Salut Jacques!

I know we’ve never met, but we have a few acquaintances in common. Perhaps you are the one that picked up my left-behind asthma pump? I forgot it on the Habs bench last January when I had the privilege to play at the Bell Centre.

Regardless, I write to you not to discuss bronchodilators, but to discuss the somewhat hellish opening of the 2011/2012 Habs season. You may be asking why you should read my letter, and I have no good reason, except I’m pretty sure that the majority of Habs fans feel as I do, and it would be in your best interest to heed to at least a couple of suggestions.

First, a small recap…

The Montreal Canadiens ended last season nearly moving on to the 2nd round. They blew a 2-0 game lead to lose all home games, and an OT game 7 to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. The pre-season started, and well, the Habs barely won a game. But us faithful shrugged it off…”it’s only the pre-season” we were told, “it’s a tryout and a warmup, not real hockey”. So we sat by passively, confident that on opening night, the Leafs would fall victim to Habs REAL hockey.

All that to say…at least there’s been Winnipeg.

Jacques, I think you are probably a nice man. But I fear you have misudged the times we live in. So, take it or leave it, here are a few tips I would like to impart on to you:

I think the first thing we can all agree on is that the line changes are just TOO MUCH. Do you know the last time I saw this many line combinations in such a short time span? The Centennial season (aka the season that shall never be spoken of). Do you remember what happened? Bob Gainey had to fire his BFF? Do you want to get fired by your BFF? Case-in-point is when you decided, out of nowhere, to break up 67-51-46. The only line, may I add, that seemed to be working. I think they got all of 1.5 games together? Why? I also believe no one knowing what line they actually play on contributes to your favourite penalty of too-many-men-on-the-ice. Of course too many guys will jump on when they no longer know who they are supposed to jump on with!
Can you show a little emotion? Most of us fans are Quebecers, and we are an emotional people. How about a little enthusiasm back there? A little passion from on top goes a long way. Maybe being overtly emotional is not in your personality type? That’s okay – we can’t be everything to everyone. But the rule of thumb for all leaders, managers, or even NHL coaches is that you hire people to compliment your weaknesses. Almost like when you had a Kirk Muller personality working for you… hmmm…isn’t that interesting. I guess what I am saying is that when you knew you had to hire a new assistant coach, on the top of your desirable qualities list should have been “a players-coach”.
Gomez. Mr. Scott Gomez has been given your utmost respect. 88 games (not including playoffs) is ample time for a high-quality player to “get-going”. No one on your leadership squad will bat an eye if you bench him, demote him, or treat him like you would any other non-producing member of a team.
Stop playing top-6 guys in your bottom-6, and playing bottom-6 guys in your top-6. In fact, if you take one thing from this letter, make it that. Write it on a post-it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror. Every man has a role, stripping them of that role is confusing. Are you familiar with Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s theory of flow? Here’s a quick explanation if not. Basically, taking these guys out of their role, and using them as equal and spare parts means they aren’t in flow. No flow = no wins = an angry mob of fans calling for your head.
All that to say – it’s only been 6-games.
But soon it will be 10, 15, 20, and then before you know it you are the New Jersey Devils of 2010/11, and Geoff Molson is pissed ’cause you made him lose the sweet profit that is the playoffs.