With a great start to this season, the Canadiens managed to convince many fans (and perhaps even members of the organization) that they had contender in front of them. Spectacular goaltending earning a star in almost every game contributed to this false sense of invincibility to which many saw as one of the great teams in the National Hockey League.
But for a few weeks now, we see the other side of the medal. We better understand that the Stanley Cup is not awarded in October or November and one thing is for sure, the games and the schedule aren’t going to be any easier with teams fighting for a playoffs’ spot.
While he wasn’t performing at his best after his return, Andrei Markov’s loss is being felt. We’re seeing the same scenario as we did last year when Roman Hamrlik did a great job filling in for a short period of time, only to start slowing down through lack of energy for the long run. Spacek simply isn’t the player he onces was with the Sabres. An injury to Josh Gorges and Hal Gill is human again, his deficiencies being put to light. Price not pulling miracles and the team is average at best defensively.
On offense, Max Pacioretty seems to have given wings to Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, a wind of changes. But how long should we truthfully expect that to last? Will it be like the arrival of Benoit Pouliot last year? Andrei Kostitsyn, after a great start to the season that many attributed to his brother’s departure, is back in hibernation in spite of a goal recently. Is his brother calling him every night now? Cammalleri and Gionta can’t seem to find the back of the net as easily as last year. Eller is showing some great things out there but he’s young and inconsistent. Pouliot is an enigma, as we could have expected him to have a breakthrough season. We now have to question if he’ll ever live up to the early expectations put on him. Come to think of it, Plekanec can’t do it all on his own! In a league where fighting has gone up, only Moen and Lapierre are able to defend themselves and the other players on the team. Even Subban had to drop the gloves twice!
To be successful, the Canadiens need to add three elements to its current line-up if they don’t want to hand the division to the Bruins :
- A veteran physical defenseman. Preferably a guy like Kevin Bieksa (for his offensive upside), but a Robin Regher would also do the trick.
- A power-forward for the Top 6. A Dustin Penner, Jarome Iginla, Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe, Andrew Ladd, a big player who uses his big body well and who contributes offensively.
- A guy who can drop the gloves for the 3-4th line. Someone who is somewhat liable defensively, who can keep up with the NHL. A David Clarkson, Jared Boll, Zack Stortini, Colton Orr…
If Pierre Gauthier can’t address at least two of those four needs for his team, the Canadiens will be fighting for a playoffs’ spot instead of finishing in the top 3 in the Conference.
But beware Mr. Gauthier not to fall in the trap in front of you! Stay away from a Brad Richards or Alexander Semin, rental players who will become UFA at season’s end and who will cost way too much for only a few months of use, as well as an Alex Kovalev who will only add laziness to a line-up of hard workers.