Let's get this out of the way: the Habs, with the exception of Carey Price, were absolutely terrible in Calgary. They were embarrassingly, painfully, emphatically bad. There's no excuse for most of what they did on the ice. There were a lot of boneheaded decisions made, both by the coaches and the players. The power play continues to give nails on a chalkboard a run for their money and the team can't seem to stop talking idiotic penalties. In the second period alone, Calgary put up 16 shots against Price. The Habs had 19 shots all game. Even Andrei Markov was bad. Oh, and why are the Habs still dumping the puck so much?
Michel Therrien's solution to all of this was to bench Lars Eller for most of the game.
Complaining about the coaches is old news around here. Back when Therrien was hired (for the second time), we all predicted disaster. Instead, the team did really well. You know, for the lockout-shorted season. Last year, things began to unravel and the Habs were a terrible possession team for most of the year. The coaching improved enough in the playoffs for the Habs to make it into the conference final, but it seems that this year, even with upgrades at a lot of positions, the baffling decisions are not going away.
It does look like gratuitous complaining, at this point. The Habs have won eight out of ten games with most of the season left to play and even stolen points count in the standings at the end of the year. It's hard to tell how a team is really doing after only ten games, but after 20 or 30, enough of a pattern will emerge for us to know whether this team can cut it against the elite teams of the NHL. At this point, though, all signs point to a frustrating year with annoying (to us, at least) decisions made by the coaching staff.
A running theme will undoubtedly be Therrien's treatment of Lars Eller. He played less than six minutes last night, after an excellent chance on goal and one boneheaded penalty. He was singled out and punished for something all the Habs seem to do on a regular basis. If not that, then being unable to produce results. You know, with linemates such as Rene Bourque, who couldn't hit the net if it chased him around the ice, and Dale Wiese, who can best be described as "some dude on the team."
It's not as though Eller is playing terribly, as a whole. With some of the toughest assignments, he is still doing well, possession-wise. He may not be scoring a lot of goals but he's certainly proving himself to be a reliable player, especially given that he is filling the shoes of Tomas Plekanec in his current role. He's not a rookie anymore and he doesn't even make a habit out of taking dumb penalties. If we find out he's injured, then I'll obviously have to take back everything I'm saying in this article, but at this point it just looks like Lars Eller got benched to send a message, something Therrien is very fond of doing. Here's hoping that it's not an indication that Therrien intends to alienate a good player every time the team plays badly, or we're in for a long year.
In this week's 30 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman mentions that back when Marc Bergevin first started as Canadiens GM, he would get a lot of calls about Eller, and that teams are now wondering what the Habs are going to do with him now that Alex Galchenyuk is being moved to centre. The Habs seem to be doing their best to drive down his market value. At least, the coaching staff is.