Showing posts with label Montreal Canadiens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montreal Canadiens. Show all posts

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Montreal Canadiens: Shameful and Destructive 2021 Draft Pick

The first-round selection of Logan Mailloux by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2021 NHL draft is so shameless, short-sighted and harmful to the organization, that you have to wonder if something is seriously wrong with Canadiens’ general manager Marc Bergevin. 

Is he on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Is he harbouring deep resentments about a real or perceived slight from the NHL, other GMS, or even someone within the Canadiens’ organization? Has he become immersed in a bizarre corner of the online world like so many other people these days? A warped alternate reality of grievances and rage that have roid-charged his world-view and led to an irrational thought process? Is he consciously or otherwise trying to self-destruct?

Whatever the reasons, he has done severe damage to his and the team’s reputation, alienated many fans, and likely increased the suffering of a young woman in Sweden. He will undoubtedly reap real consequences for this ill-advised selection. And scrutiny on his past and future actions will surely increase. 

Why did  Bergevin and the Canadiens slither out from under a rock to make such an unwise choice?


First, some background. On loan to Swedish hockey club SK Lejon last season, Mailloux committed  a sex-related crime. He took a non-consensual photo while engaged in an intimate act with an 18 year-old woman, then distributed the photo online, without her consent, in a group chat with team-mates. He also attached one of her social media profiles to the photo in the chat, revealing her personal details. The woman learned of the incident and contacted the police. Mailloux, seventeen at the time, admitted his crime, was found guilty, received a summary conviction and was fined. The unnamed victim has stated she does not feel Mailloux is remorseful. 

But some of the facts still seem a bit murky. For example, the status of the posted photo is unknown. Any of the individuals in the group chat could have disseminated the photo more widely or saved it to distribute at a later date. Regardless, the psychological effects will be immense and long-lasting for the young female victim. Her reputation has undoubtedly been damaged. 

The news was known by many, or perhaps all, thirty-two NHL teams shortly thereafter. He was interviewed by some of those teams, ignored by others and put on no-draft lists by at least eleven teams. The news didn’t break publicly until a few weeks ago. Mailloux made a public announcement only days before the 2021 NHL draft claiming that he didn’t want to be selected. It was all scripted PR boilerplate, of course. An expedient, self-serving decision no doubt, but the effect of losing a year would have at least been something. Especially considering the long-term effects the crime will have on his victim. 

And then, inexplicably, Marc Bergevin selected Mailloux in the first round, thirty-first overall. Since that moment, it has been a surreal psychodrama starring the po-faced Mailloux and the shameless Bergevin. 

This pick was wrong on so many levels.

The biggest problem is the crime was committed less than a year ago. If you commit a crime like this and suffer no consequences aside from the fine and negative publicity, it sends a very bad message. If you are rewarded so soon after the crime, it sends an even worse message to fans, other young hockey players and anyone who has been victimized in a similar way. But the complete lack of sound judgement didn't end after the selection.  

The actions of the Montreal Canadiens since the controversial pick have been cringe-worthy at best. Shortly after Bergevin announced the pick, an emotionless Mailloux starred in a freakish press conference, during which he read from a head-up-the-ass, cack-handed script, surely prepared by one of the most incompetent PR hacks in history. An intoxicated ape with a Ouija board could have produced something with more empathy. Instead, the focus was on Mailloux and his 'journey.' He didn’t utter the word ‘crime’ once, and repeatedly referred only to a ‘mistake.’ I imagine those close to the victim, and perhaps the woman herself, would like to perform some ‘mistakes’ on a few people’s skulls with blunt objects. 

Mailloux has not faced any real consequences for his crime. And the Montreal Canadiens endorsed that reality when they went against his published wishes not to be selected. When the doppelganger for a young Frankenstein’s monster (but lacking a similar level of emotional development) deflected questions about the Canadiens ignoring his request not to be drafted this year, he removed any doubts about the sincerity of that initial request. Then he was asked if he knew the pick was coming and dodged that question, too, instead offering a weasel-word response. 

The fallout from this decision will be greater than having been pressured to wait a year to be drafted. All it would have taken for that minor inconvenience to become a reality was for all thirty-two teams to honour that request. Now the rightful criticism will ramp up a thousand fold and the scrutiny on the person who did the crime and the people involved in the draft selection will increase. 

Just as important, the Canadiens and specifically Marc Bergevin, have aligned themselves with some invincibly ignorant people. The people supporting the first-round selection don’t have much to say aside from empty clich├ęs. They don’t provide a shred of nuance or even reference the specific details of the crime. The irony is that the loudest, most shamelessly dismissive will do more harm  than good to their young hero. And yet Bergevin and the Canadiens have seemingly embraced this kind of idiocy. They spoke of a ‘plan’ for Mailloux, but when pressed they gave no details. They referred to ‘his journey’ as if all that matters is how Mailloux can turn this into a positive experience for himself. In choosing equivocating, dismissive words, they have elevated this colossal blunder to a whole other level. 

