John Wiens is a Special Contributor for HabsWorld
People wonder why Red Fisher is still sticking around. Cries of, “he’s too old,” and “He has lost it” have been in the air for a few years, mostly from jealous readership. For the record, here is why Fisher (M.D. Sports Journalism) is still around – His last few articles. In one, he observed that Bob Gainey spent a recent home game talking to the rookies. A few days later, in an interview with Mr. Gainey, Mr. Fisher got this juicy bit “A few of those guys weren’t as mature as I thought they were.” Both tidbits might have seemed like a joke without a punch line. What was really going on was Red Fisher getting the scoop. Maybe he knows something about what Bob Gainey is doing.
A few days after those articles, Michael Ryder is the only rookie still in Montreal, excluding the injured Jason Ward. Hainsey and Hossa are both in Hamilton, and Komisarek and Dagenais are the new flavors of the month.
Rumors that Ron Hainsey is a little too enamoured with the Montreal nightlife have been floating for a while. They remain unconfirmed, at least in print. It is reported in various sources already, mostly in Ottawa, that the Hossa clan is not happy with Marcel playing on the wing.
Not wishing to put words in a GMs mouth, put two and two together. The printed message is that Mr. Gainey values maturity, and he didn’t find it in Hainsey and Hossa. They are both still in their early twenties, so they might have an excuse. So, lets all excuse them while they are wearing Bulldog colors.
Hainsey and Hossa need look closely at Michael Ryder to learn how to make the Canadians. They also need to remember they are still on the bubble. Their NHL careers are not sure bets. Nor do they have the talent level of an Ales Hemsky or Marian Gaborik. Very few kids fly into the NHL these days on the wings of talent. Most do it by hard work.
Hossa, Hainsey, nor Ryder proved anything last year in any league. Yet, Ryder is most consistant rookie in Montreals recent history. He hits, he plays with energy, and he crashes he net. His game is enthusiastic, his game is physically committed. Every game from Ryder looks like a playoff game. He makes the effort on a more consistent basis than many of his contemporaries, rookie or veteran. Ryder knows to play desperate hockey, and so far, his roster spot is safe. Consistency is a major key to his continued resurgence, and to his value. If he keeps it up, he might even play completely proficient hockey before his NHL career is over. Sometimes desire facilitates necessary improvement. If Hainsey and Hossa played with the same desire level, the same physical drive, they would still be in Montreal.
Komisarek didn’t play against the Canucks, prompting the usual chorus of boo-birds. Ignore them. This man-child is not going to excel in his first game against those high flyers. Better that he watch and learn, then practise his game in Hamilton. His most important day during the cup of coffee may be a job interview. Hopefully Komo has been exercising his verbal defense skills. If he plays like Michael Ryder, he could stay up. If he doesn’t, then Mr. Gainey doesn’t need to move a right side defenseman.
In the meantime, Mr. Gainey, and the rest of his team, can methodically assess Komisareks progress. The current take on Komisarek is that he needs to make faster decisions. The NHL is not the place to learn how to do that. Of course, some exalted Media God or another will say “Why are the Canadians messing around with our talent?” News Flash of my own – they aren’t.
Mr. Gainey is getting to know his players. He has watched the ice, and now he is exploring minds. He has played, and coached, great teams and bad teams. He knows what it takes to make a great team, and he wants to know if his young talent has that potential or not. Think we are done rebuilding? Guess again. We have barely even started.
There are other players in Hamilton Mr. Gainey may want to interview. It is easier for Mr. Gainey to bring up players for a week or two than it is for him to commute to Hamilton. There is a method, but it is subtle. I don’t expect him to make any friends this year among the boo-birds, but wait a few years and see who is cheering then.
In the meantime, hats off to Red Fisher. As usual, he beats everyone else to the punch line. Some jokes just take a week to deliver.