Coaching Decisions Costing the Habs

The General Manager gathers the players. The players play and the coaches make the coaching decisions. In order for a team to win games, the GM must get the right players who in turn, must provide their best effort. But if the coach makes the wrong decisions behind the bench, all of this is moot. Often times, coaches get too much credit but sometimes, they don’t get enough blame.

The Canadiens were up to a good start on the road as we’ve touched on recently. But that’s until team head coach Claude Julien made a couple of decisions which might just have cost his team a few points.

The first decision was, in my opinion, to save the best goalie in the world for the home opener when the team faced a more ferocious opponent the night before on the road. It’s no secret that Julien will use both his goaltenders when his team is playing back to back nights. But the choice of playing backup Keith Kinkaid in Buffalo against stronger Sabres just to keep Carey Price for the home opener is a decision that I personally don’t support.

A home opener is only special because there’s a players’ introduction prior to game time. It’s a marketing tool. The game itself is just like any other game. It’s worth two points and those two points are just as important as two points late in the season. It can be the difference between extending the season in April or grabbing the golf clubs… again.

Claude Julien

You have the best goalie in the world. You have got to play him against the tougher opponents and that, regardless of a home opener or not. The goal of any NHL team is to win games and there’s no denying that Price gives the Habs the best chance at winning games. So you play him against the tougher opponents. Period. Is Kinkaid an improvement over Antti Niemi? André “Red Light” Racicot would be an improvement over Niemi the way he played last year. But he’s no Carey Price… far, far from there.

You see, on the second night of a back to back, the team is tired. Your best chance of winning is in the first game. So you go with your best goalie, particularly against a stronger team. On the second night, you hope for the best. People were saying that “they would be mad if they had tickets for the home opener and Price wasn’t in net”. To that I reply: does that mean that Price must be playing every single home game? After all, people buy their tickets for those games too, no? That was a marketing decision going against a hockey decision. They picked the marketing which could have very well cost the team in terms of hockey.

Second mistake

Julien’s second mind boggling decision was not so much to scratch the defensive pairing of Brett Kulak and Cale Fleury in Buffalo and replace them with Mike Reilly and Christian Folin, but to stick with them in Montreal the next day. Three reasons to go back to the Kulak-Fleury pairing:

  • For one, Kulak is the best defenseman today of those four.
  • Two, Julien has the last change in Montreal so he can better control the match-ups for young Fleury.
  • Last but not least, they are fresh, not having played the night before. You have spares Claude, use them!

I know that some folks will think that this is blaming Kinkaid and/or the Reilly-Folin pairing. It’s not the case. Price and fresh players give you a better chance to win. That’s all. The end result of those two questionable decisions is that the Canadiens came out with a single point off a possibility of four, against division rivals, teams who they will be battling with to make the playoffs. That’s not on the GM, nor is it on the players. Those results are solely on the coach. Here’s hoping that Julien minimizes those mistakes so it doesn’t cost his team a playoffs’ berth. Go Habs Go!

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Meet The New Habs

There you have it folks, the Montreal Canadiens have solidified their 23-men roster and they’re getting even younger. Many, myself included, are disappointed that Ryan Poehling was sent down to the AHL’s Laval Rockets but thrilled that the Canadiens decided to keep training camp standouts Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury. According to Capfriendly.com, Montreal has $5,571,192 available in cap space and only six teams spend less than the Habs… a position rather surprising considering the market they are in. Without further ado, let’s have a closer look at the new faces sporting the Habs’ uniform, and let’s start getting to know them.

#37 – Keith Kinkaid

Keith Kinkaid

Date of Birth: July 4, 1989 (30)

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 195 lbs

Position: Goaltender

Catches: Left

Scouting Report: Very quick laterally, he mirrors shooters well. Uses his big frame well to wall off the bottom of the net. Shows good reflexes and will make sprawling saves when out of position. Goes into his butterfly too quickly at times and can get hung out to dry by patient shooters. Too often gets caught out of position. Needs a little more work on his blocker side.

Little known fact: On Dec. 19, 2014, Kinkaid became the first goalie in NHL history to have each of his first three starts decided in a shootout. 

#8 – Ben Chiarot 

Ben Chiarot

Date of Birth: May 9, 1991 (28)

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 219 lbs

Position: Defenseman

Shoots: Left

Scouting Report: Has the requisite size all National Hockey League teams need along the blueline, and he displays the ability to use it as well. Was a good point producer in the junior ranks. Still a little raw in the defensive zone, he needs to tighten up and limit his mistakes with the puck in order to maximize his big-league potential as a defensive type.

#21 – Nick Cousins 

Nick Cousins

Date of Birth: July 20, 1993 (26)

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 185 lbs

Position: Centre

Shoots: Left

Scouting Report: Has plenty of abrasiveness in his game, and is always willing to stir the pot. Can also play a sound two-way game. Adds plenty of versatility to a roster. Must prove he can continue to play his rambunctious style as he climbs the ladder. Also, the jury is out on his point-producing ability at the NHL level.

#14 – Nick Suzuki

Nick Suzuki

Date of Birth: August 10, 1999 (20)

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 201 lbs

Position: Centre/Right Winger

Shoots: Right

Scouting Report: Plays a very heady, mature two-way game. Is a talented playmaker who is also adept at finishing off plays himself. Due to his hockey smarts, he can be used with the game on the line and in defensive situations. He is still a bit raw as an all-round talent and needs more consistency.

Notes: Suzuki was named the OHL playoffs MVP last season.

#20 – Cale Fleury 

Cale Fleury

Date of Birth: November 19, 1998 (20)

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 205 lbs

Position: Defenseman

Shoots: Right

Scouting Report: A solid puck carrier with smooth skating abilities. Highly offensive-minded. Possesses the size to be in the NHL one day and plays with both his brain and muscles in the defensive zone. Has the potential to hope for a top-four career on a NHL’s defensive unit.

Notes: Soon after being announced as part of the team, Fleury changed his number from 83 to 20.

So ladies and gentlemen, here is your opening night line-up, based on practice:

Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Domi – Suzuki
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Byron/Cousins – Thompson – Weal

Mete – Weber
Chiarot – Petry
Kulak – Fleury
Reilly – Folin

Price
Kinkaid

Here’s for a successful season! Go Habs Go!

* Scouting Reports from The Sports Forecaster.