Monday, January 11, 2016

Habs play picking up but still not getting the results.

Week: 27/12/15 - 02/01/16
Opponent: Flyers (3-4), Devils (2-1), Penguins (1-3)
Locations: Philadelphia, Montreal, Montreal
Record: 1-2

Habs Goalies: Condon 1-1, Scrivens 0-1
Opposition Goalies: Neuvirth, Schneider, Fleury

Habs goalscorers: Carr, Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Mitchell, Pacioretty, Subban
Habs playmakers: Barberio, Byron, Carr, Desharnais, Emelin, Markov, Pacioretty, Petry, Plekanec (2), Subban

Play of the week

I think it has to be Condon's save on Sidney Crosby. It looked like Condon was in no position to stop one of the best players in the world.  There was lots of net to shoot at but Condon's awareness (and a little luck) had him place his glove in the right spot.  This was one of a few big saves by Condon this week.  Perhaps more important than this one save in particular was Mike's return to his pre December form where his play, night in and night out, gave Montreal a chance to win.

Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome


Tomas Plekanec

Tomas was even better in the faceoff circle this week going 42/67 (63%).  Perhaps his best night was against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.  Tomas averaged 18:25 per game and chipped in with 4 shots, 2 hits, 3 blocked shots to his 1 give away.  In a week where scoring was low, his two assists were much needed.  You always know what your getting from Pleks.  Seldom fancy but always there with solid play and team leading effort.

Daniel Carr

He finished -1 this week and had a give away but during this scoring drought his goal and assist will help us to over look that.  He also chipped in with 3 shots and 4 hits while averaging 13:10 of ice time.  Dan has shown some impressive offensive upside this week playing alongside both Galchenyuk and Desharnais.  He scored a nifty goal late in the third period against the Flyers to bring Montreal within one.

Max Pacioretty

Patches' 7 shots this week were only behind Gallagher and Galchenyuk but his goal and assist bumped him ahead of them both this week in the dome.  Max leads by example (had a bit of an off night against the Penguins but his previous two games made up for it) and managed a +1 rating with a take away added to his 2 hits and 1 blocked shot. 


PK Subban

Subban had a solid week capped off with a very good game against the Penguins.  He gives the puck away more than we'd like from our all-star defenceman (6 this week) and is one of our more penalized players (2 minors this week, tied with Mitchell for second).  Despite that, a goal, an assist, 7 shots, 3 hits, 5 blocked shots, and a take away this week from PK spell out a pretty good week.  A solid game against New Jersey and a spectacular game (albeit in a losing effort) against Pittsburgh coupled with his average ice time of 27:50 and our all star workhorse was in fine form.

Alexei Emelin

Often times Alexei slips under the radar.  Now finding himself on the third defensive pair he may have found his spot.  Emelin led all Canadiens this week with a +3 rating adding an assist to boot.  He also led Canadiens with 6 penalty minutes but considering the amount of hitting this man does (16 this week!) that's to be expected. Alexei rounded out the week with 5 shots, 3 blocked shots, 2 give aways, and a take away.  Perhaps benefiting from a role where he doesn't see top forwards as much but kudos to him for accepting his role and making the most of it.


Mike Condon

Mike continued his solid play and since he got the only win for a Canadiens netminder this week, back into the dome he goes.  Letting in 3 goals in 2 games isn't bad.  Teams should be able to win with that level of goaltending.  A 0.941 save percentage (second straight week of hitting the 0.940 mark) is a step above just solid goaltending and I don't know if Price would have been much better.  This guy keeps us in games praying with the rest of us that the offence finds it's stride again.


Montreal's power play woes continue.  1/11 this past week (9%) was even worse than the week before.  The hopes that a returning Gallagher would remedy this have been dashed.  The scoring woes that saw our exit from the playoffs last year have returned.  Do we have the horses up front to be a legitimate contender or do we need to make a trade to bring someone in?  I do think Montreal is on the path to remedy this.  More shots from the point will bring out penalty killers to block them and open up passing lanes and shooting positions down low.  The penalty kill is slowly dropping as well.  80% this week.  Granted there was a short handed goal which, to me, would bring the kill up to 90% and that's not only where we want it to be but where we need it to be with such an abysmal power play.  Even with a 100% PK something needs to be done about the scoring in general.  But what?

This week the play of the Canadiens, overall, is showing signs of improvement.  Take away the game against Philadelphia and we've got a win and a game against a good Penguins team where a win was at least possible.  The fact remains, however, that Montreal went 1-2 this week and winning 1 out of every three games for the next 3 months will see Montreal missing the playoffs (embarrassingly so after the miraculous start to they had to the season).  What can be done?  Let's explore some options.

