As the Montreal Canadiens’ season spiraled from a slump to an embarrassment, one thing that became apparent was the lack of leadership as the season wore on. Captain Max Pacioretty, PK Subban, head coach Michel Therrien and general manager Marc Bergevin received the majority of the blame from the media and the fans but it wasn’t just them that deserved criticism. Leadership is supposed to be a full group effort and at the end of the day, Montreal’s leadership core and management group disappointed big time last season.
Montreal’s Real Captain
Last year’s leadership core consisted of Pacioretty, Carey Price and four assistants in Subban, Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher. As much as the Habs missed Price on the ice, his presence in the room was sorely missed. Price is a natural leader in the sense that he has the unique ability to bring a team together and his words carry a lot of weight in the Montreal locker room. When Price speaks, everyone listens. Being a goalie and the team’s best player is more than enough pressure for Price to also wear the C but he has demonstrated on many occasions that he is Montreal’s true captain.
Some could argue that if Gallagher was older, he would have had a much better chance at being named the captain. As Montreal’s sparkplug, he can be counted on to give a full effort every night. Gallagher is one of those players who drags his team into the game every night and one of few Habs who is willing to go to the front of the net and in the corners. He wore the C during his last WHL season with Vancouver and even Habs legend Guy Lafleur suggested in an interview last year that Gallagher should be captain.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 15, 2016
The New Guy
For Montreal to address their leadership needs, Subban was sacrificed in order to bring in Shea Weber. Weber was Nashville’s captain for six seasons and played a big role in Canada winning gold in the last two Olympics. Leadership is often one of the first attributes people attach Weber to. In terms of leadership style, Weber is more of the strong silent type and is a stabilizing force for his team. His game on the ice and his demeanour off of it have earned Weber respect league wide as he is regularly praised by players, coaches and general managers. He will wear an A next season in Montreal which speaks to how important the team thinks he is, despite him not playing a single game for them yet.
"There’s no doubt a guy like Shea Weber is going to help Max Pacioretty to become a better captain" – Therrien
— All About The Habs (@AATHabs) August 9, 2016
As the captain, Pacioretty took a lot of heat as did Subban. Rumours of a feud between the two grew stronger as the losing continued. Subban gave his usual consistent effort and had the offence to prove it but he couldn’t elevate the team. Pacioretty put up points but his effort was certainly something to be desired as there were far too many examples of him floating or looking downright uninterested at times. Even Plekanec and Markov, the longest tenured Habs, failed to step up but they aren’t the kind of players to step up and take charge. Price played only 12 games due to injury while Gallagher missed large chunks of time with his injuries.
As much as the players could be blamed after last season, management didn’t help the cause either. Bergevin was full of excuses and made no moves to help the team. Therrien continuously favoured players and threw certain players under the bus while others remained unscathed.
The crowning moment was during that game vs Colorado where Subban coughed up the puck at the blueline which caused the Avalanche to score. As glaring as the mistake was, Subban made the effort to get back and take his man. What got lost was the poor effort by Pacioretty to get back as he floated back into his zone as the last man back. Therrien threw Subban under the bus for that play but neglected to mention the lack of a backcheck from his captain. That night showed the rift between Subban and the organization but also the favoritism Therrien has towards certain players. Every coach has their favourites but Therrien takes it to the next level where it’s blatantly obvious such as playing David Desharnais more than Alex Galchenyuk, despite the latter being far superior to the former.
As much as people will blame Pacioretty because he’s the captain, there were other individuals that didn’t step up either and management failed to properly support the players during a very trying year. In the meantime, Pacioretty deserves the chance to redeem himself considering last year was his first being the captain. However, there can be no excuses this year with the addition of Weber, a healthy Price and a management group that needs to see some playoff wins.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.