In the first 19 games of their 2021-22 campaign, the Montreal Canadiens have looked far from being the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
With a 4-13-2 record and the second-worst points percentage (.263) in the NHL, the Canadiens have struggled mightily. Having not won two games in a row and coming off a 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was not happy with the team’s effort on Thursday night.
“I just didn’t like the effort from the start to the end. And that’s unacceptable,” Bergevin said in an interview with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. “That’s something that needs to be addressed.’’
The Canadiens have been missing key pieces since the start of the season. Goaltender Carey Price, who was instrumental in Montreal’s run to the Final, entered the NHL/NHLPA Players Assistance program on Oct. 7 and recently made his return to the team where he continues to work his way back.
Captain Shea Weber is on long-term injured reserve and will not play this season. Joel Edmundson, who was a part of the strong top-four defensive unit that was the backbone in the playoffs, has yet to suit up this season due to injury. Assistant captain Paul Byron had off-season hip surgery and was given a five-month recovery timeline.
Bergevin notes that other teams lose players too to injury and that it doesn’t justify the Canadiens’ poor start.
“We’re not there,” said Bergevin. “That’s been the story of our team this year. We didn’t get engaged from Day 1 of camp. And it dragged on into the beginning of the season. And we’re paying the price. It’s hard to watch when the team that was so good for two and a half months in the playoffs falls so flat on its face from the beginning of the season. It’s hard to comprehend.’’
As for any potential changes to shake up the roster, Bergevin believes the Canadiens are a lot better than their current record and won’t “make a trade just to say I made a trade.’’
In the case of head coach Dominique Ducharme, who replaced Claude Julien mid-season in 2020-21 and signed a three-year deal after coaching the team to the Finals, his job is not in danger according to Bergevin.
“Not at this point, but again, if you look at a few months ago, Dom took pretty much the same team to the Stanley Cup Final and he didn’t become a bad coach in three months,’’ Bergevin said. “It’s not only one person. It’s not only one issue.’’
Bergevin is in the last year of his contract and didn’t come to an agreement on an extension during the off-season with Canadiens owner Geoff Molson. Now in his 10th season with the organization, Bergevin says he and Molson communicate almost daily and isn’t letting the lack of a contract beyond this season affect his job.
“I’m an emotional guy, a passionate guy,’’ he said. “I care for this organization. I’ve been working here for the last nine-plus years. It’s something I take to heart. And until my last day, I will do the same.’’
The Canadiens are back in action on Saturday as they host the Nashville Predators.