In case you’ve missed it, the holiday season is nigh upon us, and while I have a whole list of things I want for myself, I also have a list of things I want for my favorite team—the Montreal Canadiens.
Santa, are you paying attention?
A Puck-Moving Minute-Munching Big Bodied Defenseman
Ideally, the Habs need someone who can hit one of their forwards with a pass, split a seam or two and not get caught flat-footed. They HAD that in Andrei Markov, but he’s out for the season and I want a replacement.
PK Subban is still going through too many growth spurts to carry Markov’s load. Meanwhile Roman Hamrlik can’t get it all done by himself, continue to compensate for the erratic Jaroslav Spacek, and still be fresh for the playoffs.
A New Coach
I’ll admit I wasn’t going to include this on the list, but I just finished watching HBO’s 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic which had a nice look at Pittsburgh Penguins’ head coach, Dan Bylsma, and the contrast between him and the Habs’ Jacques Martin is harsh and unflattering to the latter.
Bylsma is approachable and positive. Martin is reserved and, at best, neutral. Bylsma is a forward thinker who engages with his players. Martin is very much old-school in his thinking, and not only does he fail to engage with his players, he tends to punish them the way a parent would a child for any infractions.
I think like everything else: The sport of hockey is evolving and changing, and sooner rather than later teams will seek out coaches more like Bylsma and less like Martin. That’s great for the sport, but right now not so good for the Habs.
I know the Habs have had a lot of rotation in their coaching staff, and that they’re just coming off their deepest playoff run in 17 years, but there’s a reason why Jacques has never helmed a Stanley Cup winner either.
The Canadiens are very good this year and a lot of that is because of Martin’s system. But not all of it is, and I think under someone like Bylsma this team would be a lot better off.
Much Better Effort and Focus
After the loss to the Colorado Avalanche Sunday night, Josh Gorges went on record as saying that the Habs didn’t play consistently for the first 40 minutes of the game. It’s not the first time one of the players has sung this particular tune after a loss, but I would dearly love it to be the last.
While on the subject of focus, I’d like to include a plug for the end of late period goals against and the constant turnovers the Habs tend to give up. They’re second in the NHL right now in terms of coughing up the puck, and if it weren’t for Carey Price and some lucky bounces they’d be in some pretty hot water right now.
Reunite the Formerly Effective Third Line
I’m not sure why Martin found it necessary to split up two lines that were working. The first was the Tomas Plekanec—Mike Cammalleri—Andrei Kostitsyn line that has only just lately been reunited and is getting back to its normal level of production.
The other was the PhD line, comprised of Jeff Halpern, Benoit Pouliot and Mathieu Darche. While Pouliot has still done well with Lars Eller, he looked more solid to me when paired with the two veterans.
When the second line anchored by Scott Gomez was having problems, it was the PhD line that stepped up and provided some timely goals. Breaking apart this trio has only reduced secondary scoring and provided no discernible benefit.
A 25th Stanley Cup
Yes, I saved my biggest request for last. I’ve been incredibly good this year. I just hope the Habs are too.