Time for Sergei and Jacques to Kiss and Make Up

Sergei Kostitsyn is a tremendous hockey player.
But he’s got a pissy attitude and has walked into a head coach who can’t stand him.

Sergei hates Jacques and Jacques hates Sergei.

This adolescent feud of theirs is bad news for Habs fans.

Jacques Martin is hurting the Montreal Canadiens right now by not icing the best possible line-up. Instead of dressing Sergei, he gets nice guy Mathieu Darche to ride the pine.

For the entire game.

00:00 minutes of ice-time.

Seriously?

That’s just insulting.

Basically JM is telling Darche that he’s not really good enough to play but he likes him better than Sergei. Instead of being a head coach, Martin is acting like a petty teenager girl who’s made at her boyfriend.

“No Sergei, not tonight. I’m going to hang out with Mathieu tonight – at least he’s nice to me.”

But in his heart of hearts, Jacques knows that Mathieu is not the one for him. Sergei is.
He’s just too stubborn to admit it.

Sergei meanwhile is reinforcing his bad boy rep by skipping out early on practice and shrugging off his teammates.

But in his heart of hearts, he does want to play for this team. He’s just too stubborn to admit it.

It’s time for both sides to get over themselves, their egos, and do what’s good for the team.

SK74 can play on the powerplay, on the penalty kill, and is feisty and smart 5-on-5. He’s had success in the OHL, AHL, and has shown great potential in the NHL.

In 2006 his was named tournament MVP at the World Juniors (Pool B).

After playing well for HK Gomel in Belarus, Sergei moved to North America to adapt to the different style of play, mainly because he wanted to get a shot in the NHL.

During his first season with the London Knights, he was voted one of the league’s top rookies (behind John Tavares and Logan Couture). In his first OHL playoff game he notched 5 assists and a goal.
He clinched the semis with an overtime winner.

What’s that saying about big players being able to elevate their game?

 

In 2006-07, Kostitsyn amassed 131 points in only 59 games and led the league with 91 helpers.
That’s an average of 2.22 points per game.

Sure the 2005 7th round pick had some good linemates in Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane, (and also Dave Bolland and Rob Schremp) but Sergei is the real deal.

He’s got good hockey sense and can play both ends of the rink.

Sam Gagner thinks so:

He can play the power play and he can kill penalties. He would play the whole five minutes (London) if the other team got a major penalty, then if we got an infraction right after, he’d play defence.” 

He hits hard, won’t back down in a fight and plays bigger than he is.
Sound like anyone else on the Habs roster?

I’m not saying he’s as good as Brian Gionta or Scott Gomez, but he does have that potential.
Give him the responsibility and he’ll play hard, he’ll play smart.

Guy Boucher seemed to be getting it out of him in Hamilton.

 

He’s an offensively gifted, two-way impact player.

A healthy scratch 5 games in a row.

Sigh.


We all know that Sergei’s relationship with Jacques Martin and the Canadiens organization is strained – at best.

But at some point, both sides have to pull up their big boy pants and get over it.
Sergei is hurting his career with his attitude.
Jacques Martin is hurting the team’s chances of winning by not playing Sergei.

How long can the Habs continue to roll only 3 lines? Especially now, with Andrei Markov out, there’s going to be much more pressure on players. Without number 79, it’s going to be harder to defend in our zone and move the puck up the ice. His absence also hurts our powerplay.

Sure the first wave looks good with MAB and P.K. Subban, but what about the second unit?

Putting Josh Gorges and Roman Hamrlik on the blueline during the man-advantage isn’t going to light the lamp. The Penguins know this and will take full advantage. I love Gorges but nobody’s scared of his point shot. The Habs need backend presence with the General out of the line-up.

But wait!

Sergei used to play the point on the powerplay in London?

He set the franchise record for assists?

… and he’s still in the pressbox.

Sigh.

 

Great coaches coach to a player’s strength and will put them in situations where they can succeed.

 

But the Habs have made it this far without him, so they don’t need him, right?
Mathieu Darche must be playing well to dress for the Canadiens, right?
What’s that you say?
Darche had exactly 00:00 of ice-time in Tuesday’s loss?
And we were lacking offense during that game?

Sigh.

I like Mathieu Darche.
He’s a hometown boy, went to McGill, and has been grinding out a pro-career.
He works hard, doesn’t complain and is probably an amazing teammate.

But Sergei has more, and better, skills.

The team needs a 4th line to eat up some minutes. They need more offense, more defense and more energy. Four lines spreads out the punishment.

