Guy Lafleur wants Max Pacioretty traded, and why former players aren't always trustworthy

AFP

Former NHL players don't always give very good analysis, even though they "played the game", and Guy Lafleur is no exception.

Guy Lafleur is a Habs legend. He may be the most offensively dominant Montreal Canadiens forward of all time, challenged only by Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau. He has also never shied away from making controversial comments, like calling the 2007-08 version of the Canadiens that finished 1st in the Eastern Conference "a team of fourth liners".

Since then Guy has calmed down a bit, surely told that in his role as ambassador for the team, he shouldn't be insulting the team, but in an interview with La Presse recently, he took the opportunity to once again put his foot in his mouth. Roughly translated, Lafleur said the following:

"Guys like (Thomas) Vanek and (Max) Pacioretty, you can not keep that in your team. They stay home if they are not willing to pay the price. Your team will never win with players like that that fade when there is adversity"

It's an interesting comment, echoing the criticisms of many a fan of the Habs. Yet just a brief time ago I met Lafleur and did a short interview with him, the crux of it being that he knew Pacioretty was a special player a long time ago, and how significant it was that Pacioretty finished fourth in the NHL in goalscoring in the regular season, the highest mark any Canadien had finished since Guy himself, way back in the 1978-79 season.

The thing about former players is that too often they react the exact same way that fans do, instead of calmly assessing a situation, drawing on their own experience.

Lafleur's criticisms are also highly hypocritical, as is the case with most former players, he ignores the struggles in his own career.

Max Pacioretty has partaken in two NHL playoffs, four games with a separated shoulder last season against the Ottawa Senators where he went pointless, and 17 games this season where he recorded 11 points. Those 11 points in 21 playoff games are certainly not what is expected from Pacioretty, yet in his first three appearances in the playoffs, Lafleur recorded just 14 points in 29 games. Lafleur also scored just four goals in those 29 games, to Pacioretty's five in 21.

Perhaps the Canadiens should have moved on from Lafleur after those performances because he wasn't willing to pay the price? Well, we already know what happened next. Lafleur became Lafleur for real, and over the next five seasons he put up 106 points, and 48 goals in 69 playoff games.

The thing about former players is that too often they react the exact same way that fans do, instead of calmly assessing a situation, drawing on their own experience. Emotional responses based on small sample sizes are the norm, instead of seeing the forest for the trees.

When I interviewed former players for a Concordia study on leadership, exactly zero of them ever accepted that something had changed in their games as they got older and their production declined. Instead the blame was put on coaches for taking their powerplay time. The amount of self awareness many of these players have is... small, in a lot of cases.

As Marc Dumont noted this morning, the narrative on Pacioretty could easily be spun into saying that he has three goals and five points in four elimination games, including two series winning goals. So is he just super clutch? Probably not, he's just a very good player who struggled in his first introduction to the playoffs, though not as much as it seems.

Pacioretty went two games without a point once in the playoffs, and after two points in his first 12 career playoff games, he put eight points in his next nine. It's almost like he figured it out.

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