Leadership or Leader’s Ship?


The first duty of a leader is to make himself be loved without courting love. To be loved without ‘playing up’ to anyone – even to himself. ~ Andre Malraux

Let’s face it, the so-called story started by former reporter Michel Villeneuve is making waves in Montreal… but should it? In case you were hiding under a rock, Villeneuve reported second (or third) hand information to the effect that Michel Therrien, while having diner after playing golf, apparently told someone that Max Pacioretty was the worst captain in the long history of the Montreal Canadiens. Let’s not forget that it’s not the first time that Villeneuve tries using sensationalism to make waives, as he did just a year ago.

Trying to add fuel to the fire, or credibility to a story which can’t get traction from anyone who doesn’t have an agenda against the organisation, he added that seven or eight people told him that story. While it didn’t add to the credibility of the story, he did generate one more day of talks on radio shows, media outlets and social media. Remember the old saying: talk about it in good or in bad as long as you talk about it? But how many people told you Michel? Seven or eight?


To put this story to bed, I don’t believe one second that Michel Therrien thinks that Pacioretty is a bad captain, let alone qualify him as the worst in team history. Is it possible that he would have liked to see more from his captain last season when things fell apart? Absolutely, but Therrien is smarter than his detractors want you to believe. He knows that there is no way that Pacioretty alone could have stopped the train from derailing the way it has. The other leaders in the dressing room had to help put the shoulder to the wheel and pull the carriage in the right direction. As a matter of fact, here’s what Therrien said about his captain just last year:

This is a new role for Patches. When you become captain, you’re not given a book on how to do it. He’s doing the best that he can and he has our full support. ~ Michel Therrien

This is an acknowledgement of the facts surrounding not only being captain of the Montreal Canadiens, but facing that much adversity in a first season. My take is that many people MUST find a scape goat in order to be “happy” as a fan, as a member of the media. Whether it’s Pacioretty, whether it’s Therrien, whether it’s Marc Bergevin, whether it’s Saku Koivu who also was chased out of Montreal, those people must find the negative in everything in order to satisfy their need to complain and find someone to blame. When they don’t like someone, they’ll be more than willing to believe any negative story, made up or not, because it supports their need to put down those whom they dislike. So folks, consider the source when reading comments.

One last thing on the topic is a comment heard today on 91.9 Sports on J.C. Lajoie‘s show, when he interviewed Bob Hartley who said:

I had lunch three times recently with Michel (Therrien), the last time was less than three weeks ago. We talked about our respective teams, about the collapse which both our teams went through. I tell you what, Michel Therrien greatly appreciate Max Pacioretty. You know me, stories from the bar (or golf club)… ~ Bob Hartley

Leadership issue

So if we stick to the facts reported by those who are part of the team, like Therrien, if it’s not only Pacioretty who could have stopped that slide, where were the other leaders? Where were the four alternate-captains and other veterans, who apparently all want this team to be successful? Why, may I ask, are we only talking about Pacioretty’s leadership even knowing that he’s the captain, and not the other leaders on this team? Let’s not forget that Pacioretty received 21 of 23 votes from his teammates to be named captain a year ago! Let’s also not forget that Bergevin and Therrien were thrilled to see him being voted captain and they drove to his house to present him his jersey with the “C” on it!

The crowd gives the leader new strength. ~ Evenius

On the question of leadership, one thing that I know is that one person cannot lead a group who doesn’t want to be led. The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child is forever true, and it’s no different in team sports. With that in mind, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher all wore the “A” on their jersey. I must be missing something as I don’t hear about the lack of leadership from any of those players. If those guys led, why did the team collapse like it did? There’s only one correct answer: it wasn’t as much a lack of leadership as it was a problem of pride, guts and willingness to do what it took to reverse the season… without the true leader of this team: Carey Price.


The management team, coaches included, were in a perfect position to see what happened first hand. They had postmortem interviews and meetings, they pinpointed the main issues and they made decisions based on all of that. We saw Lars Eller being sacrificed. We saw Subban being traded for Shea Weber, we saw the addition of Andrew Shaw, and we saw the signature of Alexander Radulov after much research and investigation. Last but not least, he brought back a former captain of the team, Kirk Muller, and added him to the coaching staff.

Will it be enough? Time will tell. What we know is that Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman loved what Shaw brought to his team. We know that Radulov’s coach and GM loved what he brought to their team. We also know that Weber received the Mark Messier Award as the NHL’s best leader. They have gone out and provided their captain with quality players, known as leaders on their respective teams.

And that’s the difference between a leader’s ship and leadership!

Bergevin has said that he doesn’t want players who want to win, he wants players who hate to lose. He also wanted to add some much needed grit to a line-up in dire need of it. He wants players (not just one) who will stand up for each other, guys who will be willing to do what it takes to win and turn things around. Let’s only hope that he was able to bring in enough to bring this team back to where it’s been since he took over: amongst the best in the league!


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