Fire Michel Therrien.  It is important to point out that this scoring drought is not entirely his fault.  After all, he can't make his players shoot instead of pass.  He can't make players hit the net (or not hit goaltenders in the crest).  He can't make guys show up and play hard for 60 minutes.  Here's what he can do though.  Bench players. I don't mean Fleischmann or Smith-Pelly.  I mean Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, Plekanec, Desharnais, Subban even.  Send a big message to the team to wake some guys up.  We're at a point now where it's time for something big and eye catching.  Not drastic but definitely something noticeable.  If the likes of Markov or Gallagher were in the press box with suites on as healthy scratches, heads would turn.  Players would take notice.  Bring in an offensive coordinator or at the very least a (new) special teams coach.  Other than the fact that the power play has finally started to take shots from the point again, there has been very little creativity and adaptability shown.  A fresh look couldn't possibly be worse (not much worse anyway... 9%!).  With these options still at Therrien's disposal why fire him?  A couple of reasons.  #1 is because of the momentum kill that I hold him more responsible for than he should have been.  With Gallagher out and his, potential, replacement in Smith-Pelly out Montreal lost two games in a row in early December (first time all year) and a line-up that had been working magic up until that point was thrown out the window.  The wing on the Galcheyuk/Eller line was a revolving door before Galcenyuk was moved to top line winger duties.  Weise and Desharnais, who were dynamite, were broken up.  Markov was moved to second and third pairing.  The fluidity to Montreal's game was destroyed and I hand a large portion of the responsibility for that to Michel Therrien and his affinity for switching up lines on a regular basis (just look at the line combinations last season).  Also, it worked for Pittsburgh.  Before Christmas the Penguins weren't very good.  They weren't winning and their scorers weren't scoring.  After the coaching change their team seems more relaxed, their best players are leading the team again and they're winning hockey games; exactly where we want to be.  You fire the coach and it wakes players up and it makes players start listening again.  Some might think it's too early to fire the coach but better now than when it's too late.

What coaches are out there looking for work and are capable of working in Montreal?  Marc Crawford.  He speaks French, has had some playoff success (although not recently) and I think would be a step up from Michel Therrien.  He is currently overseas in Switzerland so getting him released from his contract midseason might be tricky.  Not impossible, though, for Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens.  Guy Boucher is another coach in Switzerland so the midseason switch difficulties would be there.  He's a former coach of Montreal's AHL affiliate and has had some success at the NHL level (although not a long tenure).  He's had success at every level he's coached, though, and his Swiss team currently sits in third.  Brent Sutter doesn't speak French, to my knowledge, which would admittedly be a problem with French language media.  You know what language he does speak though?  Winning hockey games.  He's had great success getting mediocre hockey teams to play above their ability.  One can only wonder what he could do with a team that has the talent Montreal has.  If you want results Mike Keenen might be your man.  I don't know if he speaks French although I think he might and he will definitely wear your patience thin but he has a knack for getting the most out of players.  You give this guy the talent pool currently available to the Canadiens and I'd expect a Cup produced within the next 4 years.  Either that or it all would go up in flames with an unceremonious exit from "Iron" Mike.  Perhaps Montreal's best bet is to lure a former player out of his assistant coach role.  I liked Kirk Muller while he was here.  I would have liked to see the head coach's position offered to him.  I'd like to see him back.  If he can coach to a similar effect to that he played with, we'll see an improved club heading into he post season.  As a former captain, I'm sure his French will still be good enough to take over the coach's job.

If a change in coach is not up your alley, perhaps a big trade to bring in another scoring threat is, and I suspect there are two available.  The man everyone is talking about, Steve Stamkos, doesn't seem to be ready to resign with the Tampa Bay Lightning and this trade has the potential to rejuvenate the Canadiens' offence just by putting having him put on the sweater.  It wouldn't be cheap and we wouldn't want to give back much offence (robbing Peter to pay Paul).  He'd also, unfortunately, probably be a rental so unless Carey Price was coming back this season it would probably be pointless.  Maybe.  Keep this in mind though.  Carey's presence automatically gives teams a chance to win the Stanley Cup.  Combine that with Pacioretty and Subban and you have a team with some decent star power.  Not to mention that Stamkos and Subban are friends and maybe, just maybe Steve could be convinced to sign with Montreal long term.  We did keep our last rental (Petry) after all.  Let's assume Price is coming back this season. 