Let’s do away with all this nonsense about character, shall we? All sports teams pay tribute to past victories and legendary players. But everything is about degrees. The Canadiens really play up that angle. As the oldest NHL franchise, they do have a lot to be rightfully proud of. And they are very quick to reference their standards of character and conduct. But for the current iteration of this team, it’s no longer going to mean a whole helluva lot. Stop coasting on the reputation of the past and show that all this self-congratulatory nonsense is more than just words. 

The current owners and management seem to think having legions of loyal Canadiens fans means the team is immune from backlash. But you should never take that kind of loyalty for granted. The pick and accompanying behaviour adds up to a very repellent degree of arrogance. This may have more tangible consequences than Bergevin or any of his flunkies thought possible. And that’s what it’s really all about. When something doesn’t touch you directly, it’s easy to be dismissive. 

If the crime had hit closer to home, the Canadiens would not be so cavalier. A case occurred last year that may serve as a good analogy. A veteran reporter for the New Yorker magazine was caught ‘pleasuring himself’ on a Zoom call with colleagues. Apparently he’d been flashing back and forth to another screen where he was engaged in some kind of seedy interaction with a sex worker. He was promptly fired when the story leaked. His conduct wasn’t even criminal. So why this analogy? After all, he’s over 50 and should know better. Besides, the worlds of sports and journalism are far different.

Here’s the point: if a young NHL prospect did the same thing, he would rightfully be released outright by the team that had drafted him. Why? Because the fallout and shame would be immediate and in close proximity to the team. It’s easy to dismiss the seriousness of the crime committed by Mailloux because it occurred half-way around the world. But most importantly, it didn’t directly affect Bergevin and other Canadiens executives who signed off on the selection. When you don’t have the capacity to feel empathy, you’re a poor choice for GM of such a high profile team.

Look at it from a more self-serving angle: even if you’re a mule unable to empathize and show respect towards the victim and instead announce ‘proudly’ that her victimizer is worthy of joining your team eight months after the crime, how much damage are you going to cause the organization? How about the current roster of the Canadiens? How do players like Carey Price feel? This bizarre move by Bergevin stole the spotlight away from important comments Price made about residential schools just a few days before the draft. 

Everyone now knows about one of the most horrific episodes—which lasted longer than a century—in Canadian history: residential schools. The devastating treatment, including sexual abuse, suffered by generations of Indigenous children in those schools is made far worse by an unpleasant truth: very few, if any, individual people have ever been held to account for those crimes. Obviously more severe and horrible by many degrees of magnitude than what I’m discussing here. But it’s in the same sick wheelhouse of destruction and avoiding consequences.  

It's hard to fathom that the clowns who made this selection can't comprehend what all the fuss is about. Marc Bergevin has been derided for many years as one of the worst GMs in the NHL. That was before the Canadiens' amazing playoff performance that ended a few weeks ago. But the goodwill the team and Bergevin earned during the run to the Cup Final has been wiped out for many fans. 

Simply declaring that something is not a serious matter does not make it so. An interesting thing about pressure is that it can never be fully resisted. The selection of Logan Mailloux is a destructive move that will haunt Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens for many years to come.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

NHL 2007-08 Predictions: Eastern Conference

Sens logoPens logoTampa logoDevils logoSabres logoRangers logoThrashers logoLeafs logoFlyers logoCaps logoBruins logoHurricanes logoPanthers logoIsles logohabslogo.gifOK, here's the requisite prediction post wherein I make studied and reasoned comments (offer up a bundle of paraphrased rationalizing) on why I've placed various teams in my projected final standings. In the end I'm going to make at least some wild assed guesses with the knowledge that many well articulated forecasts are no more accurate than the looping swings in the dark variety. Regardless of how someone arrives at their choices, at least a few teams will surprise and insanely over-achieve while one or two clubs will disappoint.

I'm going with conference predictions for the simple reason that they're a helluva lot easier to post. But because of the heavily weighted intra-division play, the only way to make any kind of pick is to look at those groupings first and decide who improved the most and proceed from there. Of course, by working backwards, you could ultimately determine what my picks would look like if sorted into divisions.

You may have read an article I posted last month in which I described the various teams I have cheered for over the years. After a fairly long absence away from regularly watching games (which could continue this season depending on how the online viewing situation plays out) I come to this season as a hockey fan with relatively few biases. Some of you may consider this unthinkable, a bland, second-rate way to watch the game. I'm perfectly content to watch the season unfold in this way and I think it will make me a better observer who is relatively uninfluenced by emotion. At the same time, I'm looking forward to being drawn in by certain teams and situations and will no doubt have some favourites by the end of the season.

