Multiple Reasons for Habs Slumping


There are many factors to justify the Canadiens’ current slump and it feels just like the perfect storm. While they were playing great hockey for the first couple of weeks of December, the same cannot be said for the past 2-3 weeks. Here are some of the main factors:

Key injuries

Yeah, I know, it’s not cool to use injuries as an excuse for poor performances and you know what? It’s true… on the short term. But losing the league MVP in Carey Price for that long cannot be replaced by goaltenders with very little NHL experience, not in the long term. Losing your spark plug in Brendan Gallagher can be filled in the short term, but no one has what he has, since he’s taken over from Tomas Holmstrom as the best player in the NHL to get in a goalie’s face. If it was that easy to do, everyone would do it.

Sub-par goaltending

It doesn’t matter who the coach is, how good your defense or your offense is, you will not win many games in the NHL when your goaltenders have a saves percentage below .890 in a 5-6 weeks span. While it’s easy to break down each goal and take blame away from the goaltenders, any team needs some key saves, some solid performances to win hockey games. It is so hard to come back from behind in this day and age, your goalies need to make the saves.

Tomas Plekanec

Started the season on fire, then he signed a two-year extension and he has been invisible since then. I’d like to think that it’s a coincidence but when your team is dedicating $5-6 million of its payroll on you, the expectations are such that you will perform for the money invested in you. It clearly hasn’t been the case for the past several weeks now. He’s one who, I’m sure, Michel Therrien was referring to when saying that he needs more from some veterans.

David Desharnais

He played very well to start the season in a 2nd/3rd line role, facing better opposition. Has struggled since being moved around which was, in great part, due to the shuffle needed when Gallagher got hurt, as every line seemed to have stopped producing from then on. Therrien tried to get Max Pacioretty going by putting Desharnais with him but it didn’t work. Now, it seems like no matter who his linemates are, his production is not where it should be, even for a $3.5 million player.

Lars Eller

The guy has spent almost the entire season playing with Alex Galchenyuk, who has fared quite well generally speaking. What this shows me is that while he did okay to start the season, Eller just isn’t consistent enough to be a top-9 offensive-minded contributor. He might just be better suited in a 3rd/4th line center, defensive position with limited time on the top lines. When this guy decides to play a physical game, he can be a force but when he doesn’t, he can’t get away on hockey IQ.

P.K. Subban

Yes, Subban is heading to the All-Star game as the lone Canadiens’ representative… thanks to Price’s injury. However, he has one goal this season and hasn’t scored in a career-high 32 games now, before the game against the Devils. Oh he is still the Canadiens’ best defenseman, don’t get me wrong, but when you take $9 million of the team’s cap space, you cannot have your worst season. Perhaps spending more time focussing on the ice during the season and do the promo stuff in the summer months might work better?

Tomas Fleischmann

He really impressed everyone at training camp and with Desharnais and Weise, they arguably formed the team’s best line in the first three weeks or so. But where has his play gone in the last few weeks? Granted that his two line mates’ play also took a nose dive but he does need to step it up a notch or two if he wants a new contract next year.

Dale Weise

At some point, Weise was on pace for a 40-goal season. While no one in their right mind would have expected him to keep scoring at that pace, one would think that he would have putted a few more by now. I often found that at the start of the season, he was the shooter but in recent weeks, he was trying to be too cute by setting up Desharnais, who is definitely not a shooter. You see the net Dale, shoot the puck!

Andrei Markov

Remember when both Subban and Markov were tied for points, both averaging a point per game after 10-12 games? Markov has faded even more than his counterpart, to the point where the coach had to separate the pair and even taking away some powerplay time from the Russian defenseman.

There are more, and some would likely point to the captain Max Pacioretty, but he has always been a streaky scorer and he hasn’t gone through as long of slumps as the ones mentioned above. I’ve also been disappointed with Jeff Petry since his injury and I’m wondering how much of it is based on the fact that he is no longer paired with Alexei Emelin. The two seem to complement each other quite well. Also, Michel Therrien is not without blame. It is his job to find the right combinations and to motivate his troops. He needs to find a solution and soon.

