Max Pacioretty

Getty Images

Max Pacioretty has never been this low

6 Comments

Max Pacioretty has been through the rigamarole of an NHL season before.

But as the Montreal Canadiens captain admitted on Monday, it’s never been this bad.

“I’ve gone through ups and downs, but never this low,” Pacioretty told the Montreal Gazette.

And it’s what came before that statement, as doom and gloomy as it sounds, it paints the best picture of what is going on in Montreal and what Pacioretty can likely expect over the coming weeks or months.

“If it happens, it happens,” Pacioretty said, responding to the trade rumors that have engulfed him since a report on Saturday from Sportsnet said the Canadiens were shopping their captain. “I’m very proud of the past success I’ve had in Montreal. I’ve played here for 10 years and I’ve never gone through something like this.”

‘This,’ as Pacioretty puts it, is a Canadiens team that getting by on life support. ‘This’ is Pacioretty going for a 12-game dump in the goal department in December.

‘This’ is a team eight points adrift of the playoff line, one underperforming and perhaps lacking the right pieces to get its talent moving.

As Sportsnet’s Eric Engels pointed out on New Years Day, it might be the lack of playmaking talent around Pacioretty that has him heading toward his worst season in a long time.

Pacioretty has hit the 30-goal mark in five of his past six seasons (with a 15 goal season coming during the 2012-13 lockout campaign).

This year? Pacioretty will be lucky to hit 20 the way things currently stand.

“Playmakers like Andrei Markov, Alexander Radulov and David Desharnais allowed Pacioretty to focus almost uniquely on getting to the dead spaces of the offensive zone and uncorking the shot that’s given him a fair portion of his 217 goals in this league,” Engels wrote. “But they’re all plying their trades with different teams now and Bergevin hasn’t done nearly enough to replace them.”

Indeed, Bergevin hasn’t done much.

The acquisition of Jonathan Drouin hasn’t paid off in the way the Habs would have liked up to this point, and Montreal is still trying to make Alex Galchenyuk work. But where are the replacements for guys like Radulov and Markov?

Trading Pacioretty won’t solely fix the Canadiens, but it at least could be a step in that direction with the assets any deal would likely bring to la belle province.

The 29th captain in Habs history seemingly resigned to the fact that he’ll be on the move in the future and a team with the right talent to support his goal-scoring prowess would likely excite the 29-year-old.

Pacioretty has a desirable contract given his past production. With a year remaining on the deal that pays him $4.5 million annually, he could be a bargain for a team looking to make a run at a Stanley Cup this season.

And without any movement clauses in his contract, the Canadiens can’t do a lot of window shopping before heading to the cashier.

It could be a win-win for both parties.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

13 Comments

After unveiling the top 10 goaltenders for the upcoming video game NHL 16, EA Sports has done the same for every other position.

As was the case last season, Sidney Crosby has the highest overall rating at 96, but there are some alterations after that. In 2015, Steven Stamkos ranked second overall with a 93 rating and he kept that rating for 2015-16, but he’s been leapfrogged by Jonathan Toews (94), Shea Weber (94), and Carey Price (94).

Pavel Datsyuk (93) and John Tavares (92) round out the top-five among centers. Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have two players in the top-10 with Henrik Zetterberg (92) and Evgeni Malkin (92) securing eighth and sixth place respectively.

As previously established, Weber leads the pack among defensemen and is followed by Duncan Keith (93), Drew Doughty (93), Ryan Suter (93), and Erik Karlsson (91). Nashville is the only team with two defensemen in the top-10 as Roman Josi (90) ranks ninth.

When it comes to right wingers, Corey Perry (92) got the top position, although he’s closely followed by Patrick Kane (92). Vladimir Tarasenko (91), Jakub Voracek (90), and Marian Hossa (90) make up the remainder of the top-five. Phil Kessel, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh over the summer, saw his rating slip from 90 in 2014-15 to 89 following a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to left wingers, it won’t surprise many to learn that Alex Ovechkin secured the top rating at 93. He’s followed by Jamie Benn (92), Taylor Hall (90), Zach Parise (90), and Max Pacioretty (89). The Dallas Stars’ acquisition of Patrick Sharp means that they now have two players in the top-10 as Sharp took the final place on that list with his 89 rating.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe. If you want to see each position’s top-10 list, you can view them here.

Montreal Canadiens ’15-16 Outlook

9 Comments

The Montreal Canadiens feature two of the things you look for in a championship contender: an elite goalie (Carey Price) and an outstanding, versatile defenseman (P.K. Subban).

