Why the Montreal Canadiens will fail in 2018 2019

In by on Apr 13, 2018

When a team other than the Montreal Canadiens hoists the Stanley Cup this June, it won’t be long before oddsmakers make odds for the teams to win the cup the next season. No matter what the payout is going to be for the Montreal Canadiens, it would be a wise decision to not take this bet. Last year Vancouver had odds of 100-1 and the Vegas Golden Knights were 200-1. Even with players like Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber would the Habs be better than a 100 to 1 payout.

The only thing that is going to change that would be winning the lottery to draft the #1 pick which everyone knows it is for Rasmus Dahlin where the Habs have a 9.5% chance of getting the top pick. Let’s look at all the things that negatively affect the Canadiens this past season as well as their future and it isn’t looking good.

  • John Tavares
  • Geoff Molson - Team President
  • Marc Bergevin - Team General Manager
  • Subban for Weber Trade
  • Drouin for Sergachev trade
  • No more Russians
  • No Centres
  • Player development & farm system
  • Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
  • Did we say the Habs were not good?
  • Carey Price
  • History Repeating
  • Marc Bergevin
  • John Tavares

Let's start with this video from hockey commentators and media on Marc Bergevin blaming the players

John Tavares

When you read of Habs fans commenting in blogs about the Habs signing John Tavares it almost seems a little delusional. There are too many things going against the Canadiens to make John Tavares want to come to play for Montreal especially being from Toronto. If Tavares had to pick one of these 2 teams, it seems likely he’d want to play for the Leafs that have a promising future. At the end of the season he was quoted as saying “I want to give myself the best chance to win the Stanley Cup.” What makes Montreal a contender for the Stanley Cup for the 2018/2019 season? They made the playoffs once in the past 3 years and the team’s problems this past season were magnified more than they ever have been before. Tavares will be looking at teams that are perennial contenders and that definitely is not the Montreal Canadiens at all.

Other factors that might keep John Tavares out of Montreal

  • A dysfunctional team that doesn’t fully compete
  • Higher taxes
  • No depth in the organization
  • Delusional management

To comment on these factors, the Habs team acknowledge not everyone was putting in a good effort so it’s assumed that players want to join a winning environment, not a losing one. Regarding higher taxes, Montreal is high but Toronto is a little more expensive so it’s hard to say how much this plays in negotiations. When it came to Steven Stamkos picking Tampa Bay over Toronto, his lower salary on Tampa Bay gave him more than Toronto paying him even a higher salary where at $7.5 million per year, he would cough up an extra $1 million in taxes playing for his hometown team and that is not a discount.

The Habs don’t have any depth in the organization and that is evident by the players they continue to call up from their AHL team. As for delusional management that is of course an opinion and maybe delusional people would feel the management is doing a good job.

The bottom line, Tavares isn’t going to fix the team and if he does leave the Islanders, he’ll pick a team with more upswing, not the opposite of it. He wants to win now and it’s hard to imagine any players think Montreal could be a contender with a few tweaks given the season they just had.

Geoff Molson - President & CEO of the Montreal Canadiens

Toronto fans might recall a time when ownership were active in hockey operators and look at what that did to the team. Larry Tanenbaum was a hockey fan and as owner he gets to decide who takes the blame for mistakes that he’s made. There has been a revolving door of talented general managers that have been through Toronto and from some of the trades and signings that have happened in the past 10 to 15 years, it’s hard to imagine if the team would have been better without an owner playing hockey god and making decisions that they have no business in making. Well they do have the business in making it but it’s just not the right thing to do. What Montreal is going through right now is the exact same problem that has plagued Toronto for so many years and Habs fans are failing to see the similarities. Many Habs fans think Toronto is bad for their Shanaplan of tanking and getting the #1 pick. If you take Austen Matthews out of the equation, Toronto is still an amazing team with the best resources at their disposal including a winning AHL team. They have players in their system that makes them the envy of the NHL. They look like the Chicago Blackhawks that had core players where they kept churning out gem players you never heard of that are all winners.

Geoff Molson has had the luxury of having some great players carry the team and Carey Price covered up a lot of problems the team has. Molson has the luxury of having a fortune to rely on from their beer company, you can’t fault him for being passionate about hockey but when he is the hockey president, it is hard to have confidence that he’s going to make the right decisions needed to make the team a winner. If you look at what Tim Leiweke has done for Toronto, he was the person that brought Brendan Shanahan on board and knew he needed a president that wasn’t going to be a puppet to the owner where the owner makes decisions through their president and general manager but never takes the blame when they fuck it up. Toronto endured this for a long long time and it’s after hitting rock bottom of not selling out with a shitty hockey team that the team made changes. Of course change in ownership helps a lot too and with Bell & Rogers in the mix, that helped to make the team more business focused and let hockey people run the show. There are many NHL owners that don’t like to mess with the hockey operations but nobody gave the memo to Geoff Molson on how not to run a hockey team.

