Obsessive Compulsive Size Disorder: The Nonsense Behind “The Canadiens Need Size”

Photo: TheTorch.ca Hamrlik: "I'm taller, bud"

Photo: TheTorch.ca
Hamrlik: “I’m taller, bud”

 

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”

-Mark Twain

Flashback: May 5th 2013. It’s Game 3, first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Heading into the 3rd period, the score is 2-1 in favour of the Ottawa Senators. The Canadiens are hanging by the thread, attempting, trying, and pushing their way to get that tying goal. To their disgruntlement, that goal never comes. By contrast, it is the Senators that get the hop, skip and a jump, pushing the Canadiens further and further back from attaining the win.

The score is 4-1 with Turris firing a shot past the lunging, desperate, Carey Price. The grinning lineup of the Senators as well as the disheartened lineup of the Canadiens makes their way to Centre Ice.

The ref lets go of the puck. All hell breaks loose.

Gloves dropped, helmets thrown, sleeves rolled up. Chaos. While joy for Senator fans, agony for Habs fans. Every flailing punch thrown at Tinordi, White, Prust, Moen and Bouillon, is a direct arrow through the heart of everyone whom call themselves supporters of the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

With a final score of 6-1, every Canadiens fan was left with their head hanging low. What had happened? The Canadiens now had muscle…. or so they thought. What differed between the Regular Season and the Playoffs? Why did the Canadiens play great when each win would earn them the two points, but horrible when push come to shove? (Literally). Was it a factor that had gone missing since the regular season? Well of course it was. It was a loss of identity.

The funny thing about being tough in hockey is you are, or you’re not. No middle ground. It’s black or white. If a team’s identity (like Boston’s) is tough, it’s because they are. The same applies to smaller, weaker teams that are meanwhile very fast. They are known as fast teams, because they are fast. The Canadiens had picked up toughness in the offseason, but it did not make them tough. Not only did the Canadiens lose to the Senators in skill, but they also lost the physical aspect of it. One might say “yes the Canadiens are strong”, but they were not stronger than Ottawa, and that’s all that matters. You have to be tougher than the other team, not just tough.

This lead to the reoccurring, over-emphasized, mass panic of “The Canadiens need size!”. What happened next was no coincidence. The addition of the 6’5 George Parros, the drafting of the 6’6 Michael McCarron,6’2 Jacob de la Rose and the most recent acquisition of the 6’3, 245lb Douglas Murray, all spoke for itself. Whether the signings/draftings were justified, that is debatable. That being said, is the “The Canadiens need size” motto of value? Is that motto justified in itself? Let’s look back.

How did the Canadiens reach Northeast Division Champions? By playing the Montreal Canadiens way. (You can read my article I wrote immediately after watching the mass-hysteria of game 3, which further explains what I’m about to say, here: “http://tinyurl.com/o3dcfx5“). In short, “the Canadiens Way” is speed, agility and talent, which falls hand in hand with staying composed during frustrating moments. This is how the Canadiens beat the “tough” teams in the season, such as Boston, Philadelphia and even Ottawa. Every time they attempted to use the “eye for an eye” strategy, they lost the game. Despite the additions of Prust, Bouillon and Armstrong, they simply were not a tough team.

Thing is, they did not have to be a tough team. The Canadiens lost that infamous Game 3 game to Ottawa because they tried to emulate Ottawa’s toughness. They lost composure. They lost the will to play their own style of game. There is no one who insisted the Canadiens play like Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and especially Ottawa. It was a loss at their own desire. It is ignorant to say no grit is needed, because absolutely it is, but there is zero reason to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to add size when that is not the identity of your team. Adding one or two large players doesn’t make your team “tough”. It is the team as a whole that is tough. The Canadiens were not tough. This season may or may not be a different story.

Take Boston for example- the quintessential “tough” team. Remove Thornton, remove Chara, and remove Lucic. We have already removed Boston’s three toughest players. Done. There is still Campbell, Kelly, McQuaid, Paille, (the newly acquired) Iginla, Boychuck and even Marchand that fit the “tough” persona. Now for the Canadiens. Remove Parros, remove Prust, and remove White. There is now Tinordi who showed he’s not a fighter, Bouillon who is strong, but not strong enough, and Murray who is also full of muscle, but like Bouillon, not strong enough to present his muscle all by himself. While those players have value, they do not sum up “tough”as the likes of Boston.

While trying to add size and toughness is important in many ways, it has been overvalued. The “issue” has been taken too seriously. Bergevin’s attempt to trade three very valuable draft picks to get the 6’6 Samuel Morin, as well as the attempt to overpay 6’4 Lecavalier, are clear indications of management trying to mold the Canadiens into something they’re not. The Canadiens can win without it. If one seeks proof, look no further than the scores of last season prior to the playoffs. To repeat, it is foolish to say that no size is needed, but on the same token, it is just as foolish to believe that size is all that matters. Size on its own will only take a team so far. The fact that the same can be said for skill, proves that there must be a balance of both. The Canadiens do not need an average height of 6’3 to play well.

