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When a coach gets fired, all the mean things people say about the job he did in the weeks before he got his walking papers are couched with, “You never want to see a guy get fired, but...”
Which is strange. There aren't too many other professions for which this kind of thing is said.
“You never want to see a guy get fired, but that crane operator has shown up to work drunk and on sleeping pills every day for the last two weeks.”
“You never want to see a guy get fired, but that lawyer keeps taking naps when he's supposed to be cross-examining a witness.”
“You never want to see a guy get fired, but that janitor has been holding his broom upside down for a month.”
And in the case of Habs coach Michel Therrien, the thing you now have to say is, “You never want to see a guy fired, but that coach gave Douglas Murray at least 18 and a half minutes in each of the last three games.”
And that's as scathing an indictment as one could level against an NHL coach, on the level with a janitorial worker who doesn't know the bristly side is the one you're supposed to put on the floor. At some point, you have to just say, “Here's a guy who doesn't deserve to have his job any more.”
Not that overusing an indisputably awful player — even in so hilarious a way as this one — in and of itself should be enough to get one fired, but this is very much indicative of how sideways things have gone for Therrien and the Habs in the last three weeks or so, during which time they've gone 4-6-2, and allowed 49 goals in those 12 games and scored just 30. That includes 19 against and only five for in the last four.
It's tough to say, exactly, why the Habs have been just so bad lately. Their defensive wherewithal seems to have completely gone away, they never have the puck any more, and the losses are piling up in embarrassing fashion. Saturday's humiliating home loss to the Capitals should have been the last straw; the Habs put their third shot on goal at 12:47 of the first period, and then didn't get another one until 12:44 of the second. At that point, it was already 4-0 Washington, and the Canadiens had four shots. Total. In 32:44. They didn't get their fifth until a little less than three minutes after that, which is to say that any sustained offense didn't really show up until the team was already in a cavernous hole.
It must be said that one can't act on four or five or even 10 games worth of bad results and say that a coach has to go. Any particularly ugly 10-game stretch, for instance, might not be enough evidence to show that changing a coach can turn anything around. But for the Habs, who have now slipped below the Toronto Maple Leafs in the standings, this is no sudden problem; they've been trending this way for months.
(And lest anyone think this is another rehashing of the Winnipeg Jets' firing of Claude Noel, which was not in and of itself undue but rather mistreatment of the problem, please keep this in mind: The Jets started bad and leveled off at “sub-mediocre.” The Habs have been moving down through and past bad for months, suggesting not stagnation but actual worsening.)
Opponents have been getting progressively closer to the net as the defense falls completely apart and allows more and more shots on the transition, and Carey Price's by-month save percentage has consequently slipped by 50 points on from October to January. Maybe this was always going to happen given the way the Habs blue line was very much slapped together in this offseason, but the results are beginning to speak very loud, and fairly clear.
Montreal blog Habs Eyes on the Prize recently compared the way the team has trended since the start of the season to the way the 2008-09 Penguins performed in terms of even-strength shot attempts, and the results are shockingly similar. After being at around plus-48 in this regard after Game 10, they've slipped to close to minus-276, which is a hell of an accomplishment over just 42 games. The trend lines between this and the season that got him fired in Pittsburgh are shocking in their similarity.
Habs fans are more or less in open revolt at this point, and with good reason. It was probably never a good idea to hire Therrien in the first place, and the evidence has long since mounted that this was the case.
The repeated misuse of the team's best player in PK Subban, in stapling his ass to the bench for every neutral-zone turnover, while guys like Murray, who are the very definition of players that simply shouldn't be in the league at this point, can do more or less whatever they want is baffling, and has to be answered for. Putting these two players together, simply, is not the “solution” Therrien should be looking for. They were on the ice together for three goals against Detroit, and another against Washington. Why would any coach insist on trying to put one of the most dynamic defensemen in the world with a guy who skates slower than I do?
Some of this is of course on Subban, because he wasn't playing well even before being saddled with an AHLer, but if you put the average Puck Daddy reader out there with Nick Lidstrom in his prime, his goals-against is going to go up as well. It's really that simple.
At this point, no one is going to save the Habs from having the season go by the wayside, and so perhaps a firing mid-season is a pointless exercise. The roster has too many problems. And maybe Marc Bergevin is married to this coach because he was the first major decision he made after taking over, but enough is enough, right? What more evidence do we need that he's had the team moving in the wrong direction since October? How many more games like this do fans have to watch?
The easiest way to put this is clear: When Randy Carlyle isn't even the worst coach in Eastern Canada, it is clearly time for something to be done. You hate to see a guy fired, but he's not giving his team any other choice.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Well that seals it. The Ducks are now finally “clearly strong Stanley Cup contenders” because of that Stadium Series win. Before they were just your run-of-the-mill team with 38 wins in 53 games.
Boston Bruins: There is a large and apparently growing contingent of people in Boston who think that Kevan Miller, new contract and all, is somehow beginning to surpass Dougie Hamilton as a Bruins defenseman because the latter was “overhyped.” People will believe just about any damn thing. That would be 26-year-old Kevan Miller, who has 17 games on NHL experience, better than 20-year-old Dougie Hamilton, who's on 76 games of tenure with the Bruins. Get back to me about this in two years.
