The Montreal Canadiens are only lacking one thing to keep them from being a top team in the NHL.
They have a goaltender in Carey Price who is more than doing his part. A .929 sv% is more than many teams can hope for from their starter. Doing it in 15 of 18 games, which is on pace for a 69 game season, is a level of play well above satisfactory. The fifth overall pick int he 2005 draft class is playing like you would expect such a high pick.
The vastly under-appreciated Josh Gorges and Rapheal Diaz are the top rearguards for a penalty kill that is near the top of the NHL. Up front are Brandon Prust who while he has a very lengthy fight history is more than just a puncher, and Tom Plekanec should be on everyone’s Selke short list. The four are key portions of one of the better short handed units in the NHL.
Did you know the Montreal Canadiens have the 2nd ranked power-play in the NHL? Well, they do. Who leads them in goals on the man advantage? Some guy named Tom Plekanec, three goals, seven points. Norris winner P.K. Subban leads the team with nine total points.
With a team that has a top penalty kill, a killer powerplay, and a goalie playing stellar hockey you have to look closer to find the problems. They are getting scoring from a number of sources, even if more than one of their top players is not at the top of their game. If the issue isn’t the on ice talent, and the team categories seem to say they are not, one must look further.
The team’s leadership is not openly incompetent, but that doesn’t mean they are the right mix to produce top results. When you look at the fact that the Canadiens are a top five team in fighting majors, and built around a stout, (mostly) mobile defense, and playing with a touch of snarl you have to wonder what Michel Therrien is doing behind the bench of this roster configuration. A certain vocal, and perhaps belligerent segment of the fan-base believes the team should have a Francophone as its head coach, winning cures all ills.
As a coach Therrian could have a higher ceiling than many believe. The Pittsburgh Penguins for example exiled him before pulling things together and charging full tilt towards the promised land. He was also fired by the Canadiens in the past. Despite trips to the finals in both the AHL and NHL he’s never won. This might have something to do with the way he deploys top assets, like P.K. Subban. It almost certainly has something to do with a lack of follow through, this is after all the coach who promised savage retribution after the famous Kyle MacLaren hit on Richard Zednik, and then produced nothing.
While coaches aren’t the only ones who can inject consistency into a team, they have the most sway. And consistency is that one thing the Canadiens need to be a successful team both before and after the middle of April this year.