The 2017-’18 hockey season has been an extremely disappointing one for fans of the Montreal Canadiens. Compared to how well the Habs played last season, it is easy to see why both the team and fans of the team would be both disheartened and frustrated.
Last year, they placed first in the Atlantic Division and ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference, with a 47-26-9 record and sitting at 103 total points. Currently, the Habs are sitting at a 26-33-12 record and are fifth place in the Atlantic Division – quite a drastic change from last year. It is a startling statistical decline for anyone who may not necessarily be keeping up with the numbers.
It is possible that, as Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette said, that “the Canadiens need a ‘Shanaplan’ like the one Brendan Shanahan put in place in Toronto when he was named president of the Maple Leafs at the end of the 2013-’14 season when the team finished 23rd in the overall standings with a 38-36-8 record.” And given just how poorly the team has been performing this year, could a restructure of management (and not just the player development personnel) as well as the actual team help the Canadiens to recover in time for the 2018-2019 season?
While it is great that Geoff Molson seems to have so much faith in the general manager, Marc Bergevin‘s decision making regarding the Habs in the past has been less than stellar. Bergevin consistently makes excuses as to why he can’t seem to secure decent trades that will benefit the team; he isn’t getting the right pieces together to make the team one worthy of competing in, let alone winning, the playoffs. Bergevin has certainly had the opportunity to bring in people with some real scoring potential, but his focus seems to be solely on defence rather than on people who can get the puck into the opposing team’s net.
If it was up to me instead of the owner, I would get rid of Bergevin and use the fact that there is no real salary cap for operations staff within the NHL to hire a MUCH better GM. The Habs need a GM who is hired not just for their ability to speak French, but for their knowledge of the game and their proven ability to make game-winning changes. There is only so much that Claude Julien can do with the players that he has been given, and while Bergevin has said in the past that his goal was to improve the Canadiens’ scoring potential, he has not delivered any players that can really do that. Skilled players are leaving the team and Bergevin seems to be filling those holes with any old riffraff that crosses his path – no matter how skilled that riffraff may be.
Geoff Molson needs to decide whether or not he wants the Montreal Canadiens to be a winning team. The man is not an idiot by any means, but he needs a GM (and, quite frankly, a coach) for the Habs that can think outside of the box rather than being conservative to the point that it hinders the teams performance.
Another point worth mentioning here is a desperate need for restructure in the team itself. Each player brings something to the team, that can’t be denied, but the team has been doing so poorly that perhaps shifting and changing the players around would both bring moral up and help people play to their full potential.
For example, having players like Alex Galchenyuk, Jonathan Drouin, or Andrew Shaw play centre when they are not natural centres does more harm than good to the team. That’s not to say that they aren’t fantastic players, but they shouldn’t be playing a position that they aren’t a good fit for. The Canadiens unfortunately have a problem right now of sticking guys where they do not belong, and that is a problem that Bergevin desperately needs to fix. On a team full of wingers, what the Canadiens are in desperate need of right now is a few good centres, like the soon-to-be (as of July first) unrestricted free agent John Tavares of the New York Islanders.
And as much as I do not want to say it, trading someone like Max Pacioretty during the off-season in favour of gaining some good offence for the team, or someone who could play alongside Shea Weber for defence, would do some good as well. Victor Mete may get there at some point, he is certainly talented and has shown a lot of great potential during his time with the Montreal Canadiens, but the Habs cannot wait for their younger players to reach full-time NHL potential. If they want the 2018-2019 season to be less of a disappointment, management needs to make some deals to get good scorers and at least one decent centre.
Nobody can point the finger at anyone else in this situation, as much as fans want to blame Max Pacioretty as captain, Claude Julien as coach, or even Marc Bergevin as the GM. The entire team and organization needs a complete reset and restructure if they want to have a chance at competing for the Stanley Cup next year. Whether that means a change to the upper management of the team (i.e. Bergevin), the coaching, or even more changes for the player development department, something has to change. Even if that means losing a few of the players we know and love in favour of the organization as a whole being able to grow into the team that we as the fans know they can be.
I truly believe that with a little bit of change, the Canadiens could come back for the 2018-2019 season stronger than they have been in a long time. Otherwise, the Habs will become a joke within the NHL, with both fans and team members losing faith that they’ll ever win the Cup again, more so than they already have.