Part 2: Montreal Canadiens’ 2013-2014 Regular Season Studs and Duds

Rene Bourque

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As with most teams in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens went through a few bumps in the road en route to a successful 100-point regular season. Every player had their inconsistencies and frustrations over the course of the year. Some weren’t able to score for long stretches; others made costly turnovers in the defensive zone.

Whatever the reason, it would be difficult to find one player on the Canadiens who, at some point, did not make you cuss them out for poor judgment or a bad hockey play. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player in the entire league who doesn’t go through their share of struggles over an 82-game period. Heck, even Sidney Crosby goes on cold streaks.

However, when analyzing the overall picture, there are always some players who hit just a few more bumps in the road than they should have. Whether it was for lack of effort, or simply because the puck did not find them in the right spots, the fact of the matter is they did not meet expectations and, for the most part, were a disappointment.

In Part 1 of this series, Montreal Canadiens’ 2013-14 Regular Season Studs and Duds, I discussed the players that went above and beyond the call of duty; the players that gave just a little bit extra when it mattered most. Brendan Gallagher, Carey Price and Max Pacioretty were those players. They helped the team the most during the regular season and, if it weren’t for them, the Habs may not have even made it to the playoffs, let alone the Eastern Conference Finals.

Unfortunately, with the positives come the negatives. Believe me, I do not enjoy picking out what went wrong during the regular season. It brings back memories of heartbreaking losses and couch-pounding moments I would rather forget. What must be done must be done, though. Without further ado, here are my three duds from the 2013-14 regular season for the Montreal Canadiens.

Like Part 1, the selections were based on the following criteria:

Basic Statistical Data

  • Goals, assists, points (forwards, defensemen)
  • Save percentage, goals against average, record (goalie)
  • Cap hit

Advanced Statistical Data

  • Puck possession (Corsi, Fenwick)
  • Quality of opposition faced
  • Zone starts

Observable Data

  • Work ethic
  • Attitude

Duds

Rene Bourque

If this article was about the playoffs, Rene Bourque would not even sniff this list. However, it’s easy to forget what happened in the regular season given certain performances in the postseason. Despite elevating his game in April and May, Bourque forgot to show up from the months of October through March.

There is no question the 32-year-old right winger from Edmonton has talent. He is a big body with lots of speed and is capable of driving to the net and wreaking havoc on opposing goaltenders. Not to mention, when Bourque actually lays a hit on somebody, it is often one that is booming and bone-crushing.

The problem is Bourque does not often do that. There were glimpses of the talented Bourque in the playoffs, but Canadiens fans rarely saw that player in the regular season. Instead, what Habs Nation saw was Bourque missing countless opportunities, putting in the effort only when he felt like it and leading the league in looking up to the sky. Not to mention, he often did not put his big frame to good use. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Gallagher was more physical than Bourque. It’s sad, but it’s the reality of what was the Edmonton native’s game style in 2013-14.

Statistics are often only part of a player’s story, but for Bourque, his season stats represented exactly the type of player he was throughout the year. When Bourque was on the ice, the Canadiens had puck possession for a measly 45.3 percent of the time while facing relatively low-quality competition. The veteran forward finished with an abysmal nine goals and seven assists in 63 games in the regular season, a total he nearly matched in just 17 games in the playoffs.

Bourque’s playoff performance certainly raised eyebrows and showed fans that this guy can be a tremendous asset to the team.

However, not knowing which Bourque will show up next season is a concern, and until he can put together a complete season of consistency and work ethic, he will remain a dud.

Douglas Murray

It’s always difficult putting a player like this on the list. Unlike Bourque, Murray does put in the work ethic. He does care about the team’s success. He can be counted on to give 110 percent when he’s on the ice. However, Murray is a player no longer fit for today’s NHL. Despite knowing his limitations and playing to his strengths, the amount of limitations Murray has are just too great to overcome.

The hard-hitting 34-year-old defenseman can lay down a body check better than most. He is rock solid and not afraid to drop the gloves when called upon. Many people would suggest these qualities are extremely helpful to a team not exactly known for being physical and lacking enforcers. Unfortunately, Murray is more of a liability than an asset.

