HFBoards

Go Back   HFBoards > General Hockey Discussion > National Hockey League Talk
National Hockey League Talk Discuss NHL players, teams, games, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What do the Canadiens need to get to the top?

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools
Old
12-25-2003, 07:27 AM
  #1
modulator
Guest
 
Country:
Posts: n/a
vCash:
What do the Canadiens need to get to the top?

Every passing year is starting to look really familiar for Habs fans, although I think the team is better today than in the late 90s... but the difference isn't that big.

Where to start? This once-proud organisation is falling apart piece by piece and not even duct tape can hold it together with the way things are going.

First off, let's face it, they aren't a good team and don't have much of a chance at making the playoffs on a regular basis. They struggle against the worst teams in the league and get dominated in all three zones.

But why?

One of the main reasons is heart. They have very little. A hockey game is not decided on talent alone, but on desire. Generally, the teams who wants it more is the one who wins unless you have some lucky bounces that spoile everything. Desire to win, modivation, confidence, nerves... those are very important parts of hockey.
When was the last time the Canadiens won after trailing by two periods? They did it one recently... and the last time was over two years ago, in November of 2001 if I heard well.

What does this mean? The Canadiens lack motivation. After watching them game after game for years you kinda get used to this--when the Canadiens are trailing, you know the game is usually over. They can be playing really well, take the lead... but it seems that as soon as the other team scores or creates some pressure the Habs get so disoriented they almost give up on the game.

In December last season the Canadiens were doing OK, maybe a shot at the playoffs. Then there was that legendary game against the Islanders just before Christmas. A heartbreaking loss that shattered the fragile confidence of Montreal players... they went on after that to win 3 of the next 16.
In the playoffs two seasons ago they had a 2-1 series lead against Carolina. In game four, they lead 3-0 going into the third period. I was there... you can't believe the excitement that was in the crowd. Our team had a good shot at going to the conference finals! Unbelievable! We were just going nuts with excitement.
Then, Carolina scores. It's 3-1. And the Habs players start panicking and stop trying. And they score again, and again. Tie game. Go in overtime, and Carolina wins it 4-3. I knew it was over. The Habs don't have the heart and leadership to rally after a dissapointing loss and bring a good effort after that.
The next two games, they lost 5-1 and 8-2. They had given up and stopped trying, just like they have accustomed their fans to for years.
Of course, this doesn't go for everyone on the team.

Oh and, by the way, how did the Canadiens even manage to get there in the first place? Playoffs? Second round? Beating the Bruins in 6?
The reason is simple--Saku Koivu's cancer. The tragic events that shook the entire Habs family when Koivu was diagnosed with cancer and how he fought for his life the entire year... it lift the team up and gave them motivation. Motivation to be one of the top teams in the league in the month of March and get in the playoffs. They did awesome in the first games against Boston, but the effect of Koivu's return were short lived. The players were motivated, but they lost it quickly after Koivu was back and well. After the first three games against Boston, it was all Theodore. Then he, too, cought up with the rest of the guys. Still a shame, though... because there are a few players on the team, like Koivu or Doug Gilmour when he played for them, who give everything they have nearly every shift. If only the others could follow...

I'd never forget how Doug Gilmour broke the penalty box window in that 8-2 game. He had not given up. It almost made me cry... if only his teammates had half of the heart he has they'd have been in the finals that year. Have a nice retirement, Dougie. We miss ya.

Talent.

Talent is obviously an important part of hockey. This is what made the Edmonton Oilers so exciting in the 1980s (although they'd wipe the floor with the current Habs in heart alone). The Canadiens have some talent, Koivu, Zednik, Ribeiro, Markov, Audette, Perreault, Hossa, Brisebois all have a very decent amount of talent. Especially Koivu and Ribeiro.
Of course, none of those guys have the talent of the top players in the league like Kovalchuk, Naslund, Forsberg, etc. Heck, I'm going to say that even "second class" forwards like David Legwand or Miroslav Satan are more talented than any player the Canadiens have.
But if you want to talk about on-ice performance alone REGARDLESS of heart and motivation, you have to talk about strength--a very important part of hockey and something the Habs lack.

The strongest players in Montreal are Souray, Quintal, Langdon, Komisarek, Kilger, Rivet, Begin, Ward and Zednik. Of course, apart from Zednik, Souray, Komisarek and Ward none of those guys are really effective. Zednik has amazing strength and balance that allows him to control the puck with one hand while holding off another player with the other. Because of this, he can make strong corner plays that are crucial to the team... problem is, Montreal doesn't have any other players who can do it. That's why even the most talented of their forwards have a lot of trouble in the offensive zone against the opposing team's defensive unit who outmuscle and outwork them without any problems.
Most of the teams in the NHL have a good number of Zedniks on their roster, players who can control the puck and not get outmuscled every shift. Unfortunately, even if Zednik is the Canadiens' best at it he wouldn't be in the top 5 or even top 10 for a lot of the teams in the NHL in that category alone. That last game against Washington was a painful reminder of it (like if we needed any reminders in the first place).

