Canadiens: Jeff Petry Needs to Step up Amidst Comments on Team Struggles

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 29: Jeff Petry #26 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at Centre Bell on November 29, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 29: Jeff Petry #26 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at Centre Bell on November 29, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

It hasn’t been a good start to 2021-22 for Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry. In fact, it seems like most every piece I’ve written thus far this season has started with that same line, as quite frankly, there aren’t many Canadiens players this season who have gotten off to a good start in 2021-22, if any.

Beating a dead horse I know, but the fact still remains that Petry has been a far cry from the talented two-way defenseman he’s been for the Canadiens over the last six and a half seasons. After putting up his fourth consecutive 40-point season in 2020-21 with 12-30-42 totals over 55 games (being an early frontrunner for the Norris Trophy in the process) Petry similarly stepped up in the playoffs for Montreal as the Habs went on a  Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final, posting 0-6-6 totals over 20 games as a key defensive piece.

Yet, all of that seems like nothing more than a distant memory, as Petry has been nothing short of dreadful this season, though that isn’t exactly breaking news at this point. With 0-2-2 totals and -7 rating over an eye-watering 27 games, Petry is on pace for just six points over 82 games, the worst statistical season of his career by a wide, wide margin. Now granted, all of this can be seen as relative to the Canadiens struggles this season, as Petry really hasn’t had anything to work with both offensively and defensively.

However, after comments made towards head coach Dominique Ducharme last week, it’s apparent Petry is not keeping quiet about his frustrations with both his play and the Canadiens system, and for the most part, this is understandable at face value. Site Expert Ken MacMillan already took a look into Petry’s comments as they were said, and it’s clear the 34-year-old veteran wants there to be change within the Canadiens system.

Montreal’s lineup is entering it’s familiar who’s who of AHL callups as the team has just about given up on a hopeless 2021-22 season, with there main objective now being to float above the Arizona Coyotes for dead last in the NHL, and hope and pray that a player such as Shane Wright or Matthew Savoie falls into their laps in the NHL Draft lottery. It’s been a familiar story for the Canadiens over the past few seasons, and one both fans and analysts seem largely unaware of with that Stanley Cup Finals run still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Similarly, it seems as though it’s just as fresh in the mind of Petry, who is largely without the talented defensive lineup Montreal relied on time and time again last season. No Joel Edmundson? No Shea Weber? No Erik Gustafsson? No Jon Merrill? Well, how does Kale Clague sound to you then? Maybe Chris Wideman? How about a bit of David Savard just to add that little extra bit of disappointment?

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry needs to step up to the plate after his comments on the Canadiens struggles to start the 2021-22 season.

Say what you will about some of the Habs defensive pieces last post-season, but they nonetheless brought a veteran presence and a reliability that this current Habs team has little, if any of. Wideman, Savard, Clague, and even more solid options like Brett Kulak, Ben Chiarot and Alexander Romanov just haven’t been able to get their game going night in and night out, not being suitable replacements for the pieces the Habs have found themselves missing.

However, just as he seems to be missing his former defensive partners, Petry is still one of those same defenseman who has struggled this season, and, in my mind, is the one who has struggled the most. As much as I’ve attempted to deflect this piece away from yet another elephant in the room (like was mentioned in my last piece) it’s something that simply can’t be ignored. Regardless of any struggles with Ducharme’s system, or the players around him, or finding the motivation as the Canadiens sit second-last in the entire NHL, Jeff Petry, as an NHL defenseman, has been horrible this season, and no amount of team issues can take away from that.

Heading into Thursday night’s matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers, Petry’s comments were seen as reason for him to find his game a bit and lead the Canadiens to a win as he had done so many times before. Yet, instead, Petry was the main culprit behind both Flyer’s goals, even as the Canadiens still managed to sneak out a 3-2 win in a shootout. For the majority, if not the entirety of this season, Petry has just not made the right plays at the right moments. Whether it be getting tangled up with his defenders on the backcheck, chasing opposing forwards behind the net instead of covering the front of the net, or just being lackadaisical in getting back off the rush, Petry has just looked as though his head isn’t in the right place at this current moment.

While I can understand his quarrels and frustrations with Ducharme’s system, that same frustration is one that needs to be backed up with solid on-ice play, and Petry instead went and played his usual low-energy game that has led the Canadiens to zero back-to-back wins thus far this season. Petry has fulfilled his off-ice, veteran role for the team in speaking out about how things just haven’t worked out with Ducharme’s system, and he’s largely right, as the Canadiens have looked liked a shell of their former selves without most of the pieces that made them so much fun to watch last post-season.

However, he needs to step up to the plate with his play on the ice, and at face value, Petry just hasn’t, both offensively and defensively. Could he turn things around and maybe redeem this season a bit and quell worries about his future with the team? Possibly, as Petry has always been one to step up when it matters most, but seeing as little matters to the Canadiens as this season is entirely, utterly, and undoubtfully lost, it seems unlikely he’ll be able to do that.

As the 2021-22 season rages, the NHL finds themselves with a potential season suspension on their hands as the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged both teams and players alike, and with the Montreal Canadiens struggling in the way that they have thus far this season, it seems as though such a break is the thing both the Habs, and Jeff Petry, are in need of, the most.

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