So You Want a New Coach… Or Do You?

Oct 1, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien holds a torch during the opening ceremony before the first period against Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien holds a torch during the opening ceremony before the first period against Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Michel Therrien bashing is a popular topic with many fans, an obsession or so it seems… unfortunately. Is he perfect? Absolutely not, but he’s far from as bad as most detractors make him out to be.

Since being re-hired by the Canadiens, a team which had finished 28th overall under Jacques Martin, a defensive, smothering anti-hockey coach, Therrien’s record in regular season is 147-80-26, amongst the best in the NHL since the lockout. His team has never missed the playoffs and he led them to 4th overall in 2012-13, 9th overall in 2013-14 and 2nd overall in 2014-15.

Therrien was not my choice to take on the job but at some point, people must be able to swallow their pride and be able to admit that he’s done a pretty good job. I was wrong. It’s unfortunate that others can’t admit when they are. Thankfully, Marc Bergevin acknowledges his work and he has stated it himself in his last press conference. No, I do not believe that it was the kiss of death as Bergevin knows that Therrien’s team was rolling prior to injuries to two key players on the team, his MVP Carey Price and highly underrated Brendan Gallagher, who has been back for two games only.

Further, I believe that he is well liked by the players as he’s become a better communicator than he used to be. How many times have we seen him reward players by putting them in the starting line-up against their former team? Players notice small gestures like that and appreciate that the coach trusts them and rewards them accordingly.

It may not be the popular answer but those are the reasons why Therrien is still coaching and I would be shocked if he wasn’t there to finish the season, unless the team keeps slumping when Carey Price is back.

So to those venting the same thing over and over again, day in and day out, don’t hold your breath waiting for Therrien to be fired.


Without getting into the debate if the Canadiens should or not go for a bilingual coach or not and whether people agree with it or not, the job description in Montreal is for the coach to be able to speak French. This does somewhat limit the choices, no doubt.

In my opinion, the best two bilingual coaches are not available. They are, in order, Alain Vigneault with the Rangers and my choice back when Bergevin was looking, Bob Hartley with the Flames. Claude Julien in Boston is another good coach who isn’t available, but I rank him equal to Therrien, although he does have a Stanley Cup.

Now who is available? The list of coaches in the QMJHL is almost unlimited and I’m sure that there are some good up and comers out there. But does a team who contends for the Stanley Cup risk going with an inexperienced coach? Allow me to doubt it.

The name of Guy Boucher keeps coming up and like most here, I thought that he was the best up and coming young coach when he left the organisation to coach the Tampa Bay Lightning. The results really weren’t convincing, to the point that Steve Yzerman ended up firing Boucher in his third season. Boucher then went to Switzerland to coach SC Bern and, in his third season, was once again fired. Is he really a better candidate than Therrien? Maybe, but allow me to doubt it.

The current Canadiens’ assistant-coaches are all bilingual: Dan Lacroix, Clement Jodoin and J-J Daigneault. Could one of them be ready to take the next step and replace Therrien or would Bergevin want someone new? Martin Gelinas and Jacques Cloutier are assistants to Bob Hartley in Calgary while Ian Laperriere (PHI), Andre Tourigny (OTT) and Pascal Vincent (WIN) are also assistant coaches.

Something tells me however that if Therrien was to be fired, for one reason or another, you would see the St-John’s Ice Caps’ head coach, Sylvain Lefebvre, being promoted from within as the Habs’ new head coach. Judging from some of the comments I’ve read on Twitter by some fans, I don’t think that they’d be any happier with that alternative.

Relax, take a break and mostly, give everyone a break with your constant bashing of the coach. You wouldn’t be happier with the alternative and you know it.