Much has been made of Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry’s postgame comments after the team’s seventh straight loss 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins last night.
Petry didn’t mince words in his first game back from missing four games with an upper-body injury. And his comments have been perceived as a shot across the bow at head coach Dominique Ducharme.
“It’s frustrating,” said Petry between sighs last night. “It’s the same things, over and over. We’re not playing as a team, we’re not playing as a group. It’s like you’re searching to find where people are. And it seems like they’re no structure out there.”
The Habs defenceman was also asked by reporters what he saw differently from having a bird’s eye view the past week as the team spun their wheels in the middle of another prolonged losing streak.
“You watch it up top and there are times where you’re scratching your head,” said Petry. “You feel like everybody knows where we should be but we’re not going to those place. We’re not making it easy for anybody on the ice. Except most of the time, the other team.”
With a record of 6-21-3 and the team on pace to pick up a historically horrific 40 points this season, all criticism is merited. Petry knows he hasn’t played well with only two assists on the year. Ducharme has to know that he has done an awful job coaching.
But where was this merited criticism six weeks ago? When something could have potentially been done about it?
The timing of Petry’s comments ring hollow with all the circumstances surrounding this team now.
The word of the first quarter of the Montreal Canadiens season was disconnected. Petry uttered it several times. As did Ducharme in describing his team. But both men kept it relatively cordial when outlining why the team couldn’t stop losing hockey games. The Habs defenceman has been blunt and honest several times before but never as forceful as he was last night.
There hasn’t been any clear structure. The team has looked like a bunch of strangers trying to freelance instead of a cohesive unit. They have been lifeless and inconsistent since early the puck dropped on the season.
Except now they are a bunch of strangers. There are 11 veterans out of the lineup, with the team announcing earlier that centreman Christian Dvorak is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Half of the forwards either should be regulars with the Laval Rocket or should be there based on their play. Almost none of these players have played more than three games with any of their given linemates.
You know when Petry’s comments would have struck a chord? When the team was relatively healthy and still looking as insufferably bad as they do now. When veteran NHL players looked as lost as the AHLers that are out there now.
And those strangers out there? They’re all trying to accomplish something different because they know the season is already over with 52 games left to play out.
52 more games of this? Dear God, help us.
None of these players would ever admit to this. But they all have different agendas now. Especially with a new boss to impress.
The young guys? They want to show Jeff Gorton that they are building blocks for this organization going forward. Minor leaguers? They are trying to prove they deserve a shot at training camp next season. The veterans? They are either trying not to get hurt or hoping that a move to a contender on the horizon. Or they’re just closing their eyes and praying it’s June already.
You know what isn’t on the agenda? Winning.
Because that isn’t happening.
Look at last night. Laurent Dauphin and Jesse Ylonen were two of the Habs three best players. Cole Caufield played inspired hockey. Alexander Romanov and Ryan Poehling had quieter nights but they have been two of the few silver linings during this losing stretch.
Other than Jonathan Drouin, what veteran player set the world alight last night? Or has played up to their capabilities the last two weeks?
There was nothing wrong with what Jeff Petry said last night. But they could have had an impact when there was still a season to salvage.