The Montreal Canadiens: Where are they sitting?

It’s been a bit of a jagged start to the year for Les Habitants. Getting two wins in a row certainly helps them in the standings and may keep the Francophone Faithfuls at sub-riot state, for the time being. What’s the reason for the panic among fans and media figures? Many will point to the less-than-inspired play of the young Carrey Price and even extend it to the ever-chirping P.K. Subban. The coaching staff has already lost one long term member (a shocking move considering the long term relationship between Pearn and Martin), and remain closely watched. The core of the offense has been characteristically unproductive and the team seems to lack cohesion. Let’s examine the state of affairs in Montreal.

Price will always be mired in the shadows of some of the greatest goaltenders of all time, starring down at him from the rafters. His play last season was enough to solidify his semi-elite status. Many have commented that Price’s play last year hid how bad the team actually was. If he can settle down in net and bring some stability to this team he will be key for them going forward, particularly if they have any post-season ambitions beyond golf and tanning. Price needs to get his numbers up and could use a little healthy competition from Mr. Budaj, who is slated to back-up the remainder of the season.

The defense has been flooded with injuries. Markov, Campoli, Spacek, all lost time with the team due to injury. Subban’s struggles to start the season have ac*****ulated to palatable frustration. He is being relied upon too heavily, and is not regularly playing with Gill, his partner from last season. Defensively, the Habs have been poor and need to improve. The defense, other than injuries and some concerns with age, however, is not is the worst shape. Once some of the injured parties return things should settle down. The media and fans need to ease up on Subban. Fact is, he’s a second year defender with much to learn. Perhaps he simply needs to adjust his style of play: Gill babysitting the blue line made it much easier for P.K. to join the rush and play a bit recklessly.

Forward Core
This is the biggest problem for the Montreal Canadiens organization. The next three years will see more than 83.5 million go to the following: Cammalleri, Plekanec, Gionta, and Cole. These forwards have all been accused underperforming. This statement may be partially accurate; however the real problems originate from the term and amount. Take Cole, for example. His 4.5 cap hit, which runs through the 2014-2015 season, handcuff management for two reasons: the term and cap hit make his a highly unattractive asset for trade, and the tied up money may hinder the acquisition of new talent and the raises that young players will expect. It’s not all bad, though. Plekanec has shown some consistency and has racked up 7 pts in 10 GP. With only a few notable forward prospects in the system, Montreal has few options.

In the highly saturated media world we live in, it can be difficult to analyze the atmosphere in the locker room. Player frustration and seemingly little work ethic points towards some problems behind the bench, but much of that could simply be the side effects of their tumultuous start. The separation of Pearn and Martin (a relationship that goes back to their days together in Ottawa) was perhaps unexpected. This decision clearly originated form above Martin’s head; it seems highly unlikely that he would dump such a close friend and peer. The firing also tells us who is in control of the team – and it sure isn’t Jacques. The head coach will remain on thin ice as the season progresses.

The current and former management group have been long criticized in Montreal. Bringing on Gomez and his ridiculous contract, hiring Martin as the head coach, letting Halak go (not necessarily a bad move, but it left quite a few mouths tasting bitter), Plekanec and Cammalleri’s long term deals, and the Cole signing: all moves that haven’t exactly helped the team. Furthermore, there are rumours of internal strife as the new president is seemingly putting his fingerprints on this team and organization.

Bright spots: As mentioned above, out of all the long term deal handed out to the forward corps, Pleks seems like cream. A strong two-way forward with size and some work ethic. Drawing a bit more on the last campaign rather than the current affair, but the play (and potential) of P.K. Subban. This kid has something special, and an attitude that forces and hockey fan to either hate or love him. If he finds a partner to settle him down a bit and regain some of his stride from last year, he should be on pace for a good year offensively. Price is the biggest bright spot on the team. Not that he’s been particularly good (evidenced by his stats: 2.66 .897), but displayed a lot of resiliency last year, and I still regarded as an elite NHL goalie by most.

This all translates into a particular situation in Montreal. A relatively weak forward corps that is highly over paid and over termed, questions regarding defense (particularly health and age), a coaching staff with a highly uncertain future, and cupboards that desperately need restocking: this all equates to what may be a bubble team fighting for an 8th place spot without much sign of hope or change in the future. It’s one thing to sport a playoff team, it’s a completely different thing to sport a team that has wining ambitions and cup potential – a mentality that Montreal, at this point, doesn’t seem to have.


