Brendan Kelly’s What the Puck: Is David Desharnais One of the Habs’ Biggest Problems?
There was an eerie quiet in the Habs Nation this week, which is funny given the hockey season is hurtling toward us like a runaway freight train.
Training camp for Team Canada begins Monday at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa with Carey Price and his teammates set to kick off their quest for whatever it is one wins at the World Cup of Hockey. Then almost seconds after that tournament wraps, we’ll be right smack into the National Hockey League season.
So let’s have a look at a few of the things Habs-watchers were talking about in recent days.
The Sportster site had a fun piece on who is the worst player on every NHL team. So who would you vote to win this one for the Canadiens? I asked a couple of pals today and they all almost immediately threw out the same name The Sportster’s Mac Michaud came up with. Yes, of course, the winner is David Desharnais.
Michaud totally captures the DD situation with the following line: “The truth is, he’s not a terrible player, but he’s highly ineffective for what the team has expected of him.”
That’s exactly what most Habs fans would say. He could be an okay third-line centre or winger, but simply never should’ve been considered a first-line centre. The Desharnais tale went from odd to downright nutty last season when he was receiving superstar minutes from his buddy Michel Therrien, while Alex Galchenyuk was playing less than the coach’s favourite plumber, Dale Weise.
Desharnais signed a four-year, $14-million deal in March 2013. That was following his best-ever season with Montreal — in 2011-2012, he notched 60 points playing on a line with his best bud, Max Pacioretty, and Erik Cole. As The Sportster underlines, he’s been on a steady decline ever since, only one of a bazillion cases of players who sign major deals and then promptly underachieve.
The good news is this is the last year on Desharnais’s contract, with The Sportster confidently suggesting the Habs will not re-sign him. But those of us here know, of course, there’s no such certainty given Therrien’s inexplicable attachment to the diminutive forward. He also happens to be the one of the only high-profile francophones on the team, which is a not insignificant fact in this town.
The other bit of good news is presumably Therrien has at least finally realized his No. 1 centre is Galchenyuk and that wee Davey will be his No. 3 centreman come October. Mike T has realized that, right?
Also news leaked out late in the week the Habs had parted ways with team physician Vincent Lacroix, who was head doctor for the Canadiens for the past three years and has been associated with le bleu-blanc-et-rouge for 12 years. TVA Sports reported he is leaving for administrative reasons — whatever that means — and it’s not related to the injury that sidelined Carey Price for most of the past season.
Marc Antoine Godin from La Presse has an interesting piece in which Lacroix says he’s leaving because he wants to devote more time to the sports medicine clinics he runs. Godin writes there were rumblings of dissent among the medical staff chez les Habs — something I’d also heard — but Lacroix denies that. But, and this is telling, Lacroix does say he was disappointed the Canadiens did not make an official announcement of his departure and didn’t underline his long years of service with the organization.
A spokesperson for the Canadiens told The Gazette the team does not normally announce a change to its medical staff and Lacroix left to focus on his other activities. The spokesman also said that Dr. David Mulder, who was the chief physician before Lacroix took over three years ago and had remained with the team, will once again head up the medical team.
There was a lot of heat on the medical staff during the past season as a result of Price’s injury, and one of the big problems was management miscalculated as to exactly how long he’d be on the sidelines. If they’d known he’d be out for the rest of the season, presumably general manager Marc Bergevin would’ve gone out and tried to find a real goalie in the fall rather than pick up a fellow, Ben Scrivens, who wasn’t even good enough to play for one of the worst teams in the league (the Edmonton Oilers).
Another departure that continues to have tongues wagging is the surprise exit earlier this summer of Kevin Gilmore, Geoff Molson’s right-hand man. Gilmore — the Canadiens’ executive vice-president and chief operating officer — left the club in mid-June, with the Canadiens announcing the news late in the day at the time and offering little detail as to why he was departing after five successful years heading up marketing initiatives with the Habs.
The team said he was leaving to pursue other business opportunities and there was a lot of speculation he would join the executive ranks of another NHL team. But more than two months later, he’s still a free agent, though there were reports he is working as a consultant for the New York Islanders. He is also, on paper at least, a consultant to the Canadiens.
So what happened there? Did he leave willingly? Was that also perhaps a behind-the-scenes managerial conflict? There’s been endless chatter this summer about the big player moves made by Bergevin, but the fact is there were also some major personnel shifts behind-the-scenes at the Bell Centre.