We've never met, but my name is Matt Drake, and I've been a devout Canadiens fan since the day I was born. My father grew up in the Montréal borough of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and he made very sure that I would share his love for the Tricolore, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.
I didn't technically choose this team, but I fell in love with it anyways. I fell in love with the jersey, the history, the players, and everything about the organization. I even have the CH permanently tattooed on my chest. I say all of this so that you know everything I'm about to say comes from a fan who is in this for the long haul.
I, and many of my fellow fans, are quite unhappy with the way things are going right now.
Carey Price is currently unavailable, and that is easily the worst injury problem to have, but it is far from the only issue befalling the team at the moment. It is also past time to stop pretending that his return would single-handedly get them back to winning. Sure he can steal some games, but asking that every night is a decidedly ineffective strategy. Any great goaltender still needs a productive team in front of him.
I have to say that coaching is the most glaring issue I see. Take, for instance, the brutal misuse of the new challenge rule.
Last night, the coaching staff didn't bother to challenge a goal that occurred after a clearly offside play, however, the night before they challenged a goal that had absolutely no chance of being overturned.
Then there is the highly questionable player deployment. Why does David Desharnais get used in nearly every situation when other players are more effective? Why was Daniel Carr — one of the few players on the squad actually scoring — sent down to the AHL? Why has Alex Galchenyuk been shifted back to the wing when he was doing very well at his natural centre position? Why would you use Andrei Markov in a 3 vs 3 setting considering his speed is his biggest weakness? These decisions are yet to be explained, and they are highly confusing to the entire fan base.
I'm not a professional hockey coach. I can't claim that I'd be able to do a better job in his position, but I do believe that there are people available who can. I know you want to stand behind your original choice for coach, but I have to believe that you're as concerned as the fan base that the team might not make the playoffs. There has to be a breaking point, and with the recent failures, I have to think that point is quickly approaching, if not already upon us.
If you truly believe that the answer is not a new coach, then perhaps it is a trade. I'm no expert, but I am beyond certain that acquiring John Scott and Victor Bartley last week was not the trade that will turn the ship around. Based on your track record, I truly hope that you have something better coming on the horizon, because I'm having a really hard time making sense of that last move.
The lack of goal-scoring is obviously the glaring issue. If you can go out and get a real difference maker in that regard, it could go a long way towards getting this team into the playoffs and beyond. However, if said asset isn't used properly by the coach, your acquisition could become an exercise in futility. Again, I'm cycling back to the coaching issue that I believe to be the main problem, but I digress.
I know that you and Mr. Therrien have arguably the two hardest jobs in hockey. The team's history of winning is long, and the media and fans are harsh. You're ostensibly held in comparison to the likes of Sam Pollock, and he to the likes of Scotty Bowman and Toe Blake. No one is necessarily making these comparisons directly, but those are the shoes you have to fill, and they are very big.
I don't think you took your job with anything less than the expectation that you could build a Stanley Cup contender. I also don't think that you were unaware that this is what the fans would be expecting of you. The way I see it, you're at a crossroads here. The team needs to start winning now, and you are the man everyone is looking to to get that going.
Whatever move you make next, I will support it as long as it has the ability to make a real impact right now. Even if it doesn't work out, at the very least you'll have shown the fans that you see what's wrong with the team right now, and you're trying to fix it. Nobody can fault you for that.
Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse here, but let's say you make a major deal for scoring help. The only way anyone could fault you for it not working out is if the coach doesn't properly use that help. If you keep giving him tools and he doesn't use them properly, you've got to pull that trigger or you could go down with the ship.
This organization owes it to the fans to put forth a contender. For over 20 years, fans like myself have been completely devoted to this team, and waiting - admittedly not so patiently - for the next Stanley Cup. With Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Jeff Petry, and (a hopefully soon to be returning) Carey Price, you have the core of a winning team now.
Please, do not let this season go to waste.