Who to give up in return?  Barring a request for prospects from a Lightening team that may have given up on the post season after the departure of Stamkos, this team might still have playoff hopes in their sights.  What better than the likes of Markov to sweeten the pot?  We have more NHL calibre defencemen right now than we can play and while Markov will be missed, with Subban, Beaulieu, Emelin, and Petry as our potential top 4, Markov is expendable.  He's quite the player and were it not for this asinine attempt by the NHL to get one player from each team at the all-star game, he'd have more appearances than he does. 

What about Jonathan Drouin?  Certainly another possibility as long as the prospects sent in return don't create more gaps.  I've heard Galchenyuk's name mentioned.  As a fellow third overall who's a year older and can play centre, Alex's potential value to the big club is more than Drouin's is.  If we could somehow get Drouin and keep Galchenyuk that'd be something to look forward to now wouldn't it?



  1. Just a note: Guy Boucher was fired in Switzerland after announcing that he wouldn't return in the following year.

  2. As for swapping Galchenyuk for Drouin, I'd take a look. Up until very recently (and I mean two months ag0), Drouin was without question going to be the bigger star of the two. Galchenyuk for all his promise and hype is not exactly overcoing all obstacles to impress. He is possibly having another 20 goal, 50 point season. While a good progession, there's no telling whether that leads to more or not.

    Drouin was a machine in junior (61 points in 50 playoff games) and a year younger. He's a Montrealais, for all intents and purposes, which means a lot for the city and the team with only Desharnais as flagbearer. Getting him would be a pretty big coup no matter the cost to the Habs.

    1. Here's a couple of things to keep in mind when considering moving Alex Galchenyuk for Jonathan Drouin. Alex, were it not for a knee injury that scouts were concerned he would not recover from, was touted as the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Where it not for that, Montreal would probably have Nial Yakupov in their lineup instead. Alex, btw, has a better ppg than anyone else in that draft year (of players with more than 50 games played).

      If you're concerned about potential panning out then you should be just as, if not more so, about the development of Drouin. Drouin was sent to the minors for a conditioning stint which was necessary by the amount of healthy scratches he's had. Tampa Bay's team is about on par with that of Montreal (talent-wise) and if he hasn't earned a spot with the Lightening there's really nothing but hope and speculation to think he'll fit in with Montreal. I also wonder how much of Drouin's success in junior was due to Nate MacKinnon. Nate was a man among boys and truly dominated in the junior ranks. His size, strength, and speed created space for Jonathan that he will need to learn to live without in the NHL.

      All this is just speculation and my own spin on these two players but this is something fairly indisputable; we need a centre more than we need another winger. The #1 identified need for Montreal last season was a #1 center. We don't have it in Galchenyuk but at his first year in the centre position playing in the NHL he has shown promise. Will the plan be to trade for Drouin and then attempt to mold him into the center we need? He's not a center and this would be more of project than the current one to develop Alex. Jonathan Drouin without Alex Galchenyuk will leave us in the same state we were in last year with a severe shortage of quality centremen.

      I know a large portion of Montreal's fanbase living in Quebec would love to see a local boy play for the club and may be even willing to short change the club on talent in order to get this. From the point of view of those of us living outside the province, I just want to see Montreal win hockey games and Drouin for Galchenyuk will take away a centre we don't have to give (don't expect McCarron NHL ready any time soon). Montreal has other prospects up front. Let's hope Marc has the savvy to swing something a little less detrimental to the club's future or to walk away.

    2. With no offense meant to our best centre,the fact that a player who played 3 games in his draft year can be taken 3rd overall tells us a lot about that draft crop, no matter how good he looked the year before.

      Drouin was drafted 3rd overall, but behind MacKinnon and Seth Jones, both themselves better than Yakupov and Murray (and Galchenyuk) already.

      And yes we all wondered if Drouin were the product of MacKinnon, but he proved the year after MacKinnon left that he was his own man. 2.35 points a game without Nathan. In 16 playoff games that year (less than 2 years ago!) he scored 13 goals and 28 assists in 16 games played. This is obscene. He would heve been chosen -5 overall in the 2012 draft.

      And Tampa is not Montreal by any means. They are blessed with forwards, the likes of which would all be first liners for the Canadiens: Johnson, Palat, Kucherov, Stamkos, Callahan, Filppula, and role players fresh off a Stanley Cup fional trip. It's a harder forward lineup to crack, and is not as surprising as is made out by some that he shouldn't have made it.

      Now we add to this the fact he is from Montreal, and the mix gets better.

      Yes, he has had a "rough" start to his NHL career,if 32 points in 70 games as a 19 year-old can be called rough. But this is what even puts him in the conversation for Montreal. This moment will pass, and he will thrive when he lands with the right team.