Are the Montreal Canadiens a bad team? This question has to be asked after a promising start to the season is over and the Canadians are now on the way to missing the playoffs for a third season in a row.
A season with 96 points from 2018 to 2019 would mean that they are not as bad as the strong game when the entire squad was healthy at the start of the campaign, but the Canadiens franchise has the playoffs in only missed three consecutive seasons twice before in its 110-year history: from 1919-1920 to 1921-22 and from 1998-99 to 2000-01.
To add even more misery to the equation, the Canadiens are well on their way to missing the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, which happened only once between 1998-99 and 2002-03. The coach who was in charge when the poor teams' run ended was none other than Claude Julien, the current Habs boss.
At that time, the circumstances were very different from when Canadians tried over the past decade to free themselves from a deep fear of mismanagement, in which the team included top-class players such as Chris Chelios, Claude Lemieux, Patrick Roy, John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, Guy Carbonneau, Mark Recchi, Pierre Turgeon, Mathieu Schneider and more in retail for little to no return. The flood of talent was monumental.
That is not the case today. Apart from a couple of deals, general manager Marc Bergevin did a fairly decent job, but in the eighth year of his tenure as a responsible man, who are the Canadians that Bergevin built?
At first glance, this is a team that has outperformed opponents with the same strength as well as overall, although there are weaknesses. The Canadians give up more than they get off the bike, and their passing in and around the slot is average at best.
They have a relatively high degree of control over shots, but they control the scope far better than the slit. Regardless, these are not the numbers you expect for a team in free fall. The Canadians have lost 19 of their last 26 games, they have lost 27 of the 45 games they have played in total, and they rank 26th in the NHL.
It's all a bit confusing, but let's remember that these unsuitable 26 games, which were filled with 73 percent of the team's losses this season, started due to injuries to Paul Byron and, more importantly, Jonathan Drouin were. How different do these differences look when we isolate the Canadians since these two players were removed from the lineup?
Since these injuries, the Canadians have increased their control over the area and their shot metrics remain relatively strong, but the factors that produce more dangerous shots have turned against them. They no longer get the best teams out of a hurry, and the struggle to control cycle opportunities has intensified.
Worse than both is that Canadians' passport control has dropped from breakeven to significant weakness, which makes it difficult for goalkeepers and goal scorers.
Nevertheless, the control of the shots alone should lead to a victory of only seven out of 26 games in which goalkeeper, self-confidence, bad breaks and mental errors set in.
The Canadians like to play a lot of games with the puck – it matches the speed at which they like to play and the roster that revolves around the depth that Bergevin has created – but since November 15th they have The second most common sales were in the neutral zone of all teams in the NHL, in this category only defeated by the San Jose Sharks. As a result, there are many counter chances and defenders on their heels try to respond to games.
There are many reasons for this breakdown – injuries are a good excuse, and Carey Price's game leaves something to be desired – but ultimately in a league with so much equality, both in terms of the distribution of talent among the teams and in the incorrect parity caused by the overtime point makes the error rate less and less.
This error rate is even lower if a team has no notable superstars. Price was a pioneering talent in its heyday. For years he moved poorly trained and poorly managed teams with spectacular performances, flanked by P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty in their prime numbers to drive the game the other way. The current Canadians have no players as effective as these three, the closest being Brendan Gallagher.
It is clear that the Canadians believed that Price would remain his Hart Trophy-competing ego for a few more years. It is possible that it will regain this form for a while. See how many people (including myself) thought Pekka Rinne was done before going through three great seasons, ages 34 to 36, including winning a well-earned Vezina trophy.
However, historically it is a very bad idea in the NHL to rely on players in the early to mid 30s, and while Shea Weber delivers an excellent season for the Canadiens in the midst of this collapse, the other shoe could be 34 years old fall at any time.
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The Canadians are a decent but fragile team. You need to have all the key components at the same time to be successful. In three consecutive seasons, they have proven that this is an unlikely scenario. Bergevin likes to call the current phase "reset" instead of "rebuild", but resetting requires a quick turnaround and that didn't happen.
The idea was that Weber and Price would be the leaders of the next wave of Canadian players to grow with a victorious culture instead of bottoming out and not having the experienced leadership to show the young children the way , But as promising as the prospects for the Canadians are, there is no pioneering superstar waiting in the starting blocks, just a lot of good to very good prospects.
And the idea that the older statesmen lead youth into a good team culture depends on Price and Weber being two out of a million players who have no bitterness about wasting their last years of competition for a team, that turns its wheels. Maybe they are, but for a team that clearly believes that it is not the best time window for competition – just look at the millions of dollars that Bergevin has left open over the past three years – it is not time to consider adding as many kicks as possible to get this superstar.
Bergevin does not want to admit that the team is under renovation, but his refusal to choose a lane will keep the team mediocre for longer. You need a talent infusion that's more than just Maybes and what-if so the team can compete in the short and long term. You have to draw higher and more frequently to give yourself the best chance of breaking a 27-year-old drought in the Stanley Cup.