Montreal Canadiens: 8 Reasons They Were so Terrible This Season
The numbers don’t lie.
The Montreal Canadiens finished dead last in the NHL’s Eastern Conference this year, with a total of 78 points. That’s 31 wins, 35 losses and 16 overtime/shootout losses. They finished just one point behind the New York Islanders, who have been in the basement for years.
Now it’s Montreal’s turn to be the basement-dweller.
However, everything isn’t all bad. There were a few bright spots in the Habs’ season. Erik Cole scored 35 goals and Max Pacioretty netted 33. Pacioretty had a great bounce-back year after recovering from a neck/head injury he suffered after being hit by Boston Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara last year. David Desharnais, the centreman between Cole and Pacioretty, has also been solid. He lead the Canadiens in assists with 44 and finished with 60 points in his first full NHL season. This top-line was great and is going to remain intact when next season rolls around.
The goaltending numbers are average. Carey Price was very good at points throughout the season, but he had no help in front of him. He finished with a goals-against average of 2.43 and a save percentage of .916. Price will be back next year and he is the key to their success in years to come. The Canadiens are also going to get the third overall pick in the NHL entry draft this June.
So not everything has been negative for the Montreal Canadiens.
But let’s face it. The Montreal Canadiens were terrible this year.
There are no excuses, there are just reasons. And here are eight of them:
Losing 12 Games in a Shootout and Four in Overtime
Just another shootout loss
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If the Canadiens were able to win these games and get the extra point, their season might have been drastically different.
But the Habs continued to lose in extra time and shootouts, winning only six of those games all year, while losing 16.
The team doesn’t have a solid shootout specialist and it showed. These 12 games lost could have been a big difference-maker this year.
Losing 26 Games by One Goal
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If the Habs could have won even half of these games, they would have finished a lot higher.
There were many examples of the Habs blowing one and two goal leads late in the game and that is simply not acceptable if a team wants to make the playoffs.
Andrei Markov’s Injury
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Andrei Markov is arguably the Canadien’s best defenseman. When he plays.
Markov appeared in 13 games with the Habs this year after recovering from right knee surgery. If a team wants to be more successful, it helps to have a $5.75-million defenseman in the lineup each night.
Last season, Markov played only seven games and the year prior, 45 games. His last full season was in 2008/09, when he played 78 games.
If the Canadiens want to have success next year, they need $5.75-million on the blue line to be playing. Not having Markov in the lineup was a big factor in where the team finished.
Brian Gionta’s Injury
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On Jan. 11, Brian Gionta was put on the injured reserve as he had surgery to repair a torn right bicep. The Hab’s captain missed the rest of the regular season and the team missed his leadership on the ice.
Gionta, all 5’7" of him, usually plays a lot bigger and that is motivating for a team. That, and his vocal leadership abilities, is what got him the role of captain for the Habs.
Not having a captain like Gionta on the ice every night was definitely something that hurt the Habs’ chances of winning games.
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
It’s been said a million times. The Habs' highest-paid player was arguably their worst player.
This is definitely a reason the team was terrible. Gomez, who made $7.5 million this year, finished with 11 points in 38 games.
If the Habs wanted to finish better this season, that money should have been put to better use.
No Depth Scoring
This was rare
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Aside from the first line of Cole, Desharnais and Pacioretty, the Habs scoring punch was lacking.
Tomas Plekanec, who used to be the Habs' top centreman, had an average year with 52 points and Lars Eller, an up-and-coming forward, potted 16 goals. Other than those two guys, secondary scoring was hard to come by.
The Habs were shut out eight times this year, the second most in the NHL.
Successful teams have scoring depth. Third and fourth-line players are contributing in the corners and on the score sheet.
Players like Mathieu Darche (five goals), Petteri Nokelainen (three goals) and Travis Moen (nine goals) are not effective as depth scorers, yet they need to be if the Habs want to be successful.
Issues will be addressed this off-season and secondary scoring is definitely one of them.
Pierre Gauthier's Mismanagement
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The Pierre Gauthier fiasco is something widely talked about this season in La Belle Province.
Now that Gauthier is gone, talking about his mismanagement would just be beating a dead horse. The team did the right thing to let Gauthier go, as well as notify interim-coach Randy Cunneyworth that he would not be back this year.
Gauthier made some very poor decisions while he was in power, so hopefully the next general manager can help pick up the pieces and put them together into something that resembles a Habs team that so many fans are hoping for.
Losing Kirk Muller
Kirk Muller (left) and Jacques Martin behind the Canadiens' bench
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Kirk Muller was a great assistant coach and was poised to be the Habs’ next head coach. But he wasn’t given the opportunity in Montreal and he decided to search elsewhere for it.
Instead of bringing in Jacques Martin for another kick at the can, the Canadiens should have given a young up-and-coming coach a chance.
What could have been, we will never know.
But now we know what wasn’t.
Follow Taylor Shire on Twitter: @TaylorShire