In hindsight the Canadiens 2011-2012 season was over by the time the team had played it’s eighth game. Because of gross training camp mismanagement, the Canadiens wound up entering the season as a fragmented disorganized mess and lost seven of their first eight games.
If they are to have a better start in 2012, they’re going to have to organize their training camp so there aren’t 40 players still left on their roster with two exhibition games remaining.
And then they’re going to have to survive an opening three weeks of this year’s regular season schedule that could break the collective back of the ill-prepared. They open at home against Ottawa and then it’s at Toronto followed by Boston home and home, home to Washington, then a trip to Minneosta; home to Philadelphia before they conclude the month with a trip to that traditional Northwest division graveyard, Calgary Edmonton and Vancouver. Eleven games in twenty-three nights.
It took until mid December and a subsequent 12-7-5 streak for Jacques Martin to get the team back over .500 in the standings and his reward for the stuggle was a firing. Another of those Pierre Gauthier imponderables.
The root of last season’s regular season disastrous start can be laid at the feet of a front office that scheduled eight exhibition games over eleven days, six of them in front of lucrative full house crowds at the Bell Centre. Blame Geoff Molson and that level of Bell Centre management for that. It left Gauthier and Martin with the problem of staffing the games under the rules which mandated that each exhibition game must include at least ten NHL veterans. After six games there were still forty players in camp. After seven games there were thirty nine. Only in the eighth game in Quebec City did the Canadiens put a lineup on the ice that had a close resemblance to the one that opened the season in Toronto.
Are things any different this year? Well…..not much. There is one fewer exhibition game. This September it will be seven games in fourteen days rather than eight in eleven. Geoff Molson is still going to reap the benefit of five sold out home games. There is built-in breathing room between games three and four and games six and seven when major cuts in the training camp numbers can be implemented. That is of course, if the Canadiens learned anything from last season.
PRICE TO ARBITRATION – Considering all of the stuff piled up on Marc Bergevin’s desk, the business of clearing off the free agent backload has been in the background. With nine days remaining until the free agent gates open, Bergevin bought himself some time by filing for arbitration on Carey Price’s restricted free agent contract. Other teams could have made contract offers on July first. Under the rules no other team will be now be allowed to present Price an offer sheet while the Canadiens can continue to negotiate right up to the arbitration date. In the unlikely event it goes that far, an arbitrator will award Price a one or two year deal at what he considers fair market value.
No word on how the P.K. Subban negotiation is coming. Nevertheless, we can expect a steady stream of signing announcements next week from the Canadiens Communications Department.
Price is coming off a two year 5.5 million dollar contract signed in 2010.
DODGING A BULLET – We’ll never know how close the Canadiens came to seriously considering Pierre McGuire as Canadiens general manager. He seemed to be in the interview processes final four at least. We may have been given indication of what kind of general manager he might have been with his comments on one of the endless string of mock drafts on TSN last week. McGuire’s idea of a good hockey deal is to trade P.K. Subban and the Canadiens third round draft pick for Alexander Yakupov, the overall number one. Subban, a young potential future all-star traded for the opportunity to move up two places in the draft. Television talk is cheap but I think we can assume McGuire would have made the deal if he were running the Canadiens. This comes from the same source that tore a strip off Bob Gainey and Trevor Timmins for drafting Carey Price.