Monday, January 16, 2012

One Night in Montreal Makes a Rangers Fan Humble

A Special Report from Montreal:
The House of Horrors, in the Mecca of Hockey, by the Junior most Pundit

As the Senior Pundit appropriately predicted in his House of Horrors rant, the Rangers again fell flat on their faces, as Le Habs physically outplayed and outskated our Blueshirts. If the Habs could only play the Rangers 40 times a year, they would be Presidents' Trophy Champs hands down. As my buddy pointed out, maybe that's why they won so many darn cups back in the day, playing most of their games against the Rangers and the Leafs was easy pickings!

I had the pleasure or disgust (depending on your point of view) of attending the game on Sunday night. First, if any hockey fan has not seen a game in Montreal, you are truly missing an experience of a lifetime. I give our neighbors and friends to the north credit, it's all about hockey. They know hockey, live hockey, it's their other religion. The Bell Centre is a fabulous place to see a game, and I was blessed to be granted access to the private dining/bar at the Bell Center, La Mise au Jeu. First class would be an understatement. The people treated the two of us (the only Ranger fans there) with the utmost respect and attention that they treat their own. They even put the Giants game on the TV for us, which turned out to be the highlight of our sports Sunday.

Now game time. First, kudos to the Montreal organization, the American national anthem is played with glorious photos of the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the White House, Abe Lincoln, etc being shown on the scoreboard, with fans standing quiet in respect of our flag. Sad to say, as a long time season ticket, that's far from the case at MSG, and you are definitely not getting any panorama photos of O'Canada either! Also it was nice to watch a game, where we weren't constantly prompted to make noise, bombarded with advertising and having some buffoon get up and down 12 times a period. But we still love MSG, even with its $12 watered down beers and $10 hot dogs. But the highlight of the evening came when the game ended. Seriously, it was for many reasons, but at the time, we were just happy to leave the House of Horrors.

Post game, my buddy and I decided to go to Garde Manager in the old city. For those food channel junkies like me, it's a Chuck Hughes restaurant. We were fortunate with the help of some locals to get a reservation here, most would say you have a better chance of Torts answering questions after a loss, then snagging a table here. Food was great, waitress and bar service outstanding. So at around 10:30pm, in walks most of the Canadiens team. Let me say, meeting players at charity events or team organized social events, most athletes all are "arms wide open folks," but hardly do we see them in this manner, the opposing team out on their home turf. I must admit, the class and professionalism they showed with not only the patrons, but with us as admitted Ranger fans, was truly amazing.

Rene Borque was very gracious. His comments to CBC the day prior were quite amusing: "I have the most French name on the team, and I don't speak French either." The 'either' referring to the much maligned non bi-lingual coach Randy Cunneyworth. Also, I had a brief chit chat with P.K. Subban, very well spoken and polite guy. I told him next year he might look good on the Ranger blue line when his contract comes due. He had a big smile, reached out to shake my hand, and said great meeting you. Maybe a trade deadline target? End of the day, these guys weren't our team, not our players, and they showed themselves to be a class act.

"Girls want diamonds, not more flowers."

Girls want diamonds, not more flowers

Now before everyone goes crazy here, I'll explain, although the female bloggers would probably provide no argument with that saying. The fact that we played like Pansies on Sunday Night, is another story. But digging deeper at our team, the saying may be quite appropriate. Every Ranger fan is very excited with the start of this season, huge expectations. We built slowly, very, very slowly as it has already been almost 18 years since our victory over Vancouver. In 2008-09 we lost to the Caps in the first round, after being up 3-1, coach disagreeable was suspending for the water bottle incident in Washington. Hey coach, practice what you preach! 2009-10 we played golf early, and in 2010-11 the Caps manhandled us 4-1. So basically this coach hasn't won a playoff round yet. So making the playoffs to some may seem like some great accomplishment, but to me, kind of seems like from a women's perspective getting flowers on your 4th anniversary of dating. Ranger fans want more and expect more this year. We want the diamond, or for those saying what is he talking about, the Cup.

