Thursday, September 16, 2010

Francophones and the Canadiens

This story (click on line) is interesting. I know there have been some concerns lately about an anti-Francophone bias in the NHL. It might be true but the other point is also worth noting. PQ leader Pauline Marois complains that there are not enough francophones on the Habs while one of her ministers intimates darkly that this might not be "by chance." The issue is not that "talent trumps" language in the NHL and so the Habs will get the best players, the issue is that French-Canadian players are good and so other teams want them. Exactly how are the Habs supposed to go about getting more French-speaking players?

Well ... they could draft them. To have first pick (or, even a low pick) in the draft, however, they 'd need to be a really bad -- oh, Leafs-like -- team. They're not and so the best prospects are snapped up by the time they get to draft. Think about it like this. Imagine that you're running the Leafs or the Senators or Flames. And, your team had a bad season and you get to pick first. And ... there is a really good French-Canadian player. What do you do? You take him. If I'm running that team I might respect the Habs and respect the PQ but my job depends on me putting the best team on ice I can. I'm not going to pass over a good player just because the Canadiens might want him. Why would I make my competition better?

You could trade for him. Sure ... but that depends on having something to trade that the other team wants. Again, if I run, this time let's say the Oilers or the Canucks and I have a good French-Canadian player and I know the Canadians are desperate to get him, I'm going to hold them up for ransom. Again, I'm not going to surrender a player I've draft and developed in order to pass him along to another team for next to nothing and because  I want to win, I'm going to drive a hard bargain.

The issue, then, is complicated. It is not a matter of les Habs not having the will get more French-speaking players or not wanting to. It is a matter of how you get them when other teams don't want to give them up.

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