The Montréal Canadiens are languishing in relative obscurity, and own one of the worst records in the league. There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said, and it’s safe to assume that even the most experienced hockey pundits don’t have any answers either. After a year which gave the organization and its fans so much hope, this season has been the polar opposite of what everyone expected. After nearly a quarter of the season, many have already chalked up this campaign as a lost one.
The team-first solutions haven’t really worked out yet. Head coach Dominque Ducharme and general manager Marc Bergevin have changed the lines and defensive pairings, sent players to and from the American Hockey League (AHL), and the players themselves have reiterated on multiple occasions the toll this season has taken on them. Due to the fact that all of the other attempts at righting the ship have failed, it’s time for the Canadiens to recognize that the main issue is that the most important parties within the organization have consistently shirked responsibility and have not made the decisions that would help the team.
Geoff Molson Needs to Take Responsibility
In what seems like a trend with NHL owners recently (especially Canadian ones), Canadiens’ owner Geoff Molson has been suspiciously silent throughout the team’s struggles. As the Canadiens narrowly avoided the worst 20 game start in franchise history, Molson has said nothing of note to the public since his presser addressing the Logan Mailloux draft selection. Even then, that appearance was curated by Molson himself.
He chose the journalists present for the video call – only seven were permitted – and he chose to do it in the middle of the first day of the NHL’s free agency period. He has made only a select few appearances since, including a terribly awkward one at the Canadiens’ home opener on Oct. 16. (From “Godin: The Canadiens Are in Crisis and Geoff Molson is Nowhere to be Found” Marc-Antoine Godin. The Athletic. 19/11/2021)
Molson is definitely well aware of all the issues plaguing the Canadiens this season, and remains silent on all of them, resulting in a team with absolutely no direction. He has not commented on Marc Bergevin’s future as general manager (GM) of the club and he still insists on running the franchise without a President of Hockey Operations, even as rumours of suitable candidates swirled. It seems as though the only instances in which Molson steps in to try and provide direction and leadership are those in which he fails spectacularly. In order for the team to succeed again, Molson needs to use his position to buy into the team he supposedly loves and help guide them more than he has been recently.
Canadiens Need to Name a Captain
Shea Weber isn’t coming back. Even though he remains on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), which technically does not rule out the blueliner’s return, his absence from the team is clearly leaving its mark. Former Canadiens’ captain and team legend Guy Carbonneau has noticed this, perhaps more so than others, saying in an interview with TSNRadio 690:
“To me it starts with leadership. I love Shea Weber. I think he’s a great athlete, an unbelievable human being. I mean the Canadiens need somebody … they need a captain. There’s no way that he can be a captain living in (Kelowna), not being with the team. All you hear about is (Weber) was here for me last year, he was here for me the year before, he was talking to me all the time. He can’t do that anymore. He’s not there. So I think for me that would be one thing, just to name an interim captain. I don’t know what the situation is with (Weber). But just to have a voice. I’m sure they do have voices, but it’s not the same thing.”Former Canadiens’ captain Guy Carbonneau on the absence of Shea Weber as Weber deals with injury recovery. (From “Stu Cowan: Time has come for Canadiens to name Gallagher team captain” Stu Cowan. Montréal Gazette. 28/10/2021)
Entering this season, the Canadiens made the decision not to name an interim captain. Instead, they’ve named four alternate captains, of which Brendan Gallagher is a permanent member. Stu Cowan of the Montréal Gazette has reiterated the Canadiens’ need for a captain, saying that it should be Gallagher. At the very least, it should be someone who remains with the team in the locker room.
Bergevin and Co. Need to Decide What This Season Is
As a result of the Canadiens’ dismal record so far this season, fans and the media alike have started to believe the season is lost and the team should abandon the hope of making the playoffs in favour of focusing on next year. The Canadiens sit 30th in the league standings and the slide has done nothing but continue. Most realists say the right thing to do is commit to the fact that this season’s lost. Despite this, Canadiens’ management has refused – on multiple occasions – to do so. Bergevin recently said in an interview with Sportnet’s Eric Engels that tanking this season would be “insane”:
“Players have pride, you don’t go out there just to blow up games. That’s insane to think that way. If I go out there and manage like a GM that wants to lose games, I should be let go right away. That’s just not right. That’s just not the way it is, and it’s just not in our DNA.”Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin on whether it would be best to abandon attempts at a successful season.
While this attitude is admirable, even the most ardent realists would likely say Bergevin’s belief in success is pure folly. If every fan and every commentator believes this season to be lost, it’s time for Canadiens’ management to provide some direction of their own and buy into it as well.
The key to success is a cohesive team identity, ideology, and focus. This includes taking responsibility when things go south, yet the Canadiens higher ups have yet to do so.
Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.