WTF is going on?!

I mentioned in my last post that I didn’t update my blog during the Habs hot start because I was superstitious. As a result, someone recently asked me why I’m not furiously blogging during this 4 for 21 slide. Honestly I’ve been too discouraged to write. The Habs have 9 out of a possible 42 points over the last 21 games…read that again. It’s remarkably depressing. Also I should come clean and admit that no one actually asked me write about this slump, because only about 17 people read this blog on a regular basis. So I pretty much asked myself – tough times indeed. Although, I have been pretty animated on Facebook lately…and this post actually started out as a simple Facebook post…until I realized it was long…really long.

Originally this aforementioned post was supposed to be accompanied by a link to an article breaking down the stats and shedding light on the current status of the Montreal Canadiens. However given the length, I figured I’d slot it into my blog. My blog is typically humorous (or tries to be), on occasion I’ll take a moment to get emotional about the Habs or do some analysis. But really, moving forward I’m going to leave the analysis to the experts. I enjoy linking to articles that will give the dozens (and dozens) of my readers a chance to learn about the Habs from a different perspective. While I’m sure some of the readers make a point to soak up as much knowledge as possible, the majority are simply basing it on the good old “eye test” – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. As I’ve mentioned numerous times the emotion that Montrealers have for the Canadiens is unrivaled in any major city for any single sports franchise. That’s a good thing…and a bad thing (my last post was titled the “The NHL’s Worst Fans…?” after all).

I do take pride on trying to be a rational Habs’ fan in this city…but it is extremely difficult. I try hard to be as level headed as possible amongst all the fanatic extremism that Habs’ fans oscillate between. This year has been the ultimate version of that. I tried to tell friends to quell their expectations after the Habs’ hot start and I’m trying to talk the same friends off the ledge during this historically bad run. Because that’s where we are at…this is the worst stretch of games for the Habs since 1940. For any fans to think it is as simple as saying “les boys just aren’t trying hard enough”, or “the coach sucks” is shortsighted in my opinion. While both those things may be true – for a team to lose 17 of 21 games it takes some exceptional circumstances. In my humble, and irrelevant opinion…this slump is not due to “lack of effort”; it’s not due to our stars “not being leaders”; or the Habs’ not being “tough enough”. The hardest thing to do as a fan is to educate yourself beyond the basic emotions that govern your perception. I know it’s hard, I’m prone to it as much as anyone (I have to duct tape my remote to the sofa, due to how often it’s been flung across the room lately). But if you want a a more well rounded understanding of the ebb and flow of the season, it would behoove you to take some time to get into the numbers, and take a deeper dive into the stats. It’s fine that some people aren’t interested in doing that – ultimately I’m not saying one way is better than the other. Just like real life, a sports season is not black and white. These aren’t robots that play the game, and it’s not zombies coaching the team. I often lament that the human element is overlooked with the proliferation of advanced metrics and statistics. However in a strange twist of fate, I’m asking people to look at the numbers to remember that these players are human, and for what its worth they appear to be playing hard – and the numbers back that up. It almost makes no sense, but neither does criticizing P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty for not doing “enough”, when both these players are clearly doing their jobs and what’s asked of them. On the flip side, when times are tough, fans will always demand more from the team’s best players.

Here are 9 quick thoughts on the Habs slide. In the future I’ll call this feature the Rocket Rumblings. (Get it? Rocket…Maurice Richard…? His number was 9? Ok forget it)

1) In a backwards way, the Habs good play during the early part of this collapse hurt them. I suspect given the string of dominant games vs. Washington, Boston, Nashville, Los Angeles (all losses), the coaching staff, the management, and even the players themselves felt that this would eventually end. Except…well it really didn’t. Actually it got worse…much worse. it’s at the point where lately I debate even watching the games…and when I do – I feel like this…

Anchorman

…and after struggling through every game of this collapse…I have this reaction:

What the fuck is going on by ALMO7TAR

2) I understand that fans want the coach held accountable for the incredibly poor results lately. But Bergevin hasn’t done much to help his embattled coach during this tough stretch. I will say the vote of confidence given to Therrien was a good idea (since he clearly won’t be fired), it puts the onus back on the players to keep playing hard cause the coach won’t be the scapegoat…that said…

3) …Under no circumstances does it seem that Therrien has lost the room. In fact many respected journalists, such as Bob McKenzie and Brian Wilde have suggested the opposite; and the Habs locker room remains a tight knit group.

4) I’m not going to lie. I’m not Therrien’s biggest fan, and although he seems to have progressed this year; you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There have been some strong cases made that this slide offered the Habs the perfect opportunity to move on from Therrien. Do yourself a big favour and read this article by Dimitri Filipovic, who uses advanced stats to shows the flaws in Therrien system without resorting to the witchhunt that’s happened over the last 20 games. It’s lengthy but eye opening and worth the read.

5) I do believe the Habs should have demonstrated more patience with both Alexander Semin and Zack Kassian. Semin in particular was more valuable than his play let on, if only that he allowed the coach to balance the lines more effectively. Kassian is more of a grey area, and it is disheartening that he never even got a shot with the Habs. I suspect a condition of his trade to Montreal was that he’d stay out of trouble…and well, we all know how that went…

6) As mentioned Bergervin hasn’t done Therrien any favours. My opinion, the biggest gaffe was not trading for a veteran goaltender as soon as they knew Price’s injury was serious. I suspect that Condon’s early season success had something to do with that decision. Scrivens probably deserves more of a chance, but he doesn’t seem to be the answer either.

7) While fans bemoan the fact that Habs rely too much on Carey Price…NO team can win consistently with a save percentage of 89% (Habs save percentage since Dec 1st as heard on TSN 690 today). If you’re someone who truly believes in the symbiotic relationship between goaltending and confidence, than this becomes a considerable factor because the Habs shooting percentage has also taken a beating since December. Are they related? I think so…

8) I understand Therrien wants to spread his scoring over many lines, but Galchenyuk NEEDS to remain at center. While he’s been resistant in pairing Pacioretty and Galchenyuk, he needs push Desharnais to the side once and for all, yet he persists on keeping Galchenyuk on the wing with Desharnais at center. At this point Galchenyuk, Plekanec, and Eller should be his top 3 centermen. It’s astounding to me that with all the criticism being levied on the players, none seems to be put on Desharnais by some in the media. I have tremendous respect for Desharnais and how hard he’s worked to reach the NHL, but he is NOT a top 6 forward. At the end of the day, Therrien is responsible for the deployment of the lines and who gets more minutes. This is why he’s the main lighting rod, and deserves a majority of the criticism.

9) I’ve made this point numerous times. If you remove a team’s best player in any sport as a result of injury – they will be worse. If you remove a hockey team’s number one goaltender they will suffer even more. I don’t care who the team is, if you take Crawford off the Blackhawks they will be worse (not much worse…but worse). In fact look no further than 2 seasons ago when the Habs rolled through Tampa Bay when they were missing Ben Bishop (who isn’t even Tampa’s best player). Now if the number one goaltender also happens to be your best player…and Oh!…that player also happens to be the reigning MVP and arguably the best player in the entire league…well…and pardon my french, you’re fucked. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse to explain why the Habs only have 4 wins in their last 21 games, but when you consider that Price is the clear cut leader of the team…it was always going to be tough for the Habs to win without him…

…I just don’t think anyone thought it would be this bad.

There is still a lot of season left to be played…it’s getting harder and harder to believe but as always…

Go Habs Go.

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