If you're a Canadiens fan you've probably been reading and listening to opinions from various media outlets the entire day about the coaching change that took place this morning. It seems, thus far at least, that the so-called experts are on board with Bergevin's decision. Ducharme, who won both a Memorial cup and a WJHC gold medal, comes with a respectable pedigree. He is part of this new generation of coaches in the NHL that seem to be producing positive results. The hiring of Bruce Cassidy, Sheldon Keefe, DJ Smith come to mind.
But is the adage of "out with the old, in with the new" likely to be enough to turn the hapless Habs around?
Granted, Claude Julien seemed to have lost the room. The body language of some of the team's veterans, the lackadaisical play of players the coach needed to count on, spoke volumes these past 3 weeks. The benching of players like Byron, Tatar and Arturi Lehkonen, the limited playing time allotted to the team's only "superstar" (anointed as such by delusional fans and media?) in Carey Price, couldn't have gone over well in the dressing room. And certainly the fact Claude and Kirk, the two co-coaches, could not for the life of them figure out a solution to a broken power play, and a catastrophic penalty killing, meant the writing had to be on the wall for quite some time.
But I think its safe to say, if one looks at this team with eyes wide open (remove the rose-colored glasses if you can), they would see some significant structural issues that point right back up to the General Manager and his entourage (hello there, Trevor Timmins). For over a decade, and even before Marc Bergevin joined the Canadiens, this organization simply has not been able to develop its first rounders. As I blogged on this very topic a couple of weeks ago ("Another one bites the dust") this organization has failed miserably when it comes to producing young talent from within (let's hope players like Kotkaniemi and Caufield will be able to buck this worrisome trend). This team has been built on trades for the most part and free agent acquisitions. Not exactly the template of winning organizations (just look at the Blackhawks, Bruins Capitals or Penguins to name but a few teams).
Ducharme cannot turn the division's weakest group of centers (this game is won up the middle!) into one capable of matching up against the likes of Mathews, McDavid, Draisaitl, Scheiffle, Dubois or even Tavares. Neither can the rookie coach add wheels on the skates of the Canadiens slow and lethargic group of defensemen. The issues on the left side of the defense, after all these years, has still not been addressed by the general manager, who appears once again, to have more lives than that of a Siamese cat.
Make no mistake, the Canadiens could be competitive. They have arguably the best group of wingers in the NHL, Jeff Petry is an elite defensemen, and they do boast more depth than many other teams. But the great equalizer on an average team has to be the goaltender. And Price's wildly inconsistent play, which has now been a "thing" for several seasons, makes the promise of a turnaround that much more improbable. Furthermore the grueling schedule from now till the end of the year will take its toll on aging players like Weber, Petry, Perry and several of the (still too numerous) small Canadiens forwards. Granted, the Canadiens started off the season on the right foot, but did anyone check to see the opposing goalies they were facing in those games? It was more mirage, than oasis.
Now I fully expect the Canadiens to get a sudden jolt with this coaching change. They may even win a couple in a row, and it is quite possible that they could end up grabbing that final playoff spot. But one has to be completely foolish to believe that a simple coaching change (an inexperienced coach to boot, who will be assisted by another inexperienced coach) will be enough to compensate for the significant organizational issues that continue to plague this team and that directly point to the General Manager and his group.