Habs’ Plans: Now What?

Grit

When the Montreal Canadiens got up to a slow start this, while seeing Carey Price not being himself in net and the team being unable to score and to defend, many people like yours truly were preaching for patience. After all, when was the last time that the Stanley Cup was ever won in October or November? Thankfully for us, the team did manage to get back on track after their California trip by winning seven of their next 10 games, all without Price who suffered an undisclosed injury. Then came this past week… 

After a heartbreaking loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets who, let’s be honest here, had no business of winning as Sergei Bobrovsky literally stole the game for his team, Claude Julien‘s team looked absolutely brutal two games in a row, resulting in one single point in three games this week. While the offense was present against the Arizona Coyotes, the defensive play was worth Pee-wee aged players, as did the goaltending, and it didn’t get any better against Toronto on Saturday. And no folks, we’re not only talking about the defensemen here. The forwards had more turnovers than the Pillsbury Doughboy in the last two games!

This past week’s results saw the Canadiens slide all the way down to 14th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference standings, and only four teams in the NHL have a worse record that the Habs. Having allowed 23 more goals than they have scored, Julien’s team can thank the Coyotes’ dismal season to prevent them from being the worst in the NHL in that department. As a matter of fact, the last time that the Canadiens perform that badly, a guy by the name of Carey Price only played 12 games that season. Yet that year, those blaming the Shea Weber trade for this year’s misery tend to forget that they had a guy by the name of P.K. Subban in their line-up back then.

JulienBench
Claude Julien is running out of options

Now what? 

Don’t go all ape-crap on Marc Bergevin here. The Jonathan Drouin for Sergachev was a good trade, for both teams. But no matter what the reasons, the Canadiens’ GM made two crucial mistakes this summer:

  1. He never addressed the centre position in spite of having plenty of cap space to do so.
  2. Losing Markov and Radulov and not replacing them simply could not happen.

So while Drouin has performed well while getting used to a new position at centre, that simply wasn’t enough to support and improve on a team already thin at that position and offensively challenged.

According to Capfriendly.com, Bergevin now has over $7 million in cap space available at the time of writing these lines. The problem that he’s facing is that the demand is higher than the supply, which means that finding an immediate solution will be extremely difficult through trades… and the price is going to be very high.

The reality of the situation is that Bergevin has painted himself into a corner with no way out, unless the players he put together start performing as they were expected to perform, allowing the paint to dry. If they can stay in the race until trade deadline, then Bergevin might be able to make a big move with the cap space available. But will it be too late?

spezzastars
Jason Spezza

Jason Spezza 

Please stop with the Spezza rumours in Montreal as that train has passed last year already. This season, he’s having a horrible season and has been moved to the wing on a team struggling to meet expectations. With one more year at $7.8 million cap hit after this season, it would be shocking to see Bergevin tie his own hands when this summer’s free agency looks very promising, including a guy by the name of John Tavares. But then, why would Tavares pick the Habs… unless the players in place turn things around?

Do you see a pattern here? Go Habs Go!

Advertisements

Top Cheese: September 2017 Edition

TopCheese

Here are a few thoughts on different topics surrounding the Habs’ as training camp is in full force and the team and players are battling for a position on the opening day roster. Feel free to share on Social Media and post your comments as they are always welcomed.

Charles Hudon is having a great start to this year’s training camp. He is no longer intimidated and at awe for simply practicing with the big boys. He now wants to be one of them more than ever. After a good season last year in the AHL, where he collected an impressive 27 goals and 49 points in 56 games for the St. John’s IceCaps, the 23 year-old winger feels like he’s ready to take the next step in his career and his three assists night in the White vs Red scrimmage was a step in that direction.

I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade here, but just like we as fans and/or media following the Canadiens, shouldn’t read too much in early poor performances, we should remain level-headed with a young player’s early success. Training camp is just starting and will only get tougher and tougher as we get closer to opening night on October fifth. It is, admittedly, better to have a good start than the other way around, no doubt.

bannièrehabs2

Jonathan Drouin has been omni-present on the Montreal scene, representing the Canadiens, ever since he was acquired. He signed his contract soon after, then attended a press conference with GM Marc Bergevin. He made headlines for training with captain Max Pacioretty, with whom he seems to have developed a good friendship. He made a couple of videos for Canadiens.com already. He attended the Just for Laughs Festival.

