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Is Martin's calm approach the right one?

MONTREAL -- During Montreal coach Jacques Martin's daily press briefings, we often find our mind wandering.

When Martin starts in on how his goaltending is OK and the Canadiens are OK and nothing is really wrong with his team even though they're down 2-1 in the series after being waxed 5-1 in Game 3 and have virtually no hope of defeating the Washington Capitals, we wonder about things like emotion.

Or, in the case of Martin, a lack thereof.

And we wonder whether it's fair to draw a line between his long-standing refusal to emote and the fact his teams never seem to get over the hump in the playoffs, where emotion is as valuable an asset as a big slap shot.

We remember the opening round of the 2006 playoffs, as the Buffalo Sabres were pounding the Philadelphia Flyers. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff chastised the Flyers for "running around like idiots," which then led Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock to suggest Ruff should mind his own business and famously asked reporters to pass along a message to Ruff that he could ... well ... you can guess what he suggested Ruff could do to himself.

Intense? You bet it was. The character of the coaches reflected the play on the ice. Back in 2004, we loved Tampa coach John Tortorella as he got into it on a daily basis with reporters, Hitchcock, even Philadelphia GM Bob Clarke, who famously suggested there must not be any mirrors in Tortorella's house and dubbed him "The Great Tortellini."

We remember asking Tortorella during that series how the Lightning were going to stop Philadelphia captain Keith Primeau. "Next question," he said, refusing to answer queries about the other team.

It was great theater, but it also spoke to the level of emotion Tortorella brought, and still brings, to the table every night. Like him or not, his players never have to guess about whether Tortorella has his game face on.

We happened to be at a playoff game in Denver back in 1997, when Colorado coach Marc Crawford blew a gasket and tried to scale the glass separating the two team benches to get at Detroit coach Scotty Bowman, who merely stood and looked at Crawford as if he was an exhibit at a museum. Crawford's Avalanche were the defending Stanley Cup champs, so whatever he was doing, it worked on some level.

Last spring, Joel Quenneville responded to a minor penalty call against his Chicago Blackhawks by suggesting it was the worst call in the history of sports; he likewise called out Niklas Kronwall for his hit on Martin Havlat.

While coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pat Quinn would often have a sharp remark for an opposing player or team or official. Perhaps his comments were carefully designed to get another player off his game or to get officials thinking about certain elements of a game, or maybe they were simply spontaneous outbursts.

Regardless, it made for good copy, and you could hardly argue with Quinn's ability to get a lot out of Toronto teams that were for the most part less talented than almost every team they played.

Discussion of Quinn is a natural segue back to Martin, because Quinn ate Martin's lunch on a number of occasions in the playoffs, even though Martin's Ottawa Senators teams were invariably more skilled.

Did Quinn's Leafs beat the Senators because the irascible Irishman is quick with a quip? Of course not. But is it not possible Quinn's emotions helped translate to some sort of success on the ice, that his players took cues from Quinn and were themselves more abrasive, harder to play against?

We often hear coaches exhorting their players to do more, to be more come playoff time. They are asked to sacrifice and deliver performances beyond the norm. But what if the coach himself seems incapable of delivering that kind of emotional performance?

Martin is the poster boy for "Everybody remain calm," and there is something to be said for not becoming a raving lunatic behind the bench or with the media. But at some point, aren't players looking for something to suggest their coach is emotionally engaged? In the past two games, Scott Gomez has fought with Tom Poti, which earned him five minutes in the penalty box in Game 2 and a 10-minute misconduct in Game 3. That's not good use of Gomez's time given his skill level and how desperate the Canadiens are to stay close to Washington. Yet when asked about it after Game 3, Martin seemed nonplussed.

"You lose a player like that for 10 minutes, it makes it difficult," he said.

Surely, it has driven Martin a little crazy that Gomez has hurt the team by being unavailable for 15 minutes of hockey in this series. Did it not bother him that Tomas Plekanec took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the second period of Game 3? Or that the Habs' failure to make a simple clearing play late in the second period of Game 2 ultimately cost them the game?

Sure it did; he benched Sergei Kostitsyn after Game 2. But if Martin conveyed that dissatisfaction publicly, would the message be delivered more emphatically?

Late in the regular season, Montreal fans booed netminder Carey Price after he was named one of the game's three stars. When asked about it, Martin shrugged the incident off by essentially saying fans can do what they want. Why not blast the fans and prop up your player publicly?

There is little doubt Martin has a keen hockey mind. His counterpart in this first-round series, Bruce Boudreau, offered unsolicited praise for Martin on Monday night, calling him one of the smartest coaches in the game, if not the smartest. Not sure we buy that, but his point is a fair one.

Martin was part of the coaching staff when Canada won Olympic gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and when it repeated as champ at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. No one can question his knowledge of the game.

During his tenure in Ottawa, the Senators regularly topped the 100-point mark, but never once did they make it to the Stanley Cup finals and only once did they advance as far as the conference finals. Martin-coached teams have not won a playoff round since 2002-03.

And yet, Martin remains to this day exactly the same personality-wise, the same measured, stultifyingly calm coach whose team seems destined for a similarly disappointing end to its season.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.