following their loss in Detroit, it doesn’t put a spotlight on a backup goaltender that already has confidence issues.

Just look at the way Tyler Bozak handles the question:

“I think he’s playing good for us, we haven’t helped him out one bit. It’s easy to pick on the goalie when things are going bad, but it’s a team game. We haven’t been playing well enough to win, it isn’t him at all.”

Simple enough, right??

How about the same messaging from the coaching staff.

“I’m not making any comments on goaltenders thanks to you guys,” said coach Carlyle.

Right, the media created the story.

But if everyone in Toronto believes that goaltending is the reason they’re losing, then the finger doesn’t get pointed at the coaching staff. But in two years, the coaching staff hasn’t been able to get their team to implore any type of defensive zone coverage.

That said, Jonathan Bernier will return and I think they’ll make the playoffs.

 The Slick Awards:

I can’t manage personalities: Randy Carlyle
I made an appearance: Rene Bourque
I have no confidence: James Reimer
I ‘m a hockey player: Rich Clune (check out Carter Hutton's twitter account for more)

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