With the way the game is played today, the speed of play is just too fast for a guy like Murray to keep up with. It takes a split second for a speedy NHL forward to chip it past a defenseman and generate an odd-man rush. Murray gives forwards a lot more than a split second. He is slow as molasses and, at this stage in his career, he will only get slower.

Murray was brought in to provide experience and add size to the back end. He was touted as a reliable stay-at-home defenseman. The statistics from this season contradict scouting reports.

Not only was Murray a minus-12 on the year, but the team had possession of the puck only 41.4 percent of the time with him on the ice against, again, low-quality competition. This means that despite Murray often being on the ice against third- and fourth-line opponents, the opposition dominated and produced a lot more scoring chances than the Canadiens did at even strength.

Most defensemen have their upsides along with their downsides.

This may be harsh, but it’s hard to find any sort of upside to Murray. Yes, he can hit, but that’s about it. The veteran defenseman didn’t even manage to score one goal for Montreal. He’s not paid to provide offense, but not even one goal scored?

Murray’s contract is expiring and luckily for Habs Nation, it is expected GM Marc Bergevin won’t be bringing No. 6 back for the 2014-15 season.

Lars Eller

It pains me to put Eller on this list given his playoff performance, but No. 81 was a big disappointment in the regular season. At least, to me he was.

I had pegged Eller as a candidate for most-improved player prior to the 2013-14 season. Despite coming off an injury in the 2013 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators, I felt the 25-year-old Dane’s confidence had reached new heights and he was poised for a breakout year. Boy, was I wrong.

Through mid-October, Eller was playing outstanding hockey; arguably the best of his career. However, his game took a turn for the worst after the “EGG” line was split up. To reignite Pacioretty and Desharnais’ game, Gallagher was taken off the Eller line and placed on the first line. This helped No. 67 and No. 51 find their games, but unfortunately, it hurt Eller’s.

After the line change, Eller’s game just went plummeting downhill. His offensive production stalled for long periods of time, he was making uncharacteristic mistakes in the defensive zone and was often found fighting the puck. Needless to say, the 25-year-old’s confidence was shot and not coming back anytime soon.

Of course, coach Michel Therrien is partially to blame for that. Eller had many trial-and-error linemates over the course of the year and his playing time was reduced significantly on many occasions throughout the season. That would be enough to demotivate any player.

At some point though, you can’t put all the blame on the coach. You can’t blame the coach for going almost two months without a goal. You can’t blame the coach for careless giveaways in the defensive zone. You can’t blame the coach for having a negative attitude, which is the attitude Eller seemingly adopted during those awful stretches of hockey.

Like Bourque, Eller’s statistics during the year were less-than-stellar, notching only 12 goals, 14 assists and 26 points in 77 games played. He also managed to put up a team-worst minus-15 rating. While the 25-year-old center was on the ice, the Canadiens had a 48.2 puck possession percentage against relatively high-quality opponents. That is not terrible, but not great either.

Eller showed signs he had returned to his old self in the playoffs. In fact, in contrast to the regular season, he led all forwards in points and plus-minus rating during the 2014 postseason. Habs Nation knows Eller has the potential to be one of the best two-way forwards in the league. It’s just a matter of confidence and consistency with the young Dane. The playoffs may have earned Eller an extended stay in Montreal next season, but Eller must show he can be more reliable than he was in the 2013-14 regular season.

This concludes my two-part edition of Montreal Canadiens’ 2013-14 Regular Season Studs and Duds. You can read the first part here. If you agree or disagree with my selections, feel free to post in the comments telling me why.

 

By Ryan Skilton, former AATH writer

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One Response to Part 2: Montreal Canadiens’ 2013-2014 Regular Season Studs and Duds

  1. Therrien threw all lines into turmoil when Desharnais became their poster boy for reHABitation! Everyone else was collateral damage.

    themightym June 11, 2014 at 7:17 am Reply

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