There is little debating the 2014-15 Montreal Canadiens season was a successful one… successful, but nonetheless disappointing.
A year after reaching the Eastern Conference Final, only to see their Stanley Cup hopes disintegrate in Game 1, they came back with a stronger regular season and a healthy Carey Price in nets, only to fall even shorter.
At this point in time, the Habs must be looking in the mirror wondering what exactly went wrong. Here’s what five Canadiens specifically could hypothetically be saying to their reflections right about now:
The Problem: Too much of a glory hog.
There is just no debating that the main reason the Canadiens made it as far as they did this season was Price. However, it’s getting a bit tiresome when all you hear is “Price this” and “Price that” and “Price made over 40 save again?” and “What the hell is wrong with Price?!”
Well, maybe not that last one, unless it’s followed by, “He’s a freak of nature.”
In any case, it’s all clearly such a desperate plea for attention that needs addressing as soon as possible, because him eventually winning the Vezina and Hart Memorial trophies at the league’s annual awards ceremony is obviously just going to go straight to the very head he’s continually standing on and make the problem that much worse.
The Fix: Take a year-long sabbatical from hockey and pursue another, less competitive hobby like… knitting. That should clear that same head right up. It also might help to go somewhere far away, completely off the map if possible, so head coach Michel Therrien won’t be able to come looking after, say game No. 3.
The Problem: Based on his play, it’s increasingly likely he’ll never become anything more than a decent back-up.
Everywhere you look nowadays, you have elite teams with succession plans in net. Just look to the final four teams in the playoffs this year. The just-eliminated New York Rangers have Cam Talbot, who was sensational in Henrik Lundqvist’s absence due to injury. The Tampa Bay Lightning have blue-chipper Andrei Vasilevskiy. Ditto for the Anaheim Ducks and John Gibson. The Chicago Blackhawks have, well, anyone not named Corey Crawford.
Montreal, meanwhile? Their backup was just average this year with a .910 save percentage, .500 record (6-6-4), and a reputation of giving up goals like these:
Maybe Tokarski is a victim of circumstance. It’s not like he’s a bad goalie. He’s won a Memorial Cup (2008) and a gold medal at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships (2009). Maybe all he needs is more playing time to refine his skills, which is unfortunately unlikely playing behind Price.
The Fix: On the off chance Price won’t take that one-year sabbatical, some drastic Tonya Harding-esque action might be necessary, with a few adjustments of course. For one, don’t get caught, because then you’ll ironically need the jail time she avoided to keep safe from getting shivved. Well, keep safer anyway.
The Problem: A lack of consistency.
Lars Eller is seemingly at risk of being run out of town as one of Montreal’s biggest bargaining chips, for essentially scoring 15 goals as a third-line center, which is pretty much the equivalent of getting transferred to Siberia for doing your job well in the white-collar world (assuming he were to get traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs).
What seems to really irk his critics is how in the lead-up to the 2013 playoffs he had 13 points in his final 12 regular-season games and how in the 2014 playoffs he had 13 points in 17 games… for which getting mad at him seems just about as nonsensical.
The Fix: After suffering through five different line combinations—in the playoffs—maybe some consistency in that regard is in order. It should be pointed out, based on data compiled by the University of New Brunswick faculty of computer science, that’s the most among Canadiens forwards—tied with Brandon Prust and Dale Weise.
One of those two meanwhile is glorified as being a grinder, while the other gets ice time on the first line… and the same amount as points as Eller in the postseason… and, oh, yeah, the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy as the team’s most unsung hero.
The Problem: The coaching staff’s lack of confidence in playing him.
Time may be running out for Jarred Tinordi to leave a positive impression on Therrien before he gets traded or worse—gets labelled a career minor-leaguer.
The team’s first-round pick from 2010 is now 23 and has played in less than half the career NHL games as teammate Michael Bournival, who was taken in the third round that year and isn’t all that confident himself that he will get to stay with the team.
The Fix: Reinvent yourself as a fourth-liner.
Going back to defense at your own request after scoring 30 points next season upon getting ice time on the first line should be a mere formality at that point.
The Problem: He’s apparently more comfortable playing the wing, despite having been drafted to play center (and the team lacking a legitimate No. 1 pivot).
General manager Marc Bergevin was less than flattering at his post-season press conference in regard to the possibility of Alex Galchenyuk ever being moved to center.
From Hockey Inside/Out:
“At the end of the day, [Galchenyuk] may never be a centerman. Right now, it doesn’t look like he ever will be. He might be, he could be, but I don’t want to just focus on him… Playing center in the NHL is not that easy… If Michel Therrien says that the best place for [Galchenyuk] to help the team win is at wing, then that’s where he’s going to play.”
The Fix: Change your jersey number to #51 and hope Bergevin (and Therrien) don’t notice the difference.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.