“I’m kind of sick about hearing that we’re a team that is just about Carey Price.”  – Tomas Plekanec prior to the start of the 2015-16 season

We’re going to have to figure out how to win games without Carey Price. We just are.” – Marc Bergevin January 22

“What does it tell me? I’m not happy about it.” – Marc Bergevin on Melnick in the Afternoon Feb 29 when asked about Habs failure to win without Price

“There’s no chemistry. I’ve seen enough.” – Michel Therrien on Galchenyuk w/Pacioretty Dec 11

“It was a selfish play that cost us the game” – Therrien Feb 17 in Denver

“There is an issue in the Canadiens room. It’s because of P.K. Subban.” – Ron Fournier Feb 16

Mark my words: This is Gary Carter all over again. I’ve seen this act. Take the highest paid guy on the team who also possesses the most personality…who rubs some people the wrong way…and blame it all on him.” – February 18

“P.K. Subban’s been traded for Shea Weber? Holy shit.” – June 29

“As long as I’m making dedications, there’s this great song by Zach Paxson that I’d like to send out to all my former teammates trying to bring a Stanley Cup back to Montreal by playing Michel Therrien’s system. It’s called ‘Good Luck With That’.” – P.K. Subban at JFL Gala Aug 1

Here I am/On the road again/There I am/Up on the stage/Here I go/Playin’ star again/There I go/Turn the page – Bob Seger

And we’re back.  Thanks for stopping by again. And I do hope you make it a habit following each game while also checking out the rest of the upgraded site (including new features and contributors we’re still in the process of acquiring for a Mac to be named later).

You might have noticed a new banner or two. Big thanks to our new sponsor(s) – (yes they’re coming). And if you’re looking for more visibility don’t be shy. I also wear a sales cap.

Just a quick few words on what we do here. It isn’t easy to come up with an original take amidst all the dialogue and noise that is mainstream and social media 2016. I watch the games. I take notes. I listen to post game comments. Then I put these blogs together, most of the time sleeping on it in case my subconscious moments alert me to some truth I hadn’t jotted down. (But mostly it’s just because I don’t have an editor and there is usually something wrong with the original post.) I don’t read any other blogs or game stories until I’ve posted my own. Not because I’m not interested in them (I’m always amused by what Mike Boone writes, Arpon Basu is an ace, I usually like the observations of Brian Wilde, and every Canadiens fan should bookmark Habs Eyes On The Prize) but because, again, I do try to maintain tunnel vision on this.

I think the quotes at the top of this post neatly summarize what happened to the Habs a season ago. The unattributed quotes are mine. This is not another rehash of the Subban-Weber trade (ok maybe just a tad). I never did get around to a season wrap, looking – like most Habs fans – to get away from the 2015-16 season as quickly as possible. But you know what they say about history.

And away we go.

The Good

  • Carey Price. Great, not good. True leader in every sense of the word.
  • Brendan Gallagher. Was on pace for a 30+ goal season before he was injured. If there is just one forward on the team who is indispensable it’s Gallagher. Newest star of the TSN 690 Morning Show (Mondays at 9:35).
  • Alex Galchenyuk. So who is still surprised that his season took off after he was finally moved to where he belongs? Maybe his coach.
  • P.K. Subban. The notion that Subban cost his team anything with those late season give aways during the western road swing is laughable. Unless those doing the loudest bitching were playing sports lotteries. While my dear Melnick in the Afternoon contributors and friends Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro have their doubts that he is among the top 10 defensemen in the NHL, I have don’t. I think Subban is more talented than anybody who was part of Team Canada’s blue line at the World Cup, with the exception of Drew Doughty. Assuming good health I believe he will approach Erik Karlsson numbers this season (including give aways. And because some people never learn- Common thread among lead leaders in give aways? They’re the best players in the game) which should put him in position to be nominated for the Norris trophy for a third time. He might also be in the running for the Hart trophy (especially if Pekka Rinne is able to halt his downward trend). Having said all this, I am looking forward to seeing Shea Weber and an element that he brings to the Montreal blue line that we have not seen in decades. Some members of the advanced stats community have apparently already seen enough, ranking Weber anywhere from 45th best in the NHL to somewhere around hockey’s equivalent of The Mendoza Line. Yes, this is being done by some of the same people who would have you believe that Christian Thomas should be a top line NHL winger, Raphael Diaz a top pair defenseman, Jiri Sekac wasn’t properly utilized by Michel Therrien (and Bruce Boudreau and Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett) and that Alex Semin might have approached Stephane Richer status if only the Habs (and the rest of the NHL) had not pulled the plug so early. To paraphrase Sarah Silverman at the Democratic Convention-some of Subban’s “people” are being ridiculous.
  • Max Pacioretty. Third consecutive 30 goal season. As long as he plays 70-80 games he’ll score. It’s not an issue. Never has been. Clearly lacked the explosiveness that we normally see from him following the off season leg injury that forced him to miss all of training camp. I look for Pacioretty to have his best season yet. The return of Price and the additions of Weber and Andrew Shaw will make him a better captain. Can’t be much worse.
  • Tomas Plekanec. Haunted by that pre-season quote – especially as he went 30 games without scoring a five on five goal. His career shooting percentage of over 10% tumbled to 7.4%. Something to keep an eye on as he’s pushing 34.
  • Alexei Emelin. Another favourite whipping boy because his game isn’t skating. I thought he had his best season.
  • Greg Pateryn. After 160 games in the AHL, Pateryn, while playing just 38 games, proved to be an NHL calibre defenseman.
  • Mark Barberio. Clearly has the skating and puck moving skills to be an effective defenseman.
  • Jeff Petry. Hampered by injuries, Petry deserves credit, in the first year of a rich, new multi year contract, for trying to play through it. He’ll bounce back and look a lot more like the guy the Habs got at the trade deadline the year before.
  • Daniel Carr. Easily the most impressive of the season long parade of call ups from St. John’s. A true nose for the net. Looks like the Habs have something here.
  • Paul Byron. Season opening waiver claim was a sharp acquisition.

