The Montreal Canadiens fell apart faster than a used car.
After losing to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, in overtime of Game 7 of the first round of playoffs last year, the Habs were left disappointed.
But not so disappointed that their whole team should crumble. Almost blow up. They could barely scrape together wins at the start of the year and now they sit dead last in the Eastern Conference in March.
This is not the team that just about beat the Stanley Cup Champions in seven games before they were even the Stanley Cup Champions. However, the makeup of the team is almost the same. During the offseason, they only lost Roman Hamrlik, Benoit Pouliot, James Wisniewski and Jeff Halpern. They gained Raphael Diaz, Alexei Emelin and Chris Campoli.
The roster is not too different than last year. But what’s different is the mentality and the execution. After the loss to the Bruins, the Habs had a long offseason.
Well, this year, it’s going to be a lot longer.
Here are four signs the Habs are disintegrating before our eyes.
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The Habs own some of the most disappointing contracts in the league.
Scott Gomez is making $7.5 million a year and he has 11 points. Brian Gionta is making $5 million and has 15 points. Tomas Kaberle is making $4.25 million and is minus-19 this season. This money could be put to better use. Management isn’t doing its job to the best of its ability.
On most other teams, $12.5 million accounts for their entire first line. The Vancouver Canucks' twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, make a combined $12.2 million. They have a combined 130 points.
It might seem like it’s easier to play in a more relaxed hockey city.
It’s no secret that there is an added pressure playing in Montreal. The fans are relentless and so is the media. Is this added pressure causing players to under-perform? Is playing in Montreal all it is hyped up to be? Players can’t go anywhere without being noticed and if they are losing, they will possibly get ridiculed.
Maybe these players would rather play in a market like Florida, where the pressure is almost non-existent. It seems like when players leave Montreal, they thrive. Look at Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Ribeiro and Chris Higgins.
Since the 2000 NHL entry draft, the Canadiens have drafted 92 players. Only eight of those players are still with the team. And from that list of 92, 21 of those players have played more than 100 NHL games for the Canadiens and other teams across the league.
Those numbers are decent compared to other teams in the league, but the Canadiens can’t seem to draft a player in the mid-rounds who turns out to be a superstar.
In the 2002 draft, the Habs took defenseman Tomas Linhart just ahead of Duncan Keith. In 2003, they selected Andrei Kostitsyn just ahead of Jeff Carter, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards, Corey Perry and Shea Weber. In 2006, they selected David Fischer ahead of Claude Giroux and, later, Ben Maxwell one pick before Milan Lucic.
The scouting across North America needs to improve if the Habs want to have more depth. And then they just might land that superstar.
In previous seasons, the Habs’ power play has been near the top of the league.
This year, the team sits 26th overall in the NHL, having a 15.3 percent success rate on the power play, tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their power play struggled at the start of the year, so they brought in Tomas Kaberle to try and improve it. That didn’t help. P.K. Subban possesses a deadly one-timer shot from the point. He is the closest thing the Habs have to a stable power-play quarterback.
They are missing Andrei Markov. He’s back now, so that should help the Habs’ cause. But it’s too late for this year.
When the Habs' power play was operating near the top of the NHL rankings, they were sitting pretty in a playoff position. Now, their power play ranks near the bottom and they are in last place.
Coincidence? I think not.