Montreal Canadiens half season report card

Here we are, midway through the 82 game struggle to the Stanley cup playoffs and I’m guessing that little people could have bet that the Habs would be sitting in the position they’re in now.

They finished the first half with a 19-15-5-2 record which is above most expectations.

Here is a look of different aspects of their game as well as the club in general through the first 41 games:


Grade: B-

Bob Gainey brings a good amount of experience upstairs with the great scouting savvy of Andre Savard whom Gainey opted for as an assitant. Skeptics maintained that Gainey was “all talk and no action” which proved to be false. He clearly stated that he would not bring any drastic changes any time soon and that he would take a good amount of time evaluating his personnel. He did however buy out Czerkawski and McKay’s contracts, two players who proved to be disappointements last year. Audette was the next one out, although he tried hard, he could not do better than a measly 3 goals since the start. Now he’s a free bird who can choose who to play with. Not at 3 millions though. Gainey also picked up 3 players on waivers: Pierre Dagenais, Steve Begin and Darren Langdon. Each one of them have some good upside. Dagenais plays very well with former junior teamate Mike Ribeiro and he was able to find the back of the net using his quick shot and long reach. His 6’5 frame is greatly welcomed among a primarily smallish team. Steve Begin is a leader in his own kind of way. He is the kind of player the Habs lacked for several years now. A player who gets under opponent’s skin and can change the course of the game by lining up one massive hit or by dropping the gloves against the biggest player in the opposing team. He’s likely to take up Juneau’s duties on the 3rd line next year when Juneau is either moved or retired. Darren Langdon is a veteran “goon” who has done his job so far, a lot better than Blouin or Dwyer in the past.

By adding these 3 guys, Gainey somewhat plugged some tiny gaps in the team. Although not altogether major changes, they are proving to be usefull.

Gainey is harder to read than a good poker player. Will he trade? Will he not trade?

The way the team is playing now I wouldn’t expect anything dramatic.


Grade: B

Claude Julien came into this season with full support from Gainey but with a reasonable amount of doubt from the fans and media. He is a gutsy coach who isin’t afraid to make changes or bench unproductive players. He managed to get his players to buy into his “system” and now they are playing as a unit. He has had success everywhere he coached and I’m starting to think that the Habs will not be an exception.


Grade: C

The Habs offense is probably one of their greatest weaknesses. With 97 goals for, they sit in 15th position but in their goals per game average, they stand 20th. The only upside I see with their offense is that they are getting production from all 4 lines which is always good for a team. It also means that they are actually playing “as a team” and that kind of attitude can get you a playoff spot.


Grade: B-

The Montreal defense has greatly improved over last year decreasing their goals against by 32. Sheldon Souray has added some great stability along the left side and Brisebois’ +11 is the team’s best in differentials. Bouillon and Markov solidify the left but I can’t say as much for the right side. Aside from Brisebois there is Quintal who is slowing down, having not much to offer but his great leadership and toughness. Rivet is a liability (sorry Craig) but at 3 million dollars a year, he just isin’t cutting it. That leaves a young and inexperienced Komisarek. He’s often caught making the wrong play forcing others to cover for him. He is big and tough but IMO might take another season to start getting more out of him.


Grade A-

It is safe to say that Jose Theodore is playing up to his salary and has the numbers to show for it. He went 16-13-4 in 34 starts with a stingy 2.06 GAA (1.00 in his last 4 starts) a .926sv% and 4 shutouts. His solid play is one of the reasons that the club reduced their goals against by 32. He will be a serious contender for the backup position for team Canada at the 2004 World cup of hockey. Mathieu Garon has shown some brilliance when he was called upon. It will be interesting to see what management does with this guy as he is clearly starter potential.

Power Play

Grade: B+

Through the first 2 months of the season, the Habs lingered amongst the last 5 in PP but quickly turned that around after Julien called for several pratices where they did nothing but PP drills. They now stand in 9th place with 28pp gf/ 159 pp opp.

Penalty Kill

Grade: D

Penalty killing has been a struggle over the past two years and I think that the fact that Carbo is gone has something to do with it. Recently though they moved up from 29th to 24th with an 82% PK% with 27ga in 154 TSH while scoring 3 short handed goals.