Now, Drouin announced that he will be making a $500,000 donation over 10 a ten-year period and also pledges to raise $5M through a variety of initiatives for the CHUM. But can we stop with the verbal diarrhea already? Stuff like this:

The fact is that Drouin did something good for the city. Just like Subban didn’t follow anyone’s lead, or other former Canadiens’ did as well, the young Canadiens’ forward committed a great gesture by helping an organization in need of funding. That alone should be the news, not the mention of other players before him.

bannièrehabs2

In fact, what is the infatuation of some with former Habs? Whether it be Subban, Radulov, Markov… heck, even Darren Dietz made headlines in the Canadiens’ fan base recently for their activities, quotes or actions elsewhere. Unless there is some kind of sick agenda behind such behaviour, I cannot think of any good reason to put any importance on what former players who are with other teams do.

Subban has been gone for over a year. Get over it. Radulov decided to take the same contract the Habs had offered and to continue his career in Texas. His choice, let it go. Markov waited too late to accept a one-year deal and declined the Canadiens’ offer, preferring continuing his career in his homeland. Done.

You know what? Shea Weber is doing a fantastic job for the Canadiens. Jonathan Drouin is an exciting news both on and off the ice. You have Brendan Gallagher trying to bounce back from a rough season. You have Tomas Plekanec playing for a new contract. You have one of the NHL’s best goals’ scorer in the past 5 years on your team, and the best goaltender in the world. You have young guys like Artturi Lehkonen to focus on. You have young prospects knocking at the door at all positions. You have a pool of junior and College players to get excited about. Tons to focus on without digging dirt on other teams.

bannièrehabs2

McCarronOne of those young guys is Michael McCarron, who has apparently focused his summer training towards gaining some much needed foot speed. Just like it’s too early to get overboard about Hudon’s strong start, it is also too early to panic about the big centre after one exhibition game where he didn’t look his best. Traditionally, big bodies like him take a while to get going. Management knows that, fans and media should keep that in mind. If he can raise his level of play, McCarron is a type of players that the team lacks of, a big physical body with some sand paper. We can start worrying a bit more if he is cut comes October.

bannièrehabs2

Another guy who had (or still has) high expectation placed on him is young Nikita Scherbak. Like many young forwards his age, he has struggled a bit with his adaptation to the professional game but that is nothing to be alarming, at least for now. Few seem to remember that guys like Plekanec spent three full seasons in the minors prior to cracking the NHL level and Scherbak is still young at 21 years old. He has a good attitude and wants to improve. I think that he’s one who can greatly benefit from the farm team being relocated in the Canadiens’ backyard in Laval, and that he still managed 41 points last year in St. John’s. Patience is key here.

bannièrehabs2

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 4.29.31 AM
Karl Alzner

Twitter can be very depressing at times, particularly if you follow the Habs’ hashtag. The puck hasn’t even dropped and Karl Alzner is taking more than his fair share of shots by some fans, often the same ones mentioned above, the ones focussing on former players instead of the Canadiens. At 6-foot 3-inches and 217 lbs, Alzner is the team’s second biggest defenseman behind Weber. If you’re expecting a gazelle here, you will be disappointed. But he does bring some grit, some shot blocking abilities and sound positioning to the team. He is a better hockey player than Alexei Emelin was, and he is his replacement… not Markov’s. Also, the new number 22 will turn 29 on September 24th, not 39 years old, as some make it sound like! Like Benn, I think that he will be a very pleasant surprise and will be a strong contributor to this team. Give it time folks.

bannièrehabs2

Well, well… Matt Duchene‘s name is resurfacing in the news, or rather in the rumour mill. While everyone is saying that Bergevin doesn’t have the needed pieces to make it happen, the Canadiens are mentioned as one of the potential teams by every reputable insider out there. Why? Maybe it’s because Joe Sakic will have to lower his expectations for a return for Duchene. Maybe there is no one ready to sacrifice a top bluechip young defenseman for a guy now a year from free agency.

I’m not saying this to raise anyone’s hopes up, as I too believe that the Habs are a long shot to land the coveted centre, but where there is life, there is hope. While the team will be experimenting with Drouin at centre, Duchene would fit in nicely on one of the top two lines by providing depth at a position where the team has very little in the short term.

bannièrehabs2

With the regular season about two weeks away, the Canadiens will tune their line-up with exhibition games against Washington tonight, and will be facing Ottawa twice, Toronto twice, and one game against New Jersey and Florida. The team will then start the season with a three-game road swing starting in Buffalo on Thursday, October 5th, and will have their home opener the following Tuesday, October 10th, as they will receive the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bell Centre. Real hockey is just around the corner folks! Go Habs Go!!!