Weak Defense Makes For Bad Team

What is wrong with the Montreal Canadiens? It’s not only the fact that they are up to a 0-4 start, but the way they’re playing (or not playing rather) is what is the most alarming about their start to this season. It seems like the effort is not always there and they have only scored three goals in four games so far this season. For a team that’s supposed to have a more balanced attack, they are not very creative offensively.

Combination of factors

Of course, the loss of Carey Price hurts in more ways than one. His leadership in the room is missed, as is his play in front of the Canadiens’ net. His outlet passes, the way he plays the puck is definitely a factor, although Jake Allen isn’t too shabby at that. Which makes me think that it’s more than that.

Some people claim that they missed Phillip Danault but Christian Dvorak, who replaced Danault in the line-up, is the team’s best center so far this season so I’d argue against this theory for that reason. Suzuki, Caufield, Gallagher, Toffoli… where’s the offense, the goals from these guys? So far this season, the Habs have been a one-line team. Only the line of Drouin, Dvorak and Anderson looks like an NHL caliber line on a nightly basis.

Is the loss of Jesperi Kotkaniemi hurting that much? Maybe a bit. Jake Evans struggled to get his wingers going offensively prior to getting hurt. Adam Brooks did not look good in his first game between Gallagher and Mike Hoffman. Cedric Paquette is struggling mightily on the fourth line. Only Dvorak wins more than 50% of his faceoffs at center.

Dvorak 56.5%
Evans 48.6%
Suzuki 47.7%
Paquette 23.8%
Brooks 20.0%

Is the fact that the team is leaving its General Manager Marc Bergevin, on the final year of his contract, as a lame duck with an uncertain future a factor? Maybe, who knows? Players do like Bergevin as a GM as he cares for them.

Most pressing issue

We’ve touched on it before, the loss of Weber not being replaced is ultimately THE major factor. While the Canadiens also miss Joel Edmundson, the lack of a true top-4 right-handed defenseman is putting everyone in the wrong seat on the Canadiens’ blue line. Someone who can effectively face the opposition’s top lines. David Savard is not it.

The defensemen simply cannot give the puck to the forwards on the fly to create the transition game that the Canadiens are so well known for. If you can’t do that, your offense will suffer when you’re a transition team. That is exactly what we’re seeing. That and the confidence right now is not very high. Players are squeezing their sticks too tight, as we say in terms of hockey. They’re not playing confident and relaxed.

While no championship has ever been won in the NHL in October, teams have eliminated themselves from playoffs’ contention in that month too. And the Canadiens are in the process of doing just that. Something better happen if the Habs wish to turn things around soon. Change of coach? Doubtful. Change of GM? Possible. Trades? Unlikely at this time of year, but nothing is impossible. Perhaps now is the time to go swing for the fence, with the team going nowhere, and trade for Jack Eichel? I don’t know. Personally, I’d rather use the same cap space and assets to acquire a solid right handed defenseman, someone like John Klingberg if available. That’s something that the organisation is lacking in the system, even in the prospect pool.