10 Responses to The Montreal Canadiens: Where are they sitting?

  1. reinjosh says:

    The biggest issue the team has is that the last GM overpaid for 3 main players in Gionta, Cammy and Gomez. When you have three players that combine for 18.3 million dollars in cap space, they should be producing for you. When that trio is only giving you 55 goals and 131 points and not one of them is your top scoring player, you have issues. They have some nice pieces outside this. Plekanec's is a great player. Eller is growing into a dependable player. Kostitsyn hasn't lived up to the expectations of the 2003 draft but he's a dependable 25 goal scorer and signed relatively cheaply. Pacioretty is looking to be a future top 6 power forward and Desharnais is looking like a solid point producer even as small as he is. If they could get rid of Gomez, things would be looking a lot better.

    I feel like Subban is going to become another Phaneuf if the Canadiens aren't careful with him. He has all the things that phaneuf had when he came into the league. He can hit with the best of them, his confidence is high and he has some sick offensive skills. He also has some very similar weaknesses. He needs to be babysat on the defense, and his ego could get out of hand if Montreal isn't careful.
    If Subban can work on his defense and push through this slump, he should be a great top 4 dman with top 2 potential. 
    Montreal has some good pieces, it just seems they have some pieces that don't fit well and are bringing this team down. 
  2. JoelLeafs says:

    The trend seems to be small players. Yes, they have some size, but it's not concentrated on their 'talent'. Not that small guys can't compete, but small teams certainly have trouble. Get rid of Gomez and Gionta and they'd have room to build around. 

    I think they'll be a bubble team for 2-3 more seasons then start the rebuild with a new GM. We'll see…
    Also, where are all the non-leaf fan comments? Anytime something about the leafs is posted the whiners come out and do what they do because it's all about the leafs. 
    Leafs article: 100+ comments (2/3 leafs related 1/3 anti leaf/whining)
    Non leaf article: 1 comment (by a leafs fan)
  3. lafleur10 says:

    i don't think subban will be another phaneuf,if we do the right thing and hire larry robinson as rumored he'll help turn p.k. into that dominate top 1-2 superstar defenceman that i believe he will be1 he'll be amongst the robinson's chielos's etc… look at the job that robinson is doing in develping larrson in new jersey and the job he did in developing niedermayer!we have a lot of good pieces coming through the pipeline in hte likes of gallagher,tinordi,leblanc,beaulieu,macmillan,krsto,avtsin! you are right though if we could get rid of gomez by either trading him or sending him to hamilton would be sweet,look at how the team has played these last 2 games without him it's like we're better withhout him in the lineup! eller your right about as well he has some sick skill and if he can put it together he'll be a good 1 he looks like another plekanec! dasharnais i must admit didn't think much of him or didn't think he'd develop but he's proving me wrong i actually like this kid and with him and pacioretty i think we have a potentially awesome 2 some! pacioretty is a stud and will only get better and is the powerforward we've bben lacking for years ans he'll be a dominate 30 goal possibly a 40 goal scorer really soon!

  4. mapleleafsfan says:

    Hey man, ending a sentence with a period (this—>.) works just as well as an exclamation mark(!). 

  5. reinjosh says:

    Haha love the last comment. 

    Yeah its true. Although Gauthier seems to understand size is needed. Grabbing Cole was a lame fix but a fix of some sorts.
    I don't actually think Gionta is a guy they need to get rid of. Sure he hasn't hit 50 points yet as a hab but he's put up almost 60 goals in his two seasons with the Habs. Cammy and Gomez are the issue. Cammy isn't going anywhere since he endeared himself to Hab fans through the playoff run. Gionta is a leader for the Habs. 
    As it is, the team is pretty much stuck for the next two seasons. Gomez, Gionta, Cammy and Markov are all on the books till then. If they can draft well for those years things could be ok then. Beaulieu is looking like a steal, LeBlanc will be ready by then, and they will have a ton of cap space then. Things could turn around real quickly then. They just have to get through two years of being a disappointing bubble team. 
  6. JoelLeafs says:

    I'd say 2 or 3 years. By the start of the 2014-15, they will only have Pleks and Cole's contracts left. Unless they continue their trend towards signing big money long term deals, they should be in good shape to build from the draft and take a shot a UFAs (just hopefully not for 4+ year contracts).

    Either way, I'm glad I'm not a MTL fan right now…

  7. JoelLeafs says:

    I'm more concerned with his claim that Subban is the next Chellios. Seems a bit absurd.

  8. reinjosh says:

    Yeah, me too. It's sort of fun being the fun of a team that's winning and is now the third best team in the league. 

  9. lafleur10 says:

    it's not that far off from subban being that type of defenceman the talent is their  he could be a chelios type for sure!

  10. lafleur10 says:

    it's sort of fun being being the fun of  team that hasn't made the playoffs for 6 consecutive years and hasn't won a stanley cup in 46+ years!!

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