New Years Eve marks the return to South Florida for Jacques Martin, aka, Uncle Jack to this writer, and Jmart or JM the GM to others.
His presence existence here certainly came with questions that were never answered, deals that were never done at the right time (Jay Bow), contracts that were/are too fat and too long (Rusty Olesz, Keith Ballard) and a style of play that would make watching paint dry an Olympic event.
I remember the day the Panthers announced that Martin was going to be head coach. The only thing that made me happy about that is when he said the only way he would do it was with his friend Mike Keenan as GM, who JM ultimately backstabbed. Let’s not get off on a Keenan tangent here, but with Mike at the GM controls I felt the style of play would become more aggressive and physical and we’d make a push for the playoffs and add veterans for leadership. We did. Sort of. I thought that if and when the team struggled and JM needed a shoulder to lean on, or the players needed a push, he had it. Actually Mike probably tried telling JM that his system was sucking, but maybe Mike needed to speak french.
Unfortunately the style of play that Uncle Jack forced the team to play was stifiling, and thus the problems occured. Gary Roberts was livid at one point about the emphasis on defence, even though we gave up the most shots in the NHL. Olli Jokinen who was hung out to dry by JM and was never the same after the Richard Zednik incident, was blamed for not being a leader. It came down to trade Olli or fire JM. JM won the battle. So we traded Olli for two defencemen. One of which is no longer here. So we trade 35 goals and replace that with 5, and people wonder why we struggle offensively. By the way, Boynton has more toughness in his pinky than two thirds of this team put together.
Also, let it be known that his age of 38 or 39 whatever it was, Roberts, the warrior that he is, was the last regular player willing to plant himself in front of the net for scoring opportunities. His leadership was second to none and was well on his way to helping Nathan Horton devleop that same mindset. But JM pissed him off too, and Roberts wanted out.
In my estimation Martin had two big moments here in his time in South Florida. Number one, trading Mike Van Ryn for Bryan McCabe. A pretty solid deal, even though McCabe’s contract is pretty fat, we received a healthy offensive defenceman who needed to get out of Toronto, and gave up an injury prone player, who at this point may never play again. Number two, and quite possibly the worst thing that JM ever did (except for coaching this team in the first place) was not trading Jay Bouwmeester at the right time. The organEYEzation knew for 18 months that Jay either wasn’t sure about staying, or actually said he didn’t want to stay. Keenan wanted to make a move as soon as he realized that Jay wouldn’t sign long term, and quite frankly I don’t blame him. The longer a player sticks around and doesn’t sign, and doesn’t appear to be signing, the worse the return is. We actually had deals on the table for guys like Chris Pronger, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, and even rumors of Jason Spezza. As well as the Andrej Meszaros and Antoine Vermette deal. Instead, Uncle Jack bolted out of town and we got a third round pick and Jordan Leopold. Blech!
Correction. Three moments. Number three is when he left!
While the hiring of Pete DeBoer has seemingly worked out(?), the ghost of Uncle Jack lives on. DeBoer has done a decent job with what he has, and basically has been asked to get blood from a hockey stick two years running. While I don’t agree with all of his tactics let’s face it his hands are tied. He has players that should be in the minors developing and either aren’t, or they are struggling up here at the NHL level. As for the actual style of play, you just never know what you’re going to get on a nightly basis, other than you can pretty much count on giving up alot of shots, making line changes when we have an offensive chance, and losing leads late in the game. Whala! The Ghost of Uncle Jack.
In the event you may have forgotton what it looked like to have him here I have included some photos and a small caption underneath. Let’s go down memory lane shall we?
“I don’t know what’s going to happen first, losing this lead we have, or me crappin’ in my pants cause I can’t do anything about it”.
“Ok, boys, remember, dump it in and come over for a line change. I don’t want you getting too fancy”!
“I’m still constipated”.
“Oh shit, can we survive the next two minutes again’?
“Thanks Mike for leaving. Now I can run this team into the ground all by myself”.
“Damn it, we blew the lead again. My head hurts”.
“Ok, so let’s get this straight. You traded Olli, kept me, fired me as coach, but you’re letting me stay as GM, and you’re giving me a contract extension!!!! Awesome! Alan you’re the best! I promise I won’t release those pictures of us!
Same scene in Montreal. “How much time left? I hope we hang on”!
“I don’t know why we keep losing the lead in the third period”.
“Yes Jacques, I think Peter DeBoer is a good choice to coach your group of third and fourth liners”.
After not making the playoffs four years in a row, this is what Jacques said, as he proceeded to leave for Montreal.
A picture you’ll see when Montreal fires him.
Calm and demure, I always felt that we saw too much of this:
I wanted more of this:
And yet you apparently taught DeBoer this:
Welcome back Uncle Jack. I hope you enjoy your visit and your time here. Please take your friggin’ playbook and your video tapes of your defensive system away from coach DeBoer. Learning tools they are not. Oh, I forgot, you never unpacked your boxes while you were here anyway, so you did take them. Then let’s get Jennifer Love Hewitt to get your damn ghost outta here!
Thanks for reading.