Hickey on hockey: It's time for Canadiens to think about landing Lafrenière

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Hickey on hockey: It's time for Canadiens to think about landing Lafrenière

Post by admin » Sat Jan 04, 2020 3:11 am

As the Canadiens reach the halfway mark in the season, it has become obvious this is not a playoff team.

The Canadiens have not only fallen six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the battle for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic DivisIon — the Lightning hold two games in hand — but they are also seven points back of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

While general manager Marc Bergevin made some moves to right the listing ship, this is the time to think about the future, and we’re not talking about next week or next month. Instead of pursuing a near-impossible goal — the Canadiens would have to win two-thirds of their games over the second half of the season — the Canadiens should consider the benefits of dropping back a few spots in the standings.

Montreal is currently 25th in the overall standings and slipping farther down — no team is going to be as bad as the Detroit Red Wings at the end of the season, but the Canadiens are only six points clear of the 30th spot in the standings — improves Montreal’s chances in the Alexis Lafrenière sweepstakes.

This is not about tanking. You want your players to give a full effort at all times, but there are ways of fulfilling the promise of that old adage “you have to learn to lose before you can learn to win.”

The Canadiens can start by looking at their young talent. This is the future of the team and the Canadiens have to give more responsibility to players like Cale Fleury, Victor Mete, Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling.

Claude Julien’s philosophy has been to protect the youngsters, to put them in position to succeed. It’s time to forget that approach. Let them fail. If you have the right players, they will learn from their mistakes.
Take a look at the goaltending

It seems every year starts with a declaration efforts must be made to limit Carey Price’s workload, but the reality is this team comes to rely far too much on the franchise goalie. That has compounded the team’s problems this year because there are too many nights when Price hasn’t delivered. On two occasions this season, the Canadiens have played Price in both ends of back-to-back games and their record in those games is 0-3-1 with Price giving up 18 goals.

Let Cayden Primeau or Charlie Lindgren play more. They have a combined 1-2-0 record in the three games they have started, but they gave the Canadiens a chance to win in each of those games, which is not something you can say about Price this season.
Be sellers at the trading deadline

Marc Bergevin was active this week. He landed the left-handed defenceman the team has needed, but the arrival of Marco Scandella is probably four months too late to help this season and he’s able to leave as an unrestricted free agent in July.

Bergevin is nearly a decade late in acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk, the 36-year-old Russian who flamed out in his NHL comeback with the Los Angeles Kings. But he represents a low-risk, low-cost gamble for a team that has four of its top nine forwards on the injured reserve list.

Bergevin should be open to trading any players who don’t fit into his long-term plans. There are those who advocate getting rid of Price, but don’t waste any energy contemplating that scenario because even if Price was leading all the goaltending categories, there isn’t a team that would be interested in picking up a contract with a $10.5-million cap.

Montgomery deals with alcohol problem: The mystery surrounding the Dallas Stars’ decision to sack coach Jim Montgomery was cleared up Friday when the Montreal native revealed he has entered an inpatient treatment program for an alcohol problem.

In a statement to the Dallas Morning News, Montgomery called his removal a “wake-up call” and agreed with the team’s decision to fire him.

“I let the team’s front office, staff and players down. More importantly, I let my wife and my family down. The team’s decision to end my role forced me to look into the mirror and decide whether I wanted to continue living a damaging lifestyle or get help. I decided to get help.

“I turned to professionals in the field of alcohol abuse for their guidance and counselling. It has been an overwhelming and a very humbling experience knowing that I am not alone.”

I’ve known Montgomery since he was a high-scoring forward at the University of Maine and I have no doubt he will win this battle and return to coaching when the time is right.

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