In my opinion, this coach can not get us to the next level. I know, I know, he won before, yada yada yada. You need four productive lines, getting somewhat fair ice time over the course of 82 games. He juggles lines, there is very little chemistry with these lines. Watching Hockey Night in Canada, they said it best, typical Torts, team loses, doesn't take questions. Be a man, be a leader and step up to the podium and answer questions like Tom Coughlin, Joe Giradi, or Rex Ryan do, win or lose. It's not just about wearing a suit, it's about acting professional. He is not a leader in my book, and has yet to show it. The Montreal fans said it best, "this coach wouldn't last 5 games up here; the media wouldn't tolerate his nonsense like the media does in NY." Just as the New York media gives our Stealth GM a pass, I guess it's not surprising the coach gets away with his antics.

Finally, about Sean Avery. After watching that game if anyone remotely thinks he isn't a top 12 forward on this team, I am not sure what hockey skills you are evaluating. Players on the opposing team even seemed dumbfounded about his demotion. He is fast, has great puck skill, and can score when given Dubinsky minutes. He has 3 goals in limited ice time and games. Look at the rest of the team stat sheet. I know some will say others add intangibles right? We pay guys 5-7 million a year for intangibles, come on! Newbury and Rupp, minus 3 versus the Habs. They are slow and not intimidating anyone in my book. It was a common theme, not only on Hockey Night in Canada but around the arena, how can I guy with that much skill and annoyance ability on the ice be in Hartford? It's plain and simple, the coach is more concerned about not having him on the team, than putting the best product on the ice. At the end of the day, in my humble opinion that's why Ranger fans will be disappointed come April, when those flowers start blooming.

Also, special thanks to our Quebecois friends pictured above at Garde Manager... providing a little inspiration to my story.



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15 comments:

  • Anonymous said...
     

    I couldn't agree with you more Pundit. You truly seem to have your finger on the pulse and our MSG cool-aid swilling brethren don't seem to get it. I just thank God that the Flyer's didn't grab Avery on the way down and put him on the ice during the winter classic. Could you imagine? How did everyone pass him up twice? Boneheads! Maybe after we blow it again this spring will the chants arise of Fire Fonzie!! Mr. Perfect, Torts the tyrant, his reign can't last forever. Keep up the great work on your page. It rocks! Thanks, JD a 3rd generation Die Hard!

  • Jen9400 said...
     

    JB This is one of the best posts ever written. I have never seen a game in Montreal but I have always wanted to. However I am one of those friendly New Yorkers who enjoys conversation with fans who travel from other cities to MSG and I have over the years enjoyed many with fans from Canada especially Montreal. As you said hockey is religion to them. Earlier this year I saw a game against Montreal at the Garden and had Montreal fans in front of me and behind me while next to me sat two very disappointed Norwegian guys who made the trip to NY to see Zuccarello play. The guys from Norway told me stories about how coach disagreeable has no idea how to use Zucc and also complained to me about how coach has no clue how the PP works. Then I had Montreal fans asking me about Avery and their response to me was if Torts doesn't want him they will gladly take him. If i had a dime for how many opposing fans (flyers, devils, islanders, just to name a few) said that to me I would be a very rich woman. Sigh. As a matter of fact I didn't need to go into too much explanation before one of those Montreal fans said to me in his cute french canadian accent that he never liked Torts much and he was glad that he wasn't on TSN anymore because he was sick of listening to him and he thought that he was a jerk! I said yeah, no kidding.

