This past Thursday, Andrei Kostitsyn decided to sound off on Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Martin's decisions, pretty much pointing the source of his sporadic contributions last season at the bench boss.
Montreal media, in what is typically the dry days of hockey news, was of course all over this with a few wanting him run out of town. I just can't wait to hear his two-word max replies in English on day one of training camp though.
What riveting insight that will bring!
The timing of it is what seems most peculiar. After signing a one-year deal before becoming a free agent, why shoot your mouth off at your coach, the man who decides who and for how long you will play. For a guy likely to test the free agent market next season, that's not a good start to get exposure.
In his interview with goals.by, Kostitsyn said his agent Don Meehan told him to, "just play hockey," next season. Meehan has not commented on his client's remarks, but probably now wished he said, "Shut your mouth and play hockey."
Kostitsyn's biggest beef with Martin was being relegated to the third and fourth lines. A poster on Hockeyinsideout.com took the time to breakdown where the disgruntled left-winger started each game last season.
Games 1 – 12: Kostitsyn (RW) for Plekanec
Games 13-19: Kostitsyn (LW) for Plekanec
Games 20-29: Kostitsyn (LW) for Gomez
Games 30-42: Kostitsyn (RW) for Plekanec
Games 43-46: Kostitsyn (LW) for Halpern
Games 47-50: Kostitsyn (LW) for Plekanec
Games 51-53: Kostitsyn (LW) for Gomez
Game 54: Kostitsyn (RW) for Plekanec
Games 55-60: Kostitsyn (LW) for Gomez
Games 61-70: Kostisyn (LW) for Eller
Games 71-75: Kostitsyn (RW) for Eller
Game 76: Kostitsyn (RW) for Gomez
Game 77: Kostitsyn (LW) for Eller
Game 78: Kostisyn benched
Games 79-82: Kostitsyn (RW) for Plekanec
The poster notes that Kostitsyn clearly had plenty of time on the top lines, but was a victim of Martin's line juggling routine. Even thought the above list starts at the noted position/line, that doesn't mean it's where he finished the night. The overall view is better defined on Dobber Hockey's line combination tracker, but Lions in Winter did some further statistical expansion, and noted this.
"Like probably every player in the league, Kostitsyn sees things from his own point of view first. From his point of view, it seems that he had a good start and things went down from there. From his point of view it seems he was used to kick start players, but unless there was another reason (injury) there weren't really attempts to kickstart him. From his point of view Pacioretty jumped the queue, Desharnais did for a little while too. From his point of view ice time is not the determining factor of first/second/third line, who is on the line is."
Personally I'm not sure what Kostitsyn is complaining about, his numbers don't look so bad in this comparison. Oh wait, didn't that guy sound off on his former coach just last week as well?
The consensual agreement by pretty much every major hockey writer on this is in the same agreement. With the addition of Erik Cole, and Max Pacioretty hopefully back to the form he was in, Kostitsyn will have to step up in camp to stay on one of the top-two lines. But is a safe bet, that this will be Andrei Kostitsyn's last season with the Montreal goals, whether he scores more than 20 goals or not.
Now, here's what gets me about the whole thing. Is this really something new to the NHL that a player sounds off or disagrees with his coach? No, I didn't think so but they are usually a bit more tactful... at least some of the time.
Pretty much since the day the first puck was carved out of rubber, a player has been disgruntled somewhere with a coach's strategy, management or both on his respective team and made it clear, whether he speaks publicly or not.
Now granted, it is the 24-7 hockey hotbed of Montreal and the Habs followers (an than God I am part of it!) and it is August ,so as I mentioned earlier there is little to talk about. But is this really that surprising? Trust me folks, Habs and NHL fans have seen this all before.
The most recent signs that there were serious rifts between players and coach in Montreal came at the decline of Guy Carbonneau's coaching tenure. Though no players came right out and said anything, the end result was Carbo's removal and an eventual purge of the team, including captain Saku Koivu.
Probably the biggest public showing of a coach and player not coming to terms came on December 2, 1995. I don't think we need to get into the specifics of that night, but Patrick Roy wasn't the only one having a problem with Mario Tremblay. Donald Brashear, amongst others, could attest to that.
When Guy Lafleur decided to retire, he found it too uncomfortable to play the more defensive style of former teammate Jacques Lemaire and as a result found himself getting less ice time.
There's no question that Lafleur and his fellow teammates also had their days with Scotty Bowman, even through the triumphant run of the late seventies. If Bowman felt you weren't producing, you sat on the bench longer. Now mind you Bowman's philosophy is incomparable to that of Martin's, but in that period the players got the message and they responded.
When I spoke to Lafleur last September, where he noted how cell phones and digital media was not around in the days of the '70s Habs (think about that), and how present day players in the NHL have to keep caution out of the wind with their actions and comments (See Ellis, Dan Twitter 2010). As EOTP's Andrew Berkshire tweeted earlier in the week, "I wonder how hated Scotty Bowman would be with social media?"
It would even go back to the days of Toe Blake and Dick Irvin, but I've likely bored you enough on a Sunday to divulge further examples.
Most of the players on the current Habs roster seem to understand it as well, and you don't see them shooting themselves in the foot via Twitter, or in an interview. No matter what, they try to remain positive and move forward with anything they say.
Perhaps Kostitsyn hasn't realized that virtually every newspaper outlet that goes online, a few countries exempted, can be accessed from any point in the world. Maybe he should realize that 30 years ago, and living in Belarus, speaking publicly against your coach and borderline underachieving found you playing on a b-league team in Siberia for the rest of your career