It's time to rant about the Montreal Canadiens

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the Canadiens post disappointing efforts night in and night out can take its toll on a Habs fan's sanity, and sometimes you just need to let it all out.

Here is who I've had it with:

I have had it with people who say things like "at least you are not X fans" whenever we complain about the Habs.

It could be worse, we are always told. We could be Flames fans. We could be Islanders fans. We could be Oilers fans. We could be Leafs fans. The list of things we could be is long enough. And yes, I agree that from those fans' point of view, or even objectively speaking, being a Habs fan does not suck nearly as much as being a fan of some other teams.

But here's the thing. We are not fans of any of those other teams. The Canadiens' roster, drafting, and player development are better than most of those ‘could be worse' teams. They have been for a while, despite Bob Gainey's failed gambles and Pierre Gauthier's unfortunate management (the Oilers' first picks do not count as good drafting just because they didn't screw up the part where they were supposed to select the top player with the top pick).

Those teams? They should not expect to be competing right now. This team? Our team? It should be railroading the mediocre Eastern Conference, on the heels of the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins, neck-and-neck with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

So stop reminding us that we are not Flames fans. Our roster isn't a hockey talent dumpster and our team was not managed by Jay Feaster for two and a half years. Stop reminding us that we are not Oilers fans. Our team has not gone so far off the rails that the owner thought it would be a good idea to write a letter basically saying "we're so out of touch that we thought this letter would be a good idea." Stop reminding us that we are not Leafs fans. Our team did not fire a GM who made a truculent mess only to replace him with a quieter version of the exact same guy, and our team did not buy out its best centre as a bonus. Stop reminding us that we are not Florida Panthers fans, our team is not where Dale Tallon's previous signing mistakes go to die. Stop reminding us that we are not Sabres fans, because we are not completely hopeless oh my God I just looked at their roster and cried out of pity. Stop reminding us that we are not Capitals fans. People are not demanding to be traded away from our team left and right, and we do not have Goalie Situations, unless you count that Fleury-Budaj thing from the last game. Stop reminding us that we are not Flyers fans, because our team is not completely inexplicable.

Just stop with that. Our team is better than those teams, AND THEREFORE THEY SHOULD BE PLAYING BETTER THAN THOSE TEAMS. That is the part we are complaining about. Fan suffering is relative, and from our perspective, this is really, really bad.

I have had it with people who say "yeah, well look, they are still in a playoff position," whenever we complain about the Habs.

This team went from a comfortable playoff position to a precarious playoff position in less than two weeks, squandering a 9-point lead over the Leafs in the process (h/t Andrew for noticing while the rest of us tried not to). And a precarious playoff position is not a playoff position, so stop pointing to it.

More than that, the problem isn't that the Canadiens are losing games, or barely winning them, or squandering points, or whatever. The problem is how they are doing it. Andrew wrote a couple of posts recently that highlight all the problems, so I am not going to rehash them. Here is one, where he compares the Habs from this year to the Habs from last year, and here is an earlier one that details a whole bunch of things that are currently wrong with the Habs. In any case, the team is playing badly and the players are getting worse instead of improving. That's the real problem, not their position in the standings.

Your eyes lie to you. The standings sometimes lie to you. The numbers always tell the truth. This team is playing terribly, and the playoff position you keep talking about will no longer exist if the Canadiens stay this course.

I have had it with people who try to preach patience whenever we complain about the Habs.

A window to contend does not stay open for very long, and a window to win is even smaller. It's important to contend every single year you have a roster than can contend. I am sick of hearing that the future is coming. It's already here, and the Habs are wasting it by being a mess. They are wasting the cheap contracts on the young stars, they are wasting the awfulness of most of the teams in their conference, they are wasting Carey Price's prime, they are wasting Max Pacioretty's prime, and how many good years do they think Tomas Plekanec has left in him, really?

Stop saying "a couple of years from now." Start saying you've had enough of waiting.

I have had it with people who remind us of how lean the lean years were whenever we complain about the Habs.

This is not the lean years. End of story.

I have had it with people who argue with us that coach is not the problem, and that the players are.

