With the 2012 NHL Playoffs getting underway this evening, Montreal must still be in shock about how bad a season the Canadiens had.
Yesterday, the Habs were awarded third pick overall in the 2012 draft after an embarrassing campaign on and off the ice. Montreal finished the season with no General Manager, very little promise for next season and more importantly no playoffs.
Pierre Gauthier was removed from his role as Canadiens GM last month after a dismal display after taking over from Bob Gainey. Whoever takes over from Gauthier next season has their work cut out to bring any sort of confidence that Montreal can produce a decent team next season.
Since Gauthier took over as GM, the Canadiens have slumped from Eastern Conference finalists after dumping out both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals from the playoffs – to a team who this season finished rock bottom of the Eastern Conference with a miserable 78 points.
Clearly something has to change at The Bell Centre, but what?
Bob Gainey brought in three big names during the summer of 2009 which were supposed to bring the Stanley Cup north of the border. It very nearly paid off with some big playoff performances from Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. However, Scott Gomez – who earned $7.5million this season, has been the elephant in the room throughout the last two seasons.
Last season, Gomez managed a shambolic 7 goals. This season was more of the same for the Alaskan-born veteran. Cammalleri was traded to the Calgary Flames in a shock move from Gauthier in January, while Gionta’s season has been riddled with injury meaning his campaign was over by January.
Gomez has also had his injury problems this season, but 2 goals in 38 games is not enough to warrant a place on the Montreal roster. Not only has Tomas Plekanec comfortably been classes above Gomez, but David Desharnais has been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise blank canvas for the Habs.
Gomez has another two years left on his huge contract, meaning it is extremely unlikely Montreal will buy him out. The Canadiens’ preferred option would be to trade Gomez, but his cap hit and lack of points don’t make him an attractive asset. The new GM’s first big test will be to deal with Gomez.
Draft pick number three
Montreal have their highest draft pick for years. The Canadiens get their chance to pick their new blood third, after the Edmonton Oilers and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Many are suggesting that the Habs will pick Alex Galchenyuk, despite the American suffering from a serious knee injury (nothing new there).
The Canadiens have been criticised in recent years for wasting their draft picks on local boys. This year, Montreal cannot afford to think with their heart, but make a big decision that will benefit the franchise for the next few years.
Randy Cunneyworth was never a popular choice when he took over from Jacques Martin as Habs head coach in December. In fact, Geoff Molson has said in a statement that the permanent head coach will be bilingual, which Cunneyworth is not.
A new GM will more than likely replace Cunneyworth with a new coach, who will hopefully unleash some hope back into the Canadiens.
Montreal need to see this disastrous season as a clean slate, an excuse to get rid of the old guard, and making the most of the young talent which looked so promising last season. Desharnais, along with Max Pacioretty were the Canadiens’ most promising players, and Eric Cole had a solid start to his career in Montreal.
We will see a new Montreal Canadiens next season. Although change can take time, an impatient fan base could rush along any progression that is destined to take place.