Five games left in the regular season for the Montreal Canadiens with the pride of the result having an interesting battle for fans with the desire to draft higher. The ultimate scenario is a well played game with a loss in the last minute. It’s even a bonus when it is the youth of the team that shines and shows a brighter future for Habs fans than the present that they endured this season. On that front, it was a bit disappointing for many that Mike Reilly was left out of the line-up for David Schlemko to return against the Stanley Cup champion Penguins. C’est la vie as they say. To the horses….
- The last quarter of the season has had the same horses night after night. Alex Galchenyuk with a sweet pass to Jonathan Drouin for a goal. Galchenyuk continues to be the revelation of the last quarter of the season. He’s been strong and working into a completely different territory as a player under Julien. He’s learning so much this season and I couldn’t be more pleased for him. He’s the player that the Habs were hoping for. He’s maturing right before our eyes, but no one is really noticing because there is so much negativity and indifference.
- Same story for Jonathan Drouin who I am totally on board now is a winger and would be a terrific winger with some center support on this team, but I digress. Drouin is playing his best hockey of the year and suddenly his numbers, though they are not what was hoped, are not so bad. Take a look at Ryan Johansen’s numbers on Hockey DB. Now look at Drouin’s. Now look at how many goals the Predators have scored this year. Now look how many the Habs have scored. Johansen is hailed as this great center this season leading the charge on the best team in the league. Drouin is looked as a total bust on a team that has also busted this season completely. It’s clearly not so obvious is it? What I am saying is put Drouin in a comfortable position on the wing, put a center who he clicks with on his line, put a winger on the other side who can distribute, put him on a better team overall, and watch him surpass the numbers of Johansen. I would take Drouin over Johansen for talent. Yes, I would. Opportunity meets talent is vital because it’s not just talent that counts. Talent needs a chance or it is wasted. I give Drouin a big chance to improve his points next season by 15 to 20. If he finishes with 45 this year, I will give you 60 to 65 next season, if they put some opportunity in front of him. I mean did you see that shot for his goal? He can weave too as you know.
- Brendan Gallagher blocking shots in game 78 of a lost season. This kid is amazing. His first 30 goal season. He’s working his ass off like the cup is on the line.
- Paul Byron. Cut from the same cloth as Gallagher. I really think the wingers on the Habs are way better than most pundits do. I think they can be very strong. I don’t think this team needs an upgrade at wing when Drouin is there too. Drouin and Galchenyuk as first line wingers. Gallagher and Lehkonen as second line wingers. Byron and Scherbak as third line wingers. Hudon and Deslauriers as fourth line wingers. I have no trouble with the Habs wingers. Does anyone have any trouble with that group of wingers? There are a lot of goals in those wingers. However, for speed to shine, for these wingers to shine, it and they need to be fed early passes from offensively creative defenders and also from intelligent playmaking centers. Winger is a position that has a hard time creating something out of nothing. Show me a winger with amazing numbers and 9 times out of 10 I will show you a great center, or a great defender who freed him. Centers and defenders are creators in this modern NHL, while the wingers respond to that creation. Improve the middle and the transition on D and watch the wingers be even better. The Habs don’t need to worry about the wing to not be 27th in a 31 team league. To the goats to show you what they do need to worry about….
- Watching Karl Alzner kill a penalty is so painful. He doesn’t block the passing lanes. He doesn’t take the player on. He just basically stands there on the left side and watches the world go by. The Habs have the worst penalty kill in the league and he is the one big constant this season. He’s always there….. sucking. I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. One of the real shames of this entire hockey world is smart people are supposed act stupid so the general manager doesn’t look bad. This is how it goes in the hockey world and I know this to be true as I have been told it and I have seen it many times. The GM makes a lousy decision and the world can see it is a lousy decision but he thinks he can hide it from everyone, so he tells his coach to keep using his lousy decision. The coach isn’t allowed to bench his lousy decision. He can’t put his lousy decision in the press box either. Everyone just goes along pretending that the lousy decision is just fine. Usually, the lousy decision gets exposed when the GM has his back against the wall in a different way. It goes like this…. there is a vital game, perhaps a game seven of the playoffs, and the GM really needs a win, and the coach says, boy it really would be great if we didn’t have to dress and play your lousy decision. The GM finally agrees because he needs the win even more than protection from the fall out of exposure of his lousy decision. I went on a long time there, but all of this to say…. Alzner is done. He is done on the penalty kill. He is done on the 5 on 5. He is done when the team is leading. He is done when the team is trailing. He is done defending the rush. He is done defending the cycle. Four more years of that? Really? Have some character yourself Marc since you love it so much and do the right thing and admit your error.
