What a bad start to the season.
The Montreal Canadiens’ points percentage is .300 and only two teams are worse.
This is a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final and won three straight series in which they were the clear underdogs. Even those who believe Montreal’s run was a mirage, couldn’t predict them being this bad.
GM Marc Bergevin doesn’t have any answers…
“It’s hard to explain and I’m not going to defend or protect because we’re all in this together,” Bergevin told TSN Radio 690. “Night after night and very few in between did we play our best hockey. I think to the Calgary game where I saw the same team that performed in the playoffs last year for two and half months. The effort and the compete is nonnegotiable and I understand there’s a few things like the short turnaround and it effect teams. It’s just the effort lack of engagement that I see night after night recently, it’s hard to explain”
So… What’s the issue?
Making a run to the Stanley Cup Final takes a toll. Doing it in a pandemic shortened season takes it to another level. The games were condensed and so was the off-season. The playoffs concluded on July 7, when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens in game five. Training camp began September 22 and the season started October 13.
That’s an arduous turnaround and considering many believe the Canadiens overachieved to begin with, getting off to a strong start was unlikely.
It’s simple to point out but this isn’t the same team from a year ago. Some of the movement with the roster is self-inflicted and some out of their control.
Phillip Danault believed he was more than a defensive specialist. The Los Angeles Kings offered a lucrative deal worth 33-million dollars. Montreal could have given him a greater role and the money but chose not to.
Corey Perry signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They offered him a two-year deal while Montreal wasn’t comfortable with that length.
Tomas Tatar wasn’t a factor in the playoffs but was part of one of the best lines five-on-five during the regular season. With the depth the Habs have at the wing position, it’s hard to criticize the team for letting him walk.
They didn’t plan for the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer-sheet by the Carolina Hurricanes and were left in a tough spot. He delivered some big moments in the playoffs.
Youngsters not taking a step forward
Young players don’t always take the giant step forward that management expects. Montreal’s players got off to a slow start and even though they’ve been better lately, it contributed to the rocky beginning of the season.
Nick Suzuki didn’t score his first goal of the season until November 2. He played so badly on October 31 against Anaheim that he called himself out after the game.
“Today I wasn’t really doing much to be honest,” said Suzuki. “Probably one of my worst games, so I’m pretty disappointed in how I played. I have to play better.”
After that game against Anaheim, Cole Caufield was sent to the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League. He’s looked better since being recalled but is still in search of his first goal of the season.
Alex Romanov was made a healthy scratch and seems to have found his game since. He also took being a scratch in stride.
“I like nature, I like Montreal and the mountains and the good views,” said Romanov. “I like walking with my wife, old port and Griffintown, pretty good spots.”
Good teams deal with injuries to key players. The Lightning don’t have Nikita Kucherov or Brayden Point and it doesn’t seem to matter. But for a team like Montreal, key injuries have hurt. They’ve been scored on a league worst 70 times. And if not for key players missing on the backend, that stat would be different.
Shea Weber’s career is in jeopardy. It’s unlikely he plays again. His absence is felt in every area of the game.
Not having Joel Edmundson has created a crater in Montreal lineup. It hasn’t only affected the team as a whole, but directly impacted Jeff Petry.
Carey Price should be applauded for stepping away and getting the help he needs. Some things are more important than hockey. But there isn’t a hockey fan out there that doesn’t know his importance to the Canadiens. If he was around, a lot of the blowout losses would have been closer and the team would be playing with more confidence knowing he’ll bail them out. Price was the number one reason they went to the Stanley Cup Final in July and is his absence is why they’re at the bottom of the standings now. The Montreal Canaidens go as Carey Price goes.
The season is far from over but making the playoffs becomes more improbable by the day. But with Edmundson and Price nearing a return, the youngsters finding their game and the short off-season well behind them, they will climb a couple spots in the standings. They aren’t as bad as they’ve played.