This season has been nothing short of a disaster for the Montreal Canadiens, but according to a report the blame within the organization won’t be falling on the shoulders of coach Michel Therrien.
According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the Canadiens are set to bring Therrien back next season, even after the club suffered through an epic collapse that has seen them go from one of the early season’s most lauded contenders to a bottom-10 team wondering where their luck will fall in the draft lottery. Since Dec. 1, the Canadiens have been the worst team in the league, and it’s honestly not even that close. Over their past 44 games, the Canadiens are 14-27-3, have scored only 95 goals and have a league-worst minus-41 goal differential over that period.
With Therrien reportedly set to come back next season, it appears as though the Canadiens are willing to chalk up this season as an aberration caused in part by the loss of all-world goaltender Carey Price.
Price, 28, has been out of the Canadiens lineup since suffering a lower-body injury during a Nov. 25 game against the New York Rangers. Price hasn’t returned to full practice since the injury, and it was the second time he had gone down with a lower-body ailment this season. And without Price, Montreal’s goaltending has been ugly. The tandem of Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens hasn’t been able to get the job done, and the Canadiens have continued to slide down the standings.
As of Nov. 26, the Canadiens have the league’s worst 5-on-5 save percentage at .908. The next closest team, the Dallas Stars, have managed a .911 SP at 5-on-5 over that same period, and only two other teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, have been sub-.920 over the same period. Things are just as poor for the Canadiens at all strengths, too, as the team’s .892 SP is worst in the league and the Stars are the only other team with a sub-.900 SP at all strengths.
That said, the blame for the season can’t fall solely on the goaltending, especially considering Montreal has been in the same range as Dallas, who have managed a 22-15-9 record over the same span. Montreal’s early season goal scoring has dried up and their once strong puck possession rates have dropped precipitously over the past month. How much of that is due to personnel changes and injury is hard to know, but the fact remains that a team like Toronto, which has seen fresh faces go in and out of the lineup on a near game-by-game basis, has boasted much stronger possession numbers than Montreal over the past month and a half.
Granted, Therrien’s return next season wouldn’t be too shocking given the public votes of confidence GM Marc Bergevin has given the coach throughout this season. Bergevin, even through the worst parts of the campaign, has stuck by Therrien.
"It's been a hard time for all of us, but I believe in Michel Therrien and his coaching staff,” Bergevin said in January after the Canadiens dropped 17 of 21 games. “Nobody is going anywhere.”
And if nobody is out on the coaching staff, it seems the hope is Montreal can rebound in 2016-17 with a healthy Price and an off-season of rest. There’s no doubt, however, that a returning Therrien, who has two years remaining on his contract, would begin 2016-17 already on the hot seat. Any slips or stumbles could see the Canadiens looking for a new bench boss.
(All advanced stats via War-On-Ice)