Montréal Canadiens: Giving the Team a Report Card

Joseph Trenton@@TrentonNHLCFLAnalyst IIIMay 17, 2012

Montréal Canadiens: Giving the Team a Report Card

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    The Montréal Canadiens ended a forgettable season where the team basically fell to rock bottom. This has been one of the most storied franchises in the NHL and has won the most Stanley Cups on record.

    In June, however, they will hold the third overall draft selection, and the team will be trying to right the ship back onto a winning track.

    Due to the front office turnover with Pierre Gauthier fired and Marc Bergevin hired, we will look at the Canadiens' work in 2011-12 as an entire organization instead of focusing on a specific individual or general manager.

Team Offense

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    Montréal finished tied for 20th place in goals scored in the NHL (13th in the East) in the 2011-12 regular season. That is 2.52 goals per game and 207 goals on the 82-game schedule.

    Let's compare to the Canadiens from three years ago, when Bob Gainey was still the general manager of the Montréal Canadiens:

    2008-09: 242 goals, 2.95 goals per game, 8th in the East, 13th in the NHL.

    2009-10: 210 goals, 2.56 goals per game, tied-13th in the East, tied-25th in the NHL.

    2010-11: 213 goals, 2.60 goals per game, 11th in the East, 21st in the NHL.

    Under Bob Gainey, the Canadiens were ranked in a higher position offensively than they are today in terms of goals-for. However, note that there has been a decrease in goals scored throughout the NHL over the last few years.

    Canadiens' Grade: C

Team Defense

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    The Canadiens' team defense ranked 11th in the NHL (4th in the East) in the statistical category of goals-against. On average, they gave up 2.61 goals-against per game, with 214 total goals given up on the season.

    Let's take a look at how this compares to seasons starting from 2008:

    2008-09: 240 goals against, 2.93 goals against per game, 11th in the East and 21st in the NHL.

    2009-10: 218 goals against, 2.66 goals against per game, 5th in the East and 13th in the NHL.

    2010-11: 206 goals against, 2.51 goals against per game, 5th in the East and 8th in the NHL.

    2011-12: 214 goals against, 2.61 goals against per game, 14th in the East and 11th in the NHL.

    Canadiens' Grade: B

Top-Six Forwards

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    For the most part, this is what the Canadiens' top six forwards looked like:

    Cole—Desharnais—Pacioretty

    Bourque—Plekanec—Leblanc

    (Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta are also part of the top-six, but each missed parts of the season due to injuries.)

    In summary, this group consisted of three 60-plus-point players in Max Pacioretty, Eric Cole and David Desharnais. The team had two 30-goal scorers in Pacioretty (33) and Cole (35). Although the team had no 20-goal scorers, four other players scored 15 goals or more: Desharnais (16), Plekanec (17), Eller (16), Bourque (18).

    The group of eight (including Gionta and Gomez) also scored a total of 32 power-play goals on the season.

    Canadiens' Grade: C+

Bottom-Six Forwards

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    For the most part of the season, the Canadiens bottom six forwards consisted of:

    Moen—Eller—Blunden

    Darche—Nokelainen—Staubitz

    (Extras: Palushaj, Leblanc, Geoffrion, White.)

    The bottom-six forwards need to be good at a couple of things. First, play a sound checking game, sacrificing the body to block shots, and secondly, serve a role on the penalty-killing units.

    Eller tallied 55 blocks, Darche 45 and Moen 41.

    Blunden led the bottom-six unit in 104 hits on the season.

    Moreover, the Canadiens' penalty-killing rating in 2011-12 was second in the NHL (second in the East behind New Jersey Devils) at 88.6 percent.

    Therefore, the bottom six forwards performed a marvelous job and did some things to impress the team management to keep them around for next season.

    Canadiens' Grade: A-

Defense Core: Top-Six Ds

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    The Canadiens saw quite a bit of turnover on their blue line over the last few seasons. Key departures include: Spacek, Hal Gill and Komisarek. Additions include PK Subban, Alexei Emelin, Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber.

    Let's look at what the defensemen have done this year.