Well, they have a point, in that some players are. The Canadiens signed a guy because he's huge and lumbering and "brings toughness and size" or whatever. That guy happens to be one of the worst defensemen in the NHL. My favourite comment on Douglas Murray as of late, is the following, from our good friend MathMan:

It's incredible how much I've been told, almost in these words, "it doesn't matter if he sucks because he fills a need for the team". How does a guy who doesn't play NHL-level hockey fill any need for a NHL team?

They also re-signed Francis Boullion, which was objectively stupid. Francis Boullion is old, and there are three guys in Hamilton who could not possibly have been worse than him this year, and would have benefitted from NHL experience.

As for Daniel Briere, there's no real way to know whether Molson was behind the signing, but he was clearly brought in so the Habs could say they signed a "local" boy, the ever-elusive Quebecois star. There was no other need for him on this team. The problem with Danny Briere is that he is no longer a boy, and no longer a star. He is past his prime, and there is no getting around that, no matter how hard he's been trying. But here's the thing, with him. He can still be effective, if properly managed.

And that's where the coach comes in.

Here is a post from yesterday about how the Penguins fared after Michel Therrien was fired. That was obviously not the only factor; there was a Crosby injury, Sergei Gonchar started playing the day Bylsma started as head coach, and they traded for Canadian Olympian Chris Kunitz then as well. But at the end of the day, the Penguins were a mess, and then when Bylsma came in, they almost immediately stopped being a mess and won the Stanley Cup.

A couple of years ago draglikepull wrote a fantastic fanpost about PDO and specifically how it relates to the Penguins under Therrien and Bylsma that year. The important conclusion from that piece:

So did the coaching change affect how well the team played? Yes. But Bylsma didn't make the team shoot more accurately and he didn't make the goalies stop a higher proportion of the shots. What he did do was put in place strategies that allowed the team to dominate puck control, overcoming the fall in the percentages, and making them one of the best teams in the NHL.

This is why the Habs went from sixth in the NHL and within an overtime goal of defeating the eventual Stanley Cup Champians (h/t Brad Marchand for getting a tattoo with a spelling mistake in it, which will never stop being funny) in 2011, to a lottery pick in 2012, to leading their division in 2013, to making us cry in 2014. Coaching. This team is not suddenly bad. It's fine. It's no Chicago Blackhawks, but it's fine. It's just that the strategies that would enable them to succeed are not there.

It's becoming more and more evident that while the coaching staff know there is a problem, they simply do not understand what the problem is.

Here are a couple of quotes from Therrien himself from the last couple of days:

"Looking for solutions." Such as scratching Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin and playing Moullion against Sid and Geno.

I am scared of this analysis.

Um... no?

This is not a player problem. The coach is clearly lost.

I have had it with people who complain about lack of size.


Here's what: the Chicago Blackhawks weren't all that big last year. The Boston Bruins were pretty big last year. And Chicago defeated Boston. Do you know why? Because Chicago was the better team. I wish I could find it, but I read this amazing article about how Boston railroaded everybody in the East on the possession stats (and also the playoff series) and then Chicago came in and bulldozed them. The bigger team did not win. The better team did. That is all there is to this, and this should not be an argument in 2014.

So, stop saying the Habs need to be bigger. The biggest player on this team is the worst player on this team. They need to play better.

Mostly, I have had it with the Canadiens.

Last spring, as the playoffs were beginning, we put up a post discussing whether the Canadiens' Stanley Cup window had finally reopened. Less than a year ago, it seemed possible that we were already in the window. Not that a cup was necessarily on the way or guaranteed within the next five or six years or whatever, but that there was a definite possibility that it could come back to Montreal.

The Canadiens finished last season second in the conference, leading their division. Every single team in their old division got worse, and most of the teams in the East did the same.

We play such cruel tricks on ourselves sometimes. What the Habs did was get worse as well.

They are a mess, and they don't know why, and judging from a lot of the comments on EOTP, we don't trust management to correct the situation. Instead, we're worrying about panic trades and keeping Therrien for this year and even next.

This is not how this year was supposed to go at all.

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