Over the years I’ve seen some pretty horrible Canadiens slumps. Some of them have happened during championship seasons.
I can’t remember anything quite like the strange behavior of 2014-2015 version of the team.
A week ago Thursday the Canadiens were listed in first place in the entire league. Nine days later, after losing five of six games the Canadiens stand in eleventh place. To be fair, the Canadiens are also only three points out of second place, but the fact that any team can plummet ten places in the standings in just ten nights is truly remarkable.
Not that it was totally unexpected. The Canadiens 13-4-1 early season record was made up of smoke, mirrors and a high wire act. Even a cockeyed optimist had nagging doubts about it lasting.
For all to see, the Canadiens possession numbers were awful. Their power play was worse. They were in the bottom third of the league in goalscorering. Their performance level was all over the lot. They were entering games emotionally unprepared.
Even as they were winning, the general manager was in the process of trying to fix things on-the-fly after Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu were proven not-yet NHL ready. But, in the process turned his defense into the oldest in the league by an average of four years..
The Canadiens weren’t supposed to be as good as their season start and they aren’t as bad as they’ve been the last seven games. Probably somewhere in the middle, which makes them somewhat south of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning and north of Carolina, Buffalo and Florida. The word that comes to mind is “mediocre”.
Of even larger concern is the Canadiens strength down the middle or more accurately, the lack of it. David Desharnais is in another of his slumps and has shown none of the things you would like to see from your number one centre. Tomas Plekanec is showing some age and looking more and more like a third line centre while Lars Eller, his heir apparent appears to be out for an extended time with an injury. Much as I like Manny Malhotra’s contributions this season, with one point his last 45 games, he contributes nothing but faceoff wins from the fourth line. The logical move of Alex Galchenyuk might solve one of the centre ice issues but the other three lines remain major headaches.
So, in the GM and coaching offices the Monday morning questions will be – where to even begin to straighten things out.
All slumps end. So too will this one. But we are also in the month of December and by the season’s third month teams have a pretty good idea how competitive they’re going to be for the rest of the season. The slump might end but it’s unlikely they will be climbing back to the top of the league standings and the lead in the Eastern Conference or even the Atlantic Division seems also to be out of reach.
The Canadiens Slumping Centres
Desharnais – 0g 7a last 12 games
Plekanec – 1g 4a last 10 games
Eller – 2g 1a last 11 games (now injured)
Malholtra – 1g 0a last 45 games