Daily Hab-it: Managing expectations
Montreal Canadiens' Michael Cammalleri, left, scores a penalty shot on Boston Bruins' goaltender Tim Thomas during first period NHL action in Montreal Thursday, December 16, 2010.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
By Arpon Basu
Published Thursday, January 27, 2011 11:04PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:11AM EDT
As the Canadiens rest easy at the All-Star break 10 points ahead of last year's pace and pretty comfortable in a playoff spot, I still feel a certain degree of dissatisfaction among the fan base.
That is most often directed towards head coach Jacques Martin, but players like Scott Gomez, Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik, among others, have also been targeted at various points of the season.
Meanwhile, players like Brian Gionta and Michael Cammalleri have emerged largely unscathed from a prolonged campaign of criticism, even though neither has produced to potential or expectations thus far.
But if we look back, way back, to training camp, what exactly were the expectations surrounding this team?
Carey Price remained a big question mark, one that the young goaltender has emphatically erased over the first half, but one that many saw as the death knell of a team supposedly propped up on the slender shoulders of Jaroslav Halak.
That question mark was somewhat tempered by the idea that a healthy Andrei Markov and an emerging Josh Gorges would shore up an aging defence.
There was also some hope that Cammalleri would build on his 13-goal performance in only 19 playoff games last season and become an elite scorer, except he's only matched that 13-goal total through 44 games played thus far.
Same goes for Gionta, who scored a team-high 28 goals in only 61 games last season but is currently on pace for only 26 even though he's one of just three players who hasn't missed a single game.
Then there was the team's youth movement led by P.K. Subban, newly-acquired Lars Eller and Max Pacioretty which was expected to pick up some of the slack. They have delivered for the most part in spite of Pacioretty being cut out of training camp, Subban being given the tough love treatment and Eller struggling to carve himself a niche on the team.
Finally, there was no way anyone had an idea as to the performances Benoit Pouliot and Andrei Kostitsyn would offer up, and while neither has been very consistent, I'd say on the whole the two have performed relatively well. With 23 goals between them, the two have actually been among the team's most efficient players at even strength, but neither has come close to reaching the potential their talent offers them.
Overall, I would say there are only a handful of players on the team who are actually exceeding expectations – led by Price, Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Darche, Pacioretty and perhaps Subban.
Others, like Tomas Plekanec and Hal Gill, are basically a push.
But several key players have not met the expectations placed on them by fans, management and even themselves.
Despite that, the Canadiens find themselves in a very favourable position to not only make the playoffs, but to actually do so relatively comfortably.
Of the 32 remaining games on the Canadiens schedule, 17 are on the road, and 15 are against teams currently holding down a playoff spot. Of the 17 road games remaining, seven are against current playoff teams.
The Atlanta Thrashers, who are eighth in the east but sliding fast, are on pace for 90 points. The ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes are actually on pace for just short of 92 points.
For the Canadiens to reach that 92-point mark they'd need 33 points in their final 32 games, or just a shade better than .500 hockey, in order to make it in.
On the flip side, Montreal is just four points back of Boston for the division lead, while both the Capitals and Rangers are within their sights in fifth and sixth spot.
Considering the team has collected points at a 59 per cent clip thus far, I'd say the prospects for the second half look pretty promising.
You have to figure Cammalleri and Gionta will round into form, that youngsters Subban, Pacioretty, Eller, David Desharnais and Yannick Weber should only improve, that the defence pairings will improve their chemistry now that they're looking pretty consistent since the acquisition of James Wisniewski and that the power play will continue it's game-changing performance since coming out of a 3-for-47 funk to start the year.
Meanwhile, a penalty kill that has begun to spring some leaks (11 goals on 30 chances over the past seven games) and reverting to the poor five-on-five play of last season is worth being concerned about, but the team was excellent in both of those areas to start the year so there is hope the ship will be righted.
So as the Canadiens rest up for the final stretch, and with Pierre Gauthier perhaps looking at ways to improve the roster, ask yourself this one question: With all the obstacles thrown in its path this season, how much better could you have reasonably expected this team to be at this point?