Jose Theodore is a very good goaltender, although I'm still questionning his consistency. But he has the ability to be top 10 in the league, top 5 when he's at his peak. But he can't do it alone, and sometimes even he has motivation problems.

Now, I know there are a lot of problems with the team that I haven't touched. Like how all the rumors point out that the team is separated into small groups in the dressing room and some of the players don't like each other. Of course I have no way of witnessing that, but if it is true then it is another problem.

---

So... how can the Canadiens possibly solve their problems? The future might look bright with some of the young guys showing their potential like Michael Ryder, Mike Komisarek or Marcel Hossa. But even then, I'm not going to be too optimistic. Time has shown Habs fans that optimism is just setting yourself up for dissapointment. Sad, uh?

First I think the team needs to be patient. Bob Gainey is a very good GM and he's not going to let all those problems fly by untouched. He knows what's wrong with the team and will do all he can to fix it. I just hope the Canadiens don't fire him the next time the team goes on a cold streak... looking for short term success by firing your staff is useless and hurts your team in the long run.
The Canadiens also needs to look for more powerforwards in the draft. Guys who can grind it up in the corners and stand in front of the net and create space with their strength. Andrei Kostitsyn is a very talented player, but I'd have much preferred a guy like Anthony Stewart.
Of course, the draft is the way of getting those guys because you're not getting any good ones in trades unless you want to overpay. And even then... half of the Habs roster might not be enough to get someone like Keith Tkachuk, much less someone like Bertuzzi or Thornton.

I think the Habs may be one of the most painful teams to watch in the NHL... simply because the fan base is used to the glory and Stanley Cups and that the expectations are always high in this hockey-mad town. We expect a lot out of guys who just can't deliver.

This dark period is going to last a while, I'm afraid.

 
Old
12-25-2003, 07:50 AM
  #2
IWD
Playoff-hardened
 
IWD's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2003
Country: Spain
Posts: 4,962
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by modulator
I'd never forget how Doug Gilmour broke the penalty box window in that 8-2 game. He had not given up. It almost made me cry... if only his teammates had half of the heart he has they'd have been in the finals that year. Have a nice retirement, Dougie. We miss ya.
No, they would have still run into another obstacle. The Leafs. While it would have been a truly epic series, they were lucky to be where they were in the first place. They would have lost to Toronto.

IWD is offline  
Old
12-25-2003, 08:12 AM
  #3
modulator
Guest
 
Country:
Posts: n/a
vCash:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icewind Dale
No, they would have still run into another obstacle. The Leafs. While it would have been a truly epic series, they were lucky to be where they were in the first place. They would have lost to Toronto.
Eastern conference finals

 
Old
12-25-2003, 08:38 AM
  #4
IWD
Playoff-hardened
 
IWD's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2003
Country: Spain
Posts: 4,962
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by modulator
Eastern conference finals
Well, you DID say "the finals".

IWD is offline  
Old
12-25-2003, 08:47 AM
  #5
modulator
Guest
 
Country:
Posts: n/a
vCash:
Even then it wouldn't have been THAT much of a stretch. Notice that I said if all the players had half the hart Gilmour has... we're pretty far from there.

 
Old
12-25-2003, 08:49 AM
  #6
Mizral
Registered User
 
Mizral's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Earth, MW
Country: Canada
Posts: 18,112
vCash: 500
Many Habs fans have been very happy over the hiring of Bob Gainey, but I'm not so sure. Gainey is accomplished (1 Stanley Cup), but I am still not sure this is the right GM for the Habs. I question his ability to develop youth, I also question his ability at the draft table and in trades.

Other than that, the Habs have an uphill battle to wage. They have some good prospects, but don't count your chickens before they hatch. You've got to develop these kids right - they don't turn into NHL players magically, they need the right coaching & leadership groups around them to push them to become better players. It remains to be seen if the Habs can make a playoff team out of these young guns.

Mizral is offline  
Old
12-25-2003, 09:03 AM
  #7
markov`
Registered User
 
markov`'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Top 2 in the world
Posts: 3,647
vCash: 500
In my opinion, the "dark period" is coming to his end.

