I really feel like I could spin the title of this post – “He’s Lying to You” in to a series of posts, and I may just do that. But for now, let’s kick this one around.
“The plan was not to sit back at all. The best defense is offense.” — Jacques Martin
Martin has tried to sell us many good yarns this year, but this one is really a shocker coming from the King of Passive hockey. But if we are to believe what the Coach said in the aftermath of a game blown to the Buffalo Sabres last night, then certainly he must have recent memories and statistical evidence track record that speaks to that belief, right?
Let’s take a look and see what the Coach may be talking about.
In 2009-10, his first season in Montreal, the Canadiens scored 217 goals. That was good for 10th overall in the Eastern Conference, 23rd overall in the NHL and the 2nd lowest of any Eastern playoff team. I know, I know. The Canadiens went to the Eastern Conference Finals, so stuff it, right? Blah blah blah. Spare me your circular logic. As I’ve said before, we know how the Canadiens got to the Eastern Conference Finals and it had little to do with a spectacular offense.
In 2010-11, his second season in Montreal, the Canadiens actually slipped to 216 goals, good for 12th in the Eastern Conference, 24th overall in the NHL and the LOWEST of any Eastern Conference playoff team. I can hear the homers already: “But they took the eventual champs to overtime in game 7…and the injuries…..THE INJURIES! ARGH!!!!”. Where’s the snooze button, because I’m going to push it. Hard. There are no moral victories in the playoffs, and there were plenty of other teams that had more injuries than the Habs last season. In fact, the Canadiens were pretty much right in the middle of the pack in terms of man games lost to injury.
This season, the Canadiens have scored 42 goals through 17 games. That’s 2.47 goals per game on average, and projects out to 203 goals for the season. So if the Coach think that a best defense is a good offense, his team is going in the wrong direction, and has been going in the wrong direction for what is now a 3rd consecutive season. The addition of Erik Cole, a full season of Max Pacioretty and a bounce back season for some vets were supposed to set the stage of a more potent offense, was it not? Aside from Markov, who has been a gigantic question mark for many months now, the team has been relatively healthy. Cammalleri and Kostitsyn have missed a few games apiece, but certainly not enough to be the sole reason for the Habs’ continued inability to score goals.
Going back to what the Coach said: “The plan was not to sit back at all. The best defense is offense.”…how exactly does the Coach practice what he preaches? As the moribund powerplay continues to circle the drain, the Coach still affords Mathieu Darche precious minutes while other more talented, more deserving players sit and watch from the bench. Does having Tomas Plekanec on the point help or hurt? Does the Coach get his team to continually push the pace? Does he encourage and motivate them to play the same way that put them in a position to have a 2-goal lead to begin with? Or rather does he stand pat while his passive 1-2-2 system kills any offensive momentum his team may have had? If he in fact does not preach sitting back to protect a lead, then why does he continue to let it happen? It’s his job to change his players’ habits, is it not? If the players come out and talk about how they sat back, yet the Coach says that wasn’t the plan, then where’s the disconnect from the Coach to the players? Are the players stubborn? Incompetent? Is the Coach’s message not getting through? Is it not properly delivered? No matter, getting the best from his team and ensuring that his message is getting through is HIS job.
We’ve taken a look at some of the things we can see with our own eyes, but now let’s delve a little deeper in to some stats to try and help paint a clearer picture.
The Canadiens have 14 third period goals this season, which puts them in a logjam with the likes of Phoenix, Columbus, Nashville, Winnipeg and Detroit for 21st in the NHL. Red Wings aside, those aren’t the teams I think of when I think of “offense” and pushing the pace. Until last night, the Canadiens were actually 5-0 when leading after two periods, so a 5-0-1 record this morning should not be the end of the world, and truly it isn’t. The record and team are not on trial here. But that 5-0-1 record still only places them 18th overall in the league when leading after two periods. Since a near-perfect record ranks them a mediocre 18th, it can only mean that more than half of the teams in the league have had more leads to protect after two periods than the Habs, which speaks to the Habs overall inability to score at any point in the game. But the Habs ranking of 21st in the NHL in 3rd period goals means two thirds of the league still manages to score more goals in the final frame. When you put these seemingly disparate pieces of information together, it tells me that the Canadiens don’t push the pace in the third period, whether they are leading or trailing (Habs remain winless when trailing after two periods with an 0-6-2 record) and do in fact sit on leads going in to the third period when they have a lead to protect.
The final analysis says that if Jacques Martin believes that the best defense is a good offense, he does almost nothing to prove it. Is the Coach simply stating what he believes, but is unable to implement? Or is he trying to make us believe (similar to him telling us that young defensemen are to blame, or that his team plays puck possession hockey) what he wants us to believe? Given his track record, we know he’ll probably throw his friend and boss, General Manager Pierre Gauthier to the wolves for failing to provide enough talent. Hmm, that is curious, isn’t it? Tomas Plekanec, Michael Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, David Desharnais, Erik Cole, Andrei Kostitsyn, PK Subban, Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz…does that sound like a talentless roster to you? Is that a list of names that evokes “can’t score goals” to you? It’s not to me.