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Are we seeing a trend or is this just a temporary problem?


REV-G
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Ok, it's still early, but maybe it is time to at least ask a few questions, put a few things on the table. To begin with, so what exactly are we seeing here? There seems to be two options. Either this is a bad team that is going to struggle all year, or things just haven't come together yet but it's only a matter of time before things begin to turn around.

Personally I think it's the second option. I think we do have a good team but with the injuries, new coaches and players plus maybe playing a lot of rookies and keeping quite a few extra players around in the preseason, we haven't had any time to come together as a team. Losing 3 of 7 starting defencemen to injury and having to go with first year defencemen is certainly going to hurt over having the veteran defencemen we thought we were going to start the season with. One blogger also pointed out that we have outshot most of the teams we've played and it's only a matter of time before we start putting some pucks in the net. And once Markov and our other two injured defenceman return, and our injured forwards are back this team will begin to move and score and we'll be ok. I think we all hope that's the case.

However if it's the first option and what we're seeing right now is what we're going to see all year, then here are some of the options that might be what's causing the problem.

I wouldn't blame Gauthier at this point. He and Gainey put together a team that came very close last year to doing some real damage in the playoffs. I think we were all proud of them. I don't think he could or should have dismantled the team this summer. But there are questions about letting go some of the players he did. But hindsight also has 20/20 vision!

Coaching: If the team continues to struggle a valid question may be our coaching. Is it time for a change. Is the system that seems to have worked for the past few seasons, when the players followed it, no longer working in today's NHL? Does Kirk Muller leaving have that big of an impact? But from what I've read, the players are listening to, have a lot of respect for, and really like the new assistant coaches. So for me, it's way to early to be able to answer some of those questions about coaching. More time is needed to decide if any of these positions are the issues.

Have we suddenly gotten old as a team in regards to our top 6 forwards? The Scott Gomez question will be around as long as Scott doesn't turn things around and really begin to produce. But at this point in the season is there any way to get a better replacement?

There's lots more we could say but that's probably enough for now. So what do you think? Is it still too early or is the writting beginning to appear on the wall??

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I hope it's temporary. As for Gomez, I know a lot of people won't agree with me, but I actually believe that he did play better than last year. Of course, the results weren't there, but I would say that his wingers (particularly Gionta) were the ones to blame in many occasions. He created many opportunities, but nobody was able to capitalize.

It's the problem with the team right now, I believe. I don't know why, but the confidence level is very low among our best players. They don't seem to be able to find good spots from which to shoot on the ice. When they have opportunities, they miss, sometimes badly. Nobody seem to recall that it often pays off to remain in front of the goalie, to obstruct his view or deflect a puck. We rarely see more than one shot on goal, so the goalie is rarely taken out of position...

Let's face it: there are big disappointments in the roster, and Gomez might not be the biggest. What about Plekanec, Desharnais (invisible and very weak on the face-offs), Cole (not the hardest worker out there so far), Cammalleri (slow to take off), Gorges and Subban (completely lost in some games).

Fortunately, there are some positives. Guys like Emelin, Diaz and Weber have done well considering the challenge. Eller is back in superb form, Max Pax as well. Price has had his problems, but he is gaining confidence and remains calm.

Having said all that, I believe that we need to come back to the basics. At some point, we should get some lucky bounces and -- who knows? -- maybe the momentum will change. For now, it's a work in progress.

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There is not too much question in my mind that this team, fully healthy and buying into the coach's system, is a good team that can do damage. It has proven this consistently over two playoffs.

Gauthier chose to take certain risks. He gambled that Markov could come back sooner rather than later and be effective. Worse, he unwisely decided against re-signing Hamrlik, gambling that Gorges + some pickup (ultimately Campoli) could make good the gap. I'm adamant that you need a LOT of quality depth on defence to survive in this league, and I would have re-signed Hammer *and* seen about bringing a Campoli aboard (just as I wanted us to at least try to re-sign Wiz). Events in the short term seem to have proven me correct about this, unfortunately. So PG's gambles have come up two cards short of a flush and I believe this to be the fundamental problem. It's a problem that may or may not correct itself given time - but do we have time?