    Anyway I love what you said about Torts and I cheer you on sentence by sentence. To add to your assessment of Torts as a coach I have some research to add. Only twice in his approximately 9 year NHL head coaching career has he even gotten to the second round, one of those years being the Cup win in Tampa. That year Tampa surprised the hockey world getting to the finals as all the top teams got picked off early. The other year his team was eliminated in the second round. 3 of those 9 seasons ended in missing the playoffs all together. Over that same 9 year career his teams average an overall finish of 14th in the league and their power plays average 17.1% with a rank of 15th overall. If those stats don't scream AVERAGE then nothing does. This is one of the most overrated coaches I have ever seen and quite frankly I am sick of looking at him. As Scottyhockey has said many times and I agree 100% that Tampa team won in spite of him not because of him.

    Having said that, I am determined to enjoy this special group of players that we do have. I love how they love each other so much and how they play for one another. Maybe someday they will be lucky enough to get a GM and a coach worthy of them.

  • jb said...
     

    Jen9400, this post was written by Mike's number 2 son, not by me, I just posted it for him. I also thought it was a great story encapsulating a lot of what many of us Rangers fans think. Your line about Tampa Bay winning despite Torts also resonates with me. I love the character of this team, and I think it would be hard for any coach not to win games with them. This team almost seem like they could fly on auto-pilot, and we'll just have to hope the heavy hand of Tortorella does not run them into the ground.

  • jb said...
     

    JD, I was very surprised that all the teams passed on Avery, twice. I almost would chalk it up to some kind of conspiracy. I mean in the NBA or NFL, you have convicted felon's getting chances to play simply because they can help a team win. Avery, is still a valuable talent, and his 3 goals scored in chump change minutes demonstrated that, yet these teams all passed? If not a conspiracy then the NHL is one very insular old boys network at best.

  • mikewelly said...
     

    And i guess that you guys were clamoring for coughlin's head right up until sunday? come on, get with it. right now torts is an early favorite for coach of the year and as to any coach winning with this roster, I tell you that they would be fighting the Devils and Leafs for eighth right now without Torts. As for Avery, I guess You know better than every coach and GM in the NHL? He has outlived his usefulness and belongs in the fashion world not hockey!

  • Jkudelka said...
     

    Fantastic post (even better title). As for Avery...1st there is the hypocrisy. Tortorella sat 16 for that playoff game a while back, and he actually deserved to sit. He was reckless and almost cost them the previous game. However, how in the world could he then go ahead and be so stupid as to throw a water bottle over the glass? Next there is the fact that every time the team loses and he is out of the lineup, Beard Face is in the post game interview saying they 'didn't have enough grinding down low'...or 'couldn't get through the neutral zone..' -- which are Avery specialties...the very best thing he brings. So the coach is saying exactly what he thinks is wrong...and he has a guy in street clothes who can do just that. Finally -- unfortunately we have to accept that there is a small chance, if even a chance, that you will see 16 skating again for the Rangers. If they attempt to re-call him, he will most certainly be picked up on re-entry

  • Jen9400 said...
     

    JB, Thanks for letting me know the post was Mikes number 2 son! Still loved it.

    On Avery, Im not real cap savvy but for some reason I thought I read that a team who would claim him on his way down to AHL would have to absorb his entire cap hit getting both the stars and NYR off the hook. If he is claimed on re-entry then the new team would only absorb 1/4 of the cap hit. 1/2 for the stars and the other half divided between us and the new team. Its all very confusing after a while. I told Jeanine the first time he went down I didn't expect anyone to claim him. My thinking was that teams would wait until halfway through the season to see what they might need to add to their teams when the dog days of the season come along while waiting for Avery's cap hit to decrease. Also it is obvious to me that Since the debacle in Dallas, Avery has changed a bit. A lot of fans agree with me on this. His demeanor is calmer and he seems less defensive enabling him to fit better in the locker room. He has clearly grown as a person. In saying that, it is obvious that teams view him as a possible risk which was another benefit of waiting until the midway point of the season because they would try him out for only a few months. Also from a hockey standpoint, Avery hasn't been playing his game because he was trying to fit into coach disagreeable's cookie cutter system and we all know how well Sean fits into a box! Lets face it, Sean has been quiet as a church mouse, the coach has diminished his ice time and as a result his numbers have gone way down, so teams have to be wondering if Sean can still be a game changer. Now, I didn't expect Sean to be recalled to NYR in October and the fact that he played so well in the tiny amount of time he was given has obviously peaked a few teams interest. He will be claimed hopefully by a team with a coach who will see and use his value - all of his value not just his "agitating" ability -and we know as well as anyone that Sean will be an asset to the club smart enough to take him. Right now he's madder than hell- rightfully so- and he says he has a lot to prove and he will play his heart out for the team who claims him... look out! When someone claims him I will be watching him on my center ice and I will smile because I'm going to be happy for him- but i will be so jealous.

