The Montreal Canadiens Need To Get Credit for Being as Bad as They Are

Scott WeldonCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2010

NEW YORK - JANUARY 17:  Sean Avery #16 of the New York Rangers attempts to score against Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Montreal Canadiens asw Josh Gorges #26 defends during their game on January 17, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens have a record of 23-23-4. They have 50 points and are 10th in the Eastern Conference, a mere two points out of the playoffs.

All this might leave you thinking this is a moderately good .500 team that just needs to improve slightly to be a legitimate playoff team. When you look at the numbers a little closer, however, it becomes readily apparent how horrible a team this actually is. 

The record is the first thing that falls apart under examination. A .500 record doesn't sit well historically for a Canadiens team anyway. When you look at how Montreal has compiled that record, it just gets worse.

Les Habitants have managed 12 wins in regulation this year. Only Carolina, with 10, has managed fewer.

The Canadiens are tied for second worst team in regulation with the Islanders and the Oilers, who have also only managed 12 wins in the first 60 minutes. The next worse teams all have three more victories in regulation then Montreal.

Canadiens fans have been insulated from their team's ineptitude by their ability to perform well at four-on-four hockey and by their skill (luck?) in the shootout.

Before a point was given out for success at these activities, the Canadiens would have had a record of 12-23-15 for 39 points and a .390 win percentage, which are both terrible numbers. Not mediocre, not average, but terrible.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, by comparison, would have a 16-24-10 record for 42 points. That's a .420 win percentage. No great shakes, but three points better then Montreal. Rather then fighting for a playoff spot, Montreal would be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in position for a good lottery pick.  

When you look at the teams that they've beaten in regulation, the picture gets worse. So far they've managed to beat Florida twice, the Islanders twice, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Columbus, Carolina, Washington, Phoenix, Boston, and Dallas.

It's not a "who's who" of the powers of the league. They've played four games with Toronto and haven't managed a win in regulation yet.    

The Canadiens have had trouble scoring goals all year. Their 128 goals for leaves them tied with Edmonton for the seventh-worst total in the league.

The power play has been rejuvenated since the acquisition of Marc Andre Bergeron and the return of Andrei Markov. That at least seems to be a good thing, unless you look closer.

The power play is clipping along at the second best rate in the league, 24.5 percent just behind Washington. Unfortunately, one of the reasons the power play efficiency was able to improve so quickly is that Montreal has the fewest power play opportunities in the league. Their 151 opportunities is a league worst by 21. 

Theoretically, the smaller and faster Canadiens should be drawing many more power plays. At least one would think.

Apparently, though, teams don't seem to need to take penalties to stop the Canadiens five on five. The 209 times the Habs have been shorthanded is also the most in the league. 

Throw in the fact that the Canadiens are the fifth-worst scoring team at even strength, and it just gets uglier. The Habs have scored 11 fewer goals then they've given up. They're giving up the seventh-most shots on goal in the league. This is a bad hockey team.

They deserve to be 13th or 14th in the East. Their overtime/shootout skills have not only concealed their incompetence from their fans, but it's also screwed up their lottery pick chances.

There are players on this Montreal team I like. The addition of a Taylor Hall or a Tyler Seguin can only help the team. Another year of so-so drafting in the middle of the pack leaves them where they are now, a bad team fighting for scraps in the eight to 11th spot in the East.

So it's time for the coach to start trotting out Hal Gill and Georges Laraque for shootouts. Maybe one of those experimental four-forward combos for overtime is needed.

The Montreal Canadiens need to start losing and losing badly to fulfill their destiny as the very bad NHL team they are and get the top-five draft pick they need to start the rebuilding process.