First, the Eastern Conference:

1. Ottawa Senators
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. New Jersey Devils
5. Buffalo Sabres
6. New York Rangers
7. Atlanta Thrashers
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
9. Philadelphia Flyers
10. Washington Capitals
11. Boston Bruins
12. Carolina Hurricanes
13. Florida Panthers
14. New York Islanders
15. Montreal Canadiens

The Senators haven't done much in the off-season but really, they had no need to. Coming off a season in which they surged in the last half and were dominant throughout the playoffs with the exception of the finals, they have every right to leave things as they are. Bryan Murray as GM will no doubt be looking to add the final piece before the trade deadline and John Paddock behind the bench as coach could provide a nice jolt. Ray Emery had his wrist and a new contract sewn up in the off-season but I wouldn't be surprised if Martin Gerber plays a more prominent role this season. A 52 save shut-out, regardless of whether it's in the pre-season, bodes well for his potential in 2007-08. Emery still has some technique issues to sort out before he's ranked as one of the league's elite netminders. He also has a tendency for off-ice antics and any further melodramas involving him together with average play could see his stock plummet.

Many have picked the New York Rangers as the most improved team in the entire league with the signings of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. And the addition of Brent Sutter could improve the perennially solid and well-disciplined Devils. But I'm still going with the Pittsburgh Penguins to take the Atlantic Division and second overall in the Eastern Conference for no other reason than I like to be a contrarian son-of-a-bitch on occasion. But really, it's not much of a stretch to think they will in fact finish ahead of the Rangers and Devils. The explosive talent they have, has, in my opinion, the greatest potential for further improvement this season. Another year of playing together under their belts and the disappointment of an early playoff exit will spur them on to greater heights.

The Buffalo Sabres are going to see their "goals for" numbers take a hit with the loss of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere and that will cause them to slip somewhat but not as much as many are predicting.

I see Tampa Bay leapfrogging Atlanta for the Southeast crown and thus being positioned 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Just like last season, I believe the mediocre Southeast will field only one other playoff team with Atlanta taking the 7th position. I well may have ranked them higher but my research on the team has been abysmal. That lack of recognition factor alone is why I have slotted them in based on a quick look at last season's final standings. Sad, I know, but I'm doing this for kicks and can afford shameless admissions such as that. (Imagine one of the well-paid hacks at the Globe and Mail's sports section dropping a line like that?)

I must admit that I've bought into the rationalizing regarding the improvements made to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season and have thus awarded them the last playoff position at 8th in the conference. Despite the 2 poor performances so far by Vesa Toskala in net during the pre-season, I can't help but feel they will see an improvement overall at the position, whether it's with shared duties or perhaps with the unexpected development that sees Andrew Raycroft step up. They have added some scoring with Jason Blake despite having been quite strong in that area last season. Unfortunately, they've already been hit with some pre-season injuries though it's unlikely things could be as bad in that regard as during the 06-07 campaign.

I can't see the Leafs missing the playoffs for a 3rd straight year, not only because of their mild improvements but more for the fact that there will be hell to pay if it even looks like a possibility approaching the midway point of this season. Pressure in the nasty pit of hockey insanity in which the Leafs lurch wildly about is surreal and larger than life.

At least 2 key individuals, GM John Ferguson Jr. and Leafs icon Mats Sundin, will be riding hell bent for success in their respective off-ice and on-ice roles this year. Ferguson will orchestrate at least one final Hail Mary if his job looks like it's in jeopardy and Sundin will haul the team into the playoffs alone even if he's jacked up on enough cortisone to kill a buffalo. Surprisingly, not much has been said as of late (relatively, relatively) by the Toronto media about Sundin's final quarter season slump in 06-07. It could either be painful or inspirational to see how Sundin winds up his career in Toronto this year.

The columnists and journalists who weigh in on all things Leafs related have been braying loudly about everything else though. I believe the sports writers on the hockey beat at Canadian papers, especially the Globe and Mail, are so conscious of being branded as having a pro-Leafs bias, that they go ricocheting in the opposite direction as a way to compensate. Sure there are many informed and often prescient views offered up on the Leafs but so often it's a skewed picture that is presented in the sports sections in many rags. The shrill pronouncements are already flowing from some on the demise of the Leafs this season with the regular season not even underway. They are so extreme in some cases that a person can only lean at least slightly in the other direction and be confident that that is a more likely possibility.

