Montreal’s 2011 playoff run was short and a downgrade from last season’s Conference Finals run. Their management staff will probably be looking to improve the team in terms of their skill and ability to go farther in the playoffs.
One area which should also be heavily considered is their lack of a sufficient enforcer.
Ironically, Montreal has actually been home to two of the game’s greatest fighters of the past 20 years. Donald Brashear spent his first seasons there, while Georges Laraque ended his career there.
However, since Montreal let Laraque go, they have been stubborn and negligent when it comes to carrying a player who can fill his role.
This past season, several events occurred which made that vacancy unbearably obvious.
Here are the top five reasons why Montreal has no excuse but to acquire a legitimate heavyweight enforcer during the summer of 2011.
Francis Lessard, a heavyweight fighter called up to replace the injured Matt Carkner, took a run at Tom Pyatt, shoving him into the boards from behind.
Lessard received a major penalty and game misconduct for the play.
What's the big deal? He did something against the rules and Montreal went on the power play. How is that bad for the Canadiens?
The problem with letting the rulebook do a team's fighting is that it doesn't stop the players from being hurt, and it doesn't prevent players from doing this again in the future.
No player wants to be playing a game in which he constantly has to worry about getting hit hard, but without an enforcer, that's exactly what a team will play like.
It seems that anyone can do whatever they want to the Canadiens, because they know there will be no response.
Watch the first replay of the hit around 0:44 of the video. Spacek had his back to Lucic the entire time and never saw him coming.
Knowing his opponent had no way to defend against the hit from behind, Lucic rammed into Spacek hard from behind, causing Spacek to go face-first into the boards and lay on the ice for more than a minute.
Not one Canadien player even approached Lucic after the hit, because not one of them would be able to do anything to deter Lucic from his ways.
In their second-to-last game of the season, the Canadiens continued a trend of being pushed around they had followed all year long.
During a game on November 16, 2010 the Flyers went into Montreal and did whatever they wanted to. On a team with Jody Shelley, Dan Carcillo and Sean O'Donnell, Darroll Powe was far from being the toughest player in the lineup.
However, the Canadiens proved they couldn't even handle a man who had fought just seven times in the NHL at that point.
A player no longer on Montreal, Maxim Lapierre, attempted to make Powe respond for his questionable hits. Unfortunately, Lapierre forgot that in order to win a fight, you need to throw punches. Powe pounded away on Lapierre until the linesman saved him from the beating.
In one of the few responses Montreal actually attempted, they were further embarrassed by a poor fight effort.
Late in this wild game that included many scrums, two goalies dropping the gloves and a fight between Ben Pouliot and David Krejci, the Bruins put capable fighters Shawn Thornton, Greg Campbell, Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference on the ice.
After Montreal's toughest player, Travis Moen, did okay in a fight with Andrew Ference, the action really erupted as three more fights commenced.
Boychuk punched Jaroslav Spacek numerous times, eventually dropping him with one. Greg Campbell pounded away on Tom Pyatt until the bloody Pyatt was saved by a linesman.
While these two fights were occurring, Montreal's Roman Hamrlik needed help from multiple referees in order to be saved from a beating at the hands of Shawn Thornton, who was swinging away at the cowering Canadien.
Finally, later in this game, Boston's Adam McQuaid was ready to fight Max Pacioretty, but the referees intervened and saved the Canadien from yet another beat-down.
Even though some of Montreal's players were saved by the referees (in addition to some mercy from the Bruins who were pounding away at them), there were multiple beatings this night, and not one Canadien has made the Bruins pay since.
In a game between the Bruins and Canadiens on March 8, 2011, Zdeno Chara intentionally drove Max Pacioretty's head into a glass partition, causing a concussion and broken vertebrae.
There should be no doubt that this was done on purpose when you consider all of the following circumstances;
- (1). This was not the first incident between these two players. After Pacioretty scored an overtime goal against the Bruins earlier in the season on January 8, he taunted Chara, invoking a scrum.
- (2). With the puck cleared into Boston's zone with less than 20 seconds to go, there was little the Bruins could do in order to score a goal.
- (3). In addition to the mininmal likelihood that Boston would benefit from Pacioretty being cancelled out of the play, the score was already 4-0 Canadiens.
- (4). Had Chara not meant to push Pacioretty into the glass, he would have reacted when that's what ended up happening. When players attempt to make a clean play that goes wrong, remorse is always found in their reaction. (See Jody Shelley's hit on Adam McQuaid, which he showed immediately concern for McQuaid and even apologized to him in person, or Ladislav Smid's hit on Darroll Powe and Smid's reaction).
- (5). Chara was not concerned for Pacioretty as he laid down on the ice, nor did he ever issue an apology regarding the hit. He denied responsibility in his comment about the hit, saying "It's just one of those things, like glass extensions, doors, even hockey nets are part of the game and obviously players run into them. It's just very, very unfortunate that a player got hurt."
This act of revenge taken by Zdeno Chara was just another incident which proved that anyone could push around the Montreal Canadiens without ever having to pay a price for it.
Included on the list of upcoming free agents is Darcy Hordichuk, Eric Boulton, David Koci, Steve MacIntyre, Eric Godard, Cam Janssen and Wade Belak.
Four of these men are among the best 15 fighters in the league; all of them are sufficient enough of a presence to deter actions found in this slideshow.
While not all of these heavyweight enforcers will go to the free agent market, it is likely that at least one of them will.
Montreal would be able to sign any of these players for likely less than an $800,000 cap hit. This is a negligible amount compared to the amount of beatings the Candiens will have to endure without having a capable tough guy.
Any supporter of the Montreal Canadiens should be disgusted to watch these actions taken against the team. Acquiring an enforcer would be the most comforting move possible by GM Pierre Gauthier.