The debate seems to be polarized in just the way Rev-G formulates it. "If we're a good team, we should chill out and give the team time to find itself; if we're a bad team, then we should hit 'RESET.'" I fall between these two positions. If you fall far enough behind the playoff pack, even this early in the season, you face a nearly-impossible task in clawing your way back. 'Good team' on paper or not, then, some sort of bold action may be required in order to give the team some hope of staying viable until we get Markov and Campoli back in the roster *and* playing well. (Even the mighty Markov will likely struggle for a while after two years' layoff - keep that in mind). If we fall 6, 8, 10 points back, something has to give, whether or not it's warranted 'in theory.'

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There is not too much question in my mind that this team, fully healthy and buying into the coach's system, is a good team that can do damage. It has proven this consistently over two playoffs.

Gauthier chose to take certain risks. He gambled that Markov could come back sooner rather than later and be effective. Worse, he unwisely decided against re-signing Hamrlik, gambling that Gorges + some pickup (ultimately Campoli) could make good the gap. I'm adamant that you need a LOT of quality depth on defence to survive in this league, and I would have re-signed Hammer *and* seen about bringing a Campoli aboard (just as I wanted us to at least try to re-sign Wiz).

some sort of bold action may be required in order to give the team some hope of staying viable until we get Markov and Campoli back in the roster *and* playing well. (Even the mighty Markov will likely struggle for a while after two years' layoff - keep that in mind). If we fall 6, 8, 10 points back, something has to give, whether or not it's warranted 'in theory.'

I agree with most of this. And I agreed with you last year when you called for the Wiz to be kept in addition to Markov. But I later recanted, realizing that Markov, Gorges and the Wiz was one risky knee too many, and that the Habs would have been closing the door on their young defensmen. Let us recall that if fully healthy, we'd have started this season with:

Markov-Gorges

Gill-Subban

Spac-Weber

Emelin

Diaz

How do we keep Hammer or Wiz and leave room for one of Weber, Emelin or Diaz to earn a full-time spot?

PG added Campoli when it was clear that Markov wouldn't start the season. Then Spac went down, and all the sudden we have 2 rookies and 2 sophmores in the top 6. I don't doubt that that was a risk that was foreseen and discussed as a possibility..

Maybe we should have signed Hammer and been happy to Subban making the leap and Emelin signing and traded Weber for picks or in a package, instead of taking the risk of having 4 relatively inexperienced d-men on the backend all at once. Maybe.

Sure, they are learning the hard way, and I do like trial by fire, but I think it's proving too much to handle in combination with a little bit of scoring trouble in some games, and Price not standing on his head to make up for defensive mediocrity.

All that said, I still think the Habs are the best up front they have been in over a decade and that Price is the real deal. The only move I can imagine PG making if this continues a few more games is a package including future-UFA AK46 + Weber + ? for a top pair defensman. But who makes that deal this early in the season? I can't see it.

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Don't forget the salary cap issue. I mean, Hamrlik wanted a two-year contract, but we already knew that Subban and Price would have to be signed for multi-year contracts at the end of the season. It's easy to be armchairs GM, but quite another thing to do the job for real.

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Don't forget the salary cap issue. I mean, Hamrlik wanted a two-year contract, but we already knew that Subban and Price would have to be signed for multi-year contracts at the end of the season. It's easy to be armchairs GM, but quite another thing to do the job for real.

space could have been made for Hammer's $3M (i'd wager he'd have taken that to stay in Mtl) if it was prioritized. over a possible extension for AK, for example. also, it might have provided additional motivation to the young guns, knowing that resources were scarce and they needed to fight for their piece of the pie.

i'm not saying this was the path i advocated for. i agreed with PG's decisions. but maybe he/i/we was/were wrong...

with Spac leaving the only thing that would have made the move impossible would have been a CBA-driven cut to the cap.

Edited by patience is a virtue
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I agree with most of this. And I agreed with you last year when you called for the Wiz to be kept in addition to Markov. But I later recanted, realizing that Markov, Gorges and the Wiz was one risky knee too many, and that the Habs would have been closing the door on their young defensmen. Let us recall that if fully healthy, we'd have started this season with:

Markov-Gorges

Gill-Subban

Spac-Weber

Emelin

Diaz

How do we keep Hammer or Wiz and leave room for one of Weber, Emelin or Diaz to earn a full-time spot?

