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Diagnose the Habs

The Habs are struggling. Mightily. What’s the problem? Is there a doctor in the house? I want you to have your say.
  • Are they tired?
  • Is the slump an ebb during the course of a long season that will soon reverse itself?
  • Is it only because it’s December and this is par for the course for the Habs?
  • Is the coach coaching this team to oblivion?
  • Are the players simply not good enough?
  • Has the GM not put the right pieces in place?
  • Goaltending?
  • Is the team as a whole merely average and this slump is the work of the hockey gods putting things in equilibrium?
I imagine you could make a case for any of these reasons. The bigger question is how do you fix them?
 
Fatigue?
Fatigue only rights itself with rest. There’s none coming. Of course, renewed energy can come from wins, but the Canadiens are anything but a winning team right now.
 
A typical ebb?
We know the Canadiens won’t lose 7 of 9 games for the rest of the season. At some point they’ll get it together, at least somewhat. But will this slide result in them fighting for 8th place for the rest of the year?
 
December swoon?
Anyone following the Habs over the last decade knows the black hole that is December. It’s not been a kind month to the Canadiens, who feel the spirit of the season by giving points away to needy opponents. Once the calendar rolls over to 2011, everything will be fine again.
 
Coaching issues?
The players are showing signs of having tuned out the coach. They’re not responding to his tactics or teachings beyond one game. No consistently strong effort is noticeable, which means that they’re either exhausted or that the coach’s message is not getting through anymore. The team is playing, and has been playing totally undisciplined hockey for a long stretch now. In every post-game presser, the coach insists that discipline has to get better, but it never does. He’s either being tuned out, or is unable to get a handle on his team. Neither is a good thing for Martin.
 
Crappy players?
This one will be the toughest for Habs fans to come to grips with, and the easiest for them to reject. As much as we like our team, take the emotion out of it and stack them up against any real contending team. Sure, on any given night they can beat anybody. But they’ve also been beaten by this same adage. All signs point to a mediocre group of players. In a league stacked with talent, a good team is synonomous with a mediocre one.
 
Gauthier asleep at the switch?
It seems odd to say this the day after he plugged a gaping hole on the blueline, but what’s Gauthier’s role in this spiraling mess? We need to remember that when things are going well, we label this as Gainey’s team. But when it hits the skids, Gauthier is to blame. We can’t have it both ways…so what’s it going to be?
 
Goaltending?
I know, there’s no way Price can be held responsible for this, right? Given that his save percentage over the past several games is below .900 I suppose the Price haters are gathering steam like the forces of Mordor and are getting ready to stage their assault. On the other hand, Price apologists literally blame everyone else but the goalie for ANY and EVERY goal against. Lost puck battles, turnovers, deflections…all of the excuses are trotted out in order to exonerate Price from any responsibility. While he bailed them out continually through October and November, he’s been unable to do it in December. As Price goes, so do the Habs, and right now, he goes not good. He needs to be better, and go to hell if you think that makes me a hater. There. I said it.
 
They’re finding their level
As the old saying goes “water finds its own level”. Are the Habs simply sinking to where they rightfully belong? Most of us had them pegged as a bubble team anyway. Was their hot start to the season more of the smoke & mirrors that led them to the conference finals?
 
I suppose an easy answer is that the recent skid is a combination of all these things, and it probably is. But when you’re overwhelmed with issues either at home or at work, the answer is to prioritize the things to be done, and attack one of them until it’s done, then move on to the next one.
 
So the question is: Where do you attack first? Which area needs to be addressed first for this team to get better?

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