The Friday Feature: Coach K Speaks Out!

Coach K

Welcome to what will hopefully become a weekly staple here at Panther Parkway:  The Friday Feature, where we have a friend of the site speak out on some of the issues of the game, and give us their honest and direct opinions with no strings attached.  Up first is someone that I consider to not only be a good friend to me, the site, and many of you, but a person who’s opinion I am truly interested in hearing.  You know him as “Coach K”.  Who is he?

Kosta Papoulias (Better known as Coach K), is a radio personality and associate producer with the Web Sports Media Network. He appears regularly on Montreal Hockey Talk (www.montrealhockeytalk.com), a smash-mouth, uncensored Montreal Canadiens post-game show. Kosta has spent the better part of the last 18 years behind the bench at all levels of hockey, and speaks often to some of the best minds in the game, sharing his insight and analysis. Coach K lives near Montreal, with his loving wife of 13 years, Carole, and their 2 daughters, Amanda and Kristina.

Let’s get to it:

1) So Coach K, knowing the passion you have for the game, and the knowledge you have, I’m going to get right to it.  What is your position on the NHL Lockout, specifically is one side more out of line than the other?

This time, I place the blame on not only the owners, but their executives as well. Most GMs in the NHL have spent the last 7 years trying to find ways to circumvent the salary cap. Only a select few, like Ken Holland, Ray Shero and Steve Tambellini, have built their teams through the draft. Granted, as time goes by, keeping their blue chip draft picks becomes more difficult, but it’s the right way to build a team. They are in the minority though. Most GMs, especially in major markets where the pressure to win is immense, think that trading young assets for high priced talent is a recipe for results. I guess Bob Gainey and Glen Sather learned the hard way that it’s a formula for mediocrity. There is also the mind numbing negotiation tactics of Gary Bettman. Just because a lockout worked last time doesn’t mean you have to slam another one down everyone’s throats, while maintaining the facade that the league is negotiating in good faith.
2) Remembering what happened with the last lockout, is it your opinion that the league is attempting to make up for what has turned out to be a flawed agreement? 

Again, considering the mistakes most GMs make in their professional player assessments, the agreement itself wasn’t flawed. The cap allowed small market teams an opportunity to become competitive and created some parity in the league. Also, league revenues grew at a steady pace for the entire 7 year period that was encompassed by the last CBA. The problem wasn’t the agreement, but more Gary Bettman’s stubborn belief that teams in Columbus, Phoenix and Long Island could prosper. If the NHL commissioner was more interested in keeping the league healthy, instead of stroking his ego and maintaining a dying legacy, we may not be in the situation that we are in today. Like Atlanta’s move to Winnipeg, if teams were relocated to cities that could sustain a steady stream of revenue and season ticket sales, the last agreement wouldn’t look so bad.

3) In your estimation, when will the regular season begin, and why do you think it will be then?

From the information I am gathering, there is a rift growing between the NHL owners and Gary Bettman. Firstly, during the last negociations, Bettman created the infamous escrow account, which he promised would go to the owners in the event of a team being relocated or if expansion were to occur. Granted, because of the fantastic response from fans in Winnipeg, the escrow account remained untouched. Now that a work stoppage has occurred again, something Bettman again told owners wouldn’t be necessary, the escrow monies are being redirected back to the players, whose salaries built it in the first place. That’s the principal reason Bettman wants revenue to be 50-50.

Second, Jeremy Jacobs was a big player in getting the NBC Sports Network on-board with their 10 year/ $2 Billion contract. Now that the season is once again in jeopardy, sponsors are beginning to look away from NBC and finding other avenues to advertise, which is putting Jacobs in a very unsavoury position.
Because of these 2 major issues, I can’t see the NHL cancelling the season outright, so I believe they should be back on the ice in late November or early December.
4) When things do get back to normal, what are your expectations for the Montreal Canadiens?
Given the handcuffs left behind by the dynamic duo of Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier (the latter being more responsible because of his professional scouting ineptness,) the Habs will be in what I like to call a “refit” mode. What that means is that instead of blowing the whole team up and reloading with overpriced, over-aged

veterans, they are in the process of rebuilding from within and allowing some of their contracts to elapse. Depending on the conditions in the CBA, guys like Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle may be on their way out of Montreal. And with the defensive talent amassed by Trevor Timmons in Hamilton, the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, along with recent draft pick Alex Galchenyuk, the Habs should be back in the mix inside of the next 2-3 years.
5) Are you pleased with Marc Bergevin, and do you feel he’s a solid choice for the job?
I like what Marc Bergevin has done so far, both with the roster and the front office. While most think he’s established a “boy’s club”, as far as assembling his previously non-existent front office, he has acquired character players, something this team has lacked for quite some time. Again, with the young talent they have in the farm, and the quality personnel to perform professional scouting duties, he’s turning this franchise around very quickly.
6) Michel Terrien was rehired as coach.  Did this surprise you?  Who was your first choice?
While Therrien wasn’t a very popular choice, people have to remember his best qualities. He did a masterful job in Pittsburgh with a young Penguins’ team, getting them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007-2008. He took a team with a porous defense at turned them into Cup contenders, as we witnessed with their victory in 2008-2009. Previous to that, he was a rookie coach in the NHL with the Canadiens, often using techniques that worked for him in junior, but backfired at this level. He has learned over time, however. And while most peg him as a defensive coach, he has shown in his years in Junior that his teams evolve and adjust depending on the personnel he has available to him.
7) Jacques Martin.  Was he fired too early, too late, or was he a scapegoat?
How could you even ask that? As I said about Therrien’s evolution, Martin’s stopped when he left the Panthers’ bench, and took on the job of general manager. When the NHL reinvented itself, he missed the boat, maintaining the belief that defensive hockey was the only way to win. During his tenure with Montreal, he rode the coat tails of a red hot Jaroslav Halak to an Eastern Conference Final, but really, he did nothing to improve the team. Instead, he used his antiquated ways to hinder the development of younger players, all while playing veterans like Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen in situation they weren’t trained to flourish in.

No, his firing was a half a season too late, as far as I’m concerned.
I’d like to thank Coach K for his candid answers, and for his time in answering our questions.  Give him a follow on Twitter at @HabsCoachK.
He’s smart, knows the game and with his witty sense of humor, your timeline will be “energized!
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Comments

  1. FranPar says:

    It all comes back to Bettman, what a flawed legacy he is going to leave, and hopefully he will leave. And soon.

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