Shawn has contributed for quite some time and we are pleased to announce he is now part of our writing staff here at Habsaddict
Michel Therrien has the reputation of being a rather impatient coach. He is known to be unafraid to put his players under the spotlight and to shake up his lines when things aren't going his way. Since his second coming in Montreal, he has shown reluctance in giving more ice time to his young players who, since last season, have been playing some great hockey and to cut his underperforming veterans’ ice time.
This season though, Therrien has finally started to adjust. When the Habs won in Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and at home against Columbus, the coach gave more ice time to his younger players and cut the under-performers' playing time.
Indeed, over the last four wins, Lars Eller, who has five goals and seven points this season, has been the second most used center by Michel Therrien. David Desharnais, who has only one assist this season in seven games, saw his ice time go from over 16 minutes against Toronto on opening night and Calgary, to around 14 minutes a night over the last four games. Only Tomas Plekanec has been used more that the 24 year old Eller. The great Dane has been one of the team’s best forward so far this season.
Same thing goes for Daniel Briere, who has been mostly invisible so far this season. The Gatineau native saw his ice time constantly decline over the past five games from a season high 17:03 against Calgary to a season low 12:59 against Columbus. The small forward has scored two out of his three points on empty net goals. Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, who have been playing well since starting their careers last season, have seen more ice than Briere since the team’s win in Vancouver.
Francis Bouillon is another player who hasn’t played as much as usual. Even though he hasn’t been bad, he is finally seeing bottom pairing minutes. The 38 year old defender was regularly playing over 20 minutes per game last season, which was insane. Therrien has also reduced Bouillon’s power play time, although not completely. Markov and Subban have, obviously, been heavily relied upon on the power play and for good reason. In general, the veteran rearguard is the fifth most used defenseman, which is a more appropriate role. It is good to see that Therrien has gained some sense with Bouillon’s usage.
However, this is not to say that the Canadiens’ head coach has been perfect. David Desharnais is still seeing more power play time than Lars Eller. Daniel Briere also receives more time on the man advantage than both Gallys. Even though the Habs have the seventh best power play in the league, it’s in the team’s best interest that the kids receive more power play time than Briere and Desharnais. You can’t keep your hottest players on the bench while up a man to play your underperforming veterans. Even if this could upset them, the team comes first. As long as they can’t fix their game, Therrien has to rely more heavily on the young studs.
Another problem Therrien still has is the fact that Markov plays more than twice as often on the penalty killing. This defies all reason. It does not make sense to keep the reigning Norris Trophy winner on the bench while down a player. Subban is the team’s best defenseman in every area of the game. Yes, he still makes some mistakes, but we tend to forget that he is still only 24 years old. He is still gaining in maturity and improving his game. Markov, on the other hand, is 34 years old and it is obvious that he has slowed down. He has played very well so far, but he can’t keep on playing 23-24 minutes per game as he will get slower as the season progresses. Therrien will need to rely more heavily on Subban. The elite defenseman ranks 18th in the NHL in average ice time with 24:41. He is able to play two minutes more per game, and this can come by switching Markov and Subban on the penalty kill.
Michel Therrien’s player usage still doesn’t make perfect sense, but he’s getting there.
(Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images North America)
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