State Of The Franchise Address: Canadiens Questionable Start

My fellow observers,

 

It has come to the attention of many that the Canadiens 2017-18 season thus far has been a tumultuous one.  Losses, many undeserved but others earned; victories, narrow in measure and grand in doing little more than raising additional questions.  What we have here is failure to sustain a franchise’s strengths as well as the understanding of how to proceed.  We are approaching the middle of the road and the people’s demand for clarity is at an all time high with the supply of such being at an all time low.

 

What we see before us is the same as it has ever been over the last 8 years: the product of the mass exodus of talent that saw the Canadiens questioning whether they rebuild or double down and move forth, trying to stay in the spotlight of contention.  As one hole is addressed, another leak has sprung time after time, again and again and it comes right to the move that embodied exactly that: the acquisition of Jonathan Drouin in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev.  A young, mobile, left handed puck mover capable of playing in the top four of any given defensive unit certainly sounds like exactly what the Canadiens need right now; that said, what did the Canadiens receive? A player that demonstrates being, to most any eye test or piece of statistical data, a budding number one center.  The neutrality of this lateral move, highlighted by the fact that different circumstances would have been unforgettable fanfare for the arrival of Jonathan Drouin as opposed to what was, nevertheless, a warm and boisterous response.

 

Marc Bergevin, the same man that went from needing a top 6 scoring winger to having a plethora of talented wingers but still requiring help down the middle if Alex Galchenyuk will not be deployed as a center, has spent his tenure as the Canadiens general manager robbing Peter to pay Paul.

 

This is a franchise that was once accused of being too fixated on having a speedy, mobile, skilled attack unit as they built such at the cost of size and sandpaper; that their defensive corps were too small, not physical enough, too irresponsible in their own zone, just a bunch of puck movers.  They were advised by outsiders and even a number of fans that they would be better off to keep their quality concentrated and that sacrifices therein were to be made for larger players and that anything outside of size be damned.

 

“We need size” was the phrase uttered to –and by some of– the Canadiens faithful.  The very same that now say and are witnessing, like everyone else, that today’s NHL is suited to attributes that formed a much longer standing identity of this team than “character” could ever be: speed, skill and hockey sense.  Those that spoke of size now find themselves bearing grand pessimism.  They boasted their desire to see this franchise undergo a less-than-complete overhaul to take on an identity that has never truly described the city of Montreal or the franchise that emanates from it.  These are the results.  This is what becomes of a team that undertakes an identity that was wished upon it by those that pay no true attention to the team, the history before it and the progression of the game that is to come.

 

The dinosaur mentality relating to what worked in the dead puck era is the kind of thinking that builds the type of defensive unit that this team sees now.  They addressed the “need” for size and yet defence is a greater issue now than it has been for more years than one could likely calculate.  The catch now is that, with the guy that ran the power play when it was one of the most lethal forces of its kind in the league, it is now somewhere towards the bottom of the ranks.  The firepower that once packed such a punch to compensate for the lack of defensive reliability has largely (no pun intended) fizzled out.  Having a balanced four line attack of such proportions as before has only just recently been cited as a goal for the Canadiens brass and while the names among them look relatively impressive, the tools have been in place that it could still be even better.  The greater problem is that from not only such problematic defence, the lack of mobility and skill from almost the entire current unit means that opportunities for them to shine come fewer and far between.

 

After all, if size and toughness is what brought the success that defined old time hockey, then why did The Flying Frenchmen dominate the National Hockey League? Where are the other 18 cups that the Boston Bruins should have won by such logic? If size is considered a necessity to win in this league, why is a 6’9, 300+ pound man watching the action from afar as opposed to getting a good night’s rest ahead of tomorrow’s practice? The questions here, observers, are rhetorical but the answer lies in minds (and trophy cases/rafters) across Montreal.  These teams, like many winners of the modern age, comprised of players small in stature did not have to forfeit the Stanley Cup because their diminutive frames were incapable of hoisting the Stanley Cup.

 

These are times in which a goaltender can allow 5 goals against in a single game and yet we marvel, rightfully so, at how it could have been so much worse without his presence and the level to which he played.  Moreover, Charlie Lindgren’s goals against average is still below 2.00 and his save percentage is just a clip shy of .940 even after the fact.  There are optimistic points at corners of this franchise.  They come in the form of young, capable, NHL ready hopefuls that are seizing opportunities few saw on the horizon and perhaps that is the greatest aspect of all.  These opportunities were not bestowed unto them.  They are making the decisions for those that, ironically, display such inability in making well advised decisions themselves.