 

Sergei Kostitsyn is also an asset to this organization. He moved to North America to play in the NHL, he’s adapted to the culture (or at least the language) better than his older brother. He was drafted by the Canadiens, developed by them. The NHL team that picked him 200th overall and had faith in him. He has the opportunity to play on the same team as his brother.

He doesn’t want to play in the KHL but will if he has to

This team has lost enough assets over the past few years.
Let’s try to hold on to some.

 

Yes, Sergei’s attitude sucks right now but from his perspective, he’s done with this team.
Ben Maxwell gets into the line up. 1 :03 of ice-time.
Mathieu Darche gets into the line-up. Zero minutes of ice-time.

Number 74 in the pressbox again.

Sergei feels that Jacques Martin has been treating him unfairly. Each time a “lesser” player makes the line-up ahead of Sergei, this belief is reinforced.

And that attitude won’t magically change on it’s own.
Jacques has to step up and be the bigger man.

Fix this situation.
This is not how you should coach. Right now, it’s not hockey, it’s personal.
And you can’t afford these types of spats in the NHL.

 

Granted, Sergei is not being a good teammate right now.
He’s skipping out of practice early.
He’s walking away from conversations and responsibilities.

Teammates shouldn’t do that.

But right now Sergei doesn’t feel like part of this team.
And he doesn’t think that anything he does will draw him back into the line-up.

I believe that too.

Sergei could probably levitate during practice right now and score goals using only the power of his thoughts and Jacques Martin would still not play the kid.

 

Ultimately, Jacques Martin is responsible for the success of this team and the players on it.
He’s got to be man enough to do things even when he doesn’t want to.
He’s the coach, the leader.

It’s his job to get the most out of this team.
And team includes very player – even Sergei Kostitsyn.

It’s not the time of year to hold grudges and make decisions out of spite.
Leave the high school drama behind you.

 

Jacques – get over yourself and straighten things out with Sergei. Otherwise you’re just hurting the team.

Sergei – shut up and play. You’ve got your chance so make the most of it. Prove that you belong.

23 Comments

  1. Chris Aung-Thwin says:

    looks like you win… JM had talk with SK74 and he’s working out by himself in the gym. not even suiting up for practice anymore…

  2. bmt6017 says:

    exactly, thats what i dont want to see. someone else takin advatange of his skills and becoming a solid offensive player… on another team

  3. ed lopaz says:

    Habs hockey = Smart hockey we work as a team, and we win as a team. we play 5 man defence – not just 2. we play with energy, we play with Subban in Markov’s place (for now) – Pk could have been with us since the Olympics, but nevermind that.

    this is what happens when you hire an old fashioned coach – old school, habits die hard.

    I agree with you when you say this started right from the get go.

    I agree that JM seems to be incapable of handling, improving, or even motivating young players.

    but NOW its way too late in the game for this.

    that’s where you and I disagree.

    the war is on.

    maybe after the season is over, but not now.

     

  4. New says:

    Chris I honestly think neither we, nor the press, have a clue about the team. We see what we see on the ice but we don’t know who is giving what, doing what, or saying what. When players, staff, and coaches are around fans they are “on”. When you meet players with their guard down they are real people. They say real things.

    The Kostitsyns are very talented players. They would not be in the NHL if they were not. But I’m here to tell you if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a canard, then in all probability it isn’t all we think it is. The team appears to be trying. Trying really hard to scrape the doo-doo off it’s shoes and salvage what has been a very disappointing three year run.

    They took out Washington, a heavy favorite and superior team. They could have taken Washington in five, maybe six, but in typical Habs form couldn’t muster up the confidence in each other. Admittedly Washington was ripe for the plucking, but still this was a notable achievement. The Kostitsyns did really little or nothing constructive in that series, just as they achieved all season.

    Now the team is trying on the Pens. Crosby is different from Ovechkin. Crosby wants to win and elevates his team to a new test. The Pens are a great team, the defending Cup champions. They won’t go easily, probably not at all. But they can go. A team can take out a group of players. A team can battle another team, maybe take them, maybe not. But it is possible if everyone is focused, on the same page, and on the team regardless of role.

    But the playoffs are not a 82 game schedule of gate receipts and endorsements. The playoffs go by quick. I don’t think teams have time to wait for the Kostitsyns to decide they want to play. Nor should they bend a knee for either of them based on their performance. The young men are being paid big bucks to act and perform professionally, they are not meeting that obligation, and I suspect the team has no time right now to deal with tantrums.

    Just an opinion. Keep on writing Chris, you are always worth the read.

