Wednesday, November 29, 2017

French Language Obsession Finally Bites Montreal Canadiens in the Ass

This morning I was driving my grandson to school, listening to the radio tuned to the NHL channel on satellite radio.
I like to hear the American take on the game, but in this case, it was the Canadian Pierre McGuire, dishing his opinion on the Jonathan Drouin/ Mikhail Sergachev trade between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightening which occurred in the off-season.

McGuire waxed eloquent over the play of Sergachev while throwing shade on Drouin, hinting that the Habs may have made its worst trade in history, even eclipsing the disastrous Subban/Weber trade that has come to haunt the Canadiens already. McGuire, who knows a thing or two, predicts that Sergichev may one day win the Norris Trophy as the best defenceman in the league, calling the rookie 'magical.'

Last night the nineteen-year-old Sergachev (a defenceman) scored his sixth goal of the year with Tampa, to go along with his ten assists. Not even the vaunted Weber, Montreal's number one defenceman can match those numbers with only four goals and ten assists.  Weber's time on the ice averages out at about 26 minutes, where he has recorded  a plus/minus of -7. (he was on the ice for seven more opposition goals than goals scored by the Canadiens.) Sergachev, as a rookie has carved out a respectable average of about 14 minutes of ice time per game and has racked up an impressive +7 in that same statistic.
No doubt Tampa Bay is a better team and so one would expect the team numbers to be better, but nobody can deny the Sergichev's  brilliant start.
As for the underwhelming Jonathan Drouin, his four goals as an attacker is a bitter disappointment to those fans who look on the game dispassionately.
Of course, nobody in the French media is ready to state the obvious, that the Canadiens got the decidedly short end of the stick in a trade orchestrated by Bergevin driven by the desire to add a francophone presence to the team.
The French Canadian sports media has embraced the infamous "Savard Doctrine" enunciated by the former GM Serge Savard who told reporters that given a choice between two equal players the Habs should always opt for the francophone.
Oh if life was only that simple.....
The Savard Doctrine dictates that all potential coaches are equal and so the Canadiens must always have a French-speaking francophone coach as well as a French-speaking francophone general manager.
Even though Bob Gainey muddled through adequately in French, when things got tough the French media rode him out of town on a rail faster than a Paul Byron rush. As for losers like ex-coach Michel Therrien, the French media couldn't have been gentler, despite his disastrous record and him completely losing control of the team room. For Therrien, it was the second time around as coach of the Habs, because after all his first stint was so super successful.
Who will be the next coach after the current Claude Julien will be fired (also for the second time.) Look for Alain Vigneault to come back for a second stint as well, as the Rangers will  inevitably sour on him.
Do you see a pattern?
It is a sad case of musical chairs with the same limited bunch of francophone coaches circling the coach's chair and where qualified Anglos are barred from joining the game.

There is an unspoken bond in the  Quebec francophone hockey media whereby criticizing one of their own and calling for a Francophone coach's firing is just not cricket. It isn't deliberate, but ingrained, like a good brother protecting his sister, no matter what.

I suppose there is a place for affirmative action in some situations, that is placing other considerations before talent when making selections. I can actually think of one, that is the admissions criteria for medical schools where there are so many qualified applicants for each place that promoting minorities can be justified.

But the NHL is not an organization where any consideration but talent can lead to a successful team.
The French press can go on blindly supporting the Savard Doctrine, but the disappointing results over time are to be anticipated.
Considering the bonehead moves that GM Marc Bergevin has made and gambles that haven't panned out, one might think the press would be up in arms calling for his sacking, but alas such is not the case.
As long as a language plays a part in the selection of players and coaches, the Habs are doomed to plumb to the depths of ignominy.

And you know what?
Although the French sports media will be fine with it, I'm not so sure that the real fans will be.
Already there are rumblings in the stands and despite what the team says about sell-outs, the Habs popularity is on the decline, directly proportional to its success on the ice.

But in Quebec, French solidarity is more important than success.


  1. Mr. Sauga here: "But in Quebec, French solidarity is more important than success" = LOSER STATE!