Disappointments, surprises and the battle for the playoffs.
53 games into this season and the Canadiens have settled into their usual position as a team and in the NHL standings. There have been numerous dissapointments, a couple good surprises but the fact remains the same – The Canadiens are a mediocre team struggling to barely hold onto the last playoff position in the Conference. The same position they’ve been in for several years.
Where is the progress? Can it be blamed on the players alone? The coaching? Scouting and General Management?
Let’s look at the players and some of the reasons why the Canadiens are where they are. Starting with the obvious.
- Jose Theodore – The Canadiens have been a sub-par team for quite sometime now and the only thing keeping them competitive was the strong quality goaltending they’ve got from Jose. No other time has it been more evident than this year, that if he is not playing to full potential then the team cannot compete. Goaltending is crucial for any team but especially for an offensively challenged team that scores so few goals.
- Mike Ribeiro – What happend to this guy? Last season’s leading scorer was supposed to thrive in the new NHL environment. Speeding through the neutral zone untouched to set up a goal or put one in himself. Anchoring the powerplay or a sure shot in the shootout. Ribeiro is -15. The lowest on the team. He has been brutal and a total disappointment to a team counting on him.
- Sheldon Souray – Say what you will, his personal problems, his injuries, the new rules impacting on defenseman, whatever. The bottom line is his inconsitency and inability to break through and be a top defenseman in the league. He’s been embarassing in one on one situations all year long and for the Canadiens to compete he’s got to be a consistent go-to guy.
- Richard Zednik – Another no-show. The lack of effort he displays on a nightly basis is sickening. Zednik could win an award for the way he avoids the puck or any work involved in getting it and holding on to it. What happend to the sniper? Another bush league effort from a guy needed to score.
- Alex Kovalev – The Canadiens biggest off-season signing and new savior ready to explode offensively and take the team to new heights. Not quite. The Canadiens ‘big star’ and a top paid guy on the team floating about carelessly the majority of time. Paid to score big goals and lots of them, he hasn’t. Russians don’t care? Well why does his countryman Andrei Markov show up every night.
- Radek Bonk – What can you say? A total disappointment especially considering we gave up Mathieu Garon to acquire him. Bonk’s reputation around the league is of a lazy floater and he’s done everything in Montreal to prove that it’s true. 1 goal?
- Niklas Sundstrom – Why does he even play? His offences aren’t as bad as the previous names but with the small role he has why can’t he do it? How many times do you hear his name called during a game? Not often because he doesn’t do anything, unless it’s coughing up the puck to the opposition.
- Mathieu Dandenault – Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year. When you can’t fill Patrice Brisebois shoes then there is something to be said. How many people would take Brisebois back with open arms? I would. Too bad the fans blew it for him and too bad Mathieu Dandenault is a phony. Forgive him the start of the year when he was shuffled all over and played every position but goalie and look what he’s done since. Can’t see anything? Neither can I except his 1 goal and -7 rating. Offensive Defenseman extrordinaire!
The Good News
- Cristobal Huet – No one had very high expecations of Huet coming to Montreal this year. Not many expected him to start very much either. Huet has now all but taken over the #1 goaltending spot in Montreal and is handling it extremely well. It’s early to say if he can be a full time #1 but what he’s done so far is far more than most of his teammates.
- Michael Ryder – The only consistent goal scorer Montreal has had in a long time and unfortunately the only Montreal forward that holds any trade value. People say he hogs the puck and shoots too often. On a team that never shoots and never scores he plays a simple game and gets results. Ryder has the potential to score 30-35 goals this year and he comes at a bargain price in relation to the other no shows.
- Andrei Markov – The Canadiens only real skilled defenseman. We’ve seen what happens when he’s not in the lineup – lose often. This guy has done his role and more and has run away as the Canadiens top defender.
- Craig Rivet – Probably the only guy on the team who really cares about being a Canadien. Not the best player but his effort is there every single night and he does what he is put there to do.
- Higgins, Plekanec, Perezhogin – The rookie crew has done what that’s been expected of them with the little playing time they receive. A bright note for the future as they play more and develop.
- Downey, Murray and Ivanans – Yes. The role players and tough guys just happy to have a job in the NHL and it shows. Murray and Downey will probably outscore Radek Bonk and Mathieu Dandenault by the end of the season. People scoffed when the Habs traded Marcel Hossa for Garth Murray but it’s obvious the Canadiens are considered a small and wimpy ‘euro-style’ team and just having these guys dressed and working every game like they don’t wanna go back to their roofing job is a refreshing sight.
There are players like Koivu , Bulis and Komisarek who don’t fall into either category as they go back and forth constantly. I think that’s a fair and accurate outline to why the Canadiens are where they are and why something’s gonna have to change if they hope to be a succesful team.