Defending P.K., Denouncing Therrien

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

It’s hard to find the positives these days, as a Habs fan, and a Habs writer.

And Wednesday night, the team dropped another game, this time to Colorado.

The game was actually going well; they scored first, and pulled ahead of a tie only to be tied again in the 2nd period. The 2-2 game continued until the last minutes of the 3rd period, when the Avalanche scored their game-winning goal.

Here’s what happened:

In the Avalanche’s zone, P.K. Subban was knocked off the puck by Mikhail Grigorenko who passed it to Matt Duchene. Subban fell; he was either pushed, or – as he says – caught an edge. The play moved down the ice as P.K. recovered to his feet, Grigorenko got the puck back, passed it to Jarome Iginla, who scored the winner.

It looked like this:

I’ve watched it too many times. It’s painful to see.

But it was really post-game happenings that have swayed me to finally take that final step onto the Fire Therrien bus.

After the game, Michel Therrien gave his post-game remarks. Two, in particular, stand out as alarming/infuriating/frustrating:

And in case anyone doubted about whom he was speaking:

That’s it, folks. I’ve made no mistake of my total admiration for P.K. Subban, as a player, a man, a human being. But he is also the Habs’ best player. So, when he gets thrown under the bus – by his coach – it’s bad enough. But when that is wrongly placed blame, it’s a game changer (no pun intended).

To compound the post-game presser, Subban was benched for the last minute of play, during which time he might have made a difference, scored a tying goal, and forced overtime. Now, we don’t know that would have happened, but here was the group on the ice for that critical do-or-die minute:

Andrei Markov might have scored, but that doesn’t make him the best choice to battle for the tying goal. In fact, it hampered the team’s chances of attaining the equalizer.

Here’s a breakdown of the doomed play, in still shots offered by NHL writer, Arpon Basu:

Look carefully: the set-up looks fine in the first photo, but in the second, Max Pacioretty is alone, without the guy he was supposed to cover; seems to me, there were plenty of mistakes made in this play, and that P.K’s – if it was a mistake at all – was only one of a bad sequence that led to a goal.

P.K. Subban has 44 points so far this season. By contrast,  the captain, Max Pacioretty, has 40. Subban is a workhorse, a player whose work ethic is impeccable, and who is consistently leaving it all on the ice, every game. He spoke after the game:

Max Pacioretty did not make himself available to the press.

But for the coach to assign blame like as he did, when Subban is one of the few on the team to bolster it on the ice – and off – on a regular basis is beyond the pale.

Montreal Gazette Sports Editor, Stu Cowan, agrees:

Let me show you some other quotes from the room (thanks Chantal):

Torrey Mitchell, showing solid team support and class to boot, may have anticipated – or already knew – Therrien’s remarks.

Ben Scrivens, who played well, making some big saves – just not the One That Counts.

All in all, not one person – from analysts to players to fans – seems to see what Therrien does: that P.K. suddenly has the weight of the game on his shoulders. P.K. might take it on – his humility is keen that way. But he should not bear the responsibility for the loss. Not by a long shot.

So there it is – what has finally convinced me to give into the nagging doubts and jump on that bandwagon. That kind of blatant finger pointing when his own judgment has been way off.

It isn’t that I didn’t believe Therrien was making mistakes, but I was constantly looking for the other elements that were preventing the Habs from recapturing the early-season magic.

But now, the worry  concern sets in. What will happen next? What will Marc Bergevin do, either on February 29th (Trade Deadline), or beyond?

I believe, without a doubt, that the end of this season – likely in Game 82, no playoffs to be had – the coach will have served his last game behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens.

I believe it because I have to.

I believe it because from what I’m reading, long-term fans – decades-long supporters – are stating that they have never seen this complete a collapse from this team.

No coach should be able to survive that.

I believe it because despite the inability to score, consistent injuries, and the problems with two back-up goaltenders for the majority of the season, the coach has messed around with the lines way too much to have helped the team gel and find a groove.

