After reading the post on Begin I decided start a discussion on why some players suceed when they come to Montreal and some fail miserably.
Imo, Begin is the type of player that can excel in Montreal. The fans, media, etc. keep constant pressure on the team and reward the 'Charlie Hustle' type players with tons of praise. The atmosphere around the team never dies down allowing players like Begin the ability to slack off, or take a game or two off. Imo, this is how the media and fans HELP the team.
On the flip side, if someone who is expected to put up goals or points goes through a slump, they get criticizes badly by the fans and the media, making it increasingly hard for scorers to work through slumps. They tend to push it too hard and end up making mistakes (pass instead of shot, vice versa, etc). A grinder doesn't nessesarily goes through a slump so as long as they keep up their effort they will never face that type of wrath. A scorer regardless of effort can sometimes just not put up the points for an extended period of time. This is how the fans, media, etc. HURT the team.
I don't think this is a theory that applies to every player but imo, it is the reason some players over the years wilt when they come here, and others blossom. Of course all bets are off if the team is winning at a good clip mind you also.
I expect to get a ton of 'Well any player who can't handle the pressure of playing here, we don't want here' type responds and don't 100% disagree with that statement I just beleive too many times we elavate certain players and strike down others.
P.S. this isn't a commentary on Begin or any other current hab in particular. I like most others is quite pleased with his Begin so far, and infact wonder weather he could become more than a 4th liner to this team in the future.
There is so much pressure on the players when they come to Montreal, it always seem to come down to expectations, and when these guys are expected to do well the fans and medias want instant results... In the case of Begin, he wasn't expected to do anything and low and behold he has played great and has everyone's praise. Same can be said of Souray, no one could have predicted his great start, and he certainly wasn't expected to score the way he has. Now can these 2 guys who have had great starts continue their success? Let's hope so. Expectations... sometimes it's all in how something is perceived.
There's one thing the fans seem to respond to in a positive way in Montreal, and it's the players that have a kind of blue collar/hard working style. The ones that have a hard time are often the players, just like Czerkawski, that have loads of raw skills, but appear to want it more or less and more often than not are just floating by during a game. Begin is that kind of hard working courageous guy that plays a fearless and passionate game and gets the crowd on their feet with his hits. Those kind of players IMO stand more chances to become appreciated in Montreal and therefore succeed. You need to have character to play in Montreal, and respond well to pressure. Begin has the kind of personality and attitude that work better under such an environement (and so does Koivu) than a soft guy lacking confidence like Czerkawski who can die in that same environement.
Look at our cup winning team in 93, now tell me that wasn't a group of blue collar grinders who were all excelling in Montreal. The thing is, these players came into montreal with a boatload of intangibles and the montreal media and fans recognize this and develop a huge respect for these players. Guys like Carbonneau, Mcphee, Skrudland, Lemieux (claude), Keane, Corson. All of these guys gave it all every night and montreal fans really are smart enough to acknowledge this. This is why players never feel underapreciated in montreal, because we know when someone is doing his job! Today, its guys like Begin, Souray, Koivu, Bulis, Langdon, Quintal who are heralded by the fans. Because even when the results for these players aren't there... the effort is.
flip side: those who float, and were used to getting by on their skills on small market teams will always be caught by the fans and media in montreal. Berezin, Czerkawski, Perrault, Rucinsky, Zubrus, Malakhov. All of these players had tremendous talent, but they all also had tremendous inconsistency... and that's the key to why they won't succeed in Montreal.
I guess what im trying to say is that, while many people think that when a player comes to montreal, he can't and won't score. That's not the case, however, as its the players who are willing to give it all on a nightly basis that are gonna gain the confidence from the fans to score. Guys like Ryan Smyth, Anson Carter, Shane Doan, Matt Cooke, would all be adored in montreal, and as a result would not slump like so many of our previous "busts".
Guys with good work ethic and hard working blue collard/plumber attitude will always succed in Montreal. They can can be a fourth line grider (like Begin, Ward or Langdon), scoring forward (Ryder (I hope...), Koivu) or defenseman (Souray, Komo or Markov).
Softy player with no work ethic, will always be pointed out everytime they do a mistake. Czerkawski, Turgeon or Audette are in this categorie. Rivet is in the hard working guy who take everything for granted and start to fall into the second categorie.
WANTING to play for a team does make a difference. If you look at a team like the Leafs, all of their players (with the exception of Mogilny) wanted to play there and they give it their all every night. I think that a handful of our players play in Montreal because they have to and you'll never have a winning team that way.
I admit it must be tough to play in Montreal and be scrutinized after every single game, but what that does is put pressure on the team to perform. Some people can thrive under pressure and perform, some don't. Right now, the team we have has more guys that wilt under the pressure than thrive under it.
Yes, I think Gainey is going to have to build a team around more hard working, foot soldier type players. Turgeon was already brought up, and I think that was a great example. Pierre had some success, and was a favourite of mine, but when the games were on the line, he seemed to fade away.
I think Bo will realize guys like Ribeiro won't do for the Habs. Trevor Timmins seems to think the same way, judging by his comments in which he's constantly stating that he prefers the plays who are oozing with work ethic and dedication. Now, obviously Ribeiro has shown a willingness to improve, as we can see by his off season strengthening programs, however small they may be. However, Ribeiro doesn't seem like that player willing to give 111% eighty-two times a year.
That is why guys like Carbonneau, Gainey, Nilan, and Recchi all thrived here in Montreal. They were willing to throw their guts around out there for the good of every face on the bench. That is why I am so excited about guys like Milroy, Higgins, Lapierre and O'Byrne.
I think Montrealers also want a team that represents them a bit. Growing up in Montreal, for me it was a pretty tough town and the Habs are full of wussies.
It's hard to take when people make fun of my team because they are wussies, what am I supposed to say? I agree!
I think we are also very touchy about this issue and any player who plays with physicality, doesn't let himself get pushed around or has any amount of size becomes an immediate favorite.
I think the fans have been extremely patient with the young players. Look how patient they were with Koivu. The patience with Koivu was starting to run out until the whole cancer thing, now he has a second life in Montreal.
I think Zednik is the next guy to start hearing it from the fans. He is just not hustling, and he has no hockey sense to begin with, so he better at least hustle.
It's not even physical play though...it's more along the lines of having a good blend of talent and toughness. A guy like Joe Sakic gets pushed around but he's just that good with the puck so guys fear him. Hejduk isn't a tough guy, neither is Selanne, neither is Kariya for that matter. Of course I have named an all-star team in Colorado but they also have guys that are willing to mix it up like Hinote, Foote, even Forsberg plays tough for his size and dimensions.
I think you're right though, too many of our guys just seem afraid. Dackell, Juneau, Perreault, Ribeiro, etc. I could go on of course...our toughness lacks right now, I'm sure BG knows this.
I wonder what it would take to get Ruutu from Vancouver. Everytime I watch that guy play he hits anything that moves...he does tend to take some bad penalties sometimes but I like the spark that guy brings to the ice.