Rabid Habs

The Forum: What Are The Montreal Canadiens?

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Bob McKenzie has often said that you can’t judge a team until the 20-game mark, but once you get there you have a pretty good idea of just what kind of team you’re dealing with. With just over a quarter of the season in the bag the Canadiens are 16-5-2, but what exactly are they? This week we put that question to our panel of Rabid Habs contributors.

Sean O’Neill (@TheONeillFactor) – They are who we thought they were!!!

Which is to say, a deeply flawed and poorly coached team that happens to have a generational talent in goal propelling them to the playoffs, and maybe Cup contention. And at this point – I’m not even sure that’s an insult or even a backhanded compliment. It’s just a fact, and not an entirely undesirable one.

Carey Price is the best goaltender since Dominic Hasek and the most dominant player in the world today. Sometimes that’s enough. It doesn’t matter that his supporting cast is non-existent, his front-office is a disaster and the team has a glaring lack of leadership. Keep Calm and Carey on – that might be all you need.

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – It’s been a while since we’ve convened this panel, and so I wish I had more to say, but I don’t.

McKenzie’s guideline has almost been adopted as the law of the land, so that should make us all really happy. Except we’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we? This time one year ago the Habs were also riding high atop the league standings until Price went down and a 5-month circus ensued. I haven’t seen much evidence in the Habs play that they’re any different this year. Sure the powerplay seems to be effective with Weber’s bomb but otherwise it looks like the same team to me. Price, Radulov, Galchenyuk, Mitchell, Byron and Markov have been terrific. But everyone else? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

McKenzie’s guideline has taken a big hit in my view. Consider last year’s Penguins. D.O.A. at Christmas, then crushed it from the new year until their cup parade. I won’t trust what I see with the Habs until they reach the finish line. I see the Habs as a one trick pony that has the same fatal flaws, despite the addition of Weber, Radulov and Montoya. The Habs have become exhibit A in building the case of how much coaching matters. Therrien’s methods are going to continue to stifle this team. Price can go a long, long way in plastering the cracks but eventually even he will falter long enough to sink the team.

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – Really starting to feel like a broken record with this squad. Coach = bad. Carey = great. Everyone else = fine. The start was great and the scoring looked good, but these days the scoring has been drying up and it all feels like we’ve seen that before too.

In the great news department, Alex Galchenyuk has emerged as a star in the league and Alex Radulov has been the best free agent signing of the offseason as well as one of the most fun skaters to watch that the Habs have had in a long time. But counter that with the disappearance of Pacioretty’s ability to find the back of the net, the potential end of Tomas Plekanec as an effective player, and Gallagher’s own scoring struggles, and it’s pretty much a wash from last season to this.

I’ll give the slight edge to this year’s team over last year’s thanks to the work of Kirk Muller and Shea Weber’s monster shot, but I don’t know that an effective powerplay vs. a trash powerplay is enough of a difference to convince anyone that this team would be all that much better off than last year’s shit show if Price were to go down again.

All that being said, thanks to Carey, this team could actually contend, so there’s that.

Ian Boisvert (@BoisvertIan) – It’s funny, because as I watched the Habs fall to the Ducks Tuesday night, I asked myself the same question: “What is this team?”

A transition team? Well, no. They don’t transition very well at all, actually. It’s hard to transition when your first instinct in the defensive zone is to bank the puck off the wall instead of making a controlled exit. Transition needs control to be consistently effective.

Are they a shutdown team? Think of Scott Stevens’ New Jersey Devils – lite. They’re certainly not that. Looking at the Habs’ defense, they’re a formidable group with a solid top-four and some promising bottom pairing replacements. But they’re defensive structure seems reluctant to stop attacks at the blueline, and often times allows attacking players way too much time and space.

I’m not sure what this team’s identity is, but that shouldn’t be cause to waive the white flag. As Kyle already stated, the Penguins had no identity going into the Christmas freeze and they ended up hoisting the Cup in June after a coaching change. And that’s not a one-off. The Penguins did the same thing in 2009. Of course, they had to fire Michel Therrien in “da process,” but 20 games is not a life sentence.

I can’t say I know what the Habs’ identity is on the ice, but off the ice it seems very clear: Marc Bergevin and company base their analysis of their team on results, not system.

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – Ian’s right. It’s ridiculous how little of a plan there seems to be in place for this team. I’d be able to appreciate – if not enjoy – if this squad modeled themselves after the stingy Devils, considering who they have working for them in the blue paint. But they don’t play as though the plan is tight defence, and while their possession numbers have been okay this season, you’d be hard pressed to call them a possession/speed team.

From all of that I think we can surmise that this team’s “identity” is quite simply: Carey Price. I’m not sure one player should be your identity, as we saw what happens when Mr. Identity becomes Mr. LTIR, but it does sorta seem to work, at least in the regular season.

As podcast listener @ThatMikeBullis tweeted at me the other day: I think a name change is in order. The Montreal Carey Prices sounds more appropriate.

One Comment

  1. Bay_Bye

    December 1, 2016 at 11:14 am

    without Price this team would fight to even make the playoffs. what did they accomplish during the off-season..PK 4 Weber, other them his shot this is really a downgrade as Weber can not move the puck. Shaw has shown flashes of great play but also flashes of a bad attitude and dirty player. Radulov is the golden star, DD needs to be gone as he seems to be out for a sunday skate,and provides nothing to the team…but the biggest weakest on the team is behind the bench, Therrien is terrible,can not utilize young players properly and ships them back to AHL too fast.Until he is replaced this team is doomed