PENTICTON, BC. – With the Canadiens coming off an awful month of December, seeing the team rack up only three wins, everyone seems on edge, particularly a big part of the fan base who may have had very high expectation, especially after seeing the team start the season with nine consecutive wins. The fact remains that with the exception of the last week, the team was performing well but they were snake-bit on offense and the goaltending was sub-par.
This week, I have the pleasure of answering questions received in our mailbag.
Do you have a question or a topic you would like us to discuss? Okay, here’s what you can do.
Let us know:
- who you are
- where you’re from
- if you wish, send us a photo of you in your favourite Habs gear
- who’s your favorite player, present or past
- and of course, your question
We’ll feature you, and your question, in the All Habs Mailbag!
Here’s what you wanted to know :
— Gigi4habs (@gigi4habs) December 30, 2015
The Canadiens have a very mobile defense and most of those who aren’t, particularly Andrei Markov who has lost a step or two, are very smart offensively. Michel Therrien and his coaching staff, knowing that they had to find ways to generate more offense this season, have decided to activate the defense to better support the attack. While it does generate offensive chances, it only takes a bad read, a bad pass, a bad bounce for the defenseman to be caught up ice, particularly when a forward isn’t in position to take his place or misses an assignment. It’s part of the system implemented by the coaching staff.
— Megan (@Megleek1) December 30, 2015
I know that the Therrien bashing is a popular topic with many fans… unfortunately. Is he perfect? Absolutely not, but he’s far from as bad as most detractors make him out to be.
Since being re-hired by the Canadiens, a team which had finished 28th overall under Jacques Martin, a defensive, smothering anti-hockey coach, Therrien’s record in regular season is 146-79-26, amongst the best in the NHL since the lockout. His team has never missed the playoffs and he led them to 4th overall in 2012-13, 9th overall in 2013-14 and 2nd overall in 2014-15.
Therrien was not my choice to take on the job but at some point, we must be able to swallow our pride and be able to admit that he’s done an excellent job. I can admit being wrong and I find unfortunate that others can’t do the same… too often no matter the topic. But thankfully, his boss acknowledges his work and Marc Bergevin has stated it himself in his last press conference. No, I do not believe that it was the kiss of death as Bergevin knows that Therrien’s team was rolling prior to injuries to two key players on the team, his MVP Carey Price and highly underrated Brendan Gallagher.
Further, I believe that he is well liked by the players as he’s become a better communicator than he used to be. How many times have we seen him reward players by putting them in the starting line-up against their former team? Players notice small gestures like that and appreciate that the coach trusts them and rewards them accordingly.
It may not be the popular answer but those are the reasons why Therrien is still coaching and I would be shocked if he wasn’t there to finish the season, unless the team keeps slumping when both Gallagher and Price are back.
Gilbert (Bathurst, New Brunswick)
Q. Let’s assume Therrien gets fired at some point. Who are the three best coaches out there who would be a good fit for Montreal?
As mentioned above, folks better not hold their breath waiting for Therrien to be fired but let’s play the game. First and foremost, I don’t want to get into the debate if the Canadiens should or not go for a bilingual coach or not. Whether people agree with it or not, the job description in Montreal is for the coach to be able to speak French. This does somewhat limit the choices, no doubt.
In my humble opinion, the best two bilingual coaches are not available. They are, in order, Alain Vigneault with the Rangers and my choice back when Bergevin was looking, Bob Hartley with the Flames. Claude Julien in Boston is another good coach who isn’t available, but I rank him equal to Therrien, although he does have a Stanley Cup.
Now who is available? The list of coaches in the QMJHL is almost unlimited and I’m sure that there are some good up and comers out there. But does a team who contends for the Stanley Cup risk going with an inexperienced coach? Allow me to doubt it.
The name of Guy Boucher keeps coming up and like most here, I thought that he was the best up and coming young coach when he left the organisation to coach the Tampa Bay Lightning. The results really weren’t convincing, to the point that Steve Yzerman ended up firing Boucher in his third season. Boucher then went to Switzerland to coach SC Bern and, in his third season, was once again fired. Is he really a better candidate than Therrien? Maybe, but allow me to doubt it.
