Montreal Canadiens' Quest for Success

Rob C.Correspondent INovember 15, 2008

One look at the picture under the headline of this article and you understand. The Montreal Canadiens' coaching staff is as clueless as we are.

What is going on with the Habs?

The centennial season is barely under way and Montreal has a decent 9-3-2 record.  But a great start, filled with expectations and maybe a hint of a sense of entitlement, has collapsed into a heap of confusion.

Swinging from an embarrassing effort against Toronto, to a total domination over Ottawa and back down to a massive beating administered by Boston, the Habs are more volatile than an untreated bipolar disorder.

So what’s the cure?

First, you have to uncover the symptoms. Once all the problem areas have been exposed, a proper treatment can then be applied.

The Canadiens are suffering as a team right now, and the bewildered Montreal coaches are starting to show some cracks. Bad decisions and strategic mistakes are becoming more and more evident, exposed by the see-saw performances of the team.

The game against the Boston Bruins is a good example.

The over-powering performance of Milan Lucic against Montreal in last year's playoffs was one of the reasons Habs GM Bob Gainey signed enforcer Georges Laraque to the team.

But when Lucic refused to fight Laraque, Montreal’s pillar defenseman Mike Komisarek went in instead. He is now on the injured list, out indefinitely. Bad decision. He should have never been put in that position. They all knew Lucic was trouble.

Why not put a shadow on him? Having a pest like Maxim Lapierre or Steve Begin on Lucic’s back all night could have distracted him, or at the very least, gotten him away from Komisarek.

Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau knew Boston’s game plan from the start. He didn’t get the job done.            

Another problem is the change in the team’s expected make-up. Carbonneau has been advertising three scoring lines since the beginning of the season. So far only one has showed up. And even that one was modified.

The Saku Koivu-Alex Tanguay line, first paired with winger Guillaume Latendresse, is now firing on all cylinders with Chris Higgins.

But last year’s top scoring trio Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn have not been scaring opponents. And the Robert Lang-Sergei Kostitsyn-Latendresse line is barely worth mentioning.

Carbonneau was expecting his offence to dictate and dominate every game. That has happened on a few occasions, but opposing teams are aware of that now. They are prepared. They have adapted.

Almost all of Montreal’s opponents of late have been sending two forwards in deep to forecheck the defensemen. As soon as they have trouble getting out of their zone, every Canadiens player seems to panic a bit, resulting in missed passes, turnovers and often, goals against.

Nobody wants to take charge and the coaches should address that.

Another big difference from last season is the Habs power play. After leading the league last year, Montreal now stands 17th overall.

Power plays are all about technique, set plays, and execution. Drills, simulations, and practice are the only way to achieve results and I’m sure the coaches know this. But when the same set play is repeated over and over during a game with no success, alternatives should be considered.

When the same player repeatedly fails to execute his job, such as hitting the target, passing when he should be taking a shot, or giving the puck away for no reason, changes should be made.

Montreal is a very talented team with a very talented goalie in Carey Price but he is, all things considered, still a rookie. If Price is learning one thing right now, it’s how to lose. It’s still a valuable lesson, as long as he learns to hate it...

There are a lot of disappointed and frustrated Habs fans out there and I am one of them.

I don’t pretend to know more than coach Guy Carbonneau. I think he’s a great coach and his record so far proves that. But if I can come up with some problems, I’m pretty sure he can find some solutions.

The coaching staff is one thing the players are another. every single Montreal Canadiens has to look at themselves in the mirror and think: "What can I do better?" and "Am I doing enough?".

There are not enough mea culpas going around my friends.

I’m not pointing any fingers because I can’t…I don’t have enough fingers.