    P.K. Subban led the scoring with 36 points and was a plus-nine on the year.

    Tomas Kaberle scored 31 points on offense but was minus-18 on the year.

    Yannick Weber, a puck-moving specialist, had 18 points and minus-seven on the year.

    Raphael Diaz scored 16 points but was minus-seven on the year.

    Josh Gorges scored 16 points, too, and finished with plus-16, team leader on D.

    Chris Campoli scored 11 points and finished minus-three on the year.

    Alexei Emelin scored seven points but was minus-18 on the year.

    Andrei Markov scored three points in 13 games and was minus-four on the year.

    The defense did not perform very well this past season, and part of the problem was injuries on the blue line to veteran D Andrei Markov and Chris Campoli. Only two players on defense were "plus players."

    Some changes are expected to take place between now and the beginning of next season. Marc Bergevin should be busy looking for alternatives this summer.

    Canadiens' Grade: C+

Goaltending

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    Montréal Canadiens relied on young All-Star goalie Carey Price in the 2011-12 regular season. Peter Budaj served as Price's backup, and he played in 17 regular season games.

    Here are the goalie statistics:

    Price: 65 Starts, 26 Wins, 28 Losses, 11 OT/SOL. .916 save percentage, 2.43 GAA.

    Budaj: 17 Starts, 5 Wins, 7 Losses, 5 OT/SOL. .913 save percentage, 2.55 GAA.

    Based on save percentage, the Canadiens are slightly below average at 20th with Price in goal.

    Based on goals against average, Carey Price also gave up 2.43 goals against per game, which ranked 18th overall.

    As a result, this year has been a tough year on the goalies, because of high shot totals, and questionable defensive play in front of the crease.

    Canadiens' Grade: B

Hamilton Bulldogs and Prospects

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    The Hamilton Bulldogs have had a very good crop of young prospects in the system for quite a few years. The team managed to develop some of these young prospects into NHL regulars one day.

    Prospects in the system include: Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Louis Leblanc, Andreas Engqvist and Danny Kristo.

    From the younger players playing for the AHL Bulldogs, Andreas Engqvist led the scoring with 35 points in 35 games.

    It looks like the Bulldogs are continuing to restock organizational depth and the prospects' pool. However, there remains some room for improvement in terms of developing these players into NHL players.

    Canadiens' Grade: A-

Professional and European Scouting

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    Montréal has had solid professional scouting over the last few years. From Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier's tenures, the Canadiens brought in players from overseas such as Alexei Emelin of KHL, Raphael Diaz from Swiss League, Blake Geoffrion, Mathieu Darche of McGill and David Desharnais.

    The Canadiens should continue to advance their efforts in professional scouting, because both Marc Bergevin and assistant GM Rick Dudley will have hands-on experience with this area. Good scouting could lead to adding an important piece to an organization immediately or into the future.

    Canadiens' Grade: B+

College Scouting and Recruitment

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    The Montréal Canadiens have a history of making draft selections on NCAA players that play in the college hockey system.

    Prospects such as Danny Kristo (North Dakota), Aaron Palushaj (U. of Michigan), Blake Geoffrion (U. of Wisconsin), Steve Quailer (Northeastern U.), Michael Cichy (North Dakota) and Mac Bennett (U. of Michigan) are all products of college hockey.

    These players could became important pieces to the Canadiens' organization. Therefore, some additional efforts should be emphasized on the players playing south of the border.

    Notable graduates also include Max Pacioretty of the University of Michigan. He now becomes the top-line winger and leading scorer on the Montréal Canadiens.

    Canadiens' Grade: B+

Overall Report Card for the Montréal Canadiens

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    Subject Letter Grade
     Team Offense  C
     Team Defense  B
     Top-6 Forwards  C+
     Bottom-6 Forwards  A-
     Defense Core  C+
     Goaltending  B
     Prospects  A-
     Pro/Euro Scouting  B+
     College Scouting  B+

    Key Strengths: The Canadiens have quality bottom-six forwards and an abundant prospects pool. Professional scouting is sufficient, European scouting has added to the depth and college players have made positive impacts on the team.