Saturday, November 7, 2009

Picture worth (almost) a thousand words.

Let it be known to the rest of the population that wasn't at the Bell Centre last night: I love this man.

(No. Not Conboy, Russell, or Belle. I mean the man hovering over them, adamantly directing his players for the faceoff with 5.4 seconds left on the clock, having been disallowed a goal in a scramble that can only be described as frantically desperate.)

Before last night's contest against the Binghamton Senators, the Hamilton Bulldogs were the only team in the AHL that had yet to be defeated in regulation time. Guy Boucher is a very big part of the reason why.

You're going to look at me and say, "Well, obviously. He's the coach that led your little Drummondville team to their first President's Cup and all the way to the semi-finals of the Memorial Cup, of course you'd love him. He's a man that knows how to win." That's only the half of it. He's a man that knows how to lose, too.

Drummondville was not the centre of the QMJHL in 2007-08. They were more like the embarrassment. They weren't even at .500, they were at .200. In 70 contests, they only won 14. And sure, there was no Derick Brassard. Definitely no Guillaume Latendresse. Tomas Svoboda and Scott Howes were tearing up the Atlantic Division, and Tomas Zohorna went to play for Pardubice in the Czech Republic. The sole excuse that fans could fall back on was "it's a rebuilding year."

Ho, hum. Team full of youngsters or not, that excuse was never good enough for their coach. From a man that has battled adversity for much of his life, there could never be a "settlement" with the status quo, nor an acceptance of defeat just because of the uncontrollable factors. He let them know it, he let the media and the fans know it. He wanted more than anything to give the Voltigeurs' faithful the full product of what they came to see, and to do that, he knew his players needed to come out and play. There were practices at 5 a.m., there were bag skates, there was every disciplinary tactic you've ever heard of in the game of hockey. And sometimes, the night before would have only been a 2-1 loss, rather than an 8-2 shellshocker.

Why? Guy Boucher is a man who values work ethic. If you don't fight hard enough to get even close to that tying goal, your level of talent (or lack thereof) immediately becomes void. He wouldn't shy away from telling letting the media know what he felt was lacking, either. In a single press conference, he can be asked just one question, "What went wrong tonight?" and be able to leave everyone with soundbytes worth an entire newscast. But he's not a man that singles out a particular player. When he's ashamed of a loss, it's because he knows his team could do better.

It's that kind of mentality that the Canadiens need on their farm club, to not only promote the worth of their prospects, but to band them all together so that if one guy makes it to the Habs ahead of another, it won't be so much every-man-for-himself but more like "that's awesome for him. Now I know what I've got to do to join him."

Result? The Canadiens' call-ups have all been different this season. Weber. Belle. Carle. White. Pyatt. You try and tell me I'm making this up.

It was visible last night when the 'Dogs mustered 37 shots on goal, with all of it only leading to more frustration, except in the instance of P.K. Subban's marker. Everyone at the bench was on their feet hoping for their teammates to bury a loose puck, only to watch so many power play chances come up fruitless. There were several points during the game in which goals were thought to have been scored, and Boucher's classic bench-boss intensity--a trait he is known league-wide to be one of the masters of--was very prevalent even in the dying seconds.

Except that he knows how to use that intensity for better means. He had moved on from the non-goal and was working with his players to try and get a new one, despite the improbability of that happening.

Always working towards what can be done the next time, only lingering briefly on the mistakes. That's the kind of mentality that owns a President's Cup ring, and that won't be the last piece of hardware that comes to it.

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