And finally regarding the Leafs, I do buy into the argument that they were hammered beyond normal limits in the injury department last season. Look at where they were at about a month into the campaign in 2006-07. Sure they had some games in hand, but still, they were off to a fairly good start. If anything, I see a reverse of last year with them having a slow start and then improving during the final stretch.

Philadelphia could well be one of the most improved teams this years. It will definitely be a fight for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and if it isn't the Leafs, I'm sure the Flyers will be right there. The Flyers shipped out their favourite whipping boy (at least he was for some of the fans and a columnist or two) Joni Pitkanen in exchange for Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul from the Edmonton Oilers. A big unrestricted free agent signing saw the addition of Daniel Briere. He should provide a boost to their scoring, which was horrid last season. The Flyers also grabbed another pair of players from Nashville who were set to become UFAs, when they inked forward Scott Hartnell and defenseman Kimmo Timonen. If not the most improved, the Flyers have at least altered the face of their team more than any other club.

However, they absorbed a bludgeoning in that pre-season game with Ottawa a few days ago, losing four players to injuries. It looks as though Scottie Upshall and Joffrey Lupul both damaged their wrists though only Upshall's injury is serious enough to require surgery.

Washington and Boston are 2 teams that have people throwing around that catchall phrase "You'll be surprised." Having been a Bruins fan many years ago, it would definitely be nice to see them break out of their years long average to terrible play. They've got a new coach in Claude Julien who has made it clear the Bruins will be a more physical team. For some real in-depth parsing of the Bruins at every position and the kind of substance and minutiae that can only come from years of following a team, check out this excellent blog.

Well, that's it for my Eastern Conference predictions. I'll offer up my Western Conference forecasts within the next day or two.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Player/Fan Relationship

Habs logokingslogo.gifJets logoI recently found this well-written blog by a minor league baseball pitcher. Even the self-deprecating title, "Non-Prospect Diary" gives you an idea that he is not your average professional athlete. Some great insights and angles in this entry in which he muses on the relationship between fans and athletes:

"I can't explain to you what its like to avoid someone on purpose. When I write about the concept it just seems too rude and heartless. Maybe it is, but I still do it all the time. In my line of work, sometimes you have to ignore people. You have to tune out the noise of the game. There is no shortage of kids who want balls just because some other kid got one. No shortage of folks who want scraps signed with illegible autographs because everyone else is doing it. No shortage of begging, and pleading for stuff they don't really need, just want because someone else has. "

This brought back some memories I have related to the brief interactions that some fans crave with their favourite players. I never gave this aspect much consideration while growing up and the few instances of meeting hockey players were of the incidental nature.

Years ago while attending Winnipeg Jets games, we would occasionally amble into the lower level after the game where the entrances to the team dressing rooms were located. There was little security and no one seemed to mind that a small crowd would gather and politely wait for players to emerge. There wasn't any aggressive behaviour from fans as I recall and many of the players would stop and provide a few signatures before moving on.

One day after a game as we loitered outside the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room, Guy Lafleur strode out, walked past a group of fans, carried on down the concourse and disappeared through another door. Apparently no one considered pestering him for his autograph. Even at that age I was struck by his relatively small stature and the jarring sight of a pack of DuMaurier cigarettes hanging out of his shirt pocket.

On another occasion, the fact that others were getting signatures from a group of receptive Jets players prompted us to get in the spirit of things. Unfortunately we didn't have anything for the players to write on. Some discarded cigarette packets in the corner solved the problem (the inside sleeve of those 25 pack Canadian brands were perfect for the situation) and we promptly braced Dave Babych for his pen stroke. My friend at the time incorrectly addressed him as Dave Christian which is odd considering Babych's trademark handlebar mustache made him one of the more recognizable players. Babych didn't correct the slip-up, smiled, scribbled his name and carried on.

At a game between the Jets and the Los Angeles Kings, we were at ice level about an hour before the game as players were warming up. Wayne Gretzky was a few feet from us, leaning over with his stick on his knees and awaiting his turn as players took shots on the goalie. Next to us on the other side of the glass was a middle-aged doughy looking oaf with the stereotypical look of arrested development. He started haranguing Gretzky in a steady, monotonous, insanely annoying voice: "Wayne, can I have your stick Wayne. Wayne, please can I have your stick, Wayne...Wayne..."

The shamelessness and nothing-to-lose sense of desperation was cringe-worthy to witness. Gretzky was no doubt used to such bizarre situations and didn't even glance in the oaf's direction. There was also a little kid of about 7 years old near us, pasted up against the glass, staring at Gretzky's iconic mug. As the oaf's absurd pleading continued on, Gretzky turned and looked at the kid, smiled and nodded in that universal style of recognition that even a child understands.

If I remember such a simple gesture all these years later, I'm sure that kid, now long since grown, also remembers.