The Canadiens’ Lack of Leadership Is a Serious Issue
The Montreal Canadiens have been very bad since December. Unfortunately, there’s no sugar-coating it. The team that was at one time atop the league standings now find themselves out of the playoff picture, and possibly in tank mode. Fans are in search of answers as to what may be able to save this team. The answer could in part be the leadership. The Habs named their 29th captain in team history in September after going a season with no captain. After former captain, Brian Gionta left, the Habs wanted to ensure that they made the right choice in selecting the heir to the ‘C’. It’s probably too soon to asses whether Pacioretty was the right decision as captain, though one this is certain: his job this year hasn’t been easy. This article will reveal what surprising things captain Pacioretty had to say after a 6-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, and it will also discuss a somewhat troubling factoid about the Canadiens’ roster.
Pacioretty is in his first stint as an NHL captain. Obviously, there is a learning process when put into a role of this sort. The winger’s leadership has been brought into question as of late – due to the Habs’ struggles. The American has a supporting cast of leaders in Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, and Brendan Gallagher. Pacioretty’s on ice play has been streakier this season than in previous years. In the past, Pacioretty always seemed to be an offensive threat when on the ice, while this year, he tends to go unnoticed for long periods of time. It is understandable for his stats to fall a little bit with the team doing so poorly, but more is expected out of him as the leader of this group.
The Canadiens played against Buffalo this past Friday, where they fell to the not-so-mighty Sabres, and conceded six goals in the process. To put that into perspective, the Sabres are 25th in the league with 137 goals scored this season. The Canadiens, who have barely been able to score more than two goals per game since the end of 2015, have 157 goals this season (stats from NHL.com). After the game, captain Pacioretty said that he felt that the team had played well, despite giving up six goals to …take a moment to cringe… Buffalo. The captain stated that the Canadiens had “some mental lapses” which led the Sabres’ goals. He then went on giving the old excuse about how the bounces weren’t going the Habs’ way, and how they didn’t have puck luck. (For the complete report on what Pacioretty had to say following the game, click here)
It seems completely unacceptable for the player that is supposed to be the leader of the team to come out and say such things after an embarrassing loss to a team that should be well below the Canadiens in the standings. If Pacioretty thought that the Canadiens played well against Buffalo in the loss, does he really believe in his team? Or does he think that a subpar team played a decent game against another subpar team? This may be crazy, but some people believe that the leader of the team should have faith in his group. The leader should be the one to admit when things went wrong, and work on getting better. The leader must step up in tough times – and frankly, the leader of the most historic franchise in hockey shouldn’t be making excuses. One of two things must happen for the Canadiens: Either they pray to the hockey gods that have been so unkind to them since December, or they stop making excuses, and find a solution.
At this point, it may not be the worst thing for the Habs to continue losing, though the fact that they have gotten to this point proves that the team leadership hasn’t been good enough. Every team has tough periods, and when a team is going through a rough stretch, the leaders are the ones that are looked to for motivation, help, and most of all – leadership. The blame for leadership issues shouldn’t solely fall on captain Pacioretty’s shoulders, as the coaching staff, and the rest of the veterans are also to blame.
Here’s an interesting fact about the Canadiens: The team has a grand total of zero Stanley Cups among all of their current players. No player on the current Canadiens roster has ever won a cup. Maybe a good move for GM Marc Bergevin to have made when the team was still considered a contender would have been to acquire someone with at least one cup. Instead, over the last little while, Bergevin has gone out and acquired players from places such as Buffalo and Edmonton. Maybe the issue is that the Canadiens have a losing culture in the locker room, or maybe it’s that the Canadiens don’t know how to win. One thing is for sure: The leadership core of this team has got to step up soon – or things will likely change.
Being the captain of the Montreal Canadiens comes with immense pressure; it is understandable that Max Pacioretty is still learning how to be an effective leader for this team. That said, it’d be nice to see the captain step up a little more instead of making excuses or having low expectations for a very capable group. Things have got to change from now until the beginning of next season, and hopefully the Canadiens’ leaders, along with their coaching staff, find a way to turn this franchise around – and leave what has truly been a season to forget in the distant past.