It is hard to argue that Michael Ryder is one of the teams best surprises this far in the year. He now leads rookie scoring with 26 points. His creativity with the puck will probably make him a good 2nd line RW down the road. Grade: B+

Mike Ribeiro is starting to show his skills and now leads the team with 28 points. His soft hands and above average hockey sense will probably push Perreault out the door. As much as I like Perreault’s face off play, Ribeiro is getting the job done in that department as well. Grade: B

Sheldon Souray is another part of this team’s unexpected success. His 13 goals place him in the lead in goal scoring among defensemen. Other than his goal scoring his overall play is very consistent. His transitional play is lacking but he’s improved that recently. He should be considered for the All-Star game because he’s got one wicked slap shot. Grade: A


Craig Rivet’s -11 (or is it -12?, regardless, it’s double digit) is inexcusable for a 3 million dollar salary. He’s a big guy who plays a small and lazy game. Often makes the wrong play and when he makes the right one, almost always amount to nothing at all. He needs to step it up. Grade D-

One guy on this club has all the tools to be a good player but just doesn’t seem to want to play and that’s Chad Kilger. He’s big, is a great skater and has a decent shot but only gives his 100% once every 4 games. Even at 800 000$/year, it just isin’t worth it. Guys like Plekanec or Gratton who make less couldn’t do any worse. Grade D

Finally Ron Hainsey and Marcel Hossa go hand in hand because they are two youngster who where given a legitimate chance at the start of the year to make their mark. They saw power play time and penalty killing time but both are just not showing their skills. Marcel Hossa is probably not as good as his brother but he’s got enough skill to be a good 2nd line LW. He’s got the size to go into corners and dig those pucks out but he lacked the effort. Hainsey seemed hesitant at the point very rarely releasing his well-known wrist shot. I think that a stint in the AHL will be a good lesson for these two, hoping they’ll take advantage of their next chance, if they’re granted one. Grade C-

Overall, I think many Montreal Canadien fans like myself will say that they are satisfied with their team’s performance over the first half. The million dollar question is, Can/Will they keep it up?

Personnaly I’m not sure they have enough gas to make it to the playoffs or if they do, they will not go very far. This team still has big gaps to fill, like a big and fast right winger for example. However the Habs do have a great future as we see Gainey’s slow and steady transition from old to new. Audette, Czerkawski and McKay are gone and we’re now seeing Ryder, Komisarek and Plekanec stepping up. With a bit of patience, in 2-3 years, the fans will see the result of Savard’s effective drafting and some good young guns will take the reins of this storied franchise.

As far as the 2nd half goes, I could be wrong. They surprised most people in the first half, they can do the same in the 2nd. The main thing they need to fix is their consistency since before their 41st game, they haven’t managed two straight wins in a little over two months.

Let’s see how far their heart can take them.

All stats obtained from

25 Responses to Montreal Canadiens half season report card

  1. rojoke says:

    I personally think that they will make the playoffs this season. They’ve been hovering around the bottom three spots for the bulk of this season so far, whereas in past years thay have struggled to stay in 8th spot. They also have Jose playing his A-game, as evidenced by his play Saturday vs Atlanta. I think they won that game in the first period after he robbed Kovalchuk twice on bang-bang plays. Kovy even gave him a tap at the end of the period as they skated off.

    And as we saw two seasons ago, wild things can happen once the playoffs roll around. But I will agree that they won’t go very far this year in the playoffs. A long first round series would be great, a first-round victory would be fantastic. But the real success would be a solid playoff berth, 6th or 7th place, or with a week or so to go to rest a few guys.

  2. DohCanada says:

    I have to agree with most of your comments, but ponder these few things:

    Is there any possibility of getting Carbo back behind the bench? Didn’t they have a top 5 PK when he was here? If he did return, he would probably be assured of being next in line to the throne should Gainey ever lose faith in Julien – but I agree Julien’s doing a good job.

