Growing up in Toronto, I loved Guy Lafleur. Even as a young Leafs fan, I found little was more thrilling than watching him motor down the ice along the boards and pick the top corner with a perfectly-placed slapshot. But when I saw the comments Lafleur made to French language publication La Presse yesterday – comments that ripped the team, and in particular, star wingers Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek – I wanted to immediately drive to Quebec and shake him by the shoulders until his ears were unclogged by whatever intellectual flotsam and jetsam was plugging them up.
“Guys like (Thomas) Vanek and (Max) Pacioretty, you can not keep (them) in your team,” Lafleur said. “They stay home if they are not willing to pay the price. Your team will never win with players like that (who) fade when there is adversity.”
Say what you will about Vanek, but trade Max Pacioretty? Twenty-five-year-old Max Pacioretty? Just-scored-a-career-high-39-goals Max Pacioretty? This might be something worth considering if Lafleur has invented a fountain of youth and plans to come out of a retirement as a 19-year-old rookie with the Habs next year, but otherwise, it’s exceedingly preposterous. If Montreal traded Pacioretty at 9 a.m. tomorrow, by brunch they’d be searching desperately and in vain for what he brings to the lineup.
Also preposterous were Lafleur’s comments directed toward Canadiens players “bragging” about Montreal’s stellar season.
“Do not settle for a good season,” Lafleur said. “You do not play hockey for good seasons. You play to win the Stanley Cup. It has to be the objective.”
Does Lafleur honestly believe Canadiens players are satisfied with their season? He knows as well as anyone that winning a Cup is a process. Teams learn to lose at hockey’s highest levels before they win. That’s what happened to Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers before they won an NHL championship. That’s what happened to Sidney Crosby’s Penguins before they won. Lafleur should know players can’t simply will themselves to win. If that were true, the league would hand out 30 Cups each year.
There’s nothing wrong with former players speaking their minds. In fact, I’d prefer to hear analysis from a retired legend willing to speak out harshly over one who serves as a corporate shill for a franchise. But Lafleur’s comments are what you’d expect to see from an ill-informed fan, not someone who has been an integral part of the sport.
Asking a youngster with only 21 games of playoff experience to put an NHL team on his back is an indictment of Lafleur’s expectations of backs, not of the one that belongs to Pacioretty.
Trade Max Pacioretty? It is to laugh, and do so in the face of anyone who suggests it. Even a Hockey Hall-of-Famer.