STRIKES, SPARES AND MISSES


Less than 24 hours after dropping a mind-numbing 6-2 decision to the Flames in Calgary,  Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau tried another approach today in Edmonton.  Enough with the meetings, and the talking.  With the Canadiens, losers of 8 of their last 10, preparing to meet the Oilers tomorrow night, Carbonneau today took his players…

Bowling.

That’s right.

Bowling.

Here’s how the day’s activity in Edmonton rolled out.  The players grabbed the bus for the practice rink for what was supposed to be a mid-morning skate.  Except Guy Carbonneau “hijacked” the bus, and the club made its way to Gateway Lanes for team bonding, and team bowling.

The players were put into teams, and each player bowled four games.  A “playoff” then took place, with the team of Hamerlik, Gorges, the Kostitsyn brothers and Kovalev taking top honours.  The individual high score was 227, posted by Mathieu Dandenault.

So, instead of Carbo working his players to the bone at practice following last night’s disastrous showing in Calgary, it was a  “kinder, gentler” coach who took them bowling, instead.

Bowling.

B-o-w-l-i-n-g.

Bowling.

And you what?  Who am I to argue? The players, themselves, know that they are playing their more lethargic, listless, uninspired hockey of the season.  They don’t need to be reminded of that.  I’m sure they mulled that around plenty, during a 30-minute players-only team meeting following the debacle in Calgary. 

Sure, The Coach could have had them report to the rink for a 9 a.m. bag skate after arriving in Edmonton from Calgary in the wee hours of the morning.  Carbonneau could have shown no mercy, and taken no prisoners.

Instead, he took his players bowling.

This is a move that’s going to be second-guessed until the cows come home.  Or at least until the final siren goes on tomorrow night’s game against the Oilers.  If the Habs win in Edmonton, Carbonneau will look like a genius for showing a little T.L.C. at a time when their season is threatening to spiral out of control.

But if they lose…

If they lose, Carbonneau will be vilified by fans and the media alike, for failing to put the hammer down on his players.  But you know what?  What would that prove at this point?  Do you really think this group needs another practice right now?  Do you think these players really needed to head to the rink this morning so that the coaching staff could work them to the point of puking?

No.

This is a team that needs to start feeling good about itself.  And from all accounts, the players emerged from today’s bowl-a-thon feeling good about themselves.  Feeling loose.  These players need to start having fun again.  If if it can’t happen at the rink, initially, it might as well happen at the bowling alley. 

Because as terrible as the Canadiens have played of late, it’s what’s happening between their ears that has to be the biggest concern to the coaching staff: Carey Price being the number one example.  But I’d don’t have to tell you, he’s not alone. 

The all-star Carey Price has been no-allstar during this stretch.  The all-star Mike Komisarek has been no all-star since the Canadiens went into the dumpster some three weeks ago.  The all-star Andrei Markov has been no-all star since the wheels started to fall off with a Jan. 20 loss the Atlanta.

And all-star Alex Kovalev…well…you know where I’m going with that.

The Canadiens are fragile between the ears.  They’re playing scared.  And they are playing with absolutely no confidence. 

Maybe this will help.  Maybe it won’t.  It sure can’t hurt.

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About ahefter

I have covered hockey extensively during my 30-year sports broadcasting career. From the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid to the Edmonton Oiler dynasty years, I've shared my views on hockey with listeners in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. You can "catch me in action" on Youtube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n5BdB9ngYw My radio stops include TSN 690 Montreal, CJAD Montreal, CKNW Vancouver, and CKEY Toronto. I also ran the Canadian Press sports desk (radio). My travels as a network reporter have taken me to four Olympics, most recently Vancouver 2010. I'm currently an Applied Assistant Professor within the School of Communication at the University of Hartford.
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