  • Jen9400 said...
     

    Jkudelka, I hear ya. The hypocrisy is the worst part and coach doesn't draw his hypocritical line at Avery. I love how he talks about the players being professionals when he can't even be professional enough to treat the media like human beings. he doesn't respect them and in turn doesn't respect us fans and he certainly doesn't respect the players. He talks to them like crap, humiliates them when they make mistakes. The guy is an immature jacka$$ with the mentality of a 5th grade bully. His macho crap is not impressive to me. His ego is ridiculous. It gets in the way of who dresses for the team and it kills the PP. Yes his ego kills the PP. Clearly the coach is absolutely clueless about how a PP works and the only other coach he has behind his bench is Sullivan who Jeanine and I call "mini-me." He is a value to the coach because he agrees with everything he says. If he didn't agree he would be sent packing along with any other free thinker who crosses Torts path. Anyway, instead of admitting that he and mini me have no clue about the PP and maybe hiring another assistant coach who does know how to run a PP, he insists that he and mini me are the only coaches we need. Lets face it, if there was another assistant coach behind the bench who could run the PP he would most likely be a guy who has ideas about offense and how would the coaches (defensive) ego handle that?
    I could go in for hours.

  • Joey Goodman said...
     

    Considering the video of NYR fans getting beaten up by Flyers fans after the Winter Classic, let alone the classless comments left by Flyers fans underneath the video on YouTube, not to mention a similar experience I had after we beat the Caps in the Verizon Center a couple of years back during the playoffs, only to wait and wait and wait until security decided to show up and break up the beatings from Caps fans, it's great to hear about such a classy experience in Montreal.

    The article made me pull out my schedule to check the next time we're there, so I can plan a family trip......and hopefully get a "W" while we're there.

    In regards to Avery, granted his tactics can sometimes be considered, let's just say "bush league" on occasion, he handled his original demotion as a true professional, especially considering his history with Johnny Torts.

    You nailed his skill level right on the head. No, he's not going to play on the first line, but to hear JT's comments about how there are better players on this team over and over again.....c'mon Johnny! Maybe he doesn't play JT's exact style of play and maybe the refs do have an extra eye open when they see #16, but so does every player on the opposing team when "Ave-ry" is in the lineup.

    I don't care what he says when he's on the ice. He plays hard and got Marty so frustrated that he wouldn't even shake his hand after the series in highly regarded hockey tradition.

    As for JT, I'm still on the fence. He got his coaches, players and system that he asked for, so the way I see it, no more excuses. Go big and bring home the Cup or go home. I know he's not playing, but he brought in, and took out, the players he wants on this team.

    Thanks for the great article and great comments too!

    Alright, almost game time. Let's go #NYR!!!!

  • jb said...
     

    mikewelly, Comparing Coughlin and Torts is like comparing blended Kentucky bourbon whiskey with moonshine. Coughlin has aged very well in the barrel, and he's won a championship and numerous playoff games. Torts on the other hand, like moonshine can give you a wicked headache and also kill you. That's exactly what he did in that Caps series back in 2009.

    Coughlin has a .667 regular season winning percentage with the Giants, plus all the playoff games. Torts is at .535 with the Rangers, and if not for this year it would be below .500. Torts in his career has lost 4 times in the 1st round, 1 in the 2nd, and missed them altogether 5 times. But, he does have one lightening strike/one Stanley Cup. His record is that of an underachiever. So it's spurious to throw Coughlin's name out there, because Torts is not even close to that man.

