If you still consider yourself the trademark of the league, maybe things have to be weird. The pressure the team puts on itself year after year only distorts things, and that's even before they hit the media, which see themselves as some kind of modern day version of the Knights of the Round Table. And when you're having one of the worst seasons in team history, it's no wonder the breaking point is reached.
Basically, the Canadians are still hurting from allowing former general manager Marc Bergevin to constantly steer his ship onto the rocks for so long. Now they have to get rid of that. Chairman Jeff Gorton and general manager Kent Hughes took their biggest step yesterday with the firing of head coach Dominique Ducharme. They replaced him on an interim basis with Martin St. Louis. Yes, there is a lot to process and we will take it in stages.
Ducharme was overwhelmed the moment he walked in the door a year ago and it seemed like a phase David Byrne was going through. Bergevin outdid himself by firing Claude Julien, a high-profile trainer with a pedigree who at the time had the Habs with a 9-4-5 record, even though Carey Price had a lower save rate than .900 at this point in the season. But Bergevin, like still too many GMs, didn't know what to evaluate with his team or how to go about it. Julien, as he always did with the Bruins and Habs, had Montreal second in Corsi percentage and first in expected goal percentage. What he didn't have were the players who made sure Price didn't stop anything and Bergevin didn't deliver top scorers. Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson had leg warmers, but that's about it. Just a bunch of worker bees that Julien was able to get to skate hard and do the right things, but he didn't have the goal. You can't train the ending.
So Bergevin pulled the trigger on Julien, and then Habs' underlying numbers dropped drastically for the rest of the season. They finished under .500 with Ducharme behind the bench and only made the playoffs thanks to the lead Julien had created. But then Price lit up in the playoffs, and with a little luck (like Las Vegas's habit of spitting on teams far less talented than they are, or Toronto's habit of choking on their own vomit), they made it to the finals.
But anyone who looked at the foundation would have seen that he was completely rotten, and Price wouldn't be there this season to show off the stunts to cover up that fact. Playoff races, especially individual races, aren't always meaningful. Again, no real top-tier players can be found here. They are the last in goals scored. The defense didn't have a top pair player, especially with Shea Weber going into non-retirement. They have the most shots and goals per game in the league. If that's your process, you get records like 8-30-7 that the habs have. That was predictable, though maybe not that much.
And it all came crashing down, so it's weird that they waited so long to fire Ducharme this season. That's 45 games, at least 20 since it was obvious that there were termites all over those walls. Two months have passed since Gorton replaced Bergevin. How long did it take you?
Still, you can see where Gorton and Kent thought the least they could do for the rest of this season was get a fair assessment of what they had and maybe bring about some kind of attitude change. So they hired someone who had never been trained at any level.
They may think that this is correcting a wrong done in the past. Canadians don't just crave the stars of Quebec. They think it's their divine right to have them (because it once was). St. Louis was one of many where it was made a crime to practice his trade and Hall of Fame career in a place like Tampa rather than hockey's Valhalla (although Tampa has been a superior place to play for a few years). decades). ). For many Habs supporters, it was a foregone conclusion that he and Vinny Lecavalier would travel north. It's amazing that Vinny wasn't hired yesterday as an assistant coach. Jonathan Drouin was the Montreal makeup for everything. That worked great, the 20 points from him works great.
In a season that has been trending for months, maybe now is the perfect time to try something. It's not like it could get any worse. Maybe St. Louis is the type to instill a winning culture in all the players who are actually around when the habits are good again. It could be that it is a diamond in the rough. Maybe you can prove yourself worthy of taking the full-time job. And if you don't...nothing lost.
But is he the coach to maximize those last 37 games in the development of Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield? Alex Romanov? They don't get those games back in their arc.
In the end, at least one number 1 in the general classification could be waiting.
The Habs are in good hands with Gorton, who is largely responsible for reviving the Rangers but was fired before he could enjoy it. He maybe he's just trying to figure out the weird thing that's been keeping the Habs grounded for... well, almost 30 years. They came here because they didn't explore well enough. It can be hard to see what you have in the mirror when it comes to a home version of fun.