We started to hear the phrase in connection with the Canadiens in November and as the season progressed it became a descriptive of the Canadiens offense.
In hockey it refers to a team that is incapable of sustaining puck control inside an opponents blueline longer than one play before the puck again exits the zone.
It’s a perfect description of the Canadiens offense and, when April rolls around it is destined to become the epitaph for a lost season, the penultimate nail of which was driven at Sunrise Florida two days before the New Year with 43 games still remaining on the schedule.
Hockey minds better than mine have been trying to figure out what has turned a team that won the Atlantic Division last season into a division bottom-feeder only six months later. Much of the finger-pointing will be legitmately directed at a team management that felt the need, either through miscalculation or sheer hubris to rip out key components to a team that had 103 points last season.
How much does the coaching staff have to do with his mess?
The coaching staff can only deal with the players they’re given and it’s obvious that the resurrection of both Dick Irvin and Toe Blake wouldn’t make them better hockey players. But, it’s one thing to be losing, it’s another thing to be boring while you’re doing it. Claude Julien has his team tied up with a defensive system that it may not have the personnel to execute.
On Friday Bergevin spent an entire practice trying to shake the team out of their ‘one-and-done’ inability to sustain puck possession in the offensive zone. The result, after after scoring one goal in each of their previous three games, they were shutout by the Panthers. And, if anything, they were more sleep inducing.
At the outset, I think Max Pacioretty gave himself a couple of chances in this game to end what is now a 12 game month-long scoring drought.
It takes a very special personality to be captain of a sinking ship while trying to shake out of a career long scoring slump. That double responsibility plus the necessity of dealing with the incessant questioning of the nightly media horde seems to be more than Pacioretty has been able to bear.
There have been rumours that he has asked Marc Bergevin to trade him and according to the Hockey Night in Canada panel Saturday night, Bergevin is ready to accommodate him.
One merciful thing Bergevin might do in the interim is relieve him of the pressure of the captaincy. While it’s too late to put the Canadiens back on track, it might bring Paciorety out of his funk.
There are a few good things about this team. We could start with the goaltender who in his 15 starts since returning from injury has given the Canadiens nine games in which he has allowed two goals or fewer.
There are other strong pieces. Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron and Andrew Shaw also come to mind. Because of unfilled holes in the lineup Jonathan Drouin is being forced to play a position he shouldn’t. Alex Galchenyuk is again showing signs of emerging. Jeff Petry has been the blue line anchor replacing Shea Weber. Once you get past that group and perhaps the possiblities of rookies Charles Hudon and Daniel Carr, there isn’t a great deal to scare an opponent. Sad, but true. Now the hanging question is, what Bergevin going to do about surrounding the positive pieces of the puzzle with the kind of individuals that can bring them together.
The larger question, six seasons into his tenure as general manager will be, whether he’s given the opportunity to make the necessary moves.
The Canadiens return home Sunday for New Year’s Eve. They’ll practice Monday and start the 2018 calendar year Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks. First of a five game home stand. The final forty-three games of this season are going to be hard to bear.