Buffalo Sabres: Trading Ryan Miller? I don't know, guys. Good asset management doesn't SOUND like something in which the Sabres would engage.
Calgary Flames: Shane O'Brien was put on waivers Saturday and cleared them Sunday, because of that whole “on the ice for three goals against in 5:37 of TOI” thing. Imagine a defenseman so bad he can't play for the Flames. It's Shane O'Brien, who's signed for $2 million next year.
Carolina Hurricanes: Tuomo Ruutu brought some serious heat for Carolina on Saturday, and just in time for Jim Rutherford to trade him for parts. He has five points in January, after nine total from October to December.
Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks held a small 3-on-3 tournament at the end of practice, and the winning team was Kris Versteeg, Mike Kostka, and Michal Handzus. There was a team with both Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews on it, and it came in fifth. Seems rigged to me.
Colorado Avalanche: Pretty good work down low to set up this Jamie McGinn goal on Friday. Must be nice to play with Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene.
Columbus Blue Jackets: If you had the Buffalo Sabres as the team to knock the Beejes off their winning streak, that's pretty impressive and you know a lot about hockey.
Dallas Stars: Sounds like Dan Bylsma would like to find some U.S. citizenship for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin ASAP.
Detroit Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg is day-to-day again. Fun season in Detroit.
Edmonton Oilers: I wonder why the Oilers are so bad... oh right.
Florida Panthers: This week is not off to a good start for Florida. Probably won't come to a good end either.
Los Angeles Kings: This amazing Vin Scully-narrated intro to the Los Angeles Stadium Series game serves as a great reminder that Doc Emrick's legendary call for the Kings winning the Cup for the first time in franchise history was, “The Kings... are the kings.”
Minnesota Wild: The Wild want to host an outdoor game next season. Great. Can't wait for that one.
Montreal Canadiens: The photo of Carey Price at the top of this column is a wonderful summary of the Canadiens season to this point.
Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Here, for posterity, is a four-goal game from Eric Nystrom. He joins Jan Bulis as a “dude I literally can't believe ever had a four-goal game in the National Hockey League.”
New Jersey Devils: "I told Pete and asked if he wanted to put Schneids in for the experience," said Martin Brodeur. "In a game like that, sometimes you know as a goalie.” Hey Marty, not for nothing but you gave up six goals on 21 shots so I don't know if you get the right to act like you're being chivalrous in letting the goalie whose save percentage isn't below .900 get into the game. Your career is over, bud. No shame in it. But your numbers are worse than Ondrej Pavelec's. There's a pasture out back. Go run around in it. But yeah, it's the ice's fault.
New York Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov is going to come off IR today if he didn't late last night, and that means they could use him at Yankee Stadium. Boy wouldn't that be a hoot?
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist says he was “half asleep” before the Stadium Series game started. Gotta commit, bud. Brodeur was all the way asleep in the middle of it. Don't half-ass anything.
Ottawa Senators: The Senators running down a top-six forward on an expiring contract doesn't seem like the best move. The best transaction they can make is moving Robin Lehner to the No. 1 starter role.
Philadelphia Flyers: Wayne Simmonds on receiving racial taunts: “Eventually, hopefully, people will realize that it's childish and stupid and will stop doing it," he said. "If I have to be a person that's gonna get ridiculed or chanted at, I'll gladly take it for the younger kids coming up so they don't have to deal with it." Unfortunately, I wouldn't count on that being the case.
Phoenix Coyotes: “Phoenix Coyotes build big lead, hold on to defeat Edmonton Oilers.” Put more simply: “Phoenix Coyotes play Edmonton Oilers.”
Pittsburgh Penguins: Who won the James Neal-and-Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski trade? Oh I don't know maybe the team with the annual 40-goal-scorer. Could be that one.
San Jose Sharks: Don't Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau know that when you sign a new contract you're supposed to play worse for a little while? What's this “scoring all three goals in an OT win” stuff? You're veterans here. Figure it out.
St. Louis Blues: Oh just read this.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Here's the third goal of Tyler Johnson's first career hat trick. He's now second in rookie goalscoring and tied for the lead in points and the number of people talking about him is zero.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Congratulations on being named one of “The hotties of the Winter Games” to... Phil Kessel? Good one, New York Post. Good one.
Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks wanted Martin Hanzal to fight someone after he hurt Henrik Sedin, Mike Santorelli, and David Booth. Demanding people fight is always a good idea for the Canucks. No problems with that in the recent past at all. Not one. Nope. We get it, guys. You are very tough.
Washington Capitals: Amazing how having one of the best players in the world back in the lineup really helps you win. Playing a crap team helps also.
Winnipeg Jets: Dustin Byfuglien forever.
Play of the Weekend
Might wanna put a body on that No. 8 guy.
Gold Star Award
Eric Nystrom scored four goals against Calgary on Friday.
Minus of the Weekend
Eric Nystrom scored four goals against Calgary on Friday.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “DrDangles” is dreaming.
My heart just pooped its pants.