Montreal Canadiens Are Far From Class of NHL

At 16-5-1, the Habs are a few games past the quarter mark of the 2014-15 season. More importantly, they lead the league with only the Pittsburgh Penguins (28 points in three fewer games) in striking distance for that title up to this point. Nevertheless, as far as their term report card is concerned, it’s far from ‘A’s all around.


The Montreal Canadiens Offense – B

Montreal has only scored 2.59 goals per game (61 total), nearly putting them in the bottom third of the league in that statistical category. They’ve also already been shut out three times, the most notable goose egg, an embarrassing 5-0 defeat, coming at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks back in early November.

Of course, since that point, the Habs are 8-1 (with that one loss being another shutout against Pittsburgh). Over those nine games, even with the shutout, they’ve scored 29 goals, which translates to a very impressive 3.22 per game, which would put them in the top three (had they been scoring at that clip since the start).

Seeing as the Penguins lead the league with 3.53 goals per game, it’s at least possible the Habs are able to keep up the pace the rest of the way. Granted, the Habs don’t have Sidney Crosby at their disposal, but doing it by committee is almost more impressive.

They’re notably only registering a very low 27.8 shots per game (which has stayed largely consistent over the last nine games), so the increased punch may not be sustainable. However, credit still must be given to them for turning it around.


Defense – B+

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price – (Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

The Habs have given up an average of 2.36 goals per game, which, in sharp contrast to their goals for, ranks in the top third of the league. However, their shots-against average (30.5) places at the same mediocre, 19th-in-the-league rank.

Sure, the quality of shots is a factor, but only three playoff teams are below them, and each is only holding onto a wild-card spot.

One can only conclude that their goaltenders—Dustin Tokarski and Carey Price—are playing incredibly well, which their individual stats also show with save percentages of .937 and .922 respectively.

Goaltending – A+


Special Teams – B-

Since defenseman Sergei Gonchar ‘s first game, Montreal’s power play has improved drastically, going 5/20 in six games. While that may not seem to be that impressive of a boon, those five goals are two more than they had during the previous sixteen games. As a result, the power play stands at a worse-than-mediocre 12.9%.

Almost it’s mirror image, the penalty kill is currently a decent 84%, but since Gonchar came to town it’s clicking to the tune of 13 successful kills over 17 opportunities (76.4%).

For the record, Gonchar has received zero ice time on the penalty kill since being acquired (2:55 on the power play per game). The loss of Travis Moen might have something to do with it… or, alternatively, it’s just one of those things. However, if the power play is going to get credit for improving recently, the penalty kill must be, uh, penalized for just the opposite. So, the Habs’ special teams are just okay.


Coaching & Management – A

Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien and general manager Marc Bergevin
Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien and general manager Marc Bergevin – (Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE)

Head coach Michel Therrien has his fair share of detractors (yours truly included), and yet he’s still 16-5-1 this season. His team is notorious for its slow starts, having given up the first goal 14 times this season, with proper preparation and pre-game motivation being responsibilities that fall largely on him. And yet he’s still 16-5-1.

He seemingly refuses to give ice time to young defensemen like Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi (with the latter in the American Hockey League and the former having been scratched the last two games and likely soon to follow). And yet, despite the negative long-term ramifications to the club, in the here and now, he’s 16-5-1.

And, despite him being 16-5-1, the predictive stats, like Corsi, say the team is only holding onto the puck about (not even) 50% of the time, and is due to regress any game now. But, again, he’s 16-5-1.

From a managerial perspective, Bergevin has made a positive mark having gotten rid of unwanted players like Rene Bourque, Travis Moen, and Peter Budaj. And that’s just since the start of the year. Dating back to the offseason, he also unloaded Daniel Briere’s contract (which he admittedly signed in the first place), getting Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and a fifth-round pick back, essentially ripping off the Colorado Avalanche in the process.

While his recent moves, i.e., adding defensemen Gonchar and Bryan Allen to the roster (at the expense of Moen and Bourque respectively) have unjustifiably translated into less ice time for Beaulieu and Tinordi, the fact remains his team is still in first place.

Bergevin is in between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, his team is, yes, a league-leading 16-5-1, and, yet, he himself has admitted relatively recently that the Habs are not yet a perennial contender. Does he go for it this year? Even if all the stats say Montreal should not be where they are, at the very top of the league?

It’s a tough call to make. Overall, one cannot deny he’s done an exceptional job up to now under the circumstances. After all, his team is 16-5-1.

Overall – A-

14 thoughts on “Montreal Canadiens Are Far From Class of NHL”

  1. Very clearly the rest of the league is starting to notice the Montreal Canadians. The last decade was brutal and they’re vastly improved.

    The management and coaching staff are taking them in the right direction and they’re a team that other teams measure themselves up to whenever they have a game against them.

    These are all good things. Does this mean that they’re favourites to win the cup already? I think that they’re a work in progress and the future is bright. Bergevin is making all of the right moves and things have to take their time to gel.

    They have done impressive young stars, a good team concept and some really good up and coming prospects in the farm system. A great turn around from the previous decade and the bleak days of Mario Tremblay as coach.

    No one can predict how things will turn out but just the fact that they’re being compared to the top teams in the league by everyone in the league is a jump in the right direction.

