If there’s one thing everyone can agree on regarding the Montreal Canadiens over the past few seasons, it’s that they’re a small team that can be intimidated and pushed around easily.
This was really brought to the fore when Bob Gainey closed the door on the Saku Koivu era in 2009-2010 by not re-signing the diminutive captain and bringing in the likes of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri, among others.
And even though everyone pretty much picked the team to go nowhere that year, the Jacques Martin-led Canadiens surprised them all by reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
The next season, Gionta officially replaced Koivu as team captain, another respected NHLer with a large heart but small size.
But teams around the league adapted to the Canadiens’ speed. Devoid of a true tough guy – a role Georges Laraque didn’t want to embrace – someone who was ready to bruise it out and support teammates when needed, the gameplan against the Habs has been consistent: give them very little time and space and they can’t use their skill.
Since then, Montreal has gotten – or at least tried to get – bigger. For instance, they brought in rugged winger Erik Cole and he immediately clicked with power forward-in-training Max Pacioretty and centre David Desharnais.
Desharnais had a good rapport with Pacioretty since both played with each other in Montreal’s AHL affiliate the Hamilton Bulldogs, and Cole’s barging towards the net ways opened up the ice for double D to do his thing.
But now Cole is gone, Pacioretty is injured and Desharnais?
One assist in ten games played so far this season is just not going to cut it for someone who should be among the team’s scoring leaders.
GM Marc Bergevin must be kicking himself for giving him that four-year, $14 million dollar contract extension before season’s end last year and he might be warming to the reality that it was a strategic error on his part.
For his entire hockey career, the 5-foot-7 Quebec native has fought for everything he’s achieved on the ice. And finally, he was rewarded after posting a career-high 60 points in 81 games back in 2010-2011. Last year, he had a slow start but then started rolling as everyone hoped. But once he signed the deal, his play sagged.
And now it’s gone from bad to worse.
Last year, Travis Moen was everyone’s whipping boy for not playing a more physical game. But this year, it’s Desharnais. Fans and media alike expect a lot more from him and he’s being roasted for his lack of production:
— Eyes on the Prize (@HabsEOTP) October 25, 2013
— Moe Khan (@MoeKhan19) October 23, 2013
It’s not that he’s not trying. Desharnais is generating chances but the puck just isn’t going in for him. And without Pacioretty creating space and time for his playmaking abilities to shine, double D is having a tough time finding his game.
Good players can pretty much play with anyone. Just ask Tomas Plekanec. He’s been shuffled around more than a deck of cards at the World Series of Poker. Yet the Czech centre continues to post points and make the players around him better.
Desharnais needs to find a way, and find it quick. And not just because I have him in my fantasy hockey pool, but because if he doesn’t start producing points, he’s going to be out of a job.
It’s understandable Coach Therrien is keeping him in Montreal’s lineup because of all their injury issues of late – the Habs need all the bodies they can get. But once those players start coming back, don’t be surprised to see Desharnais munching on popcorn in the press box instead of helping his team on the ice.
GM Bergevin is ready and willing to make his team better whenever he can, and Desharnais could be moved just as quickly.
Hey the Flyers like underperforming forwards, right?
Ari Grief is not underperforming at all, except in his fantasy hockey league. Follow his travails on Facebook or twitter: @HabsFanLeafLand
I’m a goalie — apparently that says a lot. Writer, producer and bon vivant I’m from Montreal but live in Toronto and write from that perspective on HabsFanInLeafLand.com. Young enough to be hip; old enough to remember where I was when Guy Lafleur scored against the Bruins in the infamous “too many men” game in the ’79 playoffs. Can you say that?
You can contact Ari Grief on Facebook or on twitter @habsfanleafland