PG added Campoli when it was clear that Markov wouldn't start the season. Then Spac went down, and all the sudden we have 2 rookies and 2 sophmores in the top 6. I don't doubt that that was a risk that was foreseen and discussed as a possibility..

Maybe we should have signed Hammer and been happy to Subban making the leap and Emelin signing and traded Weber for picks or in a package, instead of taking the risk of having 4 relatively inexperienced d-men on the backend all at once. Maybe.

Sure, they are learning the hard way, and I do like trial by fire, but I think it's proving too much to handle in combination with a little bit of scoring trouble in some games, and Price not standing on his head to make up for defensive mediocrity.

All that said, I still think the Habs are the best up front they have been in over a decade and that Price is the real deal. The only move I can imagine PG making if this continues a few more games is a package including future-UFA AK46 + Weber + ? for a top pair defensman. But who makes that deal this early in the season? I can't see it.

Patience, you make a good case. Still, my view would be that you plan for Spacek to be your 7th defenceman. So: keep Hammer (assuming that Wiz was un-signable), and then challenge Weber/Emelin to outplay Spacek and duke it out for the last spot. Remember that injuries are inevitable, so young guys will get their opportunity as we roll along. (My own preference would in fact be to have kept Hammer AND signed Campoli, but I suppose if you truly feel that Emelin and/or Weber and/or Diaz are ready, you do need to leave a slot open).

As for Hammer and the cap, I have just trouble believing that 3.5 on the cap next season will prevent us from being able to re-sign Subban and Price. The cap always seems to rise, guys are always coming off the cap (c.f. Spacek, gonzo after this season), and you can always make roster space if you have to. As a rule, being too cautious with the cap is foolhardy; the good teams (e.g., Boston, Chicago, Vancouver, Philly) generally sign the players they want and sort out the cap implications later.

Anyhow: the real question is how far behind we can go before something has to blow up. Hopefully we can forestall an answer with a couple of wins this week.

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Still, my view would be that you plan for Spacek to be your 7th defenceman.

Anyhow: the real question is how far behind we can go before something has to blow up. Hopefully we can forestall an answer with a couple of wins this week.

Yes, that would have been ideal, however, at the risk of sounding like I am contradicting myself, resigning Hammer would have meant prioritizing him over the young forwards (AK, Eller, DD - PK and Price's priority status not being in question). Right now, that looks like it might have been the right choice, presuming Hammer would have been a difference maker these past few games, but I think we should wait a couple more weeks to make that 20-20 judgment call.

I will bow down to your foresight if this doesn't turn itself around in short order.

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I hope it's temporary. As for Gomez, I know a lot of people won't agree with me, but I actually believe that he did play better than last year. Of course, the results weren't there, but I would say that his wingers (particularly Gionta) were the ones to blame in many occasions. He created many opportunities, but nobody was able to capitalize.

I agree 100% with that. I was one of gomez's biggest detractors last season, but this season he was playing better. The results weren't there but as you say, his wingers weren't playing well. It was also a small sample size.

It's the problem with the team right now, I believe. I don't know why, but the confidence level is very low among our best players. They don't seem to be able to find good spots from which to shoot on the ice. When they have opportunities, they miss, sometimes badly. Nobody seem to recall that it often pays off to remain in front of the goalie, to obstruct his view or deflect a puck. We rarely see more than one shot on goal, so the goalie is rarely taken out of position...

Confidence is a huge issue. One win and I think this team will turn things around. They need to find a way to get that one win though.

Let's face it: there are big disappointments in the roster, and Gomez might not be the biggest. What about Plekanec, Desharnais (invisible and very weak on the face-offs), Cole (not the hardest worker out there so far), Cammalleri (slow to take off), Gorges and Subban (completely lost in some games).

Agreed... not on here, but on Twitter and on other boards the fans are victims of group think. Most of our players never get called out, but every loss the fingers are pointed at Martin, as well as at Gomez and Spacek ( if healthy). Heck some were complaining that Gomez was the reason we lost to the Pens, when he played all of 2:00 and when he left the game injured the score was 0-0. Its mob mentaility on these guys.