The Bad

  • Mike Condon. Never has so many good things been said about a player this bad. It’s easy to see why. He’s a terrific teammate with a great back story. But he’s not an NHL goalie. The Habs would been better off sticking with the more experienced (and maligned) Ben Scrivens (Even Strength Save Pct .926).
  • David Desharnais. He did have a good first two months. But then seemed lost. This season should determine whether he sticks in the NHL or continues his career in Europe.
  • Andrei Markov. Struggled big time for much of the season, picking up where he left off in the 2015 playoffs. Personal issues aside, Markov has been played into the ice by his coaches. He looked more like his old self down the stretch but by then there was nothing much to play for.
  • Marc Bergevin. Seemed to be blindsided by the Price injury. Bergevin was clearly ill prepared to deal with Life After Price, waiting way too long to address an obvious need while the season was still salvageable. We know there is no real way to replace the best goalie in the world. But handing the job to a guy who was two years removed from Princeton was simply poor judgement. Through no fault of Condon’s, NHL shooters ate him alive. Bergevin’s pre-season acquisitions of Zack Kassian and Alex Semin turned into a bad joke (or as many would no doubt claim-a predictable one). As his team imploded while its true captain was immobilized it had to dawn on Bergevin that he had badly miscalculated the strength of his team, seduced as he was by the franchise record setting start. His loyalty to his coach was admirable but then again, who was he going to replace him with? “Take a knee” is how Pierre LeBrun described Bergevin’s attitude as the 2015-16 season played itself out. The honeymoon ended with a thud. This past summer was pick-up-the-pieces time. Four seasons after arriving in Montreal, Bergevin finally turned the Habs into his team. The Subban-Weber deal is already one of historic proportion. It is how Bergevin’s GM tenure will be judged. (Yes – Andrew Shaw is an important pick up – an upgrade on Lars Eller. But do you even remember full details of the separate Shaw/Eller moves?) If it leads to a Stanley Cup, he’ll never have to pay for another suit again. Assuming of course, that Cup is won in Montreal and not in Nashville.
  • Michel Therrien. Don’t stop if you’ve heard this one before – I like the guy. I don’t really know him but I do like that he’s a hockey lifer with some street smarts. He’s a good coach who preps his team well. But once the game starts – not as good. Oh he can recognize who’s got it and who doesn’t on any given night and react accordingly. But then again so does every coach in the league. As many of you know I have defended Therrien against the constant onslaught of criticism. I don’t think any version of the Habs he has guided since returning was capable of doing much more – until the 2015-16 season. While it’s true that he tried to guide his team through the heaviest part of the schedule with less than mediocre goaltending, it’s also true that he was utterly incapable of doing anything to stop the slide. And if adversity reveals true character than perhaps the real Therrien emerged during The Lost Season. He deflected deserved criticism of the power play to assistants Jean Jacques Daigneault and Craig Ramsay. He openly ripped his best player – Subban. But nobody else. His refusal to acknowledge that his offensively challenged team desperately needed a jolt down the middle was most disturbing of all. His obvious distaste for Alex Galchenyuk as a centre was picked up and echoed by some his media pals. On TVA, Jose Theodore implored the Habs to move Galchenyuk at the trade deadline. While members of the L’Antichambre crowd on RDS – including Vincent Damphousse – tried to convince viewers that Galchenyuk carried the puck too often (among other critiques) to be an effective centreman. Hmm. You mean like Pete Mahovlich and Bobby Smith? It was comical to watch this charade play out. The final straw for me was the two game “trial” of Galchenyuk and Pacioretty (but no Gallagher who was injured). It was two games. Yet later in the season, when Galchenyuk was playing the position like a star, Therrien kept saying number 27 was a different player than the one we had seen at centre “for two or three games”. Then, suddenly, it became “three games” as if the phantom extra game at centre was justification for Therrien to reach his faulty conclusion. The fact of the matter is Michel Therrien thought the Canadiens could be a better team with David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec down the middle. Imagine staring at a new season with the same view? If Desharnais doesn’t get injured would Galchenyuk be at centre? You know the answer. Michel Therrien might have Tony Marinaro to thank for saving his job. It was Tony who backed Bergevin into a corner last winter by asking the GM if the coach’s job was safe “no matter what”. Maybe that’s why Therrien was smoking a piece pipe with Tony at the Habs golf tournament (Tony didn’t inhale). There were numerous issues surrounding too many key players a season ago. But it was the true leadership of the organization – management and coaches – who were most at fault. At least the GM had the balls to say “It’s on me”.