 

To look upon the most memorable figures of an influential position for reasons of their success is to see a collection of names and faces that were surrounded by the best people.  The greatest of ship captains could not steer his crew towards success if said crew is incapable of raising the sails and finding where on their map that X marks the spot.  They, like any other, are an average of what they surround themselves with.  The most immediate of choices at the top is the simplest one: ensure that your supporting staff will not bring down the ship.  The captain will go down with it.

 

In the middle of this road, the Canadiens still remain.  They must either double down once again in order to arrive at their desired destination or they must turn back and salvage what they may before the infrastructure gives out and takes everything that they have with it.  Purgatory is the most uncomfortable place in the NHL; why? Because the only way to heaven is to go through hell.  This team opted to take the shortcut nearly a decade ago.  They will only get there one of two ways.

 

The path to success, albeit not always so easily illuminated, has often looked the same in modern times as it did the last two times that the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup: being unafraid to take risks, shirking a conservative approach of veteran reliance and a defence first mentality in favor of looking to youth, offensive skill and fresh, high flying energy.  After all, if this team really does have the best goalie in the world, why spend over 40% of the salary cap on defensively oriented players? Shouldn’t some chances be taken and risks be afforded? If the answer is no then the evidence would suggest one of two things: either this team does not actually possess the best goalie in the world or the chief decision maker in the Canadiens fold does not trust nor believe in him.

 

Whatever their decision from this point may be, they must be urged by those counting on them and anticipating the outcome, to make it sooner rather than later.  To admit their mistakes would be to control them, to correct them would be ideal, to deny them would cause us all to perish… themselves included.

 

The one that made the mess should not be entrusted with the task of cleaning it up.

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2 Responses to State Of The Franchise Address: Canadiens Questionable Start

  1. for starters Price shone with people like PK in front of him…Bergevin cleaned out all PMD and those we need bad.He build a defense based on the style of play he did when he played but he was no HOF defenseman just a journeyman. we now have a totally immobile D. we have Weber who is slowing down fast and his defensive play is deteriorating Benn has for the most part been terrible and Azner is the worse dman on the team. for a guy who never shone he was overpaid and over termed..the problem is the defense can not tie up other teams players, can not tie up other teams sticks, too slow to block shots, too many tipins..whoever is in net can not get a good look at the puck as these dmen are blocking his view. Drouin although very skilled is not a center and never will be but yet Chucky will not get a chance..they forget both Drouin and Chucky both need to improve defensively. at least they have the 2 together and that works.we are in for a long year as our defense will continually let us down as they are low in speed,skill level and hockey smarts

    Bay_Bye November 17, 2017 at 6:47 am Reply
  2. This was coming 4 years ago. I have to say, you could see the direction change when Price got hurt against the Rangers. Patience is the only way you have a chance at winning in this league now. Loyalty isn’t one of the traits either. Making smart, unpopular, but right choices is the only way you create the right foundation. You don’t sign players like Desharnais, Plekanec, among a few, and then discard players to organizations desperate to rid themselves of bad contracts; Weber. Bergevin is such a control freak, I guarantee the objective was from the top down to keep Galchenyuk out of the middle. Developing players has been brutal under Marc, and Sylvain, and Michel. It’s almost been a constant wtf moment. I’m so disappointed, and the chance luck he’s had hasn’t been because the pro scouts have done such a great job. This is someone with such a massive lack of experience, this team is looking at 10 years, or longer, to dig themselves out of this mess. They have to look at the marketable pieces and decide that it’s time to rebuild this and create the right foundation. The problem is, I don’t trust this group to do it. You have to get the right people; hockey people, to do the job. Don’t put this team at a disadvantage any more and put “French” Quebecers as your only option to run this team. It’s like chasing your tail, there’s never an end to it. I’m ready for sacrifice, as long as it’s done right, but it’s been almost 25 years of decline, with the same results. It’s truly the definition of insanity. At this point, I feel there is a lack of respect, the custodian’s, including Geoff, have done this all wrong. This isn’t the 1970’s anymore, and this is exactly how they are trying to run it. Evolution isn’t about standing still, it’s about learning through observation, or setting the trend by being able to out think the trend. The Art of War has something to be learned that can be applied here. There was a time where thinking out a trade meant something. The series of trades that have been made recently have left many other GM’s laughing. This season is on life support already, I would pull the plug right from the top down, and if Geoff Molson is a savvy business man, he will hire the right people on his own this time and take accountability. He has Serge Savard to hide behind right now, and maybe a big drop in attendance will bring this to his attention. It’s a sad day, as a life long fan, and a true intellect of the game, that I mothballed my jersey’s and hats a couple of years ago. I hope to eventually be around to see a turn around of this franchise, but this is starting to feel how Toronto fans felt for years. I guess every team eventually has to go through this, or do they…..

    Cary November 18, 2017 at 1:41 am Reply

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