L for Leadership

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

"Love is in the air" echoed from the voice of singer Tom Jones back in 1979, the year the Canadiens effectively won their last Stanley Cup (oh please don't pretend like the `86 and `93 Cups were not entirely flukes...with the majority of contenders then either out of the playoffs or completely depleted- see Flames in the 86 Cup run and Sabres in the 93 one).

But seriously why the heck is this clown bringing up an old classic from Tom Jones? Well, quite simply, because it seems like every single blogger, writer or journalist out there are singing nothing but praises when it comes to the current edition of Les Habitants. Its all love when it comes to the fans of the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge in this off season. But, as Freddy said in his song "too much love will kill you every time (well almost)".


Let the past be the past, que sera sera, whatever will be will be (plugging another old time favorite...even if I'm not that old). Is it really now time to kiss the ring, or in Bergevin's case, the bicep? The point of this article is NOT to debate the offseason changes (nor to kiss anything, really) but to talk about the L word. Out with the old L (L for Losing or Loser attitude- remember that 2018/2019 season's motto "Attitude is everything) and in with the new L. L for Leadership.


While this team still has some holes (notably on the left side of their defense) one this is becoming clear: they have character. And, potentially, a boatload of it.


The Canadiens have undoubtedly addressed some of the areas of weakness that plagued (too strong a word? bad choice during this worldwide epidemic?) them these past few seasons: lack of depth at the center position, frankly lack of depth throughout the lineup (including goaltending and defense) , scoring, and size. While size is being mentioned as a key improvement ahead of the upcoming season, I would argue that size is not everything (head out of the gutter please). No, really, teams with substantial size have indeed won the Cup in the last decade or so (Boston, Washington, St Louis to name a couple), but some have also won with outstanding team commitment (ie: players accepting different roles, etc) and strong leadership (Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay of late) despite not having a roster full of green Hulks.


You see, leadership is the glue, the key component that a hockey team- frankly in any sport- cannot do without. Go through virtually every cup winner in this past decade or before, they all had the L factor. Shea Weber is, without question, a great leader. Gallagher, Price are also character guys and leaders, both in the room and on the ice. Leadership though is also about players who can be clutch, who can raise their game under pressure. Players like Petry, and recent additions like Edmundson and Toffoli also fit the bill here. Its also easier to have a tight-knit team , to have players who genuinely want to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, when the majority of your key players are signed throughout the season.


True, the Canadiens don't have, as it stands, a lethal sniper capable of scoring 35+ goals, or even a point per game producer. Nor do they have an elite pairing on the blueline. But 2010 edition of the Boston Bruins was not a team loaded with stars, it was a combination of experienced veterans, four balanced lines and a defense by committee (and a little dose of "Lady Luck") that enabled them to win the Cup. They were also a team filled with leadership with the likes of players like Recchi, Chara, Ference, Kelly and Bergeron. They could play any style and they had clutch performances when it counted most.


So while I do not see the Canadiens as an elite regular season team this year (Tampa Bay, Toronto, perhaps even Boston , are likely to finish ahead of them), I truly believe that their recent additions will make for a dangerous team come playoffs. Because as we've seen, time and time again, leadership and commitment to a team-first game is what brings success in the post season, often ahead of things like size or prolific scoring.

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