“I’m not a guy who looks back. I’m not blaming anyone but myself.”
That's what Thomas Vanek had to say Saturday while cleaning out his locker in Montreal, amid questions about his lack of production in the playoffs.
But it wasn't quite true.
Vanek may have purported to blame only himself for a postseason in which he scored in just 3 games, had only 28 shots in 17 games, well below his usual average of three per game, contributed zero goals versus the Cup-bound Rangers, and was very nearly a healthy scratch. But he also took the time to explain it. And his explanation cast shade on both linemate Tomas Plekanec and coach Michel Therrien. From the Montreal Gazette:
“I’m a big believer in chemistry,” said the 30-year-old, who intends to take advantage of his unrestricted free-agent status on July 1. “I started in Buffalo and I went to the Island, where I got comfortable with Johnny (Tavares) and (Kyle) Okposo (with the New York Islanders) and our line took off and then your game takes off. When I first got here, I struggled a bit and then I got moved to Davey (Desharnais) and Patch (Max Pacioretty) and I think as a line we were great, one of the best lines.
“Then I got taken off and I struggled to find myself with a new line,” added Vanek, who had six goals and nine assists in 18 regular-season games with the Canadiens. “I played with (Tomas Plekanec) for most of the playoffs and it didn’t work. We are, I believe, both very good players, but it didn’t work. We’re not on the same page, just different games.”
Vanek is clear here, that this isn't particularly Plekanec's fault. After all, they just play different games. He's only tacitly blaming his center a little.
He's tacitly blaming coach Michel Therrien a lot, however.
Plekanec doesn't decide who skates with him. Therrien does, and did, and then did again, to his detriment. What Thomas Vanek is basically saying here is that Therrien dismantled a line that was working, thereby muting Thomas Vanek.
As Vanek explains, on Long Island, it took him a while to get going. But then he got settled with his new linemates, and his game took off. It happened again in Montreal, too. But then Therrien shook things up, also hitting Thomas Vanek's reset button in the process.
It's not really Vanek's fault, then, is it? You wanted the productive Thomas Vanek? You had him. And then Michel Therrien killed him.
To my mind, this is an outbound player throwing his coach under the bus. (Even if he might be right.) Vanek may have followed this up by saying it's exactly what he wasn't doing, but it doesn't really work that way. Nice try.
In any case, let this be a lesson to whomever signs Vanek to the long-term, UFA contract he's going to get this summer: if you want it to be worth it, you will pair him with a center he likes playing with, and then leave him alone. Don't. Touch. Anything.
Otherwise it's your fault if the contract's a bust.