Thursday, 8 December 2011

Major Reality Check: The Canadiens are just not that good

Upon the conclusion of Montreal's 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks, a couple of thoughts re-occurred to me.

It's hard to tell rabid Canadiens fans that their team isn't all that good. Invariably, there's a reason for any prolonged period of winlessness. It's the coach's fault. It's the special teams. It's injuries.

But sometimes, it's just that the team isn't all that good. Period. End of story.

Here's the honest truth about winning the Stanley Cup and contending in the National Hockey League. First, you need a redhot, lights out goaltender, one capable of putting up back-to-back shutouts, one who intimidates shooters. The Canadiens have a good goalie in Carey Price. Lights out? No. Intimidating to the opposing forwards? No. Capable of standing on his head and carrying a team for long stretches? Unknown.

The truth about Price is he seems to be an unfinished product. There are brilliant and boneheaded plays from him on a regular basis. Clearly, the good outweighs the negative. But to call him an elite goaltender on the same level as Tim Thomas or some of the other consistent stalwarts, would be a mistake.

Next, a team needs elite offensive finishers, players who have that special knack of scoring the timely goal or hitting the top corner instead of putting the puck into the netminder's pads. These electric players are always key in a cup run and to contending. Stamkos, Crosby, Malkin, Sedins, Perry, Toews, Kane. You get the idea. Who does Montreal have? NO ONE. They have Cammalleri, a guy who can't stickhandle his way into space in order to get off a shot. He's also not the most consistent guy in the world, either. Cammalleri gets a free pass because he was clutch in the postseason a couple of seasons ago. Fine. Impressive. But what have you done for me lately? Anyone else in the supposed killer-instinct, elite scorer category on the Habs? Didn't think so.

Okay, so if you don't have either of these preceding elements, then you need a lockdown system, kind of like what Guy Boucher had going last season for the Lightning. Montreal doesn't have this, either. You can blame it partly on the inexperience of the defense or even on the injuries. But the bottom line is the coaching staff mixes and matches the lines and defensive pairings so much, the players can never really get into a rhythm.

Add in things like Price not making saves in a shootout, the team giving up shorthanded goals, the taking of too many men penalties, no hard, consistent forecheck and a lack of energy and passion, etc... and you have a team that should miss the playoffs.

So what do you do then? Well, you have faith in Price that he will grow into an elite netminder. You continue to let the youth grow and you build around your core players, such as Subban, Pacioretty, Plekanec, etc...

If Habs fans were realists and truly understood the plight and ceiling of this team, they'd encourage the team to jettison veteran players in favor of tanking the season and getting some picks, including maybe even landing a lottery pick come next June.

Let's not be stupid, Canadiens backers, let's take advantage of this wasted season and use it to the team's advantage in the future.

Otherwise, if they go all-in to simply make the playoffs, other than the home postseason payoff for the owners, what's really accomplished? It's not like they're capable of winning a series with this roster.

Remember when they missed the playoffs AND didn't trade Sheldon Souray? I bet they wished they could have that one back, huh?

You can follow me on Twitter @gamepointsradio and listen to us on TSN 990 Radio Montreal this Sunday, 6pm EST. 

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