I’ve tried to analyze what’s happened; the lines being so unstable is one factor, to be sure.

Another is the November 25th loss of Carey Price who, I’m surmising, is out for the season. The statistics of this team with, and without him, are starkly obvious. In fact, one Avalanche broadcaster half-jokingly remarked that the team has shown such success with Price (10-2-0 in the 12 games he played before injury sidelined him), and have collapsed so terribly without him, he should still be awarded the MVP trophy at the end of the season for being such an integral part of the Canadiens!

(Not such a bad idea…if one wants to think outside the box!)

Yes, I believe that, despite their mostly solid performances, Ben Scrivens, Mike Condon, and – pre-trade – Dustin Tokarski did let in goals Price would have stopped. But that doesn’t solve the lack of scoring, does it?

Here’s the thing: Price doesn’t score goals, obviously. But I also believe that the players were so confident with Price in nets, they were looser on the ice, more focused on an offensive game, and that’s what led to the multiple-goal games when the team was on top. That mindset that everything is okay with Price on the ice seemed to carry them through and when he was not in nets, they lost that confidence.

When coaches get fired, often it’s just because a head has to roll, and it’s usually the head who pays the price. Sometimes it isn’t the coach at all. Sometimes it is.

With Michel Therrien, I am now fully invested in the Push For Firing. He has shown poor judgment. For example, he has shown tragically misguided favoritism of David Desharnais at times when it has cost the team.

But has he ever thrown Desharnais under the bus? Has he ever even alluded to a “mistake” Desharnais has made (and there have been many – a majority of them due to Desharnais’s simple lack of powerful shot and size differential to his mismatched opponents)?

Has he ever benched DD?

No, he hasn’t – because that would require him to admit (even if just to himself) that his lines and decisions were terribly wrong and that he has treated true stars like Alex Galchenyuk as though they were second thoughts in favor of a mediocre player.

Many on social media have done, on a constant basis throughout this season and past years, what the coach did after Wednesday’s game: make P.K. the scapegoat. We already know there are haters, and they feel they need no reason to feel that way.

P.K. Subban is a lightning rod for pointing fingers; it wasn’t too long ago, the hashtag “Blame Subban” trended to the point where he, himself, laughed at it.

But the danger in an incident like Wednesday’s leaves many of us – those who do not hate him, who support him and see his profound skills, leadership, and humanity – wondering if this will be a piece in the chess game to take place in just 10 days with the trade deadline, or at the end of the season.

Because we’ve been witnesses to desperate moves by desperate management before; remember Mike Cammalleri? A move, mid-game no less,  by former GM Pierre Gauthier to try and stop the bleeding and stave off his own firing.

We’ve seen it this season too: Jarred Tinordi, Christian Thomas – two players who were underplayed, and traded away for seemingly random purposes.

There are more, no doubt. These are a few examples.

In other words, we do not know what this general manager will do, nor do we know how the players will react to this press conference, or those in the future which may target them, as well.

And with Therrien – who has clearly lost the room, the respect of his players, and the fan base – showing further bad judgment by bag-skating the team in high-altitude Denver as “a lesson” after a bad loss Monday night in Arizona, along with benching his (inarguably) best player as “a lesson” he felt needed to be taught over a potentially forced overtime?

Well, it has to be said: a coach who isn’t showing the kind of leadership his team, and the fans of that team expect has to be the one to go. Teams don’t coach themselves, and the players need a strong guide to help them recapture the core of what it is to play in this city, as a proud Montreal Canadiens hockey player.

That guide is no longer Michel Therrien.

And we, as fans, have to stand by P.K. Subban who, I will venture, is strong enough and smart enough to know that if he weathers the next 24 games, this coach will no longer be around to gamble the team’s successes by scapegoating his star defenseman.

And that P.K., hopefully still an “untouchable”, will remain a proud member of these Montreal Canadiens past this snake-bitten, bizarre 2015-16 to emerge in the next season stronger and more determined than ever to reach that ultimate goal of Cup 25.

