Montreal Canadiens and the 8 Most Disappointing NHL Teams in 2011-12
We are only a few weeks into the 2011-2012 NHL season, and while it's far too early for teams to enter outright panic mode, there are certainly some trends a few squads would like to buck. Every single point counts given the parity of the league today.
That is a fact that isn't lost on any coaching staff or team at this level—save for perhaps the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Some teams that were expected to contend have stumbled out of the gate. The reasons are varied, but the end result is the same: underachievement and cause for concern.
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Lost in the perpetual state of celebration, Winnipeg seemed to be in after acquiring a hockey team after years of being without one.
But the squad they were getting wasn't all that good. The Atlanta Thrashers were a bottom-of-the-barrel team last season and changing cities didn't suddenly change that.
The guys in the fancy suits that occupy the general manager's skybox (they have skyboxes in Winnipeg, right?) decided to ice a Jets team nearly identical to the one that totally tanked after the All-Star break last year.
I'm not sure what result they were expecting, but the awful start shouldn't be surprising.
The future is bright for the Jets, but this season they will continue to test the limitations of the honeymoon period effect like a newly married cast member of Jersey Shore.
Before the season started, I believed the Boston Bruins had the veteran presence needed to avoid the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover. They've looked shaky more often than not through their 3-5 start.
Tim Thomas has been outstanding, carrying over every bit of momentum that he could from a demi-god season. While he's been lights out in net, the offense in front of him has been absolutely anemic. The team has scored 19 goals so far, but 10 of them came in two five-goal bursts.
There isn't a reason to panic in Boston. The Bruins won't be missing the playoffs or anything that drastic, but they'll need more consistent effort from forwards not named Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin to win their much-improved division.
Columbus Blue Jackets
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After a summer that gave Columbus Blue Jackets fans plenty of hope for the 2011-12 season, the team on the ice has arguably reached the lowest point in its existence.
Remember that time they gave up two goals with less than a minute to play against the then-winless Ottawa Senators?
You can bet every player on this team will because it doesn't get any worse than that. At least I don't think that it can and I've been saying that to myself for the last year or two, and the Jackets keep finding new ways to sink to new lows.
James Wisniewski will return tonight against the Detroit Red Wings and he's expected to provide a spark to a Columbus team that is off to the worst start in its short history.
In a division with teams like the Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks, you just can't afford to go without a win in eight games.
The scary thing is that management has tried nearly everything to turn this team into a contender. What comes next?
An extremely drastic, identity-altering trade may be the only option left. They need an NHL-caliber goaltender more than any other team in the NHL right now and should not hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal to land one.
Tampa Bay Lightning
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After the start the Tampa Bay Lightning had, it may become common to hear pundits referring to an Eastern Conference Finals hangover.
The Bolts have reeled off two straight wins so perhaps they are getting back on track, but they had a 1-3 start and would be only one point ahead of the lousy Winnipeg Jets without their two overtime losses.
Not exactly what was expected this season after the squad became one of the darlings of the NHL last year.
Steven Stamkos has looked human, which isn't a good sign for the Lightning, but he's always been a player that lights the lamp in bunches—hopefully Stammer has a streak up his sleeve.
The biggest factor in Tampa's sluggish start has been Dwayne Roloson. He's old and we all know that, but he has never played old, so we ignored it. That has been increasingly difficult so far. Another shutout or two from Mathieu Garon could cause a goaltending controversy for the Lightning.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are another victim of an apparent conference finals hangover.
Like the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference, the Sharks went to the finals, but in the Western Conference. They also lost, and they also have been playing subpar hockey so far.
Sure their schedule was funky. And yeah they were missing Antti Niemi and Marty Havlat before the year even began. Championship-caliber teams find ways to win hockey games, and the Sharks looked a little lost on the ice until recently.
They are 2-0 on their current road trip, but a 1-3 start wasn't the right skate the team was trying to begin on.
New York Islanders
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Hockey gods forbid, but it John Tavares would end up on the injury reserve, the offensive output would decrease substantially.
The team has scored a total of 14 goals and Tavares has been in on 10 of them, scoring six of the goals and setting up four of them. While it's all good that the third-year player is on pace for nearly 82 goals and 137 points, the Islanders need to step it up around him.
They have several options as far as secondary scoring goes (staring at you Kyle Okposo...as are several of my fantasy hockey squads) that just haven't had the output that is expected of them. This is a young team that is in the process of finding an identity.
Losing in bunches after winning a game isn't the ticket to the playoffs.
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I'm not sure I've ever seen a more knee-jerk reaction to a bad start. Radio stations in Vancouver have been calling for Roberto Luongo's head—bench the bum and lets give Cory Schneider the reigns. He'll get the team back to the promised land.
Are you kidding me Canuckleheads?
Luongo is a notoriously slow starter. He's been barely average during the first month of the regular season since he broke into the NHL.
So why it is a surprise that he's doing it again this year is beyond me. And like always, all the blame doesn't belong on the shoulders of No. 1.
The team's goal differential isn't where it needs to be (they are minus-one there) and the offense has been a bit out of sync. Getting Ryan Kesler back will be a huge boost to the second line and the power play, and the brass already felt compelled to pull the trigger on a trade concerning roster players.
David Booth jersey sales have reached the millions as he is being hailed as the new savior of the Canucks (sarcasm, at least on the jersey sales part).
For a team that has been losing sleep over the Stanley Cup that got away, they didn't come out with the fire that most expected from them and that's disappointing.
New York Rangers
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The New York Rangers were one of the teams that had to start the season overseas. The European start hasn't been kind to the squad, nor was it particularly brutal. They are currently a playoff team, and have been alarmingly average.
But the Rangers aren't trying to be average this year. They are trying to build on a solid 2010-11 season that saw the emergence of several young players. So far, those players haven't done a whole lot to help out netminder Henrik Lundqvist out, who is currently sporting a GAA way below 2.0.
Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik have hit it off better than fans and coaches could have hoped for. Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan have left a little to be desired.
If New York is going to be a team capable of making some noise, it'll need to find a more consistent attack to help back up its goalie.
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The Montreal Canadiens weren't supposed to be the last place team in the Eastern Conference at any point this season. This season seemed prime for the Canadiens to continue to grow and evolve as a team as their younger players get better.
They stayed mostly pat during the offseason, causing some people to raise some eyebrows. Not surprisingly, their one big offseason addition in Erik Cole has not been a factor. In fact, few Canadiens at all have been a factor.
They've only scored 18 times while sinking to a 1-5 record. Right now, their total of four points is padded by two overtime loses. All in all, they've been every bit as bad as notable awful teams such as the Ottawa Senators and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
That wasn't a sentence Montreal wanted to be included in heading into the season. If the team doesn't find a way to right the ship soon, it may be staring down the barrel of a throwaway season and a lottery pick in the draft.
Nail Yakupov would look great in red and blue though, no?