I think the Habs will be able to make the playoffs this year. Next year, the deadwood won't be there. Some of our youngs guns will battle for a place in the pro, and when they will be in, they will still battle to stay. Guys like Christopher Higgins, Andrei Kasistsyn, Josef Balej and Tomas Plekanec can easily become top 6 forwards, even top 3 for Higgins and Kasistsyn. Add 'em to the Koivus, Zedniks, Bulis...it makes a fine offensive. For the D, well...Souray, Markov and Hainsey are lock on left. On right, Mike Komisarek is not so alone: Patrice Brisebois can play 5 or 6 seasons again. In 3-4 years, it will be very difficult to score against the Habs.

It all depends on what Gainey will do this summer. We need a UFA, and this time, no Yannic Perreault please. Brian Rolston would be the perfect fit: him and Bulis will forecheck the opponents to death. And yes, we need a 6'3-6'4 top 6 forwards.

If you want my predictions: the Habs will make the playoff this summer and it will be a longgg streak. The 2002-2003 season will become the last season that the Habs didn't make the playoffs for a long time.

markov` is offline  
Old
12-25-2003, 10:14 AM
  #8
Mike8
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 11,096
vCash: 500
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mizral
Many Habs fans have been very happy over the hiring of Bob Gainey, but I'm not so sure. Gainey is accomplished (1 Stanley Cup), but I am still not sure this is the right GM for the Habs. I question his ability to develop youth, I also question his ability at the draft table and in trades.

Gainey's the General Manager. That doesn't mean he's directly responsible for developing youth, or drafting. Andre Savard is responsible for drafting, and he's accomplished in that area. He's also helped propel Montreal's prospect pool to among the best in the league, despite rarely getting a top ten pick (only Komisarek and most recently, Kostitsyn at #10, are top ten picks).

Trevor Timmins is directly responsible for player development. He had the same role for 2-3 years in Ottawa, and was a scout in Ottawa for 6-7 years prior to that.

There are established people responsible for these roles. That's the key difference between Montreal's organization of 5 years ago and Montreal now.

What Gainey will offer Montreal is stability. The press never questions him, and never gives him the problems they've given Serge Savard, Houle and Andre Savard. Gainey's as respected as one can be in Montreal hockey. Gainey won't look to make wholesale changes, and this stability factor is important in establishing a work ethic and a team chemistry. That's the number one priority for developing young talent: ensuring the pro club has accountability, work ethic, and team chemistry.

Small additions like Darren Langdon and Steve Begin have helped change the identity of the team. It was previously a non-existent identity, but with Claude Julien at the helm and some real role players like Langdon, Begin and Ward, the team has started to overachieve at times, and play sound system hockey.

Non-system players like Audette, Czerkawski and Perreault have been more or less removed from the club; weak defensive players like Traverse have been banished to the minor leagues; Brisebois' leadership role ('A' on jersey) has been taken away to relieve pressure and he's been playing a completely different style of hockey, and has been given a more limited role. He's responded with his best hockey ever, and Montreal fans are actually missing him now since he's injured. He's become a reliable defensive defenseman, for the most part. Amazing what difference one season and a coaching and management staff can make.

These are all positive moves.

Now Komisarek's finally developing a mean streak this season. Every game he's laying out an opponent, while playing safe hockey and not chasing around the opponent to make the big hit. Ryder's made tremendous strides and is playing on the top line, consistently getting chances and putting points on the board, and rounding out his game. Ribeiro's exceeded most fans' expectations and is putting up good numbers while not being quite as poor in the defensive zone or neutral zone as he has been in years past.

These are all positive signs for young players that have broken into the NHL already. There have been some negative signs as well among prospects (Hossa and Hainsey are developing slower than expected), but far more good news and prospects developing quicker than expected than the reverse.

Outside of the game against Washington, the Habs haven't taken the shorter end of the stick in terms of physical battles in a long, long time. This is incredible for a team like Montreal, which has been physically dominated for years--even when they had a big team (on paper)!

Keys for Montreal from here on out:

- Keep developing that identity of strong work ethic and team chemistry. Maintain the core of the organization, stability being the objective.

- When contracts are up of older and increasingly redundant players such as Juneau, Dackell, Perreault and Quintal, let them walk. Bring in another heart and soul role player for the third line that can bang and crash, and hang in there in terms of board-work, and pair them up with a youngster.

- Simply identifying a core group of players that give it their all on every night, then pairing them with a youngster, and maintaining some veteran talent for the top two lines (Koivu, Zednik) will help the youth movement on.

Stability can't be stressed enough, and bringing along the young talent slowly while still icing a competitive team is important.

Mike8 is offline  
Closed Thread

Forum Jump


Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off



All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:45 PM.

monitoring_string = "e4251c93e2ba248d29da988d93bf5144"
Contact Us - HFBoards - Archive - Privacy Statement - Terms of Use - Advertise - Top - AdChoices

vBulletin Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
HFBoards.com is a property of CraveOnline Media, LLC, an Evolve Media, LLC company. 2014 All Rights Reserved.