Who took the joy out of the Canadiens season?

Barely three weeks ago Gord Miller was force feeding doubters that the Habs were one of the best teams in the NHL. Gord even used the word elite. (Yeah let’s blame Gord since some of you already blame him for spoiling potential shutouts.)

Or maybe you think it’s because over the last two months (+) Carey Price is no better than Mike Condon was a year ago.

Perhaps it’s Marc Bergevin who had a terrific off season but created so much damage a year ago (including a new two year deal for Tomas Plekanec) that he’ll need one more off season to fully recover.

It could be the coach, who has this nasty habit of making sure his team flies out of the starting gate only to wilt early in the New Year.

Or maybe it’s just the new NHL reality which ensures that all teams are more or less created equal and what you see during any given stretch might just be a mirage (See: Washington Capitals regular season vs Washington Capitals playoffs).

The Habs played reasonably well at home vs St. Louis. A better performance by Al Montoya would likely have resulted in two points, or at least one. But the next night in Boston was a predictable mess. Was anybody good? Well, I was impressed by Alexei Emelin going down to block a Zdeno Chara slapper on a Boston power play with less than 40 seconds to play. Seriously, I was.

Other than that the Bruins – who need their bye week just as badly as the Habs do as both teams hit the 58 game mark of their schedule – looked quicker, sharper and just plain better in every aspect of the game. Energized by a new coach? Sure. It’s difficult to argue otherwise. Short term anyway.

“We seem to have lost our identity” said Price after the game. I thought Carey Price was the Habs identity. Augmented by a fast counter attack and relentless pursuit of the puck. Where did it all go? And how permanent is it?

It’s difficult to imagine four days away from the rink will not benefit Price and Shea Weber and Andrei Markov and Emelin and Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty – all of whom began their season in the summer. But what if it doesn’t? Like, Plekanec looks done as a scorer. There is no punch left in his shots on goal. Sure he has value in other areas of the game but that’s a big chunk of ice time down the middle for a team that right now couldn’t score at The Bunny Ranch.

The most important forward on the team coming out of the break will be Alex Galchenyuk, assuming he’s still a Hab. As these losses have piled up he has become the new whipping boy for many in the media, especially those who are friendly with Michel Therrien and/or Bergevin. Galchenyuk has been a shell of the player he was before a knee injury knocked him out of the line up for six weeks, which in fact, eventually became eight weeks. He’s not getting better, he’s getting worse. An offensive dynamo who is clearly regressing. Is this “part of the process”?

The chemistry that Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov had early in the season was undeniable. Yet it took two full periods in Boston for Therrien to throw them back together, while Phillip Danault was invisible from the opening face-off. As the Habs pressed for the tying goal Saturday against the Blues, Galchenyuk was not one of the six Montreal skaters on the ice. He eventually got out there only after Patrick Berglund completed his hat trick with an empty netter to give St. Louis a two goal lead. (Hey, but at least the blame-Pk Subban-card can no longer be played.)

You think Danault, at this stage of his young career, is really a top line centre? You think Bergevin believes that?

Is it really a surprise that Paul Byron didn’t continue to score goals on a regular basis? Or that Torrey Mitchell hasn’t scored a goal since many of you were starting to compile a Christmas shopping gift list? (How do you justify putting him on the ice for over 13 minutes a night?)

Weber’s game has taken a nosedive. Yet how did Zdeno Chara, nine years older (and who also started this season in the summer) look so much better while logging even more ice time?

Nathan Beaulieu, who looked so good against St. Louis, looked so bad in Boston. And that is basically Beaulieu in a nutshell.

Special teams? The power play had a chance to take control of the game early with over 90 seconds of 5 on 3 time. They managed two shots on goal and finished the night 0-6, while surrendering a shorthanded goal to Chara who made Radulov look like a disinterested defender. Some nights the power play has looked unstoppable. Overall it’s still top 10 in the NHL (8th at 21.4%). But it is wildly inconsistent. Currently on a 1-19 skid. And the PK unit can’t seem to crack 80% (79.4% or 22nd in NHL).