    Garon….starter potential? Hard to say with his few starts, but I would say not until the 2005 season when guys like Belfour, Hasek, Joseph, Hackett, Burke and probably others are up in their late 30’s or 40…

    Gainey never shows his cards, and though I don’t expect a trade, as I’ve mentioned in many other posts, ONE player I would like him to get is Jason Arnott, a big C who can stand in front of the net AND score goals. I’d give Perreault or Kilger, Hossa and a 2nd or 3rd round pick (2nd with Perreault, 3rd with Kilger). I just don’t think Hossa’s going to make that leap we all hoped he would – at least not in the rouge, blanc et bleu.

    Good article – GO HABS! and GO CANADA in 90 minutes…I feel the flu coming on boss…

  3. habsoverserver says:

    Good article. I agree with your assessment of the team. Habs fans need to echo Gainey’s patience and let the team develop. It’s more fun to watch this team than any post Roy Habs team.

    You can give Ryder an A. When was the last time a Habs forward was a Calder candidate? Bobby Rousseau? Ralph Backstrom? Bernie Geoffrion?

    The Habs have lost leads several times this year late in the third period. Julien is not doing a great job getting his team to play defense late in the game. There was one time when he let Koivu take a faceoff in his own zone late in the third period. Koivu lost the draw and the opposition scored to win the game. I don’t know why Julien didn’t have Perrault take the draw. I give Julien credit for showing confidence in the rookies but I think he is still making mistakes that are costing the Habs games.

    Kilger’s days as a Hab are over.

    Rumors linger that the Habs will trade for a center. I think most people are hoping for Arnott.

  4. davidhabba says:

    The last Canadiens Calder candidate was Kjell Dahlin. Kjell Who you might say? He played right wing on Mats Naslunds line and was a candidate in 1986. He lost out to Gary Suter of the Flames but we got the last laugh against the Flames by beating them in the final that year. Interestingly enough, the Canadiens had another rookie that year who didn’t recieve any consideration, his name was Patrick Roy and I thing he might have been an Okay goalie.

  5. simplyhabby says:

    Excellent synopsis! Montreal’s main problem once again is strength down the middle. They have none. We have some talented centers who are decent playmakers but we don’t have a mean gritty center.

    It will be interesting to see what Gainey does at the dealine because he is generally happy with the team but will he assess the team to make a deal and go for the cup or a young center to stick with the 3-5 year plan.

    Personally, even with a great trade to bolster the offence, the habs do not have what it takes to make it deep in the play offs simply due to the inexperience.

    I am very satisifed in the team’s play and are looking primed to make the play-offs. I hope they can be a dark horse like the last time they made it.

  6. PeterPuck says:

    Not bad article but I think you are weak on two accounts.the coach and the defensive ratings. You just looked at the numbers and graded the habs without taking the games in hand. let me explain.

    The habs have allowed 91 goals in 41 games. the teams below them are as follows:

    Flyers-40 gp – 88 ga

    Devils – 37 gp- 64 ga

    Ottawa 38gp – 78 ga

    Tampa 37 gp – 80 ga

    Carolina-39gp – 91 ga

    St Louis -37 gp 86 ga

    Avs – 38 gp – 84 ga

    Calgary – 37 gp-75 ga

    Wild -40 gp – 85 ga

    San Jose 40gp – 88 ga

    I think if you do this again after 41 games, the habs would be higher they should get an A

    and the coach should also get a A

    Visist hab fans only.

  7. tmeyers says:

    The last Hab to win the calder was Ken Dryden.

    US BEATS CANADA 4-3!!!!!!

    Looks like Canada will have to cheat harder next time.

    Maybe they should bring in Joe Sakic or Lemiuex. I have heard rumours of Gretzky coming out of retirement to play a bunch of 16-18 yr. olds.

  8. pnadeaudc says:

    Awesome article

    But I wouldn’t underestimate the fact that Montreal also brought in Pierre Gauthier who did wonders for Ottawa and Anaheim. That could be Gainey’s biggest move of all and could reap more dividens

  9. Habfanforever says:

    I agree I was cheap to give them a B- on defense considering that 34 goals against less than last year is a lot.

  10. Lint07 says:

    the last to win the calder for the habs was a guy named Ken Dryden… It’s been awhile!

  11. Lint07 says:

    Good article!

    I wouldn’t, however, consider Ribeiro a surprise. Everyone knew he had the talent and he just needed an honest chance to prove what he was made of. As soon as he got it, he became best scorer of the team.

