Rabid Habs

Blame the Foxhole

In case you haven’t heard, the Montreal Canadiens are struggling mightily this season. It’s just one of those seasons where everything seems to be going wrong and everyone has an opinion on how to fix it.

Fact is, there really isn’t much that you can do this season to right this ship, and it’s likely going to get worse.

For those perpetual optimists, I am sure that you are going to disagree with me.  You might argue that the team’s best player in Carey Price has been injured, David Schlemko still hasn’t seen a single minute of action, the team is within striking distance of a playoff spot despite disappointing starts to Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk, and they still have about $9 million in cap space to add an impact.

All things considered, you are right, it is certainly possible something could be done this season. I am sure making the playoffs would shut up a lot of the nay sayers and appease the plethora of band wagon fans. Then we can all go through vicious cycle again next year.

I hate to break it to you but the problem is not this season. The problem is not injuries or a lack of spending.  The issue is much more significant and goes much deeper.

The problem is the foxhole.

I give Bergevin credit for standing by his guys. He showed loyalty to Michel Therrien, despite watching the man potentially ruin the team’s best prospect in Alex Galchenyuk. He stood by his guy when a “Triple-Low-Five” was banned for tearing apart the locker room, and he stood by his guy when the most dynamic player on team since Guy Lafleur was traded to Nashville.

However, despite the firing of Michel Therrien, the foxhole is still an omnipresent problem and detrimental to the success of the 24 time Stanley Cup Champions because of its the propensity to support Laval Rocket head coach Sylvain Lefebvre.

Trivia Time

Bergevin took over the reigns of the Canadiens in 2012.  All draft picks during the Bergevin reign have been made solely by Trevor Timmins.  Knowing that drafting hasn’t changed, and knowing that Sylvain Lefebvre is the head coach of the AHL affiliate, let me ask the following: throughout Bergevin’s reign, how many players drafted by the Montreal Canadiens have played at least 50 games in the AHL (which is to say were developed at AHL level) and have scored 50 or more points in the NHL?

The answer? One. Sven Andrighetto, who now plays in Colorado and was nothing more than 4th line player with the Habs.

What was development like in the six seasons prior to Bergevin?

Here are the names of a few guys you may have heard of: Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, PK Subban, Yannick Weber, Ryan White.  All of who saw extensive time in the AHL before finally graduating to the NHL level.

So who is to blame?

Can you point the finger at Bergevin?  As the leader of the organization he has the ultimate responsibility to appoint the right coaches, so sure, you can put blame on him for not acting.

To me, however, the blame is on the foxhole mentality. Loyalty is a virtue, but loyalty can also lead to demise.  As the Canadiens struggles continue, Bergevin will likely seek a variety of answers and solutions, yet the foxhole is preventing him from looking in the direction of Laval. With absolutely no players developing and able to contribute at the NHL level, Bergevin is forced to trade prospect after prospect simply to remain competitive.

If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to come out to Laval and watch a game or two. I am a season ticket holder and have seen every home game to date and tune in equally when they are on the road.

The team is extremely competitive and is, in fact, among the league leaders.  As a season ticket holder, it’s great because the quality of the play is top notch, but the success of the Rocket is not on the shoulders of their prospects, but rather dependent on AHL veterans.

On defence, the most utilized players on the team are vets like Matt Taormina, Jakub Jerebek, Eric Gelinas and Tom Parisi.  Brett Lernout, who started the season as part of the first defensive pairing, has now found himself primarily on the 3rd pairing.  A prospect like Simon Bourque, who is battling injury, is rarely in the line-up and finds himself playing limited minutes when he does.

Up front, the team’s best prospect is far and away Mike McCarron. You’d expect that as the team’s best prospect, there would be a dependency on him to play high end minutes.  At the beginning of the season, he and Nikita Scherbak were on the 1st line, but as of this week, McCarron now finds himself playing 3rd and 4th line duty.  On Friday night, he started the game playing alongside Yannick Veuilleux and Jeremy Gregoire. He later saw action with Antoine Waked and David Broll (Broll, for those who do not know, is to the Laval Rocket what Doug Glatt was in the movie Goon).

So again I ask: how is Bergevin supposed to improve the team, when his only options are free agency or trades?  Absolutely no team in the NHL will have success unless the talent is developed from within.  Unfortunately for Habs fans, no talent is coming because the foxhole is in the way.