Sports What the Puck: Short leash in short season for Canadiens coach Julien?
In the Habs' Room: Julien takes a gamble during home opener against Flames
Claude Julien tried to preserve Carey Price’s shutout Thursday night with a gamble that he might not have taken if the Canadiens weren’t holding a 4-0 lead over the Calgary Flames. Julien issued a coach’s challenge, claiming that Derek Ryan was offside when Milan Lucic scored with 1:18 to play. The video review upheld the call on the ice that the play was onside and Julien was asked if he would issued the challenge if the score was closer. “To Julien issued a coach’s challenge, claiming that Derek Ryan was offside when Milan Lucic scored with 1:18 to play. The video review upheld the call on the ice that the play was onside and Julien was asked if he would issued the challenge if the score was closer.
Some of us thought we had a goaltending controversy. But it turns out what we really have is a Canadiens controversy.
Why is a team that appeared to be so good two weeks ago now playing like a sad sack? There are also the beginnings of rumblings that perhaps what we really have is a coach controversy, as in is Claude Julien the best choice to bring this super-talented group to the promised land?
Canadiens Game Day: Victor Mete will be in Habs lineup vs. Canucks
Defenceman Victor Mete will be in the Canadiens lineup for the first time this season when they face the Vancouver Canucks Monday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Mete will take Brett Kulak’s spot on the third defence pairing beside rookie Alexander Romanov. Mete’s agent, Darren Ferris, made some waves on Saturday night when Salim Nadim Jalji, TSN’s Calgary bureau reporter , reported on Twitter that Mete had asked the team for a trade and quoted the agent saying he and the Canadiens “will work together in finding a trade partner.
Nobody in their right mind is yelling “fire the coach,” but many of us believe the head coach is indeed on a short leash and that his boss — the general manager with the rock-star hair — isn’t going to be patient with Julien this season. If in a month, the team is as inconsistent with gusts up to mediocre as it is this week, then the coach will be fired. You read it here first.
I’ve been saying since the start of this short season that GM Marc Bergevin went all-in this season because he’s on the hot seat. Bergevin has been GM of the Canadiens since 2012 and he’s won little. There was one good playoff run in 2014, but that was a team that was built by Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier. Since then, nada.
Bergevin has one more season on his contract after this year, so he knows he needs to win. This team needs to make the playoffs and I’d argue that they need, at the very least, to win one round and make a good showing in the second round. And there’s no reason the Habs shouldn’t. All of Bergevin’s off-season pickups have worked like. Josh Anderson is hitting everything that moves and scoring, Tyler Toffoli is scoring at a great pace (though mostly against his old team, the Vancouver Canucks), Joel Edmundson is mostly looking good and Jake Allen is looking downright magnificent.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien plans to keep rolling his four lines
Coach Claude Julien plans to continue his strategy of rolling four lines when the Canadiens return to action Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, CITY, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens went 7-1-2 in their first 10 games while scoring 44 goals. They are 2-3-0 in their last five games while scoring eight goals. Tyler Toffoli, who leads the Canadiens with 10 goals and ranked third in the NHL through Monday’s games, is averaging 16:53 of ice time. Josh Anderson, who has nine goals, is averaging 14:34. The Canadiens forward with the most ice time is Nick Suzuki, who is averaging 18:11.
It is simply unacceptable if they miss the playoffs. And they might. Really. If they keep playing like this, they won’t be in the top four in the North Division. So Julien’s job is very much on the line.
Is it his fault that the team has looked lost the last four games? He should certainly take a big chunk of the blame. If a hockey team sucks, the coach should admit he’s part of the problem.
Butrefuses to do that and that’s not a good sign. During his news conference after Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the high-flying Edmonton Oilers — who are tied with the Habs for second place in the division, though Montreal holds two games in hand — Julien deflected all blame.
“I don’t think it’s the system itself, it’s more us executing properly,” said Julien. “I think when you see our execution come back, those things won’t be in question.”
That’s code for it’s the players’ fault. Uncool. For the first time since Julien arrived behind the bench in his second tour of duty, he has the players. So if they’re not executing, it’s on Julien. A player or two can go into a slump, but not a whole team.
Canadiens Game Day: Carey Price in goal, Paul Byron back in the lineup
Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, SN, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and forward Paul Byron will return to the lineup. The Canadiens placed Byron on waivers last Sunday and after clearing waivers he was placed on the team’s taxi squad on Monday. Byron has struggled this season with 0-3-3 totals in 14 games. The 31-year-old is in the second season of a four-year, US$13.6-million contract with a $3.4 million salary-cap hit.
It appears Julien’s not good at adjusting. With the wheels on the bus going wobbly since that terrible game against Ottawa last Thursday, what has Julien done to adjust? Finally, as things went south Wednesday against the Leafs, he had Toffoli and Tomas Tatar trade places, which didn’t seem to have any impact. And putting possibly your best goal-scorer, Toffoli, with Phillip Danault, who is sinking in quicksand, doesn’t look like a brilliant move to me.
Julien also took Corey Perry out of the lineup and brought back Paul Byron. In other words, the coach hasn’t done much. Meanwhile the warning signs are all flashing. Your two young centres, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, both have issues. They have enormous difficulty winning faceoffs and, after an amazing start, Suzuki looks off his game. He has one assist during those last four mediocre games. KotkaKid looks like he’s returning to bad old KotkaKid form. He didn’t have a point in those four games.
Julien likes relying on the veterans, but his veteran centre, Danault, hasn’t scored a goal this year. Jonathan Drouin has one goal. He has ten assists and has whipped off some amazing setups, but Drouin can’t remain on pace to score four or five goals this season.
Julien needs to shake up the lines before it’s too late. And he has to get the kids back on track. The other kid struggling is Alexander Romanov. Is a conservative old-school coach the best guy to lead this young group? To ask the question is to answer it.
By the numbers: Canadiens' identity a riddle wrapped in an enigma .
Who are the Montreal Canadiens? In the wake of the axe falling on head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller on Wednesday, it might be a little while longer before we find a solid answer. With a newly minted interim head coach tag, Dominique Ducharme has an opportunity to resuscitate a season that has gone from a promising 7-1-2 start to a dreadful 2-4-2 slide heading into Saturday’s game against the Jets in Winnipeg (10 p.m., SN, SN360, CBC, TVA Sports, TSN690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The start of the season for the Canadiens was always a bit of a mirage. No team is going to average 4.