Marc Bergevin - General Manager

Is Marc Bergevin throwing his players under the bus? It's probably frustrating that players can't call out their general manager for making poor decisions leading to a poor team. What makes it tough is players don't want to speak out when that creates animosity in the lockerroom and no team needs that, especially one that is as bad as the Habs. Bergevin has barely admitted his faults of being over optimistic about his defence acquisitions last season and he spent more time talking about the attitude of the players and less about his mistakes. If this is truly a team game then the GM should own up to some of that as much as the players have to. Most GMs might be fired if they had a horrible run like the Habs but he clearly has the support of the team's president which seemed to be focused on an improved experience for fans and better food. But enough about Bergevin, let's talk about all the collective problems of the Habs.

PK Subban for Shea Weber trade

You can probably consider this trade to have been activated by Geoff Molson. There have been enough articles written about this trade that suggest that ownership fell out with Subban over his popularity with fans and by Subban giving $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital where ownership prefers they get credit for these charitable contributions. We know that ownership won’t mention the real reasons but it’s clear that Bergevin threw Subban under the bus numerous times after the trade.

Of course it is easier for people to analyze the trade after it happens to see who came out on top but everyone was thrown off on how a player that was loved by the fans was traded. He pledged $10 million to the children’s hospital and as a player it’s hard to say he wasn’t committed to the city. What we do know is that Subban went to the Stanley Cup finals last year and this year the team finished 1st in the NHL and people are suggesting they are the clear favourites. Subban isn’t even the #1 D-man on their team but he’s scored another 50 points and it just shows how deep Nashville are. They traded away a very long contract on a player that was aging in Weber. There have been a few hockey experts that have pointed out flaws in Weber’s game where it doesn’t suit today’s style of NHL and it seems that teams are using tactics when playing against Weber. Weber doesn’t like to skate the puck up the ice and is your typical stay at home defenceman so players are covering the forwards and encouraging him to skate the ice with the puck and take him out of his comfort zone.

At the end of the day, this trade is and was bad for Montreal on so many levels. It might be a hint to other NHLers that this is how their players are treated and makes you wonder if the players feel respected and like the team owner.

Of course Geoff Molson said and thinks that acquiring Shea Weber was “une bonne décision” so it sounds like this was more Molson’s decision than it was Bergevin’s. So to see how PK Subban was treated in this whole process including management comments after he left, it might make players wonder if this is an owner they would want to work for. Knowing that John Tavares and PK Subban are good buddies and grew up together, it would be hard to imagine Tavares actually signing with Montreal. So for the Habs fans that are hopeful they’ll actually land Tavares, this is more an unlikely scenario and maybe it could be a reason that Habs seem to struggle to sign players.

Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev trade

This trade never looked good. It had potential to be good for Montreal but Tampa Bay knew what they were getting all the way. Nobody knows if Montreal overpaid for Drouin being from Quebec. The Habs and fans like their hometown players but without a doubt if the Habs are pursuing these players, other teams are going to expect more in return for them especially if Montreal is willing to overpay for them. There were rumous Montreal was pushing hard for Pierre-Luc Dubois whom seems to be a decent player for the Columbus Blue Jackets. That said, Mikhail Sergachev was the real deal and could have played for Montreal last season if the team made room for him. Montreal seemingly lucked out on Victor Mete and imagine if they had Sergachev as part of their blueline especially to help offset the loss of Markov.

The problems of this trade are now compounded by the team playing poorly and all the pressure on Jonathan Drouin to live up to the trade and expectations. It doesn’t help that he was playing the wing on Tampa Bay and was protected by some serious players but in Montreal he was expected to be the team’s #1 centre despite not having that experience. Drouin was shielded from the top defence pairings of most teams and Tampa Bay had a luxury of centres and wingers where in Montreal he’s expected to be one of a few people to put the puck in the net or at least pile on points. Tampa Bay has Kucherov, Palat, Johnson, Stamkos and Hedman as players to hide behind, in Montreal those players are maybe Max Pacioretty.

This trade puts more pressure on Marc Bergevin as to why he felt he had to trade a promising d-man for a winger when they lost Markov that meant a lot to the team.

