Time To Say Goodbye to Uncles Jacques and Pierre
That's how long the Montreal Canadiens have been a hockey organization. Longer than any other team currently in the NHL. Longer than the league itself.
And in all those years, throughout an entire century, the Canadiens have never suffered as embarrassing a start to the season as the one they are currently going through.
Eight games. One win. Six losses, one in overtime, the last of which came Monday night at the Bell Centre, at the hands of the Florida Panthers (Laura Kenney's recap).
I repeat, one win, on the road, against the Winnipeg Jets, a team that's just about as bad as the Habs. Through eight games, one measly win, and, by the way, none at home through five games, a franchise record (and I repeat again, this team is over a century old). Overall, the record is the worst for the team since the 1940s.
So, who's to blame for all of this? What's the reason the Canadiens have already practically mailed-in the season? Is it because of injuries? Is it because they're just not good enough, playing over their heads in recent seasons? Is their success really all that contingent on Carey Price bringing his A-game?
If you follow me on twitter, you'd know that the answer is relatively simple. All you have to do is look to the two people currently in charge of running the team.
On the ice, from behind the bench, we have Jacques Martin, experienced, seasoned coach who came to Montreal with 500 wins under his belt (currently sitting at 601), coaching the Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers. Despite this impressive pedigree, Martin has never won the Stanley Cup or even made the cup final, only making the conference finals twice, once with Montreal, once with Ottawa. His 16 years as an NHL coach include seven first round exits, and four seasons where his teams didn't even make the post-season.
High above the ice surface, in the Bell Centre's executive offices, we find Pierre Gauthier. The 58-year-old manager also came to the Canadiens with a wealth of experience, having managed both the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks, not to mention scouting for the Nordiques for over a decade. Before becoming the General Manager of the Canadiens in their centennial year, Gauthier spent seven years as Bob Gainey's right-hand man, slowly acquiring more and more responsibility before taking the job away from his mentor in February of 2010.
Since these two men have taken over the reigns of the Montreal Canadiens, there has been some good, some bad, but generally, a lot of disappointment. The team did manage to make the conference finals under the duo in 2010, and they took the eventual Stanley Cup champions to seven games in the first round of last year's playoffs. But as a whole, their years with the Canadiens have been plagued with injuries, under-performance and mediocrity.
Forget the Canadiens' trek to the conference finals. That wasn't a result of anything Gauthier and Martin did, that was done in spite of them, thanks to a hot goaltender and several determined defensemen. Forget last year's seven game performance against the Bruins. Regardless of what Boston went on to do, they lost, so it's meaningless.
It's obviously easy to criticize when things are going wrong, but the blame has to go somewhere. And it isn't because of injuries, or because the players that this team has sucks. Even if you could use those as legitimate excuses, then someone has to be blamed for not properly stocking the cupboards, or for not making the proper adjustments to "the system".
There's a disconnect somewhere within this organization. The general manager is acquiring players that the coach doesn't want to use (Erik Cole, Mr. 3 Powerplay Goals himself; Alexsei Yemelin, who's practicing AS A FORWARD today; most recently, Petteri Nokelainen, who barely played 7 minutes despite going 100% in the faceoff circle). The coach is clearly biased towards certain players, against others, and unwilling to play his team to their strengths.
The end result? The worst start in Canadiens history. Severe underperformances form some of the team's best players, including Mike Cammalleri, PK Subban, and even Carey Price, who has been stuck on the verge of making history with a 100th career win since October 9th. Travis Moen, TRAVIS MOEN, is this team's leading scorer, and the injuries are continuing to pile on.
No matter who you blame, no matter what the true reason for this team's dismantling is, it can't continue. I don't care who replaces them, there's no way that it can get worse. I don't care if it's Jacques Lemaire, Bob Hartley, Pierre McGuire, the ghost of Pat Burns... it doesn't matter. There's something toxic in the Montreal Canadiens' dressing room. The venom needs to be sucked out, and it needs to be done quickly, or the season will quickly move into hopeless territory, if it hasn't already.
The Habs are playing back to back games against the Flyers and Bruins the next two days, before another game against the Bruins on Saturday. Odds are, if they can't win at least two of those games, the season will already be on life support. And who are we kidding, if they can't beat the Leafs or Panthers, they're not going to beat the Flyers or Bruins. It's doubtful that you'll se a coach fired before such a crucial series of games.
But after they play Boston on Saturday, the Canadiens have six days off, before playing four of their next five games on the road.
October 29th to November 3rd. That's your realistic range for potentially, finally seeing true change with this team. Unfortunately, no one knows what's going on through the mind of Geoff Molson and the rest of this team's higher ups. We can only hope that Geoff Molson's anonymous twitter trolling has led him to certain people's takes on the matter. If not mine, then at least, I don't know, Kyle Roussel, who recently added another 10 reasons to fire Jacques Martin.
I've seen even the most die-hard Habs apologist start to turn around over the last week. The time for change is now. It's clear as day. There are no more excuses, no more reprieves.
It's time to say goodbye to Uncle Jacques and Uncle Pierre.
I don't even care who replaces them. Pierre McGuire, Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Bob Hartley, Hell, Guy Carbonneau would be better at this point. Just make it stop.