    Before the year I predicted that the Habs would finish 7th or 8th no better, no worst… seems like it’s going to be like that. Reasons for my prediction were among others, Theodore bouncing back and the return of Souray (I didn’t think he’d help the offense THAT much, but I knew he’d give an incredible boost to the defense)

    I also find it funny to hear how much every Montreal ”experts on tv” are surprised by the way the Habs played so far and that no one of them saw this team in the playoff picture before the year started…

  12. habsoverserver says:

    Yes, but i mentioned Habs forwards, Dryden never got to play foward.

    Davidhabba is right about he last calder candidate.

    Does anyone think Ryder can win the Calder?

  13. Lynchmob450 says:

    The win by the US juniors is great for hockey, especially in the US. But truth be know…this Canada team would win at least 75% of games against this US team if they were able to test one another in this way. This being said, i’m still very happy with Team Canada’s performance in this tournament. Richards and Carter will be very useful for the Flyers (as will Parisi for the Devils)…Crosby will mature even more and Canada will continue to head the world in hockey talent.

  14. AfroCon says:

    Too bad your post has nothing to do with this article…

  15. Lint07 says:

    didn’t notice, my mistake.

    mark my words, Ryder will win the calder.

  16. wayne2 says:

    There was no cheating idiot,the nhl allows it bottom

    line.Now are we gonna take all the gold medals in

    the olympics won by european teams since there

    was a time they got to send their best players while

    Canada coudnt because they were in the nhl yet

    the european leagues were considered professional.


  17. wayne2 says:

    There was no cheating idiot,the nhl allows it bottom

    line.Now are we gonna take all the gold medals in

    the olympics won by european teams since there

    was a time they got to send their best players while

    Canada coudnt because they were in the nhl yet

    the european leagues were considered professional.


  18. DohCanada says:

    This isn’t related to this article, but doesn’t warrant another thread. Speaking of Canadiens’ commentators, I’ve been meaning to ask this question: I don’t speak French but watch the games on SRC Saturday nights. Danielle Sauvegeau (sp?) does a commentaire every week while the sidekick listens. It appears to be lengthy and in-depth. I was just curious how her analyses compare to others in the game.

  19. rojoke says:

    There’s been a lot of speculation as to how this will affect the American hockey program at the amateur level. My thinking is it will do very little. The US under-17 program in Michigan is where a lot of these players graduated from, and it will continue to develop players for years to come. But at the entry level, it will do nothing because the US media didn’t cover it. CNN’s Headline News used the game-winning goal as its Play of the Day or whatever, but did ESPN carry the game? It was the first time the US had ever won the tournament, so you would think that it would merit some better coverage. But outside of this country, this tournament is just not on the media radar. And it’s too bad, because this was a great team that the US sent.

  20. rojoke says:

    Here’s a little history about the Calder. In 6 of the last ten years, the player who lead rookies in scoring won the Calder. In that time, two goalies have won, and Chris Drury won while finishing second in the rookie scoring race. Jason King has cooled off in Vancouver, so he’s slipped down the ladder. Trent Hunter is probably going to be given more ice time with the injuries to Yashin and Parrish, so that could boost his odds higher than they already are. If he can finish in the top five in scoring, I think Ryder has a good shot at winning it.

  21. devfanman4 says:

    Luckily I was able to catch the game via TSN on my center ice package. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even known about the game. I’m very proud of team USA, but like you said…I don’t think too much of the US is. It’s really sad that our country can’t embrace the most exciting sport.

  22. habsoverserver says:

    It is very rare for an older forward, drafted so late to win the Calder. I think Ryder may finish first in rookie points, but I think many writers project him as a 20 goal 30 assist player and not a superstar. Ryder will need some highlight reel type plays to convince the writers he has great potential.

    He is definately deserving of strong consideration. I hope he wins. Either way, I am very happy he is playing for the Habs.

  23. Habfanforever says:

    She makes a good analysis altough I find her boring to listen to. However her hockey knowledge is right up there. My favorites are Pierre Maguire and Jacques Demers.

  24. Lint07 says:

    She bore me to death… I change channel whenever I see her. I can’t stand her… but that’s just me. 😉

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