One of my favourite authors is Canadian Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. In his bestselling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, he offers sage advice for restoring order to a life in need of direction. I cannot tell you for certain that Marc Bergevin has read the book. However, by firing Claude Julien today, Bergevin is living Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not Who Someone Else is Today.
This rule has been a huge motivator personally. Everyday I compare today’s Waldo1947 to yesterday’s. Am I a better man, husband, dad, son, brother, nephew, employee, role model, neighbour, Habs Blogger, and friend today than yesterday? It does me no good to compare myself to others as I do not have their lives, nor have I walked in their shoes. The deluge of adults and teens comparing themselves to the utter nonsense on social media makes Rule #4 even more important for the average human being. That said, the Habs are not a normal human being and Marc Bergevin does not have an average job.
Less than 24 hours ago (when I wasn’t as strong of a Habs blogger as I am today) I questioned Julien and his staff as to their ability to gameplan and make adjustments where needed. This was based on over 2 years of ineptitude, not a game here or there. True, losing to the Senators twice in a row did not help, but the Senators are not a garbage team and, had they had some goaltending early on, would not be so far back in the standings. The Habs under Julien get worse, not better, in nearly all statistical aspects as the season wears on. Teams who are able to evolve as the season grinds on find the most success. Look at the Dallas Stars last season and the St. Louis Blues the year before.
The alternative is not that Julien was unable to adjust, rather, that he was unwilling to adjust. This might be an even bigger indictment on him as a coach. His stubbornness in rolling 4 lines come hell or high water is a clear indication of his unevolved mindset. His comments after the Leafs game on Saturday further point to Julien’s unwillingness to accept at least part of the responsibility for the Habs’ struggles.
“We tell them not to shoot pucks over the glass," Julien said. "We tell them to ice the puck. We tell them to stay away from those kinds of penalties, but we’re on the bench; they’re on the ice. It’s a matter of them having to do it.” How do you think that resonated with the veterans in the room? A comment like that is calling out the GM as well.
Julien being fired does not change the fact that this team is extremely raw at the center position and getting slower on the backend. The Senators and Leafs have exposed the lack of speed in Weber, Edmundson and Chiarot. The center position has combined for 8 goals in 18 games, and 34% of the 61 total goals scored are courtesy of 2 players: Toffoli and Anderson.
The Habs are a better team today than they were yesterday only if this is a coaching issue. Many pundits today have pointed to Dominique Ducharme’s success in junior and at the WJC as proof he is better with younger players. The Habs are extremely young in many key areas and perhaps a more contemporary approach to coaching might help the likes of Suzuki and Kotkaniemi achieve their true athletic potential. Sometimes change for the sake of change is enough to invigorate the mood of a team thus energizing the players on a nightly basis.
One of my best friends in the coaching world was telling me of an argument he witnessed between a coach and GM after a tough OHL playoff loss. The GM was livid as to how horrible the team played and questioned the tactics of the coach. The coach was equally livid and told the GM that if he got him better players, he might have a chance to win. Like the chicken or the egg: is it the players or the coach? There are 38 games left in the season for us all to find out.
Bergevin has had 9 years to turn this ship around and is now on his 3rd coach. If the Habs do not make the playoffs this season, at what point does owner Geoff Molson look at Rule #4 and ask himself, “Is my GM today better than he was yesterday?”