Saturday, March 3, 2018

Poor Len Canayen's wrap-up of the Habs' annus horribilis

Ed. here. It has been a quiet week here in Lake Wobegon. [Ed., you'd better check for copyright on that line. Walt] Walt has been preoccupied with foreign politics, not to mention bored to death -- `scuse the expression -- with all the anti-gun, anti-NRA rhetoric following the Florida school massacre. Calls for new and better gun control laws have (predictably) morphed into attacks on big business and the NRA. Plus ça change... But I digress. Since Walt has other things on his mind, I've invited our old friend, Poor Len Canayen, to write what I suspect will be the final analysis, for this season, of Canada's team, the Montréal Canadiens.

Tank you, Hed. It `as been a quiet week `ere in Lac Wobegon. [That's OK. There's no Lac Wobegon in the USA. Ed.] The Canadiens are out of town, the NHL trade deadline has passed with only one major change, and all but the diehardiest fans have thrown in the towel on this year's season.

It has been a dismal season. Oddly enough, now that everyone (except perhaps General Mismanager Marc Bergevin) has admitted that, what's left of the team has started to play somewhat better. Last night they enjoyed a convincing win over the Brooklyn Islanders, having surrendered the lead thrice but turning on the jets in the third period to prevail 6-3. That makes their record from St Valentine's Day to the present 3-3-2, exactly .500.

.500 doesn't get you into the playoffs, of course, but in the circumstances les Glorieux needn't hang their heads in shame. Well, not too low... The team that took the ice last night, and for most of this season, can only be described as "the B team". All-star Goalie Carey Price is injured, having suffered a concussion last month. It's possible he may take the rest of the season off. In Shea Weber's case, it's not possible but definite. His foot was injured in the very first game of the season. He played hurt for some 20 games but finally succumbed late last fall. Now it turns out he requires surgery and won't be on the ice again until next fall... if then.

Tomas Plekanec was traded to the hated Maple Leafs a day before the trade deadline, a move which I concede was necessary -- M Bergevin is in desperate need of new players -- but which makes me sad nevertheless. Farewell "Plecky" and hope you come back home next year. Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw are both rusty after long spells on the injury list. And almost half of the other 19 guys who wore the bleu-blanc-et-rouge last night are call-ups from the Laval Rocket (the Habs' AHL affiliate), who are also having a bad year, owing to so many of their players being brought up to the Big Club.

Clearly, major changes will be needed in the off-season if Marc Bergevin's much-touted rebuilding plan (now in its sixth year) is going to get back on track. Time to give up on Alex Galchenyuk. He was never a natural centre and no-one could ever figure out what else to do with him. At least four of the call-ups from the AHL -- Jakob de la Rose, Byron Froese, Nikita Scherbak and Daniel Carr -- are "not quite ready for prime time" and need to be sent back to Laval or (better) traded. Captain Max Pacioretty is at the end of his rope and needs to go to a team where he can score at will without having to carry the big "C" on his back.

Something drastic needs to be done about the defence. I still blame Bergevin for having let go three good defencemen -- Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Mikhail Sergachev -- plus a terrific forward, Alexandre Radulov. See "Bring back the Russians!", WWW 9/10/17. Surely it can't be that M Bergevin just doesn't like Russians! Now, with Shea Weber unlikely to be in top shape ever again, the team is left with not a single ace defender. Jeff Petry has played well enough on offence and the power play, but is still something like -30 for the season. Newcomers Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen show promise but need to gain experience... and size.

So, it's up to Bergie to find a couple of top-four defenceman, plus the big, fast centre we've been waiting for for over a decade. I'm actually beginning to think that the BFC may be a mythical creature. For now, unless there is some major development in the world of Le Canadien between now and the end of the season, that's it for me, Poor Len Canayen. Tank you.

[Hé! Hed! Did you check the spelling of the second-last word in the headline? Two Ns or just one? Len.]

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