Saturday, 14 January 2012

Game 44: Montreal 2, Ottawa 3 (SO)

When I first saw a #11 Canadiens jersey on the ice, for half a second I tried to come up with which player wore that jersey, and I first came up with Saku Koivu. Weird. Still haven't gotten used to Scott Gomez wearing that jersey. Maybe that's why he had all that time on the ice, to allow me to reacquaint myself to the whole notion of Scott Gomez wearing Yvon Lambert's old jersey.

During the game I thought of Mike Cammalleri's comments regarding the "losing attitude" of the Montreal Canadiens. During the P.K. Subban goal in the first period which was wrongly disallowed by the referees, we saw Josh Gorges surprise the Senators and probably his own teammates by carrying the puck right to the goal, then skate around for a wraparound opportunity or a pass. The losing attitude should have caused Josh to tighten up and hurry a wrist shot right to Craig Anderson's chest, but he showed patience and creativity, and he produced a goal that should have counted. P.K. finished that play with a nice wrist shot. There's something that should make him think.

He should also take example from Josh, who had a great game tonight, despite a tough delay of game penalty. Josh routinely does the right thing and makes the safe, effective play, until he rushes the net with the puck or leaves the blue line for a sneaky back door goal attempt like Andrei Markov used to do. When Josh does it's a surprise to the opposition, which makes it more effective. P.K. needs to copy this behaviour to some degree. As an offensively gifted player he'll take more chances, but he shouldn't try to deke out the whole team all the time, or pull a spinorama on every possession.

Going back to Mr. Cammalleri's comments that punched his ticket out of town, I think the "losing attitude" quote wasn't awful, I understand what he was trying to say, almost trying to shake things up and wake up the team. He was stating something that is common sense: if the team is confident and has a positive attitude and practices with same, and conducts, for example, its powerplay with confidence that they will be rewarded, they will be more successful. What was incendiary was that this was coming from him. If another Canadien had said this, a veteran leader whose effort every night and contribution to the team was beyond reproach, this would have been merely controversial, and we would have questioned why this wasn't said during one of the numerous team meetings they have been holding, instead of to a couple of reporters. Instead, Mr. Cammalleri has been a noticeable underachiever this season, with varying levels of effort on any given night. He should have kept his yap shut and worked out his frustration and communicated his philosophy during the many morning skates that he has apparently missed this season.

What really bugged me, and possibly team management was of the same mind, was his sneering, snide quote that he needed to work harder at practice since he wasn't getting enough of a workout during games. This was, intentionally or not, a callous swipe at his beleaguered coach, something that couldn't be tolerated. It was also paradoxical, since Mr. Cammalleri, a practitioner of interval training, should have realized that if he was getting less icetime, he needed to work harder during his shifts to increase the intensity to achieve the same training effect in a shorter workout. If the good of the team didn't motivate him, maybe his pride in his conditioning should have. In the end, his attitude had to be excised from the team.

One problem I have with this whole soap opera is how so many reporters and analysts, notably Mario Tremblay tonight on RDS during the second intermission, are now coming to the fore and accusing Mr. Cammalleri of being a disruptive influence and regularly going to the coach's office to ask for more icetime and his choice of linemates. I hate how we, the fans, the consumers of sports and sports journalism, were not told this during the season. All we got were veiled reference to Mr. Cammalleri not being a very popular player with his former teammates in Los Angeles and then Calgary. Why do reporters have all this access to players and coaches and management and then not use that access to inform us? They are caught in a Catch 22: once you have access and sources, you can't use the resultant knowledge for fear of losing that access. It's the same syndrome as we see with embedded reporters covering the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Michael Hastings published what he observed when covering General Stanley McChrystal in his Rolling Stone article of 2010, he was pilloried for breaching this mythical non-disclosure code that is supposed to exist between the reporter and his subject, the abysmal Lara Logan acting as the chief apologist.

This is a regular failing of sports reporters. They keep quiet about all manner of transgressions and failings on certain individuals, and then let it out and pile on when this individual is down or shown the door. Guy Lafleur's 'mysterious' slump in the 80's was easily explained by his interest in being a hockey player being superseded by his desire to be a superstar and his enthusiastic consumption of party favours, but nobody would touch the sacred cow. When cocaine was blowing through the Expos clubhouse, no one said a peep. When Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in Georgia, Sports Illustrated chief NFL slurper Peter King published an article on how the Steeler quarterback wasn't such a great guy after all, despite having kissed up to him for years. We also remember how Jessica Rusnak's pointed question to Jacques Martin regarding Erik Cole's lack of powerplay time was received. Mr. Martin was used to being lobbed softballs, he couldn't take the chin music by Ms. Rusnak.

In any case, the trade to Calgary will probably work out well for both teams. Obviously Mr. Cammalleri needed a change of scenery. We get in return a player with some size and an edge, skills which will complement well the skills of his teammates. The prospect throw-in and the second round choice also are a soothing balm. Karri Ramo is an acceptable ancillary cost.

Getting back to the game, while watching I had the uncharitable thought that if we are playing Chris Campoli to showcase him and inflate his trade value, we might be better served by benching him, since his shifts do nothing to impress the observer. He did rack up a cheap assist on Max's goal, let's hope he puts up a few more before the trade deadline.

The game and maybe the Canadiens' season can be compared to the shootout period. While the Senators were supposed to be bottom feeders, they were able to trot out Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredson. Our putative leaders and scorers are unavailable (Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri) or in a dry spell (Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty). So we gave Tomas Kaberle an opportunity which he flubbed. Another guy whose trade value is being murdered. If he had any to begin with.

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