What are the Canadiens Going to Do?
By Patrick Hoffman
If you think things are bad with the Buffalo Sabres, things are in Montreal are a heckuva lot worse.
Sure, the Habs finished with more points than the lowly Sabres as Buffalo was the worst team in the entire league this season. However, because it's Montreal, things are much more magnified and as such, seem so much worse.
This season was an absolute train wreck for Les Canadiens. They were the fourth worst team in the NHL when they were expected to be competitive for one of the top spots in the Atlantic Division.
One reason why this team was awful this season was because of the play of their franchise goaltender Carey Price. Simply put, he was not good.
While he was injured for part of the season, he was not very Price like when between the pipes. He finished the season 16-26-7 with a 3.11 goals against average, a .900 save percentage, and one shutout.
Those numbers certainly do not live up to the HUGE contract extension that the club gave him last July. While there is no doubt that Price, 30, is still one of the best goaltenders in the world when he is healthy and on his game, one has to wonder what kind of season he will have next year given the team in front of him.
Speaking of the team in front of him, does Canadiens' general manager Marc Bergevin know what he is doing? The team has now missed the postseason two out of the last three seasons and even struggled with attendance this season due to poor play from his hockey club.
People started frowning up Bergevin when he dealt stud defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators two seasons ago. No one is quite sure why Subban was dealt and since the deal, Subban has been to the postseason both years, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final last year and with a good chance to go back there this season.
Speaking of Bergevin, there are a few pundits wonder whether or not the franchise could use someone above him to help make roster decisions. Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette said the following in this piece:
"Moving forward, Molson and the Canadiens need to separate business and hockey and realize all their fans really want is a winning team. Preferably one that can also play an entertaining brand of hockey, similar to what the Toronto Maple Leafs do now thanks to the “Shanaplan” that was put in place after Brendan Shanahan was hired as team president. Luc Robitaille has played a similar role as president of the Los Angeles Kings."
This sounds like a great idea and one that the Habs should consider doing. There are plenty of qualified people out there and should this franchise go in this direction, fans better hope they pick the right person to help Bergevin right this ship.
Acquiring forward Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning and then signing him to a six year deal was also perplexing. In his first season in Montreal, Drouin, 23, had 46 points (13 goals and 33 assists), which is not terrible, but certainly not what the team had hoped for when they signed him to a big deal.
Speaking of forwards, one has to wonder what the club is going to do team captain Max Pacioretty. He had just 37 points this season and has been trade bait for what seems like the last few seasons.
On team wrap up day, Pacioretty made it clear that he loves Montreal and that he hopes the Habs don't trade him. He said the following to reporters on April 10:
"I didn't take much heat from people around the city," he said. "In fact, it's all positive outside this (media) circle and I really mean that.
"I'm in the city every day and it it wasn't positive I wouldn't be in the city every day. I get so much support from the fans. They all tell me they love me. I've never had one negative encounter."
While it is clear that Pacioretty wants to stay, no one is quite sure what the status of forward Alex Galchenyuk is. While he did have 51 points (1i goals and 32 assists) this season, he has also been involved in trade rumors throughout the last few seasons.
Galchenyuk, 24, has continuously been pushed by the team's coaching staff and this season at least, he came through. With that said, if the team continues to make him change positions and play in a spot that he is not truly comfortable with, wil he want to continue to stay?
Clearly, there are more questions than answers for this once proud Canadiens' franchise. Hopefully, the team will figure things out and get this team going in the right direction again because if they cannot, things could get very ugly in Montreal.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.