The current Canadiens’ assistant-coaches are all bilingual: Dan Lacroix, Clement Jodoin and J-J Daigneault. Could one of them be ready to take the next step and replace Therrien or would Bergevin want someone new? Martin Gelinas and Jacques Cloutier are assistants to Bob Hartley in Calgary while Ian Laperriere (PHI), Andre Tourigny (OTT) and Pascal Vincent (WIN) are also assistant coaches.
Something tells me however that if Therrien was to be fired, for one reason or another, you would see the St-John’s Ice Caps’ head coach, Sylvain Lefebvre, being promoted from within as the Habs’ new head coach. Judging from some of the comments I’ve read on Twitter by some fans, I don’t think that they’d be any happier with that alternative.
Shannon (Voorhees, New Jersey)
Q. In your opinion, what have been Marc Bergevin’s three best moves since becoming GM of the Habs? What are his three worst moves?
First, let’s get something straight. No General Manager is perfect. The most successful ones do make mistakes but are able to fix them or tip-toe their way around them.
With that being said, let’s not forget where this team was when Bergevin took over, finishing a dismal 28th in the NHL, with a GM whose communication skills were matched only by a gold fish in its bowl, and by a coach for whom defense was not only the most important thing, but the only thing.
There are multitude of good things Marc Bergevin has done since being selected by Geoff Molson to bring back pride in wearing the Habs’ uniform, including the friendly signings of Max Pacioretty, Carey Price and more recently, Brendan Gallagher. What about the Thomas Vanek trade, which went a long way during the regular season to secure home ice in the playoffs, while Vanek forgot to show up for the playoffs. Think back of Rene Bourque and Travis Moen, who fans were claiming were untradeable due to their poor play and salary, whom Bergevin traded nine days apart. But I would personally qualify the best three moves as follows:
- His best move has been to give freedom to Trevor Timmins and surrounding himself with quality hockey people with tons of experience, creating a management team.
- The acquisition of Jeff Petry, and re-signing him, therefore addressing a crucial need for a quality top-4 to play behind Subban.
- The trade to Vancouver bringing in Dale Weise in exchange for… Raphael Diaz.
His worse three moves, in my opinion, have all been contract signing and/or extensions:
- Signing Daniel Briere to a two-year $8 million deal. He did however get rid of him.
- Signing Alexei Emelin to a four-year $16.4 million deal. The NMC is a killer as well.
- Signing P.K. Subban to an eight-year $72 million deal is debatable. Subban is good, but not $9M good.
Some will be tempted to bring the contract to David Desharnais but I would strongly disagree. You can argue that he should not play as much as he does, but no one will convince me that he’s not worth $3.5 million per season, especially that Lars Eller is paid the same amount!
Trevor (Winkler, Manitoba)
Q. What’s wrong with Team Canada at the WJC? Are they even good enough to win a medal this year?
Never, ever count out Team Canada. Traditionally, they are slow starters in such tournaments. Many players on other national teams have been playing together for quite some time already while Canada puts its team together at the last minute. It does take some time to gel, create chemistry and learn a system in such a short tournament where there is simply no room for error.
Having said that, it sure seems like this year’s squad might not be as dominant as some teams from the past and that, even with players loaned by the NHL. Why? I’m not so sure as I’m just as puzzled as everyone. Could it be that some decisions made in player-selection were wrong? It’s very much possible.
As a Habs’ fan, I was under the impression that Noah Juulsen was a shoe-in for Team Canada and I was quite surprised to see him being scratched. Jeremy Lauzon of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies was the other defenceman cut. Jayce Hawryluk of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets were also released by the team. That’s a lot of character right there. Then you had a goalie who was suspended and couldn’t play the first couple of games, which could have affected the team.
That said, as long as they make the medal round, you never know what can happen. If Canada gets hot at the right time, if they can stay healthy, you never know what could happen. People don’t remember how you got there, but how you finished.