A team’s talent level and injury situation certainly factor heavily into results, but neither should have any bearing on the type of effort a club puts forth on a nightly basis.
The most troubling aspect to the Montreal Canadiens’ middling start might not be the fact they’re a game under .500 at 8-9-0, but rather that from one game to the next, nobody knows what to expect from this squad.
One night Carey Price looks brilliant in goal, capable of compensating for the mistakes that will inevitably be made by a severely depleted blueline. The next, he’s letting in goals he shouldn’t, often at critical junctures of the game.
Some games there’s offensive contributions beyond the first line, other times it seems as though a goal from somebody not named Brian Gionta or Mike Cammalleri is a pipe dream.
The only players to consistently kick in offense while playing on the second or third lines are centers Tomas Plekanec and Glen Metropolit. They desperately need help.
It seems safer and safer to declare the experiment of moving natural center Maxim Lapierre to wing on the second unit a failure. Many people, myself included, thought Lapierre could come through with a 20-goal season if given ample opportunity, but he’s got just one goal through 17 games and has shown no sign of displaying top-six forward touch.
Ditto for Guillaume Latendresse, who has just two goals so far on the season.
Whether it’s because the Canadiens rushed his development, keeping him in the NHL as a 19-year-old, or whether it’s just a case of overvaluing somebody from the start, nobody has more consistently disappointed over the last few seasons than Latendresse.
Speaking of regular downers, maybe if Andrei Kostitsyn started cashing in on even a slice of his offensive potential, coach Jacques Martin could pair him with Plekanec and drop Latendresse and Lapierre down to the third-line roles they’re better suited to.
That the Canadiens lose as much as they do doesn’t necessarily spell doom at this point of the season, but they’re in for a world of hurt if some of the good things they sometimes accomplish don’t start carrying over more from game to game.
This article also appeared in the Montreal Metro newspaper.