Let’s take a trip down memory lane, to Jacques Martin’s introduction as the Head Coach of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2009 off season. In that press conference, he promised a puck possession team that was based on skill and speed. With players like Plekanec, Cammalleri, Gomez, and Gionta in the mix, how could they play any other way? Without size and aggression, speed and skill would be the only way to go…or at least the Coach would have you believe. Once the puck dropped, something didn’t look right. All the players were there, and I had seen what they were capable of in other cities…oh no…please don’t tell me that this is another case of free agents coming to Montreal and suffering a drop in production? Calm down! It’s just the start of the year…these guys are still getting used to one another and they’ll eventually be the high flying bunch that we were promised.
But that feeling of being deceived never left. Something was always off. It would be a bit like watching a sports car limp around the highway while missing a cylinder. I wouldn’t be able to identify the issue solely by staring at the car, but my eyes were telling me that something was wrong. Like bad CGI in a Hollywood blockbuster, our eyes are remarkably good at telling us when we’re being deceived. I know, I know. The Canadiens went to the Conference Finals in year one, and gave the Bruins all they could handle in year two. A suicidal game plan, backed by a goalie with a chip on his shoulder and a contract to play for was simply inhuman in year one. And if Thomas was any good at all on either winning goals last year, the Bruins would have likely swept the Canadiens. So much for romanticizing the past.
By November 2009, just 20 or so games into his first season, I wanted Jacques Martin gone. Yes, I was fully and keenly aware that wasn’t going to happen, and I certainly knew it wasn’t going to happen once they went to the Conference Finals. But in between, I had posted numerous rants around the web voicing my displeasure with the Coach and his “system.” I don’t like being lied to. So I put “pen to paper” in April 2010 and pounded out “22 Reasons to Fire Jacques Martin.” Equal amounts of praise and ridicule followed, but I stand by my reasons today. Fast forward to October 2011, and I still don’t feel the warm and fuzzies for the Coach any more than I did in April 2010. As the Canadiens stumble out to a 1-6 start and put their playoff hopes in jeopardy before Halloween, it seems many are getting on the bandwagon.
His most ardent supporters are now having a very difficult time justifying and defending his tactics and strategies. The most frequently used excuse is the injuries. What a crock. Nobody debates what Markov means to this team. But until he’s declared ready for action, it would be stupid for the Canadiens to rely on him, and lazy of fans to trot out his name. Spacek? Most people reading this likely wanted him gone at the end of last season, now he’s a saviour? Campoli? The guy sitting on the scrap heap in late September? Available for anybody to snatch…right. Let’s pin our hopes to that guy. While Diaz, Weber and Emelin may never have been meant to be broken in at the same time, all 3 have been pleasant surprises overall. The veterans have been the disappointments, so let’s not waste our breath.
It’s about time that the bandwagon fills up, too. If you ask me, whatever “success” this team has realized in the past two seasons has been done largely in spite of Jacques Martin, not because of him (anybody miss Muller yet?). I have always felt that his methods stifle offensive production and that his stubborn, iron-fisted ways lacked the ingredients needed for healthy communication with his players. Eventually, they’d tune him out. Would ownership also get fed up with a team that was underperforming? It appears as though we are about the learn the answer to that question. In the mean time, a very angry and fed up fan base is beating the drum louder than ever. Recently Jacques Martin’s bizarre approach to games is generating more questions than answers and way more losses than wins. Premature panic, or boiling point? You know where I stand, as I have added 10 new reasons why Jacques Martin should no longer be the coach of this team. My total now stands at 32 reasons. Can anybody add to the list? Keep in mind that as you scroll through the list, reasons 1-22 are now anywhere from 18-24 months old. In some cases they still apply, and in other cases, the details of each may be foggy.
1- For the number of times that he stood around and watched his team collapse without so much as calling a timeout – Jacques Martin should be fired.
2- For the number of inexcusable, effortless performances that his team put in over the year – Jacques Martin should be fired.