The “desperate” need to add size has become obsessive, almost in an OCD sort of manner, squawking it like a flock of seagulls. Size means many things; toughness, reach, intimidation (ect), but are those the reasons why we say the Canadiens need it? Or is it because others are saying it. Is it something that would, in fact, help the Canadiens get better? Or is it simply because they are shorter than some teams? I am not prepared to give an answer.

5’11 is not a dwarf by any means. It is average. A couple of players shorter than that on the Top 6, is no catastrophe. Sure Gionta is short, sure Gallagher is short, sure Desharnais is short, but besides them, 3/4th of the Top 12 are 5’11 and taller. That is tall. I can guarantee that adding 6’8, 270lb John Scott, 6’6, 220lb Nik Antropov and 6’6, 240lb Andy Sutton would improve the Canadiens much further than what they’re currently at. “But now they have size, they can win!”…Now please return to Earth.

What must be emphasized, is that this, by no means, is a hit on Bergevin nor on any of the players signed/drafted. All that must be taken out of this is the frequently repeated phrase of “The Canadiens need size”, because they don’t. Had they stayed composed during the playoffs, they would have won that round. Minimum. They outshot Ottawa, with more scoring chances (Of course Anderson’s fantastic goaltending didn’t help the situation). The key to winning is relying on your team’s strengths and fortes (no pun intended).  The Canadiens’ strength and forte was their skill and talent. Ottawa’s strength and forte was their size and toughness, and they used it to the best of their ability- which lead to them winning. They were smarter.

When other teams are preparing to face the Canadiens, know what they’re worried about? The Canadiens’ speed. They try to fix their formations to accommodate the speed of the Canadiens, which is never enough. Listen to any interview of players on the opposing teams between periods. They always mention the Canadiens transition speed. It drives them nuts. It is their kryptonite. Ottawa couldn’t match the Canadiens speed, so they played the psychological game. Clearly the Habs were not on par in that respect, which ultimately lead to their downfall. What the Canadiens need next season, more than in recent years, is the ability to stay composed and stay determined.That’s how they’ll win. As to how far they’ll go, we’ll just have to wait, watch, and find out.

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10 Responses to Obsessive Compulsive Size Disorder: The Nonsense Behind “The Canadiens Need Size”

  1. I’m not even sure where to begin. This is probably one of the more weaker attempts I’ve read to initiate a response/reaction. The habs do need size/toughness, BIGTIME!! The focus is to make the team better, without sacraficing skill for brawn. MB has doen a marvelous job addressing the teams biggest need. I’ll take Parros over Armstrong any day, and Murray over Drewskie/Frankie/Diaz. They are a fast team, and very difficult to play against, when focused. The dimension they lack is more nasty/angry/fearless/intimidation. This is an incredbly tough sport, and they need size/toughness. They need to stop trying to recreate the flying frenchmen (see 2013 pens)….those days are over. Welcome to 2013…..where the best teams (Bruins, Flyers, Ducks, Kings,) all have something incredibly in common. Guess what???

    Mirko J August 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm Reply
    • Parros can’t even play on a regular basis.

      Michael Gomez August 31, 2013 at 12:43 am Reply
      • I agree, but neither can Moen, White or Dumont. Parros brings credibility to the Habs. Opposing players will think twice when trying to intimidate the smallish forwards. Balance is the key.

        Mirko J September 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm Reply
    • Hi Mirko, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like I said in my piece, I have nothing against what Bergevin has done. He didn’t replace the talent of anyone for size. That being said, some plans he had, I dislike. The attempt to trade up and get 6’6 Morin, as well as to overpay 6’4 Lecavalier is where the line is drawn. That is too much, and unnecessary. The nastiness/angriness/fearlessness/intimidation, is for the 3rd and 4th line. Besides Prust, who else on our Bottom 6 was nasty? No one. That was the problem. Getting size as a whole wasn’t. To add, in what sport is the Flyers and Ducks the best teams? Habs are better, yet they didn’t have the size. Bruins are a well rounded team with a lot of defensive upside, which is why they’re great. As for the Kings, their “crash and bang” mentality only went so far. They went full out against St. Louis, and got exhausted from there. That is not the answer to winning. On Chicago, is Toews nasty? Is Kane nasty? Is Hossa nasty? Is Sharp nasty? Is Saad nasty? No. Are the 3rd and 4th liners nasty? Yes. As much as I like Parros, what more can he bring than fists? He won’t be of any use in the playoff.

      Again, thanks and have a good day.

