Canadiens at the Midpoint: Bob Gainey Evaluates the Habs

Francois GendronSenior Writer IJanuary 8, 2008

Montreal Canadiens' GM Bob Gainey met the press yesterday to discuss the performance of his team during the first half of the 2007-2008 season.

Gainey noted the Habs' improved balance from last season to this one. He also identified face-offs as the club's major weakness.

The Canadiens have managed to cope thus far, but they can't continue to win only 30 percent of their face-offs and hope to go very deep in the playoffs.

Gainey expressed a desire to find a solution inside the organization, but did not reject the option of making a trade. That statement was effectively a warning to centers like Maxim Lapierre, Bryan Smolinski, and Kyle Chipchura.

Gainey proceeded to briefly touch upon the better discipline of his players.

''We are now spending less time playing four-on-five this season," he said, "and it only can benefit the team on the long run.''

About coach Guy Carbonneau, he had this to say:

''I see that Guy is a lot more comfortable behind the bench. He is making better decisions and the players are responding well to his leadership this season.''

Carbonneau, to his credit, has done a great job of splitting the starts between goaltenders Cristobal Huet and Carey Price. He's also been able to adjust in the face of adversity—when Carbonneau saw flaws with his team, he didn't hesitate to bring in young talent from Hamilton and juggle his offensive lines.

The Habs' mediocre record at the Bell Centre was also a topic in this press conference, but Gainey said that he preferred that his team struggle at home instead of struggling on the road.

"This problem is easier to solve at home than on the road," he said.

The general youth movement in Montreal is worth nothing. First, Price was kept with the team and given his first NHL experience. Then defenseman Ryan O'Byrne filled a regular spot as soon as he was brought up. Chipchura, Lapierre, and Sergei Kostitsyn have also all established themselves in the regular rotation.

Look for these young players to continue to improve through the second half of the season.

The Habs attack that second half tonight at the Bell Centre, where they host the Chicago Blackhawks. The objective is clear:

Qualify for the playoffs.

(Picture: Bob Gainey, Canadian Press)