Yes I know. I get it. Jacques Martin is not your ideal coach. He doesn't get mad when he needs to, he doesn't rip the referees when they deserve to be ripped, he's far too passive, he has no charisma, he has no imagination and no vision. Defense first, offense optional. Have we covered all the bases?
What about the 2010 Playoff run, you ask? Well, don't you remember, the Habs were down 3-1 to that offensive juggernaut known as the Washington Capitals. And do you remember what happened after that? A certain Mr. Halak decided that it was going to be his coming out party. But wait a second, weren't you watching the TSN telecast of the game? That GM-wannabe, Pierre McGuire, credited the Habs victory in Game 5 in Washington to Kirk Muller. Come again? Yep, apparently it was Kirk 'is work' Muller who had the brilliant idea of putting Travis Moen on the top line and that apparently single-handedly changed the whole dynamic of the Montreal attack. Please!
You know what else, that vaunted Habs powerplay that has been firing on all cylinders for as long as we can remember, yup that one...apparently, all credit goes to Mr. Muller. Well, here's my question to you. What happens next year when this team that was supposedly being held together by Kirk Muller ends up finishing in the top 5 of the conference? What happens when the powerplay doesn't flounder and remains as good as it's been for as long as we can remember? What happens when (hopefully) 5 on 5 scoring improves?
Who do we credit? Surely not Pierre Gauthier who according to some fans spent the off-season signing AHLers and definitely not Jacques Martin considering we've already established that he's not a top coach and that the only chance the Habs would've had to succeed is now in Tampa Bay coaching the Lightning. Perry Pearn? Come on, let's get serious. Oh I know, it's all Kirk's work (his leftover work that was dismissed without credit or praise). Funny how all those teams without coaches (how many was it, 5 or 6?) passed on the opportunity to hire him but we had a legion of armies ready to fire a coach who taken the team further than it had been since '93 and have him replaced by either an unproven commodity in Boucher or a guy who was passed over by 5 or 6 other teams. I'm sure all those fans knew better than each of those General Managers that sat with Kirk for an interview or two and decided to go another route.
Maybe you understand where I'm coming from and yes that is sarcasm you detect above. Don't take this the wrong way. I loved Kirk Muller, as a player and as an assistant coach but he really hasn't put in enough time as a head coach for us to judge his abilities properly. His first foray into coaching was with Queen's University? An initial season that could not be rated a success and if it weren't for old friend Guy Carbonneau who hired his old alternate captain from '93 and fast-tracked him to the NHL, well maybe we would've learned just how tactically sound Kirk as a head-coach would have been.
Flame me if you so desire but I'm just really tired of hearing how Gauthier is the worst GM and Martin is the worst coach anyone has ever seen. Meanwhile, I see 29 other teams that also failed to win the Stanley Cup this year. Oh and the one that did, your Habs - managed by one Pierre Gauthier and coached by one Jacques Martin, took them to within an inch of their lives without their premier offensive D-man in Markov, without their premier defensive D-man in Gorges and without their budding power-forward Max Pacioretty. You know what I call that? Good team management (replacing Markov with Wisniewski) and good coaching (getting the best out of what you have).
And as I make my case, I can already hear the groans, the bitching and moaning about how those Bruins only got better and better with each progressive series. Well, who says that your Montreal Canadiens wouldn't have been able to mimic that type of amelioration in their play? Other than the obvious mental boost to their collective psyche that the players would've felt from knocking off the Bruins (especially considering the mitigating circumstances of the season), we know that the Habs medical staff had cleared Max Pacioretty for play in the 2nd round.
It's easy to criticize with the advent of hindsight and it's even easier to speculate on what could've been. Sometimes you need to look past the micro-situation and take a more macro approach. Don't forget that last year's success was largely due Carey Price's phenomenal play. Going into the season, none of us knew what to expect of Carey. If Martin's defensive emphasis is what allowed Price to build back his confidence and regain his mojo then that was a small price to pay in order to secure what should be solid goaltending for the foreseeable future. As any good coach, I expect to see Martin evolve (a bit) considering his new personnel and trust in Carey to allow a more offensive style.
That aside, from what I've seen, Mr. Jacques Martin deserves just a little bit more credit that he's been given and I sit here and wonder who, just who will that ever-critical contingent of fans credit for this year's success.