    Cheers.

  5. Chris Aung-Thwin says:

    Thanks Ed. I know this whole Sergei-gate is a fairly contentious issue amongst Habs fans… my main beef is that the organizations has been mis-handling its young players recently and that’s something you just can’t do in today’s NHL. Good teams are developing from within and working veterans into the cap… we’re doing the opposite and it’s going to hurt our future.

     

    1) Maybe this is true. Sergei doesn’t seem to be on the ice at this mornings practice. So maybe somebody spoke and SK has been removed. But like I’ve been saying… I think a lot of Sergei’s attitude stems from the fact that he’s not playing. During training camp and then in this last part of the year, Jacques Martin has been singling out Sergei. Everyone makes mistakes but JM latches on to anything 74 does wrong. I respect guys like Darche and Metro but I think JM has also given them more of an opportunity to succeed. I’d probably start developing some attitude if I felt that I was being unfairly treated.

     

    2)If that’s true then the Habs should have removed him from the roster after they spoke to him and he didn’t react. It’s not like Laraque where he’d still be taking up a roster space (if this had happened before the playoffs started) he could just be demoted or cut loose and that’s that. I’m not convinced that any real effort was made to “clear the air”.

     

    I really feel that the heart of the matter is a perception issue. From Day 1, Jacques perceived that Sergei was lazy and arrogant. From Day 1, Sergei perceived that he was being treated unfairly. These perceptions developed back in September and these attitudes have only been reinforced as the season progressed. Everytime Sergei has been on the ice for a goal against, he’s been put into purgatory because Jacques perceives a lack of effort. SK meanwhile, sees this treatment as unfair because the other skaters on the ice don’t receive the same punishment.

    Lapierre was -14 this season and played like crap for most of it. But how often was he scratched compared to Sergei?

  6. Habitant in Surrey says:

    …Chris …I don’t believe Guy Boucher is completely ready to be Coach of Our Team next season, especially making it difficult is that Kirk Muller and Jacques Martin have a complimentary-sympatico going between each other as We can see in these playoffs

    …What I do believe is that the Montreal Canadiens should find a way to keep Boucher from being hired by another team until He is ready to take over Our Habs

    …the reason I believe Guy Boucher would make an ideal Coach for Our Team is because I think He would use the current and coming (…Leblanc, Kristo, Desharnais, hopefully Avtsin, etc.) Offensive Assets more effectively into a Firewagon-type Offensive yet D-responsible Team than Martin

    …as importantly I believe Guy Boucher better understands how to ‘nurture’ the varied-personalities, especially younger Players as Sergei Kostitsyn to convince Them of integrating Their unique skills into a Team-concept

    …it may be too-late to save Sergei, but My hope is Guy Boucher will be brought-up as an Assistant-coach to put a year of NHL experience under His belt with Martin and Muller

    …how realistic this is I don’t know, because it seems Gauthier is signed as a longterm GM that apparently would prevent JM to be moved-upstairs (unless as an Assistant GM), and Muller may have made a case for Himself as a Head Coach

    …but the Montreal Canadiens NEED someone like a Guy Boucher either at the AHL-level or in Montreal to use His progressive ability to recognize Players as individuals yet can mould Them to full-potential

    …I HOPE someone in the Organization can save Us ‘losing’ Sergei K., yet THAT seems like a ship that has already sailed …sadly

    …MORE importantly, is The Habs find someway NOT lose Guy Boucher …to minimize such wasted-asset Sergei-type dilemmas in the future

     

    Habitant means PASSIONATE HOCKEY

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=423049

  7. Chris Aung-Thwin says:

    a lot of people are saying sergei will definitely be in the KHL next season… that doesn’t bother me as worrying about some team like Chicago taking a gamble on him (young player with potential, CHEAP) and meshing again with kane. i’d drive me crazy to see him end up in the NHL in the next 2 years as a top 6 forward.

  8. ed lopaz says:

    Habs hockey = Smart hockey we work as a team, and we win as a team. we play 5 man defence – not just 2. we play with energy, we play with Subban in Markov’s place (for now) – Pk could have been with us since the Olympics, but nevermind that.

    Chris, you are a gifted writer and obviously a great hockey fan.

    Here are 2 points I would like you to consider. If you read this, and you have a minute, feel free to reply, I woyld be very glad to read it.

    1) Francois Gagnon – who you know and needs no introduction – is reporting that “veteran” players have gone to management and asked that Segei be removed from the lineup. M. Gagnon reported that today, Thursday morning on AM 990. If this is true, your entire argument that this falls on JM and a “personal” issue is completely negated.

