The Montreal Canadiens went from cup finalist to Shane Wright hopeful in a matter of months, so it is safe to say a few things have gone wrong. The front office has already felt the consequences of a disappointing season, but Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins were not the only rotten eggs in the carton. It is long past time to throw the rest of the batch out.
The coaching staff (put in place by Bergevin) has been abysmal. The penalty kill is terrible and the power play is even worse. Ben Chiarot has more powerplay shots than Cole Caufield. Nothing against number 8, but that just doesn’t make any sense. Then again, nothing really makes sense when it comes to Dominique Ducharme’s allocation of ice time, line combinations, or active skaters.
When a line combination isn’t working, any head coach at any level would break it up and try something new. Ducharme’s problem is that he pulls the plug on his struggling lines far too quickly. He gives his trios one, maybe two games before he decides whether or not it is working.
That means a new line is given only about 25-30 minutes to figure out how to play together. Montreal’s turnover woes are a direct result of this constant shuffling, because nobody knows where their line-mates are going to be.
The team’s most productive group this year is the Dvorak-Anderson-Drouin line. The trio got off to a “hot” start this season, and therefore avoided a breakup until Drouin got injured. Ducharme needs to set his line-up and not touch it for a week, and give his guys a chance to build actual chemistry.
Next he needs to close the revolving door at defenseman. Clearly Romanov, Petry, Savard, Kulak, and Chiarot are going to play every night. So should Joel Edmundson when he comes back. But Ducharme needs to decide who the 6th D-man is and stick with him.
Other guys will play as a result of injuries and thats fine, But rotating between Sami Niku and Chris Wideman is nonsense. This team is bad, so if it is close give the ice time to the 24 year old Niku, and not 32 year old Wideman. And if it isn’t close, why are they splitting time?
There is an 18 skater combination that is best for the Canadiens, and it is Ducharme’s job to find it. 2022 is just a few weeks away and he either hasn’t found it yet, or tried it once and already gave up on it. If he can’t figure things out quickly, Geoff Molson needs to find someone to coach the Canadiens who can.