Sports What the Puck: Aura of negative energy envelops fragile Canadiens
By the numbers: Canadiens' Drouin hits stride on both sides of puck
Expectations can drastically alter perceptions and hockey is no exception. When a general manager makes a big trade and moves the team’s top prospect for a player who is billed as a superstar French-Canadian centre, it becomes difficult for fans to fully appreciate a player who is good, but isn’t a superstar or a centre. Despite averaging 50 points per 82 games on a team that struggled to score during his first three seasons with the Canadiens, winger Jonathan Drouin has been the subject of a disproportionate amount of venom from the fan base. That isn’t to suggest that Drouin is beyond criticism, because there are legitimate holes in his game.
Is Carey Price trying to get Dominique Ducharme fired?
That, by the way, is a joke. The US$10.5-million goalie certainly played a role in getting. As former Habs netminder J said in his Journal de Montréal column this week, when National Hockey League coaches get tossed overboard, it’s often because the starting goalie is playing like a minor-leaguer.
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.
After Thursday’sin a 6-3 loss to the high-flying Winnipeg Jets, it’s clear Saint Carey is in one of his all-too-frequent funks, pretty well business as usual for the most overrated player in the NHL. But Friday, as I listen to everyone screaming for Price’s head, I’d like to point out that Price was only one of way too many terrible players on the Canadiens in Winnipeg.
He does have to up his game, but the good news is that there’s another fellow who’s already playing way better than Price. So if the No. 1 dude continues to look like he’s just discovered hockey, then it’sto put on his big-boy pants and give the top job to Jake Allen, who has thus far played like one of the best goalies in the NHL. Price, astonishingly, is by far the worst starting goalie in the league.
Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM's hand in firing of Julien
This is the third column I have written in the last two weeks about the Canadiens firing Claude Julien, but the first to be published. When the Canadiens cancelled a scheduled practice two Mondays ago and announced that GM Marc Bergevin would speak with the media at noon, I was pretty sure Julien was gone, so I had the column written that morning and ready to hit publish when the news broke. I was wrong. It seemed like the perfect time to make a coaching change because the struggling Canadiens had a six-day break in the schedule and it would have given the new coach time to work on changes he might want to make to the system, or the lines, during what would be like a mini-training
Price was brutal against the Jets. The winning goal, by former teammate Nate Thompson, was laughable. Add the Brady Tkachuk one-handed-wonder goal Sunday and you have Price letting in two of the goofiest goals of the season in the space of two days.
But this loss is not on. It’s on the head coach and the entire team. Sadly, the new coach on the block decided that he’d start the new era by rewarding the veterans and that was a big failure. He put in Price rather than Allen, which was a mistake. He reunited the “top” line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher, which was a mistake. He put Paul Byron at centre on the fourth line and scratched Jake Evans, which was a mistake. But it was Ducharme’s first game. I’ll give him until Saturday before I get mad.
Ultimately, it’s on the players and they deserve a big fat “F” for that effort. They came out with some bounce and found an unlikely hero in Joël Armia, who scored twice in the first period and then Les Boys went back to doing what they’ve been doing for a couple of years, which is looking positively out to lunch. The team blew a pair of two-goals leads and let in five unanswered goals. To quote Julien, that’s unacceptable.
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.
Julien was a problem, but maybe he wasn’t the problem. When I went to the depanneur Thursday morning to buy the papers, the owner, Fadi, quipped: “They fired the wrong guy.” Quite a few fans are saying the same thing.
General manager Marc Bergevin is all-in this year because his job is indeed on the line. That’s why he spent to the cap for the first time in years and that’s why he fired Julien and Kirk Muller after only 18 games. Now the most rock’n’roll of NHL GMs is on his third head coach in nine years and if this roll of the dice fails, Geoff Molson will have to act.
What I saw Thursday is a team that’s a total mess. After the game,: “We cracked. We cracked mentally. We cracked physically.” He went on to say: “We’re a little fragile right now. It’s normal.”
No, it’s not normal. Why are they fragile? Are they snowflakes? Should they be adopting the controversial CF Montréal snowflake logo? Weber took a shot at Julien when he spoke this week about the “negative energy” around the team, but Man Mountain is the captain. Maybe he’s contributing to the negative energy with his atrocious play, as he takes one dumb penalty after another and watches helplessly as he lumbers slowly after the fast skaters of the 2021 NHL.
What’s also not normal is a GM who thinks it’s a brilliant idea to load up his D with three of those big slowpokes in Weber, Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson. Earth to Bergevin: It’s 2021 not 2001.
It is only one game, but if the new coach is going to work a charm he needs to adjust quickly, unlike the former coach. You want some ideas? Put in Allen over Price, put Danault on the fourth line, bring back Evans, and tell the kids to go out and have fun. And whatever else you say, don’t say it’s normal to be fragile. The real new era should start with ending the excuses.
Canadiens Game Day: Carey Price gets third straight start vs. Canucks .
Carey Price will be back in goal when the Canadiens play the Canucks Wednesday night in Vancouver (11 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). This will mark the first time this season that Price will start three consecutive games. Price has allowed only one goal in each of his last three starts and now has a 7-4-4 record with a 2.69 goal-against average and a .903 save percentage. Head coach Dominique Ducharme will switch up his forward lines for the game, putting Brendan Gallagher with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Tyler Toffoli, while Joel Armia will take Gallagher’s regular spot on a line with Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar.