Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Jacques Martin Era Comes To An End

What has been talked about for weeks and months not to mention years (for some of the most ardent critics) has finally occurred, Jacques Martin has been relieved of his duties.  Most of you that read my blog know that I was never a Martin apologist but in a city where you're either with him or against him, I would have to classify myself as having been with him.  I thought he was a solid coach with the record and results to prove it.  Was his system perfect?  Far from!  Was it boring to watch the Habs play hockey?  For the most part.  Did the system actually work?  Only when all 6 players on the ice did their job and did it with near perfection.  Is that a sustainable strategy?  Of course not.

Someone once said that the definition of insanity was repeating a process or task over and over yet expecting a different result or outcome.  I present you with exhibit A, ex-coach Martin playing the same trapping style system in the 3rd periods of every game that the Canadiens were either leading or tied in.  The result?  More often than not, a loss (be it in regulation, overtime, or the shootout).  Here's the kicker, although I'm not a fan of falling back and playing a tight defensive game in the 3rd when you're ahead; the strategy actually has and does work - when everyone buys in (example: see most of the 2010 Playoffs).  The problem is, when it doesn't work, when you're not getting a total commitment from the players on the ice, you need to (as an experienced coach) be able to reach into your bag of coaching tricks and pull out another method to attain what it is that you need, a win!

If Jacques Martin had an Achilles' heal, it was precisely the above.  His inability to conform or adapt, his extreme stubbornness and belief in the motto: "tried, tested and true" was in two words, frustrating to his supporters and absolutely maddening to his detractors.  Anyone who wants to believe that the Canadiens lost games because Martin wasn't emotional enough or didn't rip into the referees enough simply doesn't get it.  Someone who is overly emotional gets tuned out at some point (I'm looking at you Mr. Tortorella).  Someone who is overly abusive to the officials is initially ignored and then punished (yes that's you, Mr. Therrien).  The key to a good coach, a coach who can be successful over the long term is someone who is able to use multiple methods to achieve his goals.  It's quite a difficult task and one that requires quite a bit of self-control and needs for one to check his ego at the door.  Not so easy when you're dealing with 22 or 23 overly-inflated egos day in and day out not to mention a couple of officials every other day or so, on their own version of a "power-trip".  The cards are inevitably stacked against you which is why the life of a coach in the NHL is as short as it is.  The message can only be heard for so long before it just becomes background noise.

I read once that Brian Gionta needed a white-noise machine to help him go to sleep.  For those unfamiliar with the device, it's simply a machine that creates some type of background noise to help someone doze off when things become too quiet.  Alternatively, it can help drown out the ambient noise of kids playing outside your bedroom door, the neighbor mowing his lawn, or maybe the coach yelling the same set of instructions at you for the umpteenth time.  Did Jacques Martin become ambient noise?  That question is for you, my readers, to answer.

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