3- For the number of times that he unforgivably had the wrong personnel on the ice at key times – Jacques Martin should be fired.
4- For being a square peg in a round hole – Jacques Martin should be fired.
5- For benching and punishing young players after a couple of mistakes, instead of mentoring and improving them – Jacques Martin should be fired.
6- For allowing young players to regress so badly, to the point of demotion, or sent out of town – Jacques Martin should be fired.
7- For relying on career minor leaguers and journeymen, and even doing that poorly – Jacques Martin should be fired.
8- For failing to make in-game adjustments when it was obvious to even the most passive observer that adjustments were needed – Jacques Martin should be fired.
9- For failing to grasp the realities of the post-lockout NHL – Jacques Martin should be fired.
10- For playing to not lose instead of playing to win – Jacques Martin should be fired.
11- For stubbornly sticking to his system no matter what (which, by the way is just a crutch for the fact that he can’t get creative and change his ways) – Jacques Martin should be fired.
12- For depending on goaltending, special teams and loser overtime points to attain the “ultimate goal” of making the playoffs (he said it, not me) – Jacques Martin should be fired.
13- For willingly playing awful defencemen 20+ minutes a game in the playoffs, against the league’s #1 attack – Jacques Martin should be fired.
14- For allowing grudges to influence roster decisions, at the expense of the team’s success and development – Jacques Martin should be fired.
15- For being a passionless, monotonous, obsolete, robotic coach – Jacques Martin should be fired.
16- For failing to find ways to motivate his team when games meant the most – Jacques Martin should be fired.
17- For being frequently outcoached, despite being labeled as “one of the smartest, if not the smartest coach in the league” – Jacques Martin should be fired.
18- For having quality hockey teams and a chronic inability to find success in the playoffs – Jacques Martin should be fired.
19- For preaching a puck possession system that resulted in having 4 of the top defencemen in the league in turnovers – Jacques Martin should be fired.
20- For dressing 8 defencemen when the team was starving for offense – Jacques Martin should be fired.
21- Because there HAS to be someone better out there (Guy Boucher?) – Jacques Martin should be fired.
22- Before he completely scuttles the future of this team over the rest of the 3 years on his contract – Jacques Martin should be fired.
23- For still trying to stubbornly stuff, bend, fold and shoehorn offensively gifted players in to his defence-first box, despite all kinds of evidence that says defence-first does not work if you want to win the Cup, Jacques Martin should be fired.
24- Any team that stands around watching their team’s ONLY chance at success get constantly run over and abused without batting an eyelash has major issues. For neutering this team of any physicality, aggression, and dare I say – truculence – Jacques Martin should be fired.
25- Mathieu Darche, God bless his heart does not belong on the powerplay over talented players like Andrei Kostitsyn and Erik Cole. For mismanagement of resources and talent to inexplicably insane levels, “Coach’s Prerogative” be damned, Jacques Martin should be fired.
26- For not communicating clearly with his players, and for not clearly defining roles (a 4th liner is not a 1st liner, and a 1st liner is not a 3rd liner, and a defenceman is not a forward!), Jacques Martin should be fired.
27- For instituting a stifling, antiquated system that is currently being taught to future Habs players by Martin clone Clement Jodoin down in Hamilton, Jacques Martin should be fired.
28- For not having any other tactic in his bag of tricks other than extreme line juggling, Jacques Martin should be fired.
29- For his outright lies: “we are a puck possession team” despite being anything but, Jacques Martin should be fired.
30- For his chronic inability to cure his team’s penchant for taking too many penalties (and too many men penalties!), Jacques Martin should be fired.
31- For refusing to ever accept ANY responsibility for his team’s shortcomings (Jacques a little humility is a good thing – try it some time.), Jacques Martin should be fired.
32- Finally, for being a condescending, arrogant knob to a young reporter who dared to ask him a tough and damning question – Jacques Martin should be fired. Jacques, if you’re going to lose your composure in the heat of the moment, try it during a game for once. Try showing some emotion when it actually matters, and not in an insulting way to a young professional.