Fortunately, there are some positives. Guys like Emelin, Diaz and Weber have done well considering the challenge. Eller is back in superb form, Max Pax as well. Price has had his problems, but he is gaining confidence and remains calm.

Having said all that, I believe that we need to come back to the basics. At some point, we should get some lucky bounces and -- who knows? -- maybe the momentum will change. For now, it's a work in progress.

I think thats just it... keep working hard, and one of these days a bounce will go our way and we'll be off to a winning streak.

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Yes, that would have been ideal, however, at the risk of sounding like I am contradicting myself, resigning Hammer would have meant prioritizing him over the young forwards (AK, Eller, DD - PK and Price's priority status not being in question). Right now, that looks like it might have been the right choice, presuming Hammer would have been a difference maker these past few games, but I think we should wait a couple more weeks to make that 20-20 judgment call.

I will bow down to your foresight if this doesn't turn itself around in short order.

To play devil's advocate... Campoli never would have been signed if Hamrlik was.

Campoli caught a rut in the ice and got injured. If Hammer is playing instead of Campoli... it may be him injured, or it may not.

The point is that the injury to Campoli was unforseeable by management, and we don't know that Hamrlik would have stayed healthy if here. Campoli is a lot younger than Hammer and has little history of significant injuries, so its not like we were grabbing Sami Salo.

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To play devil's advocate... Campoli never would have been signed if Hamrlik was.

Campoli caught a rut in the ice and got injured. If Hammer is playing instead of Campoli... it may be him injured, or it may not.

The point is that the injury to Campoli was unforseeable by management, and we don't know that Hamrlik would have stayed healthy if here. Campoli is a lot younger than Hammer and has little history of significant injuries, so its not like we were grabbing Sami Salo.

that's all fine, but we weren't talking about signing Campoli and Hamrlik (or the Wiz). Just Hammer. Sure, he might have been injured just like Campoli, but you can't bet on that. Regardless of his youth, Campoli is no Hamrlik. Not even close.

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At his age, at what point is Hamrlik, no longer Hamrlik. While still better than Campoli, there is no doubt he's regressed from when we first signed him.

True. Good question. He seems to be doing fine in Wash. I'm not sure what his shelf-life is, only that he was our best all around dman for the last 2 seasons while Markov was mostly injured, eclipsed for moments by PK, but only for moments. He was rock.

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True. Good question. He seems to be doing fine in Wash. I'm not sure what his shelf-life is, only that he was our best all around dman for the last 2 seasons while Markov was mostly injured, eclipsed for moments by PK, but only for moments. He was rock.

I agree with that.

My point was only that Hamrlik wanted a two year deal, and would not accept the one year deal. Its would be a 35+ contract as well, and the flexibility in moving it off the cap if he seriously regresses, is nil. You can't even send him to the minors. With all the other guys needing contracts or replacements next year. Campoli is far less of a risk in this sense.

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I'd rather have signed Hamrlik to 2 years at $3.5m than Gill at 1 year, $2.2m.

This is what I was thinking too. I think the only reason Gill was signed was to mentor the young defensemen. His PK presence is great and he has his moments, but I still say Hammer was a very important player to this team

for two years that Markov was injured. I wanted Hammer signed and Gill gone. The good thing about this skid, and if it continues is that some hard choices might be made. Gomez to the minors or traded next year. High selection in a deep draft. Maybe even an English speaking coach. I don't believe this will last, but if Markov does not return to form until late November, it may be too late to recover. I don't think this will happen though.

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The good thing about this skid, and if it continues is that some hard choices might be made. Gomez to the minors or traded next year. High selection in a deep draft. Maybe even an English speaking coach.

The fact that Gomez has gotten 'a bit' better this year really isn't enough considering how he's been for two years now. I understood a couple of years ago when he was sucking that we couldn't send him down because we were afraid of whether it would impact other vets to come play in Montreal, but now it's become something fairly normal to send underperforming vets that are overpaid to the minors (Redden, Souray, etc)... I really do believe we wouldn't be having the other salary cap discussions if we had Gomez's salary off our books. I would love to see him traded, but since that won't happen, sending him to the minors would be just fine.

And the reason people rag on him and not on Plex, or whoever else, is how LONG he's been sucking, and it's been LONG!