No more Russians

This management doesn’t seem to like Russian players and they finally got rid of them all! They didn’t offer what Andrei Markov wanted and we all now know what he meant for the team. Max Pacioretty is a great player but without defenders that can help give him the puck, it’s hard to expect this team to work together and get goals. Alexander Radulov seemed like an easy decision to make: he wanted $5 to $6 million per year and 5 or 6 years. Montreal didn’t seem to care and it makes you wonder if the team was hoping they’d get a deal on a player or if they really wanted all their Russian players gone.

Of course the team did trade Quebec Jonathan Drouin for Russian Mikhail Sergachev so the team is probably free of Russian players. The unfortunate part is that these 3 Russians in Sergachev, Markov and Radulov were all amazing players. Imagine where the Habs would be if they had all 3 this year. They wouldn’t have lost 40 games that’s for sure

No Centres

Bergevin said that centres are hard to come by, but for some reason other teams don’t have a problem picking them up when they need to whether free agent signings or trading for them. Montreal just never addressed this all season long and if they don’t fix this, we can all expect Montreal to have another bad season. Most teams that make the playoffs have some decent centres and of course the ones that win the cup have at least 2 solid centres. Montreal rolled with these players this year for the centre position:

  • Drouin
  • Danault
  • Shaw
  • Froese
  • Galcenyuk
  • Plekanec

Alex Galchenyuk wasn’t really much of a centre this year. They did trade Plekanec to Toronto that has an insane luxury of centres and Plekanec has gone from the 2nd line to the 4th line. Imagine Toronto having him as their 4th line centre. Drouin stands out but the rest of the names don’t and even for Drouin he struggled this year.

Player development & farm system

This has to be a painful realization to Habs fan is the lack of quality players to call up when injuries happen. The farm team of the Habs is the Laval Rocket and they are really not that good. They have a few interesting players but so do all NHL teams. Their best players

Notable players on the Laval Rocket team

  • Daniel Carr
  • Nikita Scherbak
  • Byron Froese
  • Michael McCarron
  • Noah Juulsen

That’s what the Habs fans look forward to next season and beyond. The team has traded away enough prospects and draft picks for players like Dwight King and the tank is empty. Juulsen looks like a good player so this is probably what teams would want in a trade. After that the Habs have nothing to trade for, their best asset in Sergachev was traded and now the Habs have nothing more to offer if they want to improve and remain competitive without blowing up the team and rebuilding.

Just for comparison, the AHL standings are

  • Toronto Marlies #1 in the league
  • Laval Rocket #30 last in the league

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens

Toronto swept the Habs in the regular season and had 20 more wins than the Habs. It’s not good fo Habs fans that Toronto is doing better and so is Nashville with PK Subban. Putting that all aside, comparing the Habs vs the Leafs is the right thing to do. If we look at Toronto’s recent history before they had their worst years before getting better again, there really is a similar pattern repeating.

On March 23rd, 2015, the Leafs snapped a 13 year sellout stream to the Minnesota Wild. This was the start of a revolt of fans that got tired of paying top dollar for tickets and merchandise and just being loyal fans. Nothing is worse than being a fan of a hockey team where you feel management are not doing their job and don’t have the skills or ability to give you a winning team. The Habs are 1 year away from the same issue that Toronto endured over 3 years ago: the team was just terrible and it got to the point where fans didn’t care to buy tickets anymore nor go to the games. Montreal is on the edge of having that same problem where Habs fans are tired of losing and want some accountability. Booing your team is one thing but if the Habs have another bad season in 2018 - 2019 you can expect fans to leave or throw jerseys on the ice and make their protest louder.

If the Habs rebuild, there is a significant difference in the rebuild Toronto has done vs what the Habs could do right now and this is something that fans perhaps fail to acknowledge about Toronto. When Toronto tanked 2 years ago, they didn’t go out of their way to be the worst team in the NHL but they did go out of their way to ensure their young players got more ice team. They weren’t trying to lose but they did trade away players for assets and build up picks and more prospects. Despite the team finishing last in the 2015-2016 season, they actually played hard and were not an easy team to beat. They didn’t have the best players but they had a very good coach in Mike Babcock and they played hard. Their record was 29-42-11 which at 69 points isn’t much different than the Habs 2017-2018 of 29-40-13 for 71 points and ranked 27 out of 31. The Leafs at this point already had some decent players and draft picks and they got more in the next 2 years.

