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Lars Eller has played much better of late and finally hit the score sheet against the Kings while Benoit Pouliot has a solid 12 points in spite of playing just under 12 minutes per game. Slowly but surely, it seems that both young forwards are becoming increasingly comfortable in their given roles, and our board members have certainly noticed. Meanwhile, P.K Subban’s chattiness also continues to feed much discussion. As such, in this edition of ATB, we will contemplate Martin’s patience with his younger players and offer a final thought on the Subban discussion.

JoeLassister was the most vocal in his support for Jacques Martin, outright apologizing for his previous doubts: “After a few games into the season, I was really not convinced about how Martin was using Pouliot and Eller. I really thought he was messing up with their development, especially when he was playing musical chair with 2nd line LW without trying Pouliot back where I though he’d belong. Now, I am ready to apologize as they seem to be growing up in a perfectly slow way.”

Needless to say, many others echoed similar views. The Chicoutimi Cucumber pointed out how the coach is instilling NHL values into both players: ”with Pouliot, so far this season his development has been exemplary. It seems that, as with Eller, JM is really teaching him how to be a NHLer. The big offensive opportunities can wait until the fundamentals are there.” Furthermore, Wamsley01 underlined Martin’s experience and calm as reasons for success with the abovementioned youngsters: “They are not rushing Eller up to the top lines and after Pouliot struggled they didn’t break his spirit, they have put him in a position to succeed and he is beginning to gain confidence. When players have refused to buy into the program they ship them out. […] it seems that a veteran coach who is not just trying to cling to his job has allowed for the patience that is required to build a system and team identity.”

As much as I try to remain objective when I step behind my keyboard, it is always hard to dissociate emotion when one is passionately invested in a given team. Consequently, be it in my head or on this site, I too have toyed with various ideas on how to handle both players, including but not limited to demoting Eller to the AHL, making Pouliot the team’s second line winger and placing Eller as the the second-line centre with Gomez on the wing. Clearly, the coach has the ability to step back and ascertain what is best for the developing duo. Martin’s methodology is forcing Pouliot and Eller to learn from the veterans around them, work for their ice-time and helps instill the notion that a spot on the top lines is to something be earned. In addition, insulating them from the opponent’s top players and the spotlight that comes with playing in a more significant position can only be good for them.

Nonetheless, eventually Martin will have to hand the keys to the car to one of the two attackers. Moen, Pyatt or Lapierre are ill-suited for scoring roles and at one point a losing-streak or an offensive cold spell will force the bench bosses’ hand. Clearly, this is something he has avoided doing at all costs so far this season, but the pressure to win will sooner or later outweigh the imperative to develop.

Finally, Mike Richards’ comments about Montreal rookie P.K Subban continue to fuel much debate, namely in regards to the blueliner’s talkativeness on the ice. Most notably, Bar and dlbalr (aka Brian La Rose) had a nice back-and-forth on the subject. Bar felt that Subban was more of a victim and did well to defend himself on Friday against Atlanta. Conversely, dlbalr is of the opinion that Subban’s constant yapping simply instigates fights at times: ”I didn’t like the mouthing before, during, and especially after the fight (at Bogo/Kane). Dropping the gloves to stick up for yourself is one thing, yapping to instigate one…not so much

Part of the reason we have gotten so much mileage out of this discussion is perhaps because we, as Canadiens fans, are defending him out of some amount of guilt. We know that, for the most part, we would grumble just as much if any other player acted the same way towards the Habs. And, undoubtedly, he needs to rein in some of his exuberance. However, we must not forget that Subban is a rookie and there is a learning process he still must go through. Be it his constant dialogue, over-shooting, elaborate rushes or propensity to hold on to the puck a bit too long, there are still some issues that need some tweaking.

As for Richards comments and his accusation that Subban lacks respect, that is all immaterial. In fact, any external commentary is largely irrelevant. For now, the only respect he needs to earn is that of his 22 teammates and, if one of them feels that he is in error, it should be made known to him.

That’s all for this week’s of ATB. Until next week, see you on the boards.

Louis Moustakas can be reached for comments, questions, cross-checks and, of course, fan-mail at [email protected]

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