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Gomez was perfectly fine in his first year with us - 20th overall in the NHL in assists, which is acceptable production from a playmaker. If you're going to slag the guy (which is perfectly justifiable) at least be fair. He has had ONE cataclysmically bad season, not two.

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Gomez was perfectly fine in his first year with us - 20th overall in the NHL in assists, which is acceptable production from a playmaker. If you're going to slag the guy (which is perfectly justifiable) at least be fair. He has had ONE cataclysmically bad season, not two.

He also had one good preseason, let's not forget

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I think it is fair to say that this is a good team that is just struggling. Obviously injuries to 3 of the top 6 defensemen would be crushing to any team, plus missing Cammy and Gomez a couple games doesn't help. But the reality is that injuries are always going to happen and the team has to adjust accordingly. I think that Emelin, Diaz and Weber have done a great job for where they are at in their careers.

There are some interesting stats thus far that warrant some discussion. The Habs have lost 5 games in regulation and in those game have scored only 4 goals total. Hard to pin those losses on the defense or goalie. In the 3 games that they got points from, they scored 14 goals. So a person could make the assumption that a more wide open game would favor this team. Their once mighty powerplay is a dreadful 29th in the league while their usually tough shutdown penalty kill is 20th. The way this team would usually win games is to play scoreless hockey 5 on 5 and win with special teams. Well since their special teams are in the crapper, you see what the results are. The Habs are third in the league in shots. Personally, I think this stat in general is way overrated. Darche dump-ins at the goalie are hardly indicative of how a game should be viewed. Too much perimeter play results in low quality scoring chances, period.

I hate to add to the "fire Martin" trend, but everything I pointed out in the previous paragraph is directly linked to the coach. From day 1, I never liked the playing style that this particular Canadien team had to adapt. I am a firm believer in coaching what you have to work with and not just implementing a system for them to follow. This team is built with speed and skill throughout the lineup. What's the point of having that if you are going to just chip it out of your own zone or dump it in at the blue line? I've never seen a team voluntarily give up possession of the puck so much in my life. And with said speed, it should be used to pressure the other team and cause turnovers while continuously moving their feet. I absolutely hate it when they are standing still in their own zone, waving their stick in passing lanes. GO GET THE PUCK!!!

Although I've never liked Martin for this team, I was happy with the results the last two years. There is no way to know if we would have done better or worse without him. The same can be said if he is to be fired but it is getting to the point that there is nothing to lose by trying it. I often fantasize about what it would be like to watch these Canadiens turned loose and to play instinctively rather than in a constricting way. You can actually tell sometimes when a player has the puck and wants to do something with it but then a voice in his head tells him to dump it in and change. I am sick and tired of watching boring games. It is more bearable if it produces a win, but when it doesn't, talk about a frustrating snooze fest. The other night I was watching the frigging Leafs game and flicking over to the Habs occasionally.....this is getting out of control.

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Except the Habs are getting more quality scoring chances than their opponents. There are people who track good scoring chances, and while in a given game the scoring chances and shot totals can vary greatly, generally over time more shots = more chances. And the Habs are getting more chances than their opponents for the season.

Last night the Habs had 20 scoring chances, 13 at even strength. They gave up 12, 7 at even strength. So it was 13-7 at evens, 7-5 on special teams. And they lost 2-1.

The team even has a league average shooting percentage. Opponents are scoring more on fewer chances than the Habs. It's incredibly frustrating. And it's not like Price (or Budaj last night) has given up a ton of softies. We aren't getting those 'seeing eye' goals. We aren't getting the goal to put us up by 2. We aren't getting the goal that deflects off the opposing D's stick or skate and in or right to our open man for the tap in. Every close call, video review, has gone against us.

You are right that this is a good team struggling. It's a good team playing generally good hockey that can't catch a break. They earn 1 goal for every 2 that they work for. And the give up goals on the slightest of errors.

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If we're still sitting at .250 when we get to 15 games played, i'll be worried... real worried.

For now, i'm reasonably sure this is statistical quirk. The habs aren't playing great but they aren't playing horribly either. I think the law of averages will kick in and the Habs will win games in good time.

The real danger is if the losing continues, despite reasonably good play, then the players will get discouraged/demotivated and then they'll play bad, real bad, and lose games even more.

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