      Micah Winston August 31, 2013 at 8:43 am Reply
      • Attempting to trade up for size or inquiring on Lecavalier is just what a good GM does. He clearly wasnt prepared to pay the necessary price, but at least he explored each option to fill a required need. And yes, both the Ducks and Flyers are part of the elite, don’t let an off year cloud your judgement. Parros is exactly what the habs need, a respectable tough guy who makes the entire team that much more confident. Trust me, each and every player was thanking the Lord after the trade was made. He’ll probably be more usefull in the playoffs than Deharnais.

        Mirko J September 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm Reply
        • I fully agree with the asset that Parros brings to the Habs. I was very happy when he joined the team, don’t get me wrong. That being said, when is he going to be used? Against tough teams. Who’s he going to fight? John Scott maybe? Zac Rinaldo? Fact is, that no player like Lucic or Chara is going to want to fight him. There’s no reason for it on a practical standpoint. He’ll protect some players yes, but him alone is not going to change the identity of the team. As for the Ducks and Flyers, it doesn’t matter if its one bad year or seven. They have mirrored the success of the Habs, but yet the Habs are much shorter. Clearly the “size issue” is not the factor in determining their rankings. Finally, I like it when GM’s are ballsy (pardon my language), but would you trade McCarron, Fucale and De La Rose for Morin? What if McCarron becomes a Lucic? What if Fucale becomes a Fleury? What if De La Rose becomes another Eller? All those would go to waste for one single player who is labeled “big”.

          Micah Winston September 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm Reply
  2. I mostly agree with you, the Canadiens game is speed and skill… You play to your strengths. But like anything in life, moderation is needed. That skilled forward or DMan needs to be able to clear the crease or pin players to the boards. Opposing forwards need to be somewhat scared of going into the corners… Creating moments of hesitation. Opposing defensemen should be worn down over the course of a game…not neccaserialy cause a big punishing hit is coming but because we (Habs) are attacking them with speed, skill and size. It’s that last component that we were missing last year. We have some size but we were not able to continuously roll lines out that do all 3 (speed, size, skill) because of a lack of size . I can work on a big players speed but I can’t teach a small player to be big and strong. I think we’re on the right track though… Our RW’s are extremely small as a group but if Gionta is replaced next summer with a decent sized body that can score 20-25 goals, we can have a very well rounded team.

    PS. : Love your articles bro, keep em coming

    Peter August 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm Reply
    • Hi Peter, thanks a lot for reading and commenting.

      I fully agree with you when you say moderation is the key, which is why I believe the 4th line, and possibly even the 3rd should be filled with size. However, more important than size, is defensive qualities. Size alone will not do too much come playoff time, defensive players will. Last year, we did not have that size on the Bottom 6, which did us no good. Desharnais and Gionta possibly on the 3rd line, will not matchup very well against some bigger 3rd liners. That’s where the issue has to be resolved, but its always been like that. In my other article, I said that this should be Gionta’s last season in Montreal, which we can than use that spot for another, more sizeable player. On our Top 6, there is no reason to start “futzing” around, when everything is (and has) working well. The Top 6 is where the Habs speed has drove the opposing teams nuts. We shouldn’t change that. That’s a rare gift that the Habs have. I don’t think its beneficial to be undersized, but if players are 5’10, 5’11 and taller/bigger with speed, that is something that should be used as a benefit, as opposed to a downside. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” 😉

      Thanks again Peter, and appreciate your nice comment! Have a good one!

      Micah Winston August 31, 2013 at 9:02 am Reply
  3. I think what they really need is to play smart. Just don’t fall for the crap that other teams try to pull to take us off our game. If you’re outplaying the opposition using skill they may not have, they will pull all kinds of stuff.

    This is one of the things that annoyed the hell out of me in that series or when we play Boston or Toronto. Stay smart, use your heads and a win can be ours.

    If I were the coach, I’d make sure to cement this into their heads: Don’t fall for their shit. They will say things, they will try to do things, but don’t fall for it. If they get worse it just means they’re getting more desperate.

    I’d rather walk out of a building with a win than lose a game because some lunkhead tried to stir things up.

    DarthAlexander August 31, 2013 at 9:15 am Reply
    • That is just dumb Darth…….just kidding, just kidding 🙂 No but actually I’m completely with you there, which is exactly why I don’t think size is as important as many believe it to be. The Habs have a gift that makes many teams frustrated. No need to taint that. I like Michel Therrien, but he handled the whole playoff scenario very poorly. What you said, is exactly what he should have said. The Habs retaliated, and that was their mistake. If they just stuck to the plan that they used the entire regular season, they would have been golden…..but they didn’t, and THAT was the X-factor in them losing. Not lack of size.

      Thank you Darth for reading and replying! Appreciate it!

      Micah Winston August 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm Reply

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