Owen Sound, ON. — As the 2015-2016 season is dwindling down, let’s reflect on the season. The Montreal Canadiens started the season by setting a record. They became the first team in NHL history to begin a season with nine straight wins in regulation. Hopes were certainly high, with a goalie like Carey Price and the team producing this way, there was real potential. Fans even started looking towards the Stanley Cup, but there were still 73 games to be played in the regular season and a playoff berth wasn’t even close to being in reach.
Carey Price’s injury-riddled season had already begun but no one had any idea just how long the team would have to survive without him. He was the league MVP last year and was certainly Montreal’s. The team slowly began to follow apart. Starting on December 3rd, the team went on to have the worst 25 game stretch since the 1939-1940 season with a 5-19-1 record. Fans were no longer hoping for a Stanley Cup but that this was a joke or a bad dream they would wake up from. Some were placing the blame on the team not having Price; some on Michel Therrien’s coaching; and some on just blatant lack of effort.
The team did improve from that awful stretch but as of March 13th have almost no hope of making the postseason this year with their 32-31-6 record. The team’s injury list seems to be ever-growing, key players leaving large gaps in the roster. Some players are doing very well filling in considering the skates they have been left to fill. David Desharnais, who usually centres the team’s first line, is out with a broken foot has left Alex Galchenyuk with the opportunity to show what he can do in that position–and that he certainly has. Per Elias Sports, on March 10th, Galcheyunk became the first Canadiens’ player to have five multi-goal efforts in an eight game span since Jean Beliveau in 1959.
He is also the hottest player in the NHL right now. It takes big opportunities to make big players and this is what Galchenyuk has finally been given. After Desharnais’ role with the team being otherwise filled, it just doesn’t seem he fits with the club anymore. They have an abundance of centre men who seem to be able to do the job better than he can. It is likely he will be traded during the off-season.
This leads to the next issue of Michel Therrien. He has been sheltering Galchenyuk’s ice time and only gave him the opportunity when he simply was out of options. Therrien had been overusing Desharnais as a first line centre man even though he is more of a third liner. This could however be because management as a whole didn’t feel Galchenyuk to be ready to take on that much responsibility and needed someone to fill that role while they waited. This doesn’t make much sense though as a player can’t improve and gain management’s trust without first being given the chance to do so.
There are other issues with Therrien’s coaching as well though such as his constant juggling of the lines. There is no way players can develop chemistry if they are on a line with different people every night. I asked Nick Pal what he thought the worst aspect of the team this season to be and this was his response:
“Everyone was tweeting ‘fire the coach’ in December and I was one guy who stood out and said No. At the time I didn’t point the finger at him and instead blamed the lack of production from the players. Michel is a great disciplinary coach. When a player blows it, he’s there to them know he’s not happy with it and disciplines the player(s) in changing their style. However, part way through he began to make a fool of himself when he started messing with lines again. You don’t put Pacioretty on the second line and move Desharnais to the first. That was the breaking point where I changed the finger pointing back to the coach and now he’s dug a hole too deep to save himself.”
It has gotten to the point that some fans are hoping the team starts losing every game and can somehow steal a top three draft pick but that doesn’t seem likely, especially if Galchenyuk continues to produce and the call-ups also continue to impress.
I tweeted a poll to my followers asking them what it would take for them to consider this difficult season to be worth it and these were the results:
It seemed almost a toss-up between somehow managing a top-three draft pick and Michel Therrien being fired. Whether any of these options will really partake or not we will have to wait and see.
To balance out the fact that I asked Nick what the worst aspect was, I also asked Laurie Lajeunesse what the best aspect of the season was in her opinion and this is how she responded:
“In my honest opinion, the best aspect of this season is the breakdown. We have been playing over our heads for a few years and the management needed a wake-up call. When you have a few players carrying the team, you’re not going to win a cup, even when you have the best goalie in the world.”
Hopefully the team can come back healthy and motivated next season and we can start this process all over again with a better result. I will leave you with a few fans summing up this season in a single word.
— Greg Murray (@habsrule7433) March 13, 2016
— Late 90's Matt Stone (@Jared_Fogle666) March 13, 2016
— Sylvie Gagnon (@sylvie_gagnon) March 13, 2016