Sunday, November 7, 2010

Aftermath: The Long Way Home

I was watching the game last night with a couple of friends, and between complaints about the lack of scoring and the lousy defence, one of them said something pretty wise. The NHL, he said, is a house league. They play 82 games to eliminate fourteen teams, but pretty much anyone who can stay above .500 will get a playoff spot. He's right. The Canadiens are having trouble right now, but looking back at season results from the last five years, there are five-game losing streaks and five-game winning streaks over the course of each of them. There are periods when nothing goes in the net and they get shut out two games out of three. There are also periods when they score 30 goals in seven games.

The Habs can play better hockey than we're seeing. We know Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta can score. We know we'll see better defence and more energy and better outcomes as the season goes on. At the moment, though, when we're frustrated by blown chances and dumb plays, it feels like the team is worse than it is.

There's no question there are problems that need to be fixed. Half the defence is over 35 and shows it when they play against young, fast forecheckers. That can easily be changed. Alex Picard and Ryan O'Byrne are available and offer size and youth to a D-corps that has shown it really needs those things.

The top-six forwards aren't scoring much. David Desharnais is scoring in Hamilton and is salivating for a call-up. So is Ryan White who plays every shift like it's his last, while Dustin Boyd and Maxim Lapierre do not. The lack of aggression and committment from the fourth line negates their purpose for playing at all. They're supposed to bring intensity and help set the mood for the rest of the team, even if they're not scoring. When they fail at that, they become at best a non-entity and at worst a liability. White would love the chance to take one of those guys' jobs.

Call-ups at the moment are tough because the team is healthier than it's been in two years. The roster is full unless someone is demoted, and that means waivers. We know, however, that things can change very quickly in the course of a long season and the team that finishes a season is rarely the same as the one that starts it. Trades happen, injuries and call-ups happen and teams evolve.

That doesn't make us feel a lot better about the slow, lazy-looking style we're seeing on the ice right now. It's hard to think "this too shall pass" when we're watching Spacek lose the puck in the corner and Gill screen Price on a point shot in exactly the same way he did last week. It will, though. Things will change. When Gionta's and Cammalleri's shots start going in and Subban has a monster night on the blueline, everything will be rosy again.

Such is life in house league. We just have to remember it's only important to end the season in the top eight, no matter what it takes to get there.


Anonymous said...

Love your point of O'Byrne and Picard. How I would love to see them playing in place of Gill and Spacek. Also, Lapierre and Boyd are taking up space and sapping the team energy. I don't think either would be claimed off re-entry waivers so why not send them down. It's worth a shot.

Anonymous said...

My beef is that rest of us see the problems and some obvious solutions. What is the reason coaching and management refuse to adjust? This management team is so archaic that I want to scream.

Number31 said...

Lapierre is breaking his promise to us...

Anonymous said...

Great optimism JT. I wonder if it will be at the same level after we meet the Canucks and Bruins though....
I seriously doubt we will beat them, certainly not with what I'm seeing. There must have been a lot of positive thinking at that party last night.

Price is doing great things right now, so is Pouliot. It would be nice get more help from others.
Can we score some goals eventually?


Anonymous said...

The team is playing comfortable. And by that I mean no one is worried about losing their jobs. We are up against the cap and carrying a full roster.

Spacek and Gill are not worried about OB or Picard because they know JM wont play them.

Lapierre et al are not worried about White or anyone else because there is no room for call ups.

There is literally no need to bust your can every night because your job is pretty safe.
We are watching that reality play out. Very few guys will put it on the line without a valid reason and the paycheck will still be there next week so dont get injured.

Anonymous said...

Pouliot seems to have recreated himself. If you cant do ballet do stomp. Use your size, crash the boards and score a few. Keep your energy up and keep your job.

The guys a keeper. Sometimes big guys take longer to work it out in the NHL. We gave up on Leclair way too early and missed out on a great player. With 4 goals so far he's earning his keep.

MC said...

Like JT said, injuries happen, so we need to be patient. It takes 82 games. What if we waived Lapierre, then White turned out to be a bust? Alternatively, if we wait for an injury, White gets a free audition. If he starts playing well, then he can stay in the line-up and then you can make a roster move. It's the same on defense. One of these old guys will break down. Picard almost played his way onto the roster when Markov was out. He will get another chance to do so. I love the depth on D right now.

Ian said...

It's so early in the season, too early to feel as frustrated as I have been feeling. Your post was excellent, and has given me pause to take a step back.

I'd love to see Picard and O'Byrne get some ice time.

I know Cammaleri, Gionta, and hopefully Gomez will eventually start scoring, but that hasn't been the case so far, and it frustrates me to no end. ANY little contribution from these guys and our 'decent' record would be a lot better. Two points early in the season is so valuable in April.

Like the aforementioned players, Lappiere is a lot better than he is showing us. I doubt he'd survive waivers. Boyd either.

Sure, I'd love to see White and Desharnais up for a bit, but it's not that simple.

And Pacioretty......have had high hopes for him, but the recent comments may have nailed his ass in Hamilton for a while (right or wrong, you just don't say stuff that like that).

Just hoping Pouiliot has turned the corner, as he was also slumping scoring-wise. I did like his physical play, however.

The team is better than they have been playing. I know I'm not the only one the exasperate.

Let's score some friggin goals, eh!

Anonymous said...

Boyd on waivers, hope Lapierre is taking this as a warning for him as well. If not, I hope he's next.