It was a tough week on and off the ice for the Habs and it was almost just as bad for St. John’s who lost a pair of must-win games. As always, we have the stats for the week (which aren’t the prettiest) plus commentary on the Subban-Therrien ‘issue’ and the upcoming trade deadline.
Cheers and Jeers
1) Jacob de la Rose. He didn’t impress at training camp and when he was up a few weeks ago, he was okay but didn’t really stand out much. That hasn’t been the case since he returned to the team last week though. He’s holding his own at the faceoff dot, is playing physical, and is even blocking some shots. He’s making a strong impression this time around.
2) Picking the right time to come out of a slump which is what Dale Weise did this past week. He had two goals in Montreal’s three games. Prior to that, he had two goals in the last three months. Just in time for the trade deadline too…
3) Lucas Lessio. First, I’m glad he got the chance to get another look instead of them sending him back down and bringing another IceCap up. Second, he looked pretty good in both games. Lessio won’t be a big scorer at this level – a bigger Paul Byron may ultimately be his ceiling – but as a young (and accordingly, cheap) fourth liner, there’s a role for him to carve out with the Canadiens. These first two games back are a good starting step.
The Michel Therrien/P.K. Subban ‘saga’ which requires more commentary than a single paragraph so I’ll forego the usual three jeers to weigh in more about this one.
To start, I have no problem with Therrien’s decision to send an on-ice message to Subban. No player should be above being sat down, even the stars and fan favourites. Subban’s play against Colorado was far from the first time he tried to do too much on his own and as a result, strayed from the team structure/strategy. When that happens, it slows the rest of his teammates down as even they don’t know what Subban’s going to try to do. There’s no denying that there sometimes are benefits when he does that but it also backfires more often than many seem to care to admit. Eventually, having it go the wrong way enough times means that the coach needs to do something about it. Usually, that involves sitting the player which is what happened here for all of one shift. The fact it was a very important shift is what actually gets the message across.
That message, to me, is that Subban should be a little smarter at picking and choosing his battles when it comes to deciding when to go for the individual play. I don’t think Therrien wants Subban to stop trying to make the play all the time here, just to be a bit more selective based on the situation. Two minutes to go in a tie game against a Western opponent when the team is in desperate need of points (remember, Therrien is coaching with the hopes of getting back in the playoff race; he’s not a member of the tanking brigade) is too risky in the eyes of most coaches. That’s all that needed to be conveyed.
Unfortunately, Therrien erred in leaving it at that and made two key mistakes of his own.
The first is that Max Pacioretty wasn’t sat down for that same end-of-game shift. It was his miscue in transition that left Jarome Iginla wide open to score the game winner. If both Subban and Pacioretty are sat down, Therrien would have held both players accountable so there would be no implications of favourtism and it really would have sent a message to the entire team at the same time. Had that actually happened, I don’t think this would have been much of an issue at all. Both leaders made mistakes, both would have paid for it, the end.
Therrien’s other mistake was singling out Subban the way he did. Even if he didn’t catch the defensive zone breakdown live, surely he had a chance to see it between the final buzzer and his press scrum. That he still chose to place the blame on just one player isn’t right. I’m sure there was a motivational aspect to it; some coaches like to be harder on their stars as they think it brings out the best in them but it still wasn’t right to do in this instance.
I didn’t have an issue with Subban being sent the very not-so-subtle message on the ice late in that game. The coach has the right to do that and honestly I’m surprised it took this long for it to happen with Subban. But Therrien doubling down by calling him out post-game is a little too much on the side of overkill. That’s not what the team needs, especially in a time of mass finger pointing that comes with a ton of losing. This was an unfortunate and avoidable situation where both need to share some blame, it’s not just on Therrien or vice-versa.
|25||Jacob de la Rose||3||0||1||+1||0||5||42:42|
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Max Pacioretty (21)
Assists: P.K. Subban (41)
Points: P.K. Subban (46)
+/-: Brendan Gallagher (+8)
PIMS: P.K. Subban (69)
Shots: Max Pacioretty (225)
If the IceCaps wind up missing the playoffs by a few points (or, more specifically, a slightly lower win percentage as that’s what the standings are based on now), they’re going to look back at this week as a lost opportunity after dropping a pair of games to the Western Conference’s worst team.
News and Notes:
– The injury bug struck yet again as Charles Hudon is day-to-day with an ankle injury. On the happier side, Josiah Didier, who missed over two weeks with an undisclosed injury, returned to the lineup.
– With Didier back, Mac Bennett was finally sent to Brampton of the ECHL to get in some game action. He had been a healthy scratch for the entire month before his demotion.
– Winger Evan Rankin was signed to a PTO, the third forward on the roster to be playing on a tryout. Rankin has spent parts of the last seven seasons in the AHL.
– John Scott’s power play goal wasn’t just him getting one in the dying seconds of the man advantage. He is taking a regular shift on the PP as the designated screener up front.
– Lines from last game:
Scherbak – McCarron – Holloway
McNally – MacMillan – Friberg
Scott – Bozon – Rankin
Bakker – Miceli – Ranger
Bartley – Ellis
Hanley – Lernout
Didier – Dietz
Shootout – Skaters:
Shootout – Goalies:
Goals: Charles Hudon (16)
Assists: Bud Holloway (29)
Points: Bud Holloway (44)
+/-: Morgan Ellis (+9)
PIMS: Michael McCarron (82)
Shots: Bud Holloway (131)
February 24: St. John’s vs Albany
February 26: St. John’s vs Utica
February 27: St. John’s vs Syracuse
There is a lot of hope that Marc Bergevin will take advantage of the upcoming trade deadline to make a splash or two to help shape the roster for next season. While I won’t say outright that it’s not going to happen, I wouldn’t get my hopes up that it will either.
The issues with the Canadian dollar and the continued rise in player escrow have teams worried about next year’s salary cap more than ever now. With talks that it may stay stagnate or even drop, there aren’t going to be many teams wanting to add big money to the books for 2016-17 and beyond unless they’re getting a steal of a deal. More likely is that the deadline will be all about the rental players, people who can help now that won’t cost them beyond this season. There may be the odd player with term that moves but that should be the exception and not the norm.
While Bergevin isn’t likely going to get much of consequence for Montreal’s available collection of rentals, something is better than nothing in most instances and it’s not like the prospect pool – which is thinning quickly – can’t use an extra player or two. I don’t think we’re going to see much more that out of the Canadiens. The bigger deals will come in the offseason once there’s a firm cap number and other teams know what they have available to spend. Until then, don’t hold your breath waiting for big things to happen.