- And speaking of a terrible penalty kill, can we finally get it together and fire most of these assistants? Jean Jacques Daigneault should have been fired before he was hired. He should have been fired before the Fox glowing puck? He should have been fired before Seattle named their first NHL team the Metropolitans. He should have been fired before he was a twinkle in his mother and father’s eyes. When has anything he has done actually been a stand out?
- And speaking of firing coaches, why is Sylvain Lefebvre? Why is one playoff spot in six years okay? Why is not developing draft picks acceptable? You see how Claude Julien works with players to improve them and keep them on course and find their better game? You see how Galchenyuk is turning into a better player? Yeah, me too. Who seems to be developing in deeper ways under Lefevbre? JDLR is developing right now. But under who? Lefebvre? Of course not. Under Julien. Get this guy Lefebvre gone already. If there are no penalties to be paid for being terrible, then what’s the point of trying to be good. Marc Bergevin is going to have to stop making it easy for others to do lousy work. Fire the entire coaching staff at both places except Julien and Waite. Yep. Why? Well, it’s not as if the new people in both organizations can do worse than this. Both organizations are basically rock bottom.
- And continuing in the difficult decisions department beside Alzner, Marc Bergevin should have the guts to also admit that the game is faster now and Jordie Benn is not keeping up; nor is David Schlemko. They’re not there. Sorry. The Habs have the makings of a good D but they didn’t play in this one. Here are the six D for next season and it’s an infinitely better D than this year’s D: Weber, Mete, Petry, Juulsen, Reilly, and the sixth member will be who they can get with the Pacioretty return, or the top five pick return or the 15 million dollars available return. That leaves Alzner, Benn, and Schlemko as your 7, 8, and 9. I will take instead Dobson, or Hughes, or Bouchard or Carlson, or Dahlin, or most anyone on the trade market over these guys as the six D. Because here’s the thing…. if you go into next October with those three on your blue line still, why is it that you think with the same personnel you’re going to be much better than 27th again?
- I wrote a section on Twitter about the Habs middle. Danault and JDLR are 3C, so if you want to argue that they are 2C then that’s fine for you, but if they are 2C, then they are 2C on a bad to average hockey club. For me, when the Habs are talented and in the second round of the playoffs, Danault and JDLR are the three and the four while the one and the two are far better players than they are now on this dysfunctionally created team. I see the Habs making a play for Tavares or Stastny or both in hopes of landing one of the two. I don’t love either of these deals to be honest because I think they would have to overpay for Tavares and Stastny is getting old, but what are the options? Lousy again. This isn’t easy option time for the GM. No one is offering him Borgstrom or Necas or Thomas for an aging and pending UFA Max Pacioretty. You have options but they aren’t great. That’s the corner that you have painted yourself in. The alternative, and if I could sell my owner on it, this would be the option I would take. I would tank this thing another year or two and not make a play for either of these centers. I wouldn’t give Stastny 4 or 5 years and I wouldn’t give Tavares 13 to 15 million. I would wait for Ryan Poehling one more year, and stay the course. And yes, I know the course is lousy, but bad choices that follow bad choices make for longer misery. Waiting patiently isn’t what is going to happen here though. Marc Bergevin is at the save his job portion of the always repeated always predictable hockey exercise. He has to turn this around now for self preservation. He will spend a ton to get a center. If the giant offer for Tavares lines up with John’s free will, then he will be here next year. If Tavares’ free will has him in another city, then the giant offer will be made to Paul Stastny. Anything for Bergevin to make sure he finally gets a center, and then we will see what Paul’s free will is for next season. Know this though…. the offers will be made. Right or wrong to do it, the offers will be made. They’re always made in the save the job phase of the cycle.
- Ryan Poehling as we reported earlier at Recrutes has made it official that he will return for a next season at Saint Cloud State. The attention now turns to Jimmy Schuldt who the Habs have had many conversations with and are trying to interest in Montreal. Schuldt was the top defender on the top team in college hockey. He is a Hobey Baker nominee. He is a defenceman and he would be a valuable addition to the Habs in the same vein as Will Butcher in New Jersey after he won the Hobey Baker for Denver.
- Cayden Primeau who was a 7th round choice of the Habs last season has been named a finalist of the Mike Richter award as the best goalie in college hockey. He is not likely to win this in his freshman year, but his rise to excellence is meteoric.