So, yeah it’s been a harsh winter for the Habs. Again. A lot of questions to ponder. What’s most puzzling is how badly they have played as their injured regulars slowly returned to the line up. This makes no sense.

Based on his previous history, Marc Bergevin will likely hope that everybody can hit the re-set button and play up to their potential instead of  the expansion team mode they’ve been in for too long. He needs to get the Galchnyuk situation straightened out. That is to say, if his coach won’t play him on the top line then Bergevin needs to find him a legit top 6 winger. And as somebody who played defense for 20 years in the NHL he can clearly see way too many holes in his own end. He’ll make a move or two. And if that doesn’t work you know what follows.

Because if Bob Gainey can fire Guy Carbonneau…

 

 

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11 Responses

  1. IMS1965

    It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. By this definition, the Habs organization is insane. We saw this same scenario unfold last year, and the team’s coaching/management personnel blamed it on the absence of Carey Price and then on “locker room problems” which were ostensibly caused by PK Subban. So, the team traded away Subban, and Carey Price has been healthy almost all season, and yet the team is collapsing yet again.

    At what point do Bergevin and Therrien accept responsibility that maybe the team’s lack of success on the ice is because of them?

    • Ian London

      don’t hold your breath. MT will never admit he’s not fit to coach this or any NHL team. What gets me is why MB doesn’t recognize his livelihood is on the line? We’re still in control of our destiny because we have two games left against Ottawa and will win the season series vs Boston and Toronto. But do we seriously want to win the division and risk playing a wild card from the vastly stronger Metropolitan? That spells exit after less than 7 games. I wonder what Guy Boucher would have done with the Habs? Guess we’ll never know since MB/MT are super buddies.

  2. @SeanMcintyre403

    When the coach is untouchable the finger of fans and media start pointing at the players. The coach should be fired. I backed him until yesterday. Price is struggling(the system) Galchenyuk is struggling(the system) Weber, Pleckanec etc..I like this team. The system is stale and it’s time for a change.

    • Ian London

      You’re correct 100% – we’re so predictable in all facets of the game. when you know what the other team is going to do it’s pretty easy to beat them. Look at Colorado and AZ – that was almost zero points against the two worse teams in the league. Good prep MT!!!

  3. Michael Nixon

    Hab fan for 55 years but I feel like that woman who was heavily quoted as saying she would never go back to the Bell Centre while the Foxhole boys were in charge. I am at that point now and I will not watch another Habs game until Therrien is gone. Weren’t we here discussing same issues one year ago? What exactly did MB do this past summer except trading Subban, the former whipping boy? Yes, he signed Radulov but what about going after Eric Staal or doing something to get a no. 1 centre…a problem for this team since Vinny Damphousse. I totally agree with the definition of insanity theory. As for Gord Miller, well Gord should stick to just calling hockey games and not try to be an analyst because the Canadiens have the same problems today that they had a year ago and the year before that and…well, you get the picture.

    Habs are awful and I think Carey is fed up. Geez, unless he shuts people out, he doesn’t get a win and I cannot think for one second that he thinks very highly of his coach.

    And Geoff Molson continues to play the role of Nero, fiddling while the Habs burn. If anyone truly thinks five days off will suddenly make Therrien a better coach or Plekanec a better centre or Beaulieu a consistent defenceman, then I have some swampland in Florida I’d like to sell you.

    • Ian London

      I agree with everything you say except CP31 – it’s not for him to give up because of anything. He hasn’t played like a shutout goalie in a very long time. If he wants out he needs to show other teams he still has what it takes. He hasn’t done that for a long time. What kind of a teammate is he that gives up? Either he is hurt or something is really nagging at him. He hasn’t looked like the Price we’ve known for past three years since November. Last 10 weeks he’s been less than average if you go by his numbers alone. But more than that, he looks disinterested. If that’s the case, it’s up to his coach (and I do not mean MT) to talk with him and set him straight. We’re too far up to get a top 10 draft pick. Realize there’s lots to play for. Turn this thing around now.

      On the other hand, if I see MT behind the bench on Saturday I’m likely to lose my breakfast.

  4. Spiro

    Is it just me or is it odd that the coaching staff after a game doesn’t enter the dressing room to address the players – especially after a loss. Yesterday on RDS, a HABS player (can’t remember who it was) said that the coaching staff NEVER enters the dressing room after a game. The staff waits until the next practice to address things that happened in a previous game!!! Again, is it just me that finds this quite odd?? What’s wrong with timely feedback, tough love or whatever you want to call it, done directly after a game?? Sure, Therrien has the media to address, but to not enter the dressing room at all after a game?!?! I manage a group of employees and if I waited until a few days after to address a tough situation, someone not performing up to company standards, I wonder what my boss would say. Is this common practice amongst other coaches in the NHL to not enter the room after a game??? Very odd!!!!

  5. dra58

    Agree with most of the fan base and have been praying for a long time that MT gets shown the door. He is a wreck and this train is being derailed because of him so help please. As for MB he has reshaped this team exactly the way his foxhole buddy MT has wanted him to (dumping problem PK-cough,cough-moan-moan) who now seems he has another whipping boy in Galchenyuk. I realize his play may not be up to his pre-injury standards but MAYBE he is the type of player who doesn’t like tough love from coaches. Back to MB I am not yet ready to call for his head unless he fails to get rid of MT and chooses to die on the hill with him. I believe that overall MB and his staff have done a good job selecting and finding players. His biggest mistakes are overvalue of aging players (hint Pleky and DD).
    I also agree with Mr.Nixon on Molson/Nero theory and worry that as sad as it sounds that there could be some truth to it but really hope it’s wrong. Expensive toys he is playing with and the fan base has become so emotional especially after the debacle of last season.
    Politely disagree with one point by you that the Bruins want the break as well but I think that they want to stay on this roll with Cassidy and maybe after time off they will return to what they have been.
    One last thought on last nights game as I may have been tired from my long drive yesterday but I didn’t see Markov on the first unit of the 5on3 power play and it perplexes me as too why but I was exhausted and could have missed something.
    Fire MT asap and also find a better defensive coach who will get these guys to be more aggressive n the PK.
    Sorry about the rambling and stray thoughts but busy day.

  6. Harry

    Mitch,

    Among the many voices in the English Montreal sports media, you continue to stand tall as one of the most rational and insightful.

    As a fan, a real sense of dread is washing over me. As the days go by and losses pile up, more of the best core the Habs have had in decades continues to be wasted. Up front: a 40 goal scoring LW, on D: an all-world defenseman plus a veteran franchise legend, and in nets: arguably the best in the world. Pacioretty, Weber, Markov, and Price could’ve been this generation’s Naslund, Chelios, Robinson, and Roy. But it increasingly feels like there’s no glory to be had for this group.

    They could change the coach, trade half the team, but still this team really still feels more like a pretender than a contender. Maybe what we’re seeing is the true face of a team that got lucky with a hot streak to start the season.

  7. Marco Chioda

    I think Bergevin needs to make a big trade before firing Therrien.
    My concern is that it seems to me The Habs are not developing their players well enough in the AHL. How many players have made a big impact for a long period of time after having been called up from the farm during MB’s tenure?
    Is the Ice-Caps coaching staff a good one?
    Back in Montreal, I wonder about JJ Daigneault’s contribution, or lack thereof. How many defensemen have progressed under his wing?
    Mitch?

  8. Larry Spokoiny

    Going, going, gone. Can we undo the PK “deal” and maybe get a former Habs great as coach?