    2) Isn’t it possible that the Habs already spoke to Sergei, tried to clear the air and make up? Isn’t it possible that he was offered the 4th line, filler role, the one the team needs him to play to give the other lines a breather? He did play that role a few games back, after all. Isn’t it also possible that Sergei has made it clear that he does not see himself on the 4th line – as a selfish player like him would be inclined to do??

    I appreciate your points of view, and respect them.

    I just think there’s more here than what you have described.

     

  9. Chris Aung-Thwin says:

    “Chris, this is really THE WRONG TIME to gnaw on THIS bone” - you’re right. i wish they’d resolved this back in march. or even september.

    “..AND when Your own Team-mates apparently can’t stand Your guts ???” – yeah, that’s a problem. but nothing like a good team building exercise like bowling to fix that, right?

  10. rut1212 says:

    I thought Sergei put in the effort in his games in these playoffs. Also, as well as Martin has done with the team in the playoffs, I have a lot of confidence in what Guy Boucher is doing with the Bulldogs, and would rather see him in Montreal soon, than lose him to another NHL team.

  11. Habitant in Surrey says:

    …My opinion since the beginning of the season was Our Habs needed BOTH the Ks to bloom this season for Us to go anywhere worthwhile …and You have previously read my opinions on JM …yet, Chris, this is really THE WRONG TIME to gnaw on THIS bone

    …JM doesn’t seem the type to bury a talented hockey player unless there were seriously relevant extenuated-circumstances

    …AND when Your own Team-mates apparently can’t stand Your guts ??? …I would trust in the good-judgement of Jacques Martin at this time, and let things devolve in the summer

    Habitant means PASSIONATE HOCKEY

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=423049

  12. bmt6017 says:

    Has sergei ever gotten the chance on a line with someone else somewhat offensivly talented? when he does produce he seems to do it alone. hes a great penalty killer, as mentioned. but how about powerplay.. pouliot hasnt done anything this playoffs, yet he keeps getting some powerplay time. It may be a bold statement to say that sergei has more offensive talent than pouliot, but i havnt seen sergei on the powerplay in forever. the kid has moves and a great shot, and great playmaking vision. He plays great with his brother too, they havnt played together in a long time and when they do they play very well. Now i know its reasonable to say get rid of both of them because they dont display a solid ‘team’ behaviour, especially when sergei isnt in the lineup, but i really dont want to see another team take the advantage of playing the two together, or just even giving sergei more than 10 minutes of ice time, because they definitely have the potential to produce solid offensive numbers. 

  13. sergio37 says:

    I just want to say one thing. you mentioned his OHL numbers, which mean diddly squat.. neither sam gagner nor kane are producing those numbers. Also he was a year older then kane, and two years older then gagner… he was much older then most players in the OHL at that time and he was playing with two gifted players… darche would’ve done the same thing. i also want to say that sergei deserves nothing, he has been given numerous chances, and really i could careless how good he is as his attitude as made him intolerable by his coaches. he deserves nothing… and should be benched…

  14. punkster says:

    Chris, your point about 4th lines and minutes, etc. has been picked up on the main thread by people grasping at straws. Please! Putting SK on the 4th line does not increase the chances of the 4th line playing. That issue is entirely separate of the SK discussion. He’s a 4th line player on a team that is not playing a 4th line.

    Now, if JM were to modify his game plans and play a 4th line reguarly then it becomes an issue of who lays on the 4th line. In that event SK should still not be dressed for the same reasons I have stated elsewhere. I don’t care if the guy has talent up the yingyang if he won’t play the system, if he won’t listen to his coaches and if he causes unrest then he sits.

     

  15. Fansincebirth says:

    God, this sounds more like a teenage kid fighting with his Dad.

    JM – stupid teenager, don’t know chit from shineola. Won’t listen to me, hates me. Screw him!

    SK – stupid old man, doesn’t know me, won’t listen to me and he hates me. Screw him!

    Hey JM, put Sergei in the lineup with his brother and watch the magic happen!!!

    “Without the strength of the past, the team may face a choice – to win, or to be French-Canadian?” — Ken Dryden

  16. Milley says:

    I couldn’t agree more.  Right now both need to grow up.  Sergei demonstrated that he has the desire to play with the team during his stint in Hamilton earlier this year.  He needs to show his coach that he can do that again.  Maybe he doesn’t deserve it, I don’t know.  What I do know is that this team needs offense and there is a chance that Sergei can provide this.