Management seems pretty even-keeled about the team’s flaws, especially on offense. Perhaps a division title (not to mention league-wide trends of lower scoring) can breed patience/complacency.*

To most people, P.K. Subban (26 years old) and Carey Price (28) still seem enviably fresh-faced, yet it’s important to remember that windows of greatness can close with cruel quickness in sports.

One can reasonably expect goalies to age a bit more gracefully, yet Price would need to stand on his head to top the award-hogging season he generated in 2014-15. Subban may still have some upside even considering his current level of brilliance, but for how long will either one remain elite?

Look, it’s true that the Canadiens boast a ton of players who are in or around their primes. Max Pacioretty is just 26. Alex Galchenyuk could rocket up the charts, as he’s only 21, while Brendan Gallagher could very well pester for more than a decade considering the fact that he’s merely 23. Heck, Alexander Semin isn’t even that old at 31.

Even so, there’s a cut-off point where a slow-and-steady approach risks throwing away the best years of two of the most talented players on the planet.

If the coming 2015-16 season isn’t a pivotal one for GM Marc Bergevin to decide if he has the right supporting cast around Subban and Price – coach included – then it sure should be.

* – Feel free to use whichever word you think applies to Habs’ management.

Habs’ biggest question: Scoring

8 Comments

Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and head coach Michel Therrien seem pretty low-key about their team’s underwhelming offense.

Therrien: “We scored just eight fewer goals than the Chicago Blackhawks.”

Bergevin (paraphrasing): “Hey, the New York Rangers were winning a bunch of 2-1 games, so let’s keep doing what we’re doing.”

Yes, the NHL is a league where defense and goaltending are highly important facets of the game, but at what point does the balance go off?

There are plenty of warning signs that the Canadiens could face a severe dip if the current “Carey can handle it” plan falls through.

They’ve been a weak possession team. Spin goal totals whichever way you’d like, but the bottom line is that their 221 goals for tied the Pittsburgh Penguins for the least of any playoff team last season.

While the Penguins acquired in-his-prime polarizing sniper Phil Kessel this summer, the Canadiens didn’t do much beyond adding fading polarizing sniper Alexander Semin and polarizing pest Zach Kassian to the mix.

Yes, Max Pacioretty deserves the accolades heaped upon him from sources including Jonathan Quick. It’s true that P.K. Subban can lead the charge on offense to an often dazzling degree. Semin could regain his self-confidence and upstarts like Alex Galchenyuk could make significant strides in their game.

Still, Therrien is considered a taskmaster and defense first-second-and-third sort of coach, so it wouldn’t be prudent to expect him to implement changes that would drastically boost offense.

If goals come, it will be in some combination of better shooting luck, nice work from the likes of Semin and improvement from within.

When you take everything under consideration, it’s tough to shake the impression that Montreal is more or less asking Price to repeat his all-world work from 2014-15.

It’s Montreal Canadiens day at PHT

14 Comments

If you wanted the story of Montreal’s ’14-15 campaign, all you had to do was watch the NHL Awards.

Or more specifically, the Carey Price awards.

Price was at the microphone four times to celebrate his banner campaign: Once for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, once for the Vezina as the NHL’s top netminder, once for the Ted Lindsay award as the most outstanding player as voted by the players, and once for the William Jennings Trophy as a goalie on the team that allowed the fewest goals in the regular season.

OK, he did have to share that last one with Corey Crawford. But you get the idea.

Simplistic as it sounds, Montreal’s season was mostly about Price, in that the Habs went as far as their star goalie would take them. Sure, other Canadiens played integral roles — Max Pacioretty scored 37 goals, P.K. Subban was a Norris Finalist — but for the most part, the 50 wins and 110 points and second-round playoff appearance was due to No. 31.

Which begs the question:

Can he do it again?

Off-season recap

GM Marc Bergevin’s spent most of the summer attending to in-house business. All three of his trade deadline pickups — Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Jeff Petry — were extended, with Petry scoring the biggest with a six-year, $33 million deal.

Youngsters Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival, Jarred Tinordi, Christian Thomas, Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu were also given new deals, while veterans Mike Weaver, Sergei Gonchar, Manny Malhotra and P.A. Parenteau (via buyout) were sent packing.

As for new faces? Zack Kassian was acquired from Vancouver in exchange for Brandon Prust, while Carolina castoff Alex Semin was signed to a one-year, $1.1M deal after the ‘Canes bought him out.

At the draft, Montreal used its first-round pick to select WHL Everett blueliner Noah Juulsen 26th overall.

All in all, it was a perfunctory offseason for the Habs. Firmly in the mix as an Eastern Conference contender, the club didn’t feel the need to make a big summer splash — in fact, based on the Flynn and Mitchell and Petry contracts, it could be argued that Bergevin’s upgrading happened on Mar. 2, not July 1.