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The Puck Stops Here

How A Power Play Dies

As recently as the 2008/09 season I was writing about how great the Montreal Canadiens power play was.  In the 2007/08 season Montreal had a league leading 24.1% success rate on the power play.  This season they have a league worst 12.1% power play success rate.  What happened?  How did the best power play team in the league become the worst in a few seasons?

The personnel have largely changed.  The first unit power play in 2007/08 consisted of Alex Tanguay, Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Andrei Markov and Mark Streit.  Only Markov remains a Hab and he hasn’t played a game this season due to injury.  However power plays are often not as dependent upon personnel as they are on the system employed.  Systems are usually a product of coaching.  Usually teams have one coach in charge of special teams.

In 2007/08 that coach was Doug Jarvis.  Jarvis is a good special teams coach.  The problem is Montreal has had turnover in coaching and management positions.  The Canadiens have had four coaches (Guy Carbonneau, Bob Gainey, Jacques Martin and Randy Cunneyworth) since that time.  They have had two GMs in Gainey and Pierre Gauthier.  Likely both the coach and GM will be replaced again this summer.  This lack of continuity leads to turnover of assistant coaches, scouts etc.  A good group of these people will not be maintained except in a more stable situation.  This led to the unwise dismissal of Doug Jarvis who is now an assistant coach in Stanley Cup champion Boston.

Good teams have to be built stably.  They cannot be built when coaches and general managers are replaced every couple years.  This is a hard lesson to learn in a place like Montreal where the media makes crazy demands upon a team.  The media must be ignored in many cases as they want to see moves that will hurt the franchise.  They want to see coaches and GMs replaced on a regular basis unless they immediately lead to Stanley Cup success.  They rarely give enough time to execute a coherent plan.  Montreal needs competent stable management and they have not had it lately. 

The Montreal Canadiens are the worst power play team this year.  Five years ago they were the best power play in the league.  This is a proxy for the turmoil that has happened in the franchise in recent years.  The coaching personnel (most namely Doug Jarvis) was let go in a short-sighted move that was part of the unnecessary turmoil.  It shows the lack of a plan guiding the process.

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Comments

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So they’re bad now because the entire first power play line is gone and so is the coach?

Fantastic detective work.

Posted by Garth on 02/07/12 at 09:14 PM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

Yeah.  I can’t figure this out.  The players shouldn’t make any difference.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 02/07/12 at 09:59 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

The problem is that there has been unnecessary turnover in off-ce positions.  Good people have been let go to other franchises and less competent people have been brought in to try to fill their spots.

Doug Jarvis departing is a symptom.  The Habs havent kept their system together with enough continuity to keep good people.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 02/07/12 at 10:16 PM ET

Avatar

No shooter, no Kovalev. Back in the day they had a double threat. Top of the circle (Kovy’s office) and bomb from the point.

The latter has delivered time and time again for the Habs. Souray, Streit, MAB, Wiz… and Markov when he’s been healthy was of course a fantastic point man who could pinch and score from a slapper.

This year they don’t have the point shot and no one to sub for Kovy as a threat down low. It’s a double whammy. Just having a point man that can kill it would transform this team. I don’t know that coaches could do much to bail them out of their current predicament. They just don’t have the horses…

Posted by Marc10 on 02/08/12 at 01:24 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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