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9 Responses to Defending P.K., Denouncing Therrien

  1. Caman P.K. made a bad decision by playing around with the puck instead of dumping it into the zone. In the past 2 months he has done this many times and has been the cause of many goals. He has done this move so often now it is a habit and most times unnecessary. I am all for firing Therrien but this was on P.K..

    Wayne McCrae February 18, 2016 at 10:35 am Reply
    • so nothing on Pacioretty who completely gave up on the defensive coverage and left Iginla wide open?

      Luca LaPorta February 18, 2016 at 12:17 pm Reply
    • Nobody denying PK made a mistake. You completely missed the point…

      Arnoldo Adjani February 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm Reply
    • Losing an edge is the reason for the blame? How about he had gotten around the forward..squared up took a shot and his stick broke..and the rest of the play continued on the same way…would we be blaming Subban for that as well?? His ‘bad decision’ to skate is as ridiculous as his ‘bad decision’ to shoot. Pacioretty and DeLaRose needed to communicate their position..the goal is on them..a 3 on 3…no reason for open man in the slot.

      If Therrien played players with confidence rather than as some knee jerk reaction to ‘errors’ he assumes them to make we’d not be in this mess. Claiming Habs issues are on the movements of their top scorer…to say his play is the reason for losses..to think he’s selfish when He is on the ice for 60% of this teams scoring..is beyond ignorant.

      Enigmatic J February 18, 2016 at 1:06 pm Reply
      • I love this reply J because it is spot on. I wouldn’t even be surprised if people blamed him had he dumped it in, and it came back around and then the rest of the play happened the same way.

        Caleb February 18, 2016 at 7:03 pm Reply
      • Bang on, J.

        Michael Gomez February 18, 2016 at 7:08 pm Reply
  2. I disagree Wayne but on this one play only. Subban makes a lot of mistakes, but they are mistakes of passion and trying to create something, anything, with a team that does not have the personnel to score very much.

    That goal was mostly on Pacioretty not picking up his man as Basu breaks it down properly in the stills above.

    It is time for Therrien to go. I thought he would be jettisoned sometime during the All Star break, but now the heat on Bergy has gone way way up. I’ll be surprised to see Therrien behind the bench for the Canadiens next game. No excuse for crapping on Subban like he did after the game.

    I can only imagine the heat Molson is taking today and phone calls to the Bell, Montreal talk radio both in French and English etc…. Must be pure madness in Montreal.

    Chris Bellman February 18, 2016 at 11:34 am Reply
  3. That goal was on Pacioretty. Pernell Karl was trying to make something happen and blew a tire.

    Another loss pretty much seals the Canadiens fate this year. Will be a little surprised if we see Therrien behind the bench for the Habs next game. The heat on Bergy and Molson must be so intense right now with Montreal talk radio, the media etc….

    Chris Bellman February 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm Reply
  4. difficult to witness,heart-breaking stuff;there seems to be a lack of leadership and coherence from the top down,blaming our goalies for losses,teamates not supporting our goalies as they should-being teamates,teamates not supporting each other in general,our g.m.stating publicly that “ben scrivens and mikey condon are not carey price”,what kind of a confidence measure is that coming from our g.m.?
    people are talking alot about what to do?coach therrien?not the right thing to do,i would say.
    this is deeper than the coach.the g.m. marc bergevin i think needs to be replaced.
    love the guy,but this falls on him.geoff molson needs to act,before bergevin starts air-lifting our good young players/prospects and even someone like subban:out of town?if bergevin has supported coach therrien this far,what is next?trade away and trade away?that must not be allowed to happen,time for our default season-saver to make another entrance/appearance;”jacques lemaire and company”,he will know what to do,he will put order back “in the cabane”,and who knows maybe even sneak into the playoffs?always a supporter,always a believer,never give up hope,la sainte flannelle always dear and near to our hearts,

    langis,dino February 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm Reply

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