Let’s not sugarcoat it, the Habs are just not good

Last season the team had a horrible pre-season where they lost most of their games and struggled to generate any significant offense. In a few of their preseason games, they even dressed their top players and still struggled to score but this quickly lead to a horrible start of the season. The Habs lost a good player in Radulov and the only bright spots on the season were really Brendan Gallagher and Victor Mete. The team has traded PK Subban, Mikhail Sergachev and lost Andre Markov and replaced them with Shea Weber, Karl Alzner and Victor Mete. Mete is the only positive in this mess and the team has gone from one of the better teams are moving the puck up the ice from their defence to becoming basically the worst. Max Pacioretty is a good player but his goal production was cut in half as a result of the losses. Marc Bergevin said in the season ending press conference they need to change their attitude. It is not the job for players to play the role of general manager and let the team know what they need. It’s easier to criticize Bergevin after the fact but today’s NHL is fast and the team probably doesn’t need 2 stay at home defenceman in Weber and Alzner but if anything need one more puck moving d-man. So if the players think their general manager has done a terrible job, why would they play with the right attitude when no matter how hard they try, it’s not going to translate into wins. This is a demoralizing situation that is surely is contributing for the team’s visible lack of effort. It seems clear that Bergevin is extremely loyal to Molson and Molson likes this and appreciates it. Most general managers would be fired for being in this situation but it’s hard to imagine that Molson hasn’t had some influence on the roster and direction of the team. So if the GM is loyal to the owner but not as much to the players, it goes without saying that maybe the players don’t feel the loyalty back to the management and ownership.

Carey Price: Is the price right?

Carey Price is the most valuable and most influential player on this team. For the past 5 years, the success of the team has been largely attributed to Carey Price and the past few years he’s played without the effort or focus that fans are used to seeing from him. He is probably a player that wants to win the Stanley Cup but how do you go about your job and being the best goalie in the world when your team is going to constantly struggle to score goals. If Price plays bad again next season then the team is in real trouble: fans won’t be happy and everyone will be calling for Bergevin to be fired but Bergevin and Molson are good buds that work together.

History Repeating

Toronto Maple Leafs fans can totally relate to what Habs fans are going through right now. For a while, the Leafs developed a reputation for poor drafting, bad trades and seemingly having bad management. There was optimism when Brendan Shanahan was hired as the team’s president and given the ability to make full hockey decisions without management making decisions for him. That allowed him to hire the right general managers and give them the same power which is something Toronto hasn’t had in a very very long time. They then hired one of the best coaches available and the rest is almost history. They did do a rebuild and loaded up with a lot of draft picks but on top of that, they seemed to have got better at drafting over the years. Their player development is possibly the best in the league and they are enjoying the results from the hard work. You can’t fault an owner for being passionate about their own team but it makes you wonder if these are the very elements that cause problems. Carey Price is a player you can built a team around but if there are no supporting cast then it’s hard to expect the Habs to make the playoffs next year. Just look at the Edmonton Oilers, they have Connor McDavid and they didn’t make the playoffs this year and are once again faced with the possibility of winning another lottery draft pick. The Habs have traded away some of their best prospects, have a weak AHL team so what could they trade right now to fix their problems? As a minimum they need 1 good puck moving defenceman and 1 solid centre. They really need more quality players to call up because injuries usually happen and all the great teams that have won the cup in the past 10 years have always been able to call up players that always turnout to be great players.

This team needs a hard reset. They could benefit from giving some of their younger players more NHL experience and it goes without saying the team might want to trade a few players to stock up on picks and prospects. The coach is probably not the problem at all. If the team wants to trade away a few more picks to get better they might be doing what Toronto did many years ago in acquiring Phil Kessel and giving up what turned to be the #2 draft pick in Tyler Seguin and the #32 pick in 2010 and 2011 first round pick in Dougie Hamilton whom was the #7 overall pick. Toronto was gambling that Kessel would make the Leafs better and get them in the playoffs but looking back at that team, another great player added wouldn’t do more other than cover up the problem.

I’m surprised that GMs are not lining up players for Montreal for 1st round draft picks, these are #1 lottery potential picks and even without being #1, if Montreal can’t relay these trades into a playoff team, it’s more value they will be trading. So Montreal can trade picks to try to get better or they can trade some of their players now for more picks and hit the reset. I think most hockey fans and experts know what should be done but we know that people don’t like being wrong so they’ll double down on their mistakes. Bergevin clearly wants to keep his job and if Molson is an architect of this team in any capacity, he’ll not want to admit his mistakes and they’ll blame the team for attitude and try to fix a problem that is possibly too large to patch.

It's too bad that fans will boo their players and take this all out on them. They are frustrated fans no doubt and need a place to vent and maybe fans might start to call for a change in management.