    As for fashion week, Rupp, Boyle and Wolski would do well there as mannequins. Avery brings more to the ice than any of these stiffs.

  • Anonymous said...
     

    jb, Was that title a nod to Murray Head?

  • jb said...
     

    Anonymous, Yes, the title for this story came from the Murray Head song.

  • mikewelly said...
     

    JB I truly wonder whether you were such a big Coughlin supporter 6 weeks ago when all the fair weather NY fans were callin for his head. Lets face it, TC was one 99 yd TD reception by Cruz from probably missing the playoffs and being fired. And if you have such negative comments about the coach and players for YOUR? NY Rangers who are first in the league past the halfway mark, really how supportive could you have been of Coughlin and the Giants after that Redskin loss? BTW Coughlin has won one title and never been voted the best coach in the NFL and has gotten his NFL teams to playoffs 9 of 17 years. Torts has won one title and been voted the best coach (Jack Adams trophy 03/04) and assuming NYR go this year he will have gotten his teams to playoffs 7 of 12 years. Now really does this seem like a comparison of fine bourbon and moonshine? Or the ramblings of an overly negative, nitpicky, biased detractor of a pretty good coach, ironically at a time when most of the NHL experts feel that Tortorella is doing a superb job and is by far the leading candidate for a second Jack Adams trophy. BTW before this year TC had brought the Giants to the playoffs 4 years and was one and done in three of them but I'm not looking to put him down, I actually root for teams AND their coaches. Just pointing out your baseless, prejudiced nonsensical comments and how the (first overall) Rangers could do without whiny fans like you.

  • jb said...
     

    mikewelly, I would really like to work with you and understand your argument, but your logic is a little too twisted.

    Boiled down, your argument (your words in quotes) seems to be as follows:

    1. Tortorella is a "superb" coach. He has the Rangers in first place, and is a coach of the year candidate.

    2. Coughlin is also a superb coach. He has his team in Super Bowl contention after two playoff games.

    3. You (JB) are an "overly negative, nitpicky, biased detractor of a pretty good coach (Torts)."

    4. You (JB) were probably not "supportive... of Coughlin and the Giants after that Redskin loss."

    I don't know precisely what his progression of random thoughts incorporating a football coach means on a hockey blog? But it is clearly not a logical argument.

    As for being an "overly negative, nitpicky, biased detractor" of Torts, He is being "judged by the content of his character" here. He is like a flawed Shakespearean character. He has a good deed or two under his belt. Note the picture we have posted with him and Liam Trainer. But, his flaws have proven to outweigh his benefits in my book, hence the criticism. I am sure you can find some websites that fawn over coach disagreeable if that's what you want to read. Plus, he doesn't know a power play from a power saw.

    Next fallacy: you are assuming that I am a Giants fan and that I give a hoot about the Giants. Wrong, I am a Jets fan, while Mike the owner of this blog I think is a Giants fan. The issue never really comes up, because again this is a hockey blog. Also, I have liked Coughlin since way back when I lived in Boston and he coached at BC. Though I only start rooting for him/Giants if they get going in the playoffs.

    You also say: "NHL experts feel that Tortorella is doing a superb job and is by far the leading candidate for a second Jack Adams trophy"

    I did a quick search and it seems that Paul MacLean [McLean again, and again], Ken Hitchcock and Claude Julien are the names most frequently mentioned for the Adams. I did not see Torts mentioned. What NHL experts say Torts should win the Adams?

    But never mind that. I think if you look closely into the numbers, the winner of the Adams is closely correlated to the team having a goalie, who is having a great year.

    That is the bottomline: this year is all about Lundqvist not Torts.

  • drstan1 said...
     

    this page rocks avery situation is terrible,torts get the stick out of your butt and bring him back

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