The Montreal Canadiens had a disappointing 2015-2016 campaign to say the least. The team started the season so promising and were atop the league and power rankings moving through the first 20 game stretch of the year. At the beginning of December the team started its gargantuan collapse and plenty of Canadiens fans wanted answers. It’s easy to pinpoint the loss of Carey Price as being catastrophic to this club but let’s break down five things the Canadiens need to change in the offseason regardless of draft position to regain that cup contender potential.
1 A New Coaching Staff
In no way am I attacking Michel Therrien here and blaming him for the abysmal season the Canadiens had. The terrible season came at the stake of injuries and bad puck luck.
Therrien is very smart and has very impressive numbers behind the Canadiens bench. He’s coached the Canadiens to some great seasons and fantastic playoff runs but one thing remains, they haven’t won and it seems year after year the season ends in disappointment.
When NHL teams are unsuccessful there is need for change and most of the time the heat comes down on the coaching staff, as it should.
Throughout the season the Habs coaching staff did not help the team get out of their slide. While they haven’t been the main problem this past season, they haven’t been part of the solution. Marc Bergevin has constantly said that he has faith in the coaching staff but you can’t just rely on faith. Michel is a great coach but sometimes a shake up in coaching can wake up a team.
To me it’s evident the Habs need a new system. Relying on bottom six forwards to score goals and add to the offence just isn’t a fair request. This team needs to fit the system to the players on their roster. This will come with a new staff.
Clement Jodoin, Dan Lacroix and J.J. Daigneault (Assistant Coaches) are just as responsible. Lacroix and Daigneault have been responsible for the Habs power-play the past couple seasons and a lot has to change there. They have been atrocious on the power-play. Special teams is so important in the NHL and it’s hard to get anything going if your power-play is not scoring; especially with the lack of offence the Canadiens have had in recent years. The Habs allowed ten plus shorthanded goals against this last season, this is simply unacceptable.
A change in the coaching staff might not be the entire solution to the Canadiens problems but it might just be the culture change that is needed in the locker room.
2 Regarding Desharnais
David Desharnais gets paid too much for his role. The Habs don’t have much cap room to work with and Bergevin should simply dump out their third line centreman. While Desharnais does show signs of an able offensive mindset and flashes of great playmaking ability, the small centre doesn’t fit into the Canadiens future and his $3.5 million salary could be used more effectively elsewhere. Younger players that are more deserving to be in the lineup and that can add a little more size, grit and puck possession to the roster should replace this position.
In order for the Canadiens to gain more cap room, Bergevin is going to have to make some moves this offseason with players like Desharnais and possibly big hitter Alexei Emelin to bring up younger players and free room in their top six for a goal scorer which is desperately needed in Montreal.
3 A Legitimate Top Six Player
In previous years, General Manager Marc Bergevin has taken low risks in trying to acquire first/second line wingers that were on their downfall in the NHL. Players like Thomas Vanek and Alexander Semin are good examples of this. With Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty being a deadly pair on the top line, Montreal still needs to acquire a legitimate top six player to pitch in. After July 1st there are going to be a few top six forwards that the Canadiens could pick up. Scoring has been a major issue in Montreal over the past few seasons and while acquiring one top six forward won’t completely solve everything it will bring some hope to this depleted forward group.
If the Canadiens are looking for that top six forward they must be prepared to dish out some money for someone and really bring in the real deal. If the Canadiens can move out players like Emelin and Desharnais that opens up roughly $7.5 million in cap assuming they don’t retain anything. Another option could be to trade for a top six player but the Canadiens simply don’t have players to make something like this happen and it would be a very difficult task for Marc Bergevin.
Players the Canadiens could target:
Acquiring one of these players will not be an easy task but the Canadiens must make an attempt to help their franchise take a step forward in their return to cup contention.
4 Regarding The Defence Group
Montreal for a long time has had a very poised and mobile defence core. This is something that I personally don’t mind however, something has to be done about Andre Markov. The Canadiens have to find someone to relieve Markov of his minutes. He doesn’t have the strength and speed to log minutes like he used to. I don’t believe the Habs should move him elsewhere as he is still a great addition to a power-play unit and a faithful Montreal Canadien. This is an easy task to accomplish with a healthy Montreal Canadiens defence group.
5 Build a Heavier Bottom Six
In the near future the Canadiens will have a solid forward roster. My only concern is they need to be heavier, faster and stronger in their bottom six. They need more of a checking and puck possession third line and a heavy bruising fourth line.
The Canadiens in recent years have always built a speed and finesse heavy team all the way through their forward group and this has to change. While they have the players to make a great top six, they have to start bringing in bigger bodied prospects and players into their bottom six to play lesser roles. The Canadiens like to be a four line hockey club and while that’s great to have, they have to refrain from taking smaller, speedy, somewhat finesse like players in their bottom six.
McCarron and Eller are good examples of third line players who are big and heavy and possess the puck well. They also add depth as they can generate offence. Having players like Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn on your fourth line is not cutting it. Adding players Stefan Matteau and Phillip Danault are good examples of how I would like to see the Canadiens to build their bottom six.