Wednesday, June 4, 2014
By the traditional definition of the term, Guy Lafleur falls short of the qualities expected of an "ambassador", which is his public relations role with the Montreal Canadiens. He's not the train wreck that, say, Don Cherry would be as Canada's ambassador to Sweden, but it's not a stretch to say that Lafleur has never mastered the subtleties and nuances of high-level diplomacy. When you ask him a straightforward question, you usually get an honest, unfiltered answer.
Lafleur's candor caused a stir this week when he was quoted by La Presse as saying the Canadiens can't win with players like Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek and should get rid of them. He need not worry about Vanek, who performed during the playoffs like he was already in Minnesota, which is his expected destination via unrestricted free agency. Pacioretty, however, figures prominently in the Canadiens' future plans. He's only one season into a six year contract and led the team in regular season points for the third year in a row and in goals for the second time in the last three seasons, with a career-high 39.
What puts a bee in Lafleur's bonnet is Pacioretty's playoff showing, which le Demon Blond found wanting. Pacioretty wasn't invisible in the post-season, but he delivered his 11 points in 17 games in fits and starts, as is his custom. According to La Presse, Lafleur has made up his mind that Pacioretty doesn't have the stuff of a champion and should be dispatched posthaste. That assessment, in turn, rankled Pacioretty's many fans and media supporters - to the point where some of them started nitpicking at the Flower's career in an attempt to discredit his opinion about Pacioretty: Lafleur's career started slowly, he "only" had five phenomenal playoff years, and he was spoiled by playing alongside so many Hall of Famers. (Some of those Hall of Famers presumably feel the same way about playing alongside Lafleur.)
For the record, I don't agree with Lafleur that the Canadiens should unload Pacioretty, He's not wrong that Pacioretty is unproven as a clutch playoff performer, but I think he's premature in writing Pacioretty off. That said, I respect his opinion. He's Guy Lafleur, for crissakes. You don't have to agree with what he says, but if anyone has earned the right to an opinion on hockey and knows what it takes to be a champion, it's Lafleur, and trying to tear him down to defend Pacioretty is not a credible exercise.
Everything doesn't have to be black or white, right or wrong, or left or right. You can disagree with someone and still respect their opinion. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Except, of course, on Twitter, where everyone thinks everyone else is an asshole.