    The team looked very tired in the 3rd last night and couldn’t seem to focus on finishing their chances.  Martin needs to use more players.  I think he’s done a wonderful job thus far in the playoffs, but I have to place a lot of the blame for last night’s loss on Martin.

  17. TripleX says:

    “Great coaches coach to a player’s strength and will put them in
    situations where they can succeed.”

    That is my biggest beef with JM as a coach. He places AK, SK and O”Byrne among others in situations with a high possibility of failure.  Then when the inevitable happens he crosses his arms and points to the bench as if to say, “there I gave you a chance and you failed just like i thought.”  Put a skilled player in a position to excel and the player, team and COACH are rewarded.  JM like Bob can be so stubborn and exasperating.  A strong belief in your convictions can be a weakness and a strength.

     

     

     

     

    “Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.”

  18. punkster says:

    Chris, this is a good piece and will likely garner rave reviews all across HI/O. Not from me.

    Your very suppositions that “in his heart of hearts” a) Jacques knows Sergei is the one for him, and b) Sergei “wants to play for the team” are just that; suppositions. Everyone who agrees with you must assume that Sergei is right for the job and that Sergei wants to do the job assigned to him. This is where the entire argument falls flat.

    Now, because I do not have access to the room, don’t personally know any of the players, coaches or management and am simply a fan my point of view holds as much water as anyone on this issue.  I see it in far simpler terms. It’s not a conspiracy, not a gudge, not a high school drama. Sergei has been out of line and the coach won’t tolerate that.

     

  19. Chris Aung-Thwin says:

    Dave – I’m not really trying to get into their heart of hearts… the point I’m trying to make is that Sergei has excelled at basically every level of hockey where he’s had a key role. He was even doing well with Boucher down in Hamilton earlier this year.

     

    Even if Sergei was out of line at some point, it’s time to bring him back into the fold. Jacques Martin is a coach. Sergei is a player, an asset. Use him. A fourth line that gets 0 minutes? Maybe that’s the type of decision that gets a coach a bad playoff reputation. You ain’t gonna win championships if you’re top players are exhausted and you refuse to utilize the depth at your disposal.

     

     

  20. Bill H says:

    Good piece Chris.  But I am inclined to agree with punkster.  You are making suppositions.  I’m not really in a position to say what is going on with Sergei or Martin though.  Knowing what I know, I guess I’d give him another shot with AK.  Give them a shift or two and keep your fingers crossed.  If SK doesn’t look good out there, then takes Darche’s role on the bench. 

  21. CharlieHodgeFan says:

    Sergei’s body, reflexes, and nervous system make him a hockey player. His brain makes him a healthy scratch. I’m afraid you cannot be talented without a character and intelligence, and what I see of Sergei’s from my fan perspective makes me say he’s one who just didn’t pan out.

    Notice I put that in the past tense. It’s over with Sergei. Martin is just being a hockey coach. It’s no use gawking at the car wreck, it isn’t even smoking anymore. It’s sad to say, but just tow it away and keep the traffic flowing.  The Habs are a playoff team and aren’t in need of a man whose approach  makes him a fifth line forward.

    As for high school drama, maybe in Quebec’s Reform, there are no consequences for being a slacker, but little Sergei’s living in the grown up world now.

  22. notbigbird says:

    “Great coaches coach to a player’s strength and will put them in
    situations where they can succeed.”

    You’ve hit the nail on the head here and elsewhere IMO.

    SK has played well with intensity fairly often this year but has been relegated with impunity for the slightest mistake. He’s a kid, and since some very good efforts weren’t rewarded and mistakes were punsihed severely, he’s taken it badly. I’m sure there is a lot of blame to go round, but I will lay a lot of it on the head of the supposedly mature coach who should have the team’s best interests at heart.

    JM might or might not be great at a lot of things, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a degree in psychology like some. I can’t imagine this happening under GB or even GC. It just wouldn’t. This situation is almost ridiculous IMO.

     

  23. RiverviewCanadien says:

    I think all that Sergei needs is to have Hal stand over him and just give him a good talking to. Tell him how its GOTTA be! Gill strikes me as a player that commands respect from his team-mates, coaches, etc. I think he could really make the relationship work again.

    Someone that big standing over you and berating you, that would be very intimidating. I would do whatever he says…

    Are you listening Sergei? I said at the beginning of Rd 1 that you would be Martin’s secret weapon. Suck it up buttercup and be the player I have seen you be in the past and for flashes in Rd 1.

    GO HABS GO!


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