The Montreal Canadiens are back home after a pretty awful West Coast trip. It started with the fledgling Seattle Kraken and went through California via San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The only points came on Jake Allen’s herculean effort against the Sharks. The rest saw a lethargic Canadiens team sleepwalk through three regulation losses with just five goals to show for it.
A couple of days off and some time at home is plenty of time for Dominique Ducharme to work his “magic”. And work he did. The line blender was in full effect, and no line was safe.
There is one thing that is good out of this whole situation, and that is that Cole Caufield has been sent down to Laval, and Michael Pezzetta has been called up. Caufield has struggled this year, and has just one assist in ten games. Pezzetta turned heads during training camp, and has continued his strong play in Laval with six points in eight games. Pezzetta is just a fourth-line plugger at this point and the best news is that Caufield is sent down and will get his confidence back, but at least we get to see that sweet flow again.
The rest… I do not like. And that is putting it nicely.
Now, I have been a defender of Dominique Ducharme in the past. I wrote an article about how he was the reason that Montreal got past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round last year, and I stand by that belief. Ducharme did some great work in that series, and put into place a defensive scheme that totally stymied the Leafs’ offence. Sure, Keefe and the Leafs played right into Ducharme’s hands, especially when he loaded up Matthews, Marner and Nylander on the same line.
This season has pretty much completely turned the positives around. The team has been awful, and a big part of that has been the compete level. Its something that has not been a problem in the past few years. The team hasn’t always been great, but the compete was there. In their last game, Montreal didn’t even manage a shot after Anaheim took the 3-2 lead. That is pathetic.
And these lines are the last straw.
What in the world is Jake Evans doing on the first line? Anyone that knows me knows that I love me some Jake Evans, and he has played first line winger before in the playoffs but this makes no sense. Evans played alongside Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher to form a dominant shut down line, but Tyler Toffoli and Nick Suzuki are no Gallagher and Danault.
Both Toffoli and Suzuki are offensively minded players, but aren’t necessarily play drivers. Suzuki is good, but has definitely struggled against the top centers this year. Toffoli is a finisher, but doesn’t do much with the puck coming up the ice. Evans could be a play driver, but he is incredibly raw, especially against top opponents.
But Evans is on this line probably for his defensive prowess, since Suzuki and Toffoli are not the best in that regard. But then that puts all of the pressure on Evans, a second year NHLer and 7th round pick, to drive offensive play and be defensively sound. That is way too much for Evans to do, and as a winger when he is naturally a center.
And it makes the second line decision even more completely idiotic.
Okay Dominique Ducharme, lets take a little stroll down history lane. I like history. So much so that on the Puck and Roll Podcast I have my own little segment going over what happened on that day in Monteal’s history. I do it on Twitter every day, if that interests you. But I mention it because I don’t think that Ducharme has looked into the past, as he is making the same mistakes as so many before him. And we don’t even have to look that far back.
Let’s go back to 2012. Montreal was bad, and was granted the 3rd overall pick. The first pick was the bust Nail Yakupov to Edmonton, the second was Ryan Murray to Columbus, and with the third pick Montreal picked the skilled winger Alex Galchenyuk. He was hailed as the new top line center of the future.
There were many things wrong with Galchenyuk, and we will never know his true potential, but the move to center was a disaster. He had one great year in Montreal, and has bounced around the league from Arizona to Ottawa to Toronto and back.
From one third overall pick to another, Jonathan Drouin was picked by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013. In 2017, Montreal traded blue-chip blueliner Mikhail Sergachev to get Drouin. And once again, Drouin was hailed as the center of the future, and this time he’s francophone!
Drouin has yet to live up to the hype in Montreal, but undoubtedly he has looked best on the wing. He has been arguably Montreal’s best forward this year on the wing, and he had 17 points in as many games as a winger.
And now the news out of practice is that Jonathan Drouin will be playing center in between Hoffman and Anderson. This is idiotic and dumb and stupid and I do not like it. So while Evans is out of position on the first line, and Drouin is similarly out of position on the second line. It would be so easy and so much better to switch the two. So what that the first line is all offence? It would be fun to see two of the most skilled forwards in Suzuki and Drouin together.
I do not get Toffoli on the first line either. Toffoli has scored 1 goal. I don’t think anyone thought he would continue on the pace of last year, but that is sluggish even by his standards. One guy who has not been sluggish is Mike Hoffman. Despite being pegged as a powerplay specialist, he has been the one Canadien that has found the back of the net consistently, and half of his goals has come off of the man advantage.
Lehkonen, Dvorak and Armia have the makings of a good shut-down line, but it is pretty funny to think that at this point Bergevin gave up a first and third round pick for a third line center. The fourth line is a plug line. Just go out and not get scored on, please.
The defense has been decimated from injuries. No Petry and no Edmundson means that Montreal is without their top pairing. But still, why is Norlinder here? He should be in the SHL gaining experience and confidence. I would much rather have someone like Ouellet come up rather than try to see if Norlinder, the offensive defenseman, can float in the NHL.
And you are going to take out Sami Niku or Chris Wideman? Wideman has 2 points in 6 games, which is not bad for a bottom pairing defenseman, and I have liked what I have seen from Niku so far.
If this is truly the lines that Ducharme is going with against Detroit on Tuesday this will truly be a disaster of a season. It really does feel like we are late in the season and Ducharme is trying any wild combination to see if anything will stick. Norlinder on the team is confusing, Drouin at center is just insulting. Settle in, its going to be a bumpy ride.