The Ugly

  • It’s a shame P.K. Subban’s Montreal career ended this way.  Take a look at Subban’s eyes at the 1:58 mark.

Not one teammate leaned in to offer encouragement.

Now we can turn the page.

Happy 2016-17.

About The Author

7 Responses

  1. Bill Migicovsky

    Well thought, just wish you you had broken the long sections into paragraphs!

  2. Yanne

    Nice to have you back Mitch!!

    I can’t help but love this team, it’s genetic I guess, but that Subban trade will hurt for a long time… I understand the move now, but it seems so incredibly shortsighted. Also I think Pacioretty failed miserably as a captain last year, in general with his team collapsing like that, and in particular regarding PK.

    Further it pains me that I have no faith in this team going far with MT at the helm.

    Other than that the team is looking pretty damn great though. Aside from health, the only real big question mark for me is on left side D with Beaulieu looking good in preseason but still unproven and Markov that is probably better suited for 3rd pairing minutes with PP time at this stage…

    If somehow MB could turn Markov and Emelin into a top pairing defensemen, if McCarron could replace DD before the end of the year and if MT could get kicked out the foxhole……

  3. Joshua Lemish

    Great read, Last season exposed the habs for who they are.
    Therrien has no “system” other than to let Price stop the puck, His love of #51 over that of Galchenyuk shows just how inept he truly is. Muller’s only job is to bonk him on the head and to remind him of what everyone else can see. Bergevin showed his ignorance and arrogance my only hope as a sincere Habs fan is the team tanks hard so this management team is gone and that real growth/development and progress can be made. The Habs won’t win with the “Fox Hole” duo putting themselves ahead of the team.

  4. Rob Balsillie

    The Habs seem to have bought off Tony M the way he’s now trashing P.K… So if, according to Tony, the Habs are in a win now position, it’s time for the GM to put up or shut up. He still seems to talk about being a contender for every year, not the immediate, so trading a player who has nothing but future for a current STUD, doesn’t equate. Also refusing to trade draft picks or rookies for proven talent to win now also doesn’t make sense then. There are some core youth that can play now we keep, but if we can get proven NHL’s in our lineup, trade picks and anything else on the farm. If Bergevin doesn’t agree to this, the Subban trade was a horrible waste. BTW, I’d package up Pacioretty + whatever it takes to try and get Tavares. Similar contracts and stats. They get a U.S. born star for the Island and we get another STUD!
    P.S. Thanks for the free Doobie Bros tickets, the show was great!

  5. Sharon R.

    Mitch, it’s good to see someone with some reasoned attitude. I find it very disturbing to listen to both Tony and Chris bash P.K. I dont’ get it. Have either one of them had a negative exchange with him? Tony has done a 365 degree from a year ago when he had an interview with P.K.after Petry was signed. P.K.and Price both lobbied to keep Petry here and Tony was also thanking Subban for how he had reached out to him and his son. So it’s baffling. How come nobody talks about the teammates that have said positive things about him, like Markov, like Weise or Galchenyuk, even Max. There must be more. So thank you for not jumping on that bandwagon. When the leadership in the locker room comes up, that should be pointed at all the people in the locker room, not just one individual. And where was management in all this. Maybe they played a role, especially when they had four assistant captains instead of one. Who knows. But I’m glad to read your review. At least you have managed to stay as unbiased as possible. Tell Tony and Chris to get a grip.

    • Mitch Melnick

      Dramatic over reaction in an effort to help sell the trade of a very popular player. There are guys in that room who are far worse to people in that room. It might be an easier sell if anybody on the management staff had actually taken their teams to a Stanley Cup.