Week 16 in One Word: Scrape

February 20, 2022

scrape

/skrāpl/

push or pull a hard or sharp implement across (a surface or object) to remove dirt or other matter

Similar: drag, rake, graze, scuff, abrade

to remove from a surface by usually repeated strokes of an edged instrument

Week 16 featured just two games for the Montreal Canadiens. On Thursday night, the Habs delivered Coach Martin St. Louis his first win, battling to a 3-2 overtime final against the St. Louis Blues. Then on Sunday afternoon, the Habs were in New York to face the Islanders. It was an exciting game that went all the way to the shootout, with the Habs stealing the road win 3-2.

Here’s how I saw Week 16 go down.

Some genuine practice time for the new coach was an opportunity to start scraping away the crap of the past.   

Monday was a day off for the players, and the timing was perfect for Hugo to make their first big deal. I managed to sneak some commentary on the Toffoli deal into last week’s Word. Then on Tuesday, MSL got some solid practice time with his new team. Yes, in the spirit of Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice.

Am I the only one who loved seeing those intense practices? The smaller game area to focus on battling and quick decision-making? The two-net drills forcing players to consider their best options?

Marty has a huge job in front of him, and for his early steps he’s choosing to scrape away the rigidity of forced systems and bring back some freedom to think on the ice, and grow the muscle memory to make quick decisions in game situations. It’s exciting to watch – even practice. Dividends are being paid on the ice.

It took some scraping and clawing, but the Habs managed their first win under Coach St. Louis on Thursday.   

For months we have seen the Habs falling and falling deeper into the abyss, and not one broken fingernail in sight on account of attempts to scrape their way up. It was hard to watch professional players looking like they didn’t care if they won or lost. Since St. Louis arrived, we’ve seen things turning around. Finally, in his fourth game in Montreal, his players delivered a win.

It wasn’t just any win. It was a win earned by hard work and skilled playmaking. The Blues are a tough outing, but there was Paul Byron scoring the opening goal in his 500th NHL game. Then they held their own through three periods and were down by a goal late, when Cole Caufield scored a beauty to tie it and take the game to overtime.

Then it happened. The 3-on-3 overtime began and the Habs didn’t throw out their penalty killers.

This coach didn’t get the memo that the OT strategy is to scrape your way out of there with your loser point. Petry, Suzuki and Caufield for the first wave. The second wave included Schueneman, an AHL call-up who can skate and was having a strong game. Then, out came Petry, Suzuki and Caufield again. A beauty of a pass from Petry and a perfect finish from Caufield and the coach had his first win.

The days of scraping to get by may be over where player support is concerned.  

On Friday the Canadiens announced two additions to their hockey operations department. Nick Bobrov was named co-director of amateur scouting and Vincent Lecavalier was named special advisor of hockey operations.

One of the things we have heard consistently from Jeff Gorton is that there is a need to bolster staffing in hockey operations. The ideal time to do that is the off-season – with amateur scouting the best time is after the amateur draft when teams are less worried about relinquishing draft intelligence. Nevertheless, Gorton quickly determined they were thin in operations and wasn’t prepared to go deeper into their process while barely scraping by.

Some media types are scraping the bottom of the barrel with their country club narratives.

It didn’t take long after the hires were announced before some were criticizing HuGo for hiring guys they know. This is a fair criticism – six months from now. Today, it reeks of scrape.

Jeff Gorton was brought into an absolute shit show. The team was hovering around last place. Important players were miserable. Young players were regressing instead of developing. The team lacked leadership. An article from Sportsnet’s Eric Engels on Saturday revealed departments that were running too thin, player nutrition issues, family supports lacking, and the list goes on. Can you even take that in? It’s the Montreal Canadiens and player nutrition was suffering!

Gorton inherited this mess just weeks before the trade deadline.

Any executive being brought into an organizational mess of this proportion is going to hire people they trust, and people they know can get shit done. Often, in this kind of situation, executive contracts will include a clause for the immediate hire of one or more staff of the candidate’s choosing.

Here is another fact for your collection. When an organization valued in the billions is hiring an executive, they ought to be working on the assumption that any individual under serious consideration has enough connections and influence to bring in the best people and won’t have to scrape around scrounging up hires. The idea – the strategy, in fact – is that with one hire you’re opening access to a broader group of executives. That concludes Executive Searching 101, and you’re welcome.

That strategy has proven itself with Jeff Gorton.

Kent Hughes was identified and lured to join the Habs during the GM search. If you’re judging his body of work today, you were never interested in giving the man a fair shot.

Then there is Martin St. Louis. Is anyone debating whether Ducharme had to go? Tell me… who are you proposing would have been a better option? I’ve not heard one name mentioned that I wish was behind the Habs bench.

As already mentioned, how do you criticize the Bobrov hire when teams are protecting their draft intelligence weeks ahead of the trade deadline?

And come now. Vincent Lecavalier? Local media folks have been crying for Vinnie to come home since he was shitting yellow. But somehow being hired in an advisor role that won’t even see him move to Montreal is the catalyst for a Country Club narrative.

Let’s revisit the conversation in August. If we still can’t see any evidence of diversity of thought, there is a legitimate discussion to be had. But I suspect we won’t get there. On Saturday night news broke that Marie-Philip Poulin has an open invitation to join the Habs when she is ready. Dragging up tired narratives at this point is just scraping around for something to criticize.

It took 50 games for them to scrape together two consecutive wins, but when they did, it was awesome.

That one statistic screams how bad this season has been. 50 games to finally start their first winning streak.

Jeff Petry scored – the guy who is having a season to forget is suddenly having fun again. Andrew Hammond – the Hamburglar – found his way out of the AHL and into the Canadiens net when they were dying for a save, and his first start is a shoot-out win. Martin St. Louis – the guy who is unqualified and has no business behind the bench – has the Habs on their first winning streak of the season.

That scraping sound you hear? It’s the sound of misery coming off.

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

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