Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sheldon Souray and the leadership void

Season previews are out and it seems like the Habs have gotten worse. Some say slightly worse, some say much worse. I don't know how I would do if someone asked me to predict how each team would finish (on a deadline), but I don't think it's easy. My problem with their assessment of the Habd is not so much where they end up, as the assumptions upon which their predictions are based. The one that has got me most up in arms is the total void of leadership left behind when Rivet and Souray departed.

My issue is this: if Rivet and Souray were the leaders of the Canadiens last season (if), then where exactly were they leading us?

We were a playoff team who missed the playoffs, or a non-playoff team who almost made them. We did not clinch in February or March. We did not sweep aside our first round opponents. We did not win the Cup (right?). Our leaders led the club to the golf course.

If you base the success of a season on the final result (as most should and do), then 9 teams in the Eastern conference alone outperformed us. Chances are the 9 teams also had a better leader than we did in Rivet and Souray. Toronto had Sundin, the Rangers had Shanahan, Buffalo had Drury. But who did the Thrashers have? Well apparently, not all the leaders in the league are recognised leadership guys. Maybe Holik led them, who knows. He couldn't save the Rangers all those years, but with the right defense behind him...

Rivet and Souray may talk a good game to the cameras, but if he was so blessed in leadership, why couldn't he talk to Samsonov, Kovalev and Perezhogin?

We need to face the fact that the Habs were in disarray from February on, and Rivet and Souray nor anyone else was not leader enough to unite the troops to the cause.

So, if they weren't the solution to the problem, what were they? Well here's the unasked question:

Were Craig Rivet and Sheldon Souray part of the problem?

Rivet was traded during the slump, maybe there's something in that.

Souray was never really given an offer he would accept, maybe that was intentional.

We know Gainey cleaned house when he got rid of Dagenais, Theodore and then Ribeiro. Maybe Souray and Rivet were always slated to leave. Maybe they aren't good with the younger guys. Maybe they aren't willing to adapt (ahem, pass the puck on the PP) when the going gets rough.

I don't think it's likely that either guy was what people call a cancer in the locker room, but players that are in the plans are kept no matter what (read: Andrei Markov). Both are gone, and both have been replaced. I don't think we are too worse for wear having lost them.

All this gushing praise for their leadership and intangible qualities simply ignores the fact that the team achieved nothing of note while they were part of it.

Obviously, this implies that every player we have had in the past 14 years has been a washout. So do we throw everyone out and start over? Of course not. But I like to think that the people in charge are sticking to a plan and keeping the components they need to achieve their goals.

I look forward to a season where the team makes the playoffs, someone new speaks to the reporters and we anoint someone new the leader of the group. To the season...

2 comments:

Fred said...

The leader is suppposed to be Saku Koivu, and seeing how the team has done since he was named captain, his leadership is very questionnable to me...

If he can't lead the group, and we need to find someone new to lead them as you suggested, then what to do with #11?

Topham said...

I see it as 2 problems:

1) Koivu is not a regular season-type guy. He plays hard, but cannot maintain that berzerk, mad-man mode that we see from him in important games (i.e., Olympics, World Cups, playoffs when we've made it in...). So, part of the problem is how he adapts his style for the regular season a bit better.

2) Koivu leads by example, but not everyone follows examples, some people need very clear instruction as to what they should be doing, and what they may be doing wrong. Koivu will never be a vocal leader (at least not on public view). I think someone else needs to step in and be the vocal deputy for Koivu. In the past, it was probably Souray or Rivet. But quite honestly, it needed to be someone with a little more pedigree. Ideally, if Markov could speak, it would be him. My feeling is that maybe Hamrlik or Smolinski could play this role.


In the past, in fairness, I think the leadership problems had more to do with the quality of the group being led than the leader. It has only been in the past few years with the emergence of our own home-grown talent that the group has become more solid (less of a patch-work of Dackells). I think we now have a leadable group, so it will be plaain for us to see if there are any leaders.