    Are they the best? Let’s wait till the playoffs or for another few years of consistency.

    It’s a discussion that’s premature at this point and maybe a little bit unfair to put too much pressure on these guys just yet.

    I believe that they’ve proven that they’re a very good hockey team. From there to bring the best is difficult. The are a lot of good teams out there. Now they’re noticing the Canadians games in their calandres and want to beat them to prove how good they are. That must be flattering on its own shouldn’t it?

    The next couple of years will be interesting. That management staff has made it fun to watch hockey again here in Montreal and no matter what the predictions are no one will discount them as easily for the next little while.

    • I think that where most people will have an issue with this post is that the title does indicate something different than what the actual article is suggesting.

      The title suggests a fluke season without the talent to back it up but the article suggests a good team that still has room to get better.

      While I agree with many points in the article I suggest that the title is totally off the mark.

  2. It sounds like Ryan Szporer is playing Devils Advocate. Looking for reasons to pick at the team. Being a HUGE Habs fan, I am too, unfortunately. They ARE leading, numbers don’t lie, but they don’t look like a team that’s ready for the cup. They need to put the foot down and win all out instead of getting lucky.
    You have to have faith. If another team had better numbers than the Habs, they would be in the lead, but they aren’t. You gave good ‘grades’ but the overall mood was negative. Put away your resentment towards the aincent game against the Kings and show some optimism if you want to associate yourself as a fan with the Montreal Canadiens organization. :)

  3. Who is the writer for this sports colum! He obviously not habs fan. This idiot comes up with every excuse to try and pick apart the habs. Well listen son there number in the league and that ain’t by fluke. There getting scoring from all three lines right now.

    • I am the writer of this column. I am also a Habs fan, but an objective one.

      I am not an idiot. I am not your son. I am also not picking apart the Habs. I am relaying statistics which say that the Habs can be better than they have been. If you had read the entire piece, you would have seen that I gave them an A- for their season up to this point. I’m not sure if you read the entire piece or not, but, for the record, you did ask who the writer was even though my name is at the very top, so you’ll forgive me if I assume you didn’t.

      As I stated in a previous reply to a comment: “The actual numbers state the Habs will have a very hard time staying at the top of the Atlantic Division for the remainder of the season playing the way they are. Winning a division is supposed to be hard no matter what, even if you’re playing lights-out hockey. More than anything else, this piece was an argument that the Habs should be proud of their season so far, but that they’ve still got a lot of hard work to do. There’s always room for improvement.”

      About them getting scoring from every line, again, as I pointed out in the piece, they have largely turned around their scoring problems with 29 goals in their past nine games, a figure which I said was undeniably impressive. However their shots per game over those nine games hasn’t exactly deviated from their season average, which is very low, and is an indication that they won’t be able to keep it up.

      The next time you want to post a comment, please do not ask me to shut my pie hole. It will make me not want to all the more.

  4. you missing the most important factor-

    the “IT” factor

    this is the first team in many many years that has IT. They win as a team, they lose as a team, and they LAUGH as friends.
    They have that special magic that that has been missing in hockey- They are having fun playing hockey and entertaining fans!

    Clearly their superior passing and truting to pass doesn’t hurt either…

    they are recruiting new fans to the game.

    Go Habs Go

    • As a fellow Habs fan, I can definitely appreciate the support. But you just claimed a whole bunch of things that I’m pretty sure you can’t back up by facts. No one really knows how these guys behave around one another in their off time. And, they very well be helping the game catch on, but, even if you have numbers to support that claim, it doesn’t change the actual numbers which state the Habs will have a very hard time staying at the top of the Atlantic Division for the remainder of the season playing the way they are. Winning a division is supposed to be hard no matter what, even if you’re playing lights-out hockey. More than anything else, this piece was an argument that the Habs should be proud of their season so far (I did give them an “A-” overall), but that they’ve still got a lot of hard work to do. There’s always room for improvement.

  5. This coming from a site that wanted people to believe coming into this year Montreal was the #1 team most likely to NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS, from the teams that made it last year.

    Your Cred is Shot.

    Montreal is 11-3 vs teams that were in the playoff last year.
    Heck if you take out their 5 game swoon (At Edmonton, At Calgary, At Vancouver, Calgary, Chicago), they are 15-2.

    Let me say that again, outside a 5 game stretch the Montreal Canadiens are 15-2.

    Yet they are not the Class of the NHL, well then NO TEAM CAN CLAIM THAT THEN!!!

    • I have no idea about another writer on this site saying that the Habs are the most likely team to have made the playoffs last year to not make it this year. I am my own person.

      I actually predicted that Montreal would win the Atlantic Division ( Of course, I also predicted the Habs would finish with a top-five power-play unit, so take it all with a grain of salt.

      I don’t know how you can say that my credibility is shot. All I did was relay the facts and stats. To me, I still believe they will win the division. However, you can’t honestly sit there (or stand, whatever you may be doing right now by your computer reading this) and tell me that this team can continue to get by, starting off games badly. It’s not exactly conducive to winning games consistently. If you can’t admit that something needs to change in that regard, then it’s your credibility that is shot.

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