With Christmas Day just around the corner, we take a look at what the Montreal Canadiens organization has on their wish list this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
All I Want For Christmas: Montreal Canadiens
Sanctuary for Michel Therrien
There is no coach more constantly attacked by his own fanbase than Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien. Despite two straight 50-win seasons and an Eastern Conference Final appearance, Therrien just can’t seem to make anyone happy. When the Habs had their brilliant start this year, people wondered why he wasn’t going to be a coach for Team Canada. Now the fans are back to wanting him fired, despite the woes of the Habs being directly related to the injuries of two of their stars in Hart Trophy-winner Carey Price and former Calder finalist Brendan Gallagher.
There’s still a great chance for Montreal to win 50 games again despite losing their lead on the Eastern Conference, but every decision made by Therrien continues to be under the microscope. Can we put a lid in 2016 on believing Therrien has some mass conspiracy against certain Canadiens players, or is in love with playing David Desharnais? Can we try putting ourselves in his shoes instead of knee-jerking every second the Habs play as a way to attack the coach? I’m not saying he’s the best coach in the NHL or that he’s above criticism (how hard is it to put Andrei Markov with Jeff Petry and not Tom Gilbert? Ugh, time to take my own advice) but can we just simmer down on thinking he’s a bad coach? He’s not. He’s just not your ideal coach.
Scoring to pick back up
The Canadiens have found themselves in a rut since losing Price and Gallagher, being unable to score goals despite ranking third overall in the league with 31.2 shots per game. In fact, since losing Gallagher (who was injured on November 22nd), they have taken 342 shots but have only scored 1.6 goals per 60 minutes in those 14 games. No team has scored less than them, only the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Vancouver Canucks have come close with 1.7 goals per 60 minutes each. They have also generated the 7th most high danger scoring chances, which means right by the net, with 126, along with 277 regular scoring chances, 16th in league during this span. When you compare these stats to the Canadiens first 14 games, it’s astounding. They took a league high 345 shots on net, scored the second most goals per game with 2.8, and had the fourth and sixth most scoring chances and high danger scoring chances with 283 and 115, respectively.
Many key players including P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, and Tomas Plekanec have found themselves on the hot seat. Plekanec hasn’t scored a goal in 19 games, since November 15th when the Canadiens won against the Boston Bruins. For Subban, it’s even worse. He’s gone 26 games since potting his lone goal but has managed to take the sixth most shots among defensemen with 91. Pacioretty is stuck in one of his cold streaks where he can’t seem to do anything and this streak is no different. He’s notched two goals in the past 10 games but at least he’s taken 45 shots on goal, including a season high nine on December 3rd versus the Washington Capitals.
Note: These statistics do not include the December 22nd game versus Minnesota Wild
A top-six right winger
Since Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin took the job, the Montreal Canadiens have had a hole in their right wing. The hole was created when Erik Cole needed to be replaced, and was originally filled by Michael Ryder. His departure led to the Canadiens bringing in Daniel Briere, who was a natural centre. The Canadiens traded for free agent Tomas Vanek, who played great in the regular season but sputtered in the playoffs. The Habs then traded Briere for P.A. Parenteau, who couldn’t stay healthy. This summer, the Canadiens signed Alex Semin and traded for Zack Kassian, and while the door is still open for Kassian, Semin is already in the KHL. The Canadiens felt confident putting Semin on waivers after the performance of prospect Sven Andrighetto, but he’s now had trouble staying in the lineup. Devante Smith-Pelly had been looking like an option but he got hurt.
The problem is none of these guys are dependable top-six right wingers. The Canadiens have not had three dependable right wingers since 12-13’s Gallagher, Brian Gionta and Ryder. With Gallagher injured and Dale Weise a 2/3 guy, the hole in the RW has been glaringly obvious. Either the Canadiens replace this with a Christmas gift of a trade or someone in the organization has to step up. It might be hard to make trades today in the NHL, but right now we haven’t seen anyone in the Habs organization consistent enough to take the spot. It’s time for Montreal to sacrifice some potential future to fill a necessary hole today.
The Canadiens have been bit with the injury bug in the 2015-16 campaign with some major and minor losses to the team. The most notable are Gallagher and Price, while Smith-Pelly, Torrey Mitchell, Jeff Petry, Semin, Alexei Emelin have all missed games. This has opened the door for rookies to prove themselves such as Andrighetto, Daniel Carr, Michael McCarron, Charles Hudon, and Greg Pateryn. Carr and Andrighetto have been two of the best rookies to come in and play. Andrighetto has racked up four goals in 12 games while Carr has scored twice in eight games. Goaltenders Mike Condon and Dustin Tokarksi have held down the crease as best as they possibly can but when the team is going through a tough time scoring , you can’t blame these two for the losses. Condon has made some costly mistakes, which is expected with rookie net minders, but he’s also made some big and tough saves.
Despite the organization having numerous rookies able to step in and be competent injury replacements, there is no denying that the Canadiens are missing Gallagher and Price. Since the pair went down with their injuries, they have gone from a league-leading team to barely able to grab at least one point in games. The trend they have displayed in the past 10 games is not pretty and shows that losing two key players have hit harder than they are letting on.