The 2021 Montreal Canadiens: Where's the Beef?
My buddy back in university used to tell me stories about what it was like to grow up on a beef farm. As a young child he was taught to never give the cows a name. Once you name a cow, you get attached to it. Once you get attached to it, it is very hard to kill it, drain it of blood, marinade it overnight, put it on the bbq, and add a side of twice-baked potato. As a carnivorous adult, I prefer my steaks and potatoes to remain anonymous; it helps the digestion process.
There are some beef cows on the Habs that may need some new pastures to graze in and we might be better off to come to that realization right now.
BEEF COW #1 - THE COACHING STAFF
The reality of being a coach in the NHL is that you are the first to get blamed when things are not going well. As a coach, you are at the mercy of your players ability to perform on a nightly basis. That said, how much more evidence do we need that this coaching staff cannot get anymore out of these players?
The mark of a good coaching staff is the ability to adjust as the season goes on. The Habs were shot out of a cannon to the tune of a 7-2-1 start. Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli took the North by storm and were unstoppable early in the season. As a team in general, the Habs were unstoppable, even while short-handed. Now the film is out on the Habs and the smart, well-coached teams are no longer fooled by the newcomers or the Habs in general.
I wrote a blog last season (that no one read either) about the Habs’ hot start and ultimate demise. One of my lamentations centered around the inability of the coaching staff to counter other teams and their adjustments. Now that the team is 2-4-1 in their last 7, the butchers are out for blood. Bad habits are creeping back into their game. The past sins of taking too many penalties, stagnation on the powerplay, and being predictable in both ends of the ice are now glaring issues. Last year they lost 4x to the last place Red Wings. This year, they are 1-1-1 versus the Senators and have only scored 6 goals in the process. The Senators have given up an average of 4.4 goals/game to the rest of the North but have shut down the Habs in 3 games.
The fact they are 3-5 at home is the best proof that this coaching staff cannot game plan for matchups. The fact this team is so good on the road suggests that they are better off with no plan than the one the coaches come up with. Having the last change is supposed to be a huge advantage. Furthermore, the excuse of the Bell Center crowd motivating the other team is out the window. Mike Johnson (most likely during the play) on TSN2 suggested that if the Habs do well at home this year it is because they are a better team and has nothing to do with match-ups or the crowd. Is there a third excuse Mike?
BEEF COW #2 - THE DANAULT CONTRACT
Pretend Philip Danault played on any other team in the NHL. In the offseason, would you want the Habs to sign him for 6 years/$30 million? In 17 games he has 6 assists and as many goals as my mother. Yes he wins faceoffs and yes he is a great defender, but it is ludicrous to sign him for that price in a hard-capped system. Furthermore, depending on the day, he is considered a #1 or #2 center. Only on the Montreal Canadien Beef Farm could a top line center get away with 0-6-6-17GP.
This is another reason why you never name your cows. He would be an amazing 3rd line center on a team with 2 bonafide centers ahead of him. (Teams like Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg to name 4!)
A SIDE OF TWICE-BAKED POTATO - Colour Commentators on TSN2
Mike Johnson and Dave Poulin, I am begging you to please be quiet during the play. Bryan Mudryk is trying his best to call a good game and you 2 baked potatoes are ruining it. You have enthusiasm and energy which are great attributes in colour commentators. We know that you know the game. You do not have to prove it to us during the play. Good Lord, it's like listening to a know-it-all dad in the stands who won’t be quiet at a 6:30am Atom house league hockey game.
Take a lesson from the great Harry Neale and Dick Irvin of HNIC. They let Bob Cole and Danny Gallivan sing to us during the play without needless interruption. They knew when to be quiet and let the game sell itself.
Mike and Dave (and Chris Simpson and Ray Ferraro and the insufferable Pierre Maguire) you are not bigger than the game. Stop acting like it!