Montreal is certainly a difficult place to play, coach or even watch a game (if you have the wrong sweater on). This season, the Canadiens have been less-than-stellar, leading to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn and now head coach Jacques Martin.
While the Pearn dismissal was putting the scapegoat on a poor power play, the firing of Martin places the blame directly on him should the team not make the playoffs — a feat he accomplished in both of his seasons in Montreal while getting them within five wins of the 2010 Stanley Cup and taking the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to seven games in 2011.
Pearn was not a bad coach, he lacked results in this year’s short sample size. Likewise, Martin was the victim of a short leash — a leash that got tighter and tighter as more head coaches were fired around the League.
The Habs continue their trend of firing coaches on game days and hope to get some life out of a team that went 3-3-4 over their last 10 and that is currently the last place team in the Northeast Division. Again, similar to the Pearn firing, you can almost expect them to come out on top against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils for the second time in a week.
Randy Cunneyworth, who will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season, probably doesn’t change the team’s system. In his first morning skate, he neglected to even change his lines. His only task is to find the pulse in a team that at times has been put on life support.
Is that too much to ask from a coach was never once a head coach of an NHL team or won a championship at the AHL level?
When you consider that the personnel and the person who acquired most of them, GM Pierre Gauthier, are still the vital cogs in the organization, then yes. Scott Gomez — which was actually a Bob Gainey move — is still the most overpriced player in the NHL. However, “top” players like Gomez, Michael Cammalleri and Andrei Markov account for almost 30 percent of the team’s cap hit with 20 combined points between them.
In fact, their failures have forced panic moves like the Tomas Kaberle trade and likely both coaching firings. So while the change in bench boss should give them enough life to win a few games and possibly squeak into the playoffs, the overall result should be the same — middle of the pack team who will have to scratch and claw for everything they get.
Unlike the past seasons, the Northeast has a fierce amount of competition. The Buffalo Sabres are no longer held back by payroll restrictions, the Ottawa Senators have a never-say-die mentality while scoring goals in buckets and the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally icing a respectable team. Couple those improvements with the Boston Bruins reincarnating their Big Bad Bruins of old and dominating the NHL and the Habs have an uphill climb to say the least.
If you own any Habs’ players, they likely won’t turn the dial either way. I still recommend owning Max Pacioretty as his shot totals help out every week. His center David Desharnais is breaking almost every advanced stat as well so he probably gets a pass in deeper leagues but from there it’s hard to expect any real change. Keep Carey Price, Tomas Plekanec and Erik Cole knowing that they have probably hit their ceiling this season.
Even though this move will be another shot-in-the-arm for the slumping Habs, they can’t change their Division or how their rival teams play (yet). Therefore, you can’t expect much more than a 7-8th seed out of this team.