Timing is everything.  The Canadiens lost seven of their first eight games to start the season (1-5-2).  Over the next two months the team clawed it’s way back to respectability with a 12-6-5 record to the point where they were two games over .500 on December 13th following a win over the Islanders at the Bell Centre.  At the time they were ninth in the Eastern Conference.   Two nights later they were edged at home by Philadelphia, a game in which the Canadiens fought back to tie the game three times and outshot the Flyers 11-6 in the third period before going down 4-3.   Two days later, Jacques Martin was fired.

I guess we’ll never find out exactly why Pierre Gauthier (and probably Bob Gainey) decided to pull the trigger, but the decision eventually not only cost both Gauthier and Gainey their job, it also opened the franchise up to universal ridicule.  Under Cunneyworth the team is 17-23-7 and the team has sunk from playoff contention to last in the Eastern Conference and 28th in the league.

………..Interesting take on the Canadiens-Scott Gomez situation from Larry Brooks in the Sunday New York Post

The idea the Canadiens would be able to buy out the remaining two years and $10 million of Scott Gomez’s contract all but certainly died when the center sustained a concussion on March 12.

It would seem impossible Gomez could be cleared to return prior to a training camp physical, thus further complicating both the future of the center — whose career has spiraled into disrepute and who likely would have been better off being cut loose into free agency — and the decisions confronting the incoming administration of the currently Headless Habs.

Brooks is right.  Under the CBA,  transactions can not be put into effect while a player is injured.  Buyouts  can only be implemented between the 15th and 30th of June, allowing a bought out player to take part in free agency.  That leaves a training camp demotion to the Hamilton Bulldogs as the only remaining option if the Canadiens want to dispose of the Gomez contract prior to next season.

…………Scoring slumps are usually the result of one of two things, a player is simply playing badly or he is just plain unlucky.  Rene Bourque ended his fifteen game goal scoring drought Friday night at Madison Square Garden; a slump  marked by erratic and often abysmal effort.

Max Pacioretty, on the other hand,  has been flat out unfortunate.  On March 19th in Vancouver, Pacioretty’s empty net goal, his second of the game, was also his 30th of the season.  He’s been stuck on 30 since.  Eleven games and no goals, despite the fact that on most nights he’s  been one of the Canadiens best forwards.  Saturday night’s game in Washington is a perfect example.  Five shots on goal, three scoring chances and only an assist (on Erik Cole’s goal) to show for his all-out effort.  During the drought he’s put 43 shots on goal and recorded an unofficial 35 ‘scoring chances’.   I think that safely qualifies as operating in bad luck.

…..Pierre Gauthier was not only the general manager of the Canadiens, he doubled as GM of their Hamilton Bulldogs AHL affiliate.  With all of the announcements and news conferences last Thursday, nobody thought to inform the Bulldogs about Gauthier’s firing.  Clement Jodoin, who is in the first of a two year Bulldogs coaching contract was informed of the management change by his daughter, who reached him in his Austin Texas hotel room.  Subsequently, Jodoin was informed that Larry Carriere will be the acting Hamilton GM.  Before Gauthier decided to take over Hamilton duties, Julien Brisebois ran Bulldogs business affairs.  Brisebois is now considered one of the candidates to replace Gauthier.

………If the NHL Draft Lottery were held today, the Canadiens would rank third behind Columbus and Edmonton with a 14.2 % chance of getting the first pick.  They have a 70% chance of holding down third choice.  (see the chart below).

There are an unpredented number of factors at play as teams enter this draft. Let’s assume the odds hold up and the Canadiens wind up drafting third overall. Three of the top four forwards are Russian meaning whoever drafts them will be in tough contract competition with a KHL team and the Russians aren’t limited by the NHL’s 925-thousand dollar entry level salary maximum.   The Canadiens need a big highly skilled centre, a commodity they haven’t enjoyed since Peter Mahovlich left the team thirty-four years ago.  Two of the three Russians at the top end of the scouting reports fill that bill, 6’3″ Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts and Alex Galchenyuk of Sarnia at 6’2″.  On one hand, Galchenyuk is risky because he missed all but the final two regular season games after tearing up his knee in training camp. On the other, he was born in Milwaukee while his father was playing minor pro hockey and carries dual citizenship.  He may be more inclined to remain in North America than, for instance Grigorenko.  These are franchise watershed decisions.  Risk taking a Russian or take a conservative path and draft big right winger Filip Forsberg from Leksands of the Swedish Elite League.  With no general manager in sight, that decision is probably going to be made by Canadiens player development director Trevor Timmins.

(through games of Friday,  April 1 ,2012)

Current ————-   PERCENTAGES OF ————-
Non-Playoff Club * Draft Pos. Pts If Selected Winning Getting 1st Dropping Not Dropping
Columbus 1 61 Retain 1st pick 25.0% 48.2% 51.8% 48.2%
Edmonton 2 71 2nd to 1st 18.8% 18.8% 39.2% 60.8%
Montreal 3 73 3rd to 1st 14.2% 14.2% 29.7% 70.3%
Minnesota 4 76 4th to 1st 10.7% 10.7% 22.6% 77.4%
Toronto 5 77 5th to 1st   8.1%   8.1% 17.2% 82.8%


Winning – percentage chance of winning the Draft Drawing (see above, ‘If Selected’)
Getting 1st – percentage chance of being awarded the first overall pick as a result of the Draft Drawing
Dropping – percentage chance of moving down in the draft order as a result of the Draft Drawing
Not Dropping – percentage chance of not moving down in the draft order as a result of the Draft Drawing