Montreal Canadiens' Biggest Underachievers So Far in 2013-14
The 2013-14 Montreal Canadiens have done a fairly good job in overcoming obstacles, such as injuries and underachieving players, en route to their 9-8-2 start to the season.
Injuries happen to all teams and have to be dealt with. Underachievers, however, frustrate fan bases and are subject to constant media scrutiny.
Luckily for the Habs, players such as Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and The Kid Line (Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk) have upped their level of play and helped the Canadiens stay in a playoff spot early this season.
It's fair to wonder how much higher up the standings the club could be if the following five players get their seasons on track.
Here are the Montreal Canadiens' biggest underachievers so far in 2013-14.
5. Max Pacioretty
Considering the injuries he has had to deal with in 2013-14, it might not be fair to include Max Pacioretty on this list. Numbers are numbers, however, and statistically he is underachieving this season.
Through 10 games, the Canadiens top goal-scorer from each of the past two years has just two goals and four points on the season. He's also a minus-4, second-worst among forwards after George Parros' minus-5.
Pacioretty has battled injuries yet again this year and Canadiens fans are praying his ailments are to blame for his slow start.
He jammed his wrist in the season opener against Toronto, causing him to miss one game, and then missed eight games with a lower body injury suffered in Winnipeg on October 15.
The 24-year-old has, understandably, had a hard time returning to full speed since getting back on the ice on November 2. Leg injuries do that to players.
The fact of the matter, though, is that Pacioretty has just two goals through Montreal's first 19 games of the season. They need more from him. Much more.
4. Francis Bouillon
As a 38-year-old who sits at No. 6 on the Canadiens defensive depth chart, expectations haven't been set very high for Francis Bouillon in 2013-14. Yet somehow, he has still managed to underachieve.
Bouillon, who has played in all 19 games for the Habs this year, has stumbled to a team-worst minus-9 rating. He also has just two assists on the year and hasn't done much else of anything.
But to be fair to the veteran defender, Michel Therrien hasn't made life easy him.
Bouillon was forced to start the year with a different partner each night, as the coach shuffled Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu in and out of the lineup each game. The fact that both rookies played like, well, rookies, probably didn't help Bouillon's plus-minus rating.
Since Douglas Murray returned to the lineup on October 28, he has been paired with Bouillon. Not much has changed, however, as Murray himself has fallen to a minus-4 and Bouillon hasn't been any better.
It's also quite possible that Bouillon is simply receiving too much ice time at 17:22 per game (compared to Douglas Murray's 13:05). That's a lot of to ask out of someone who is creeping in on 40 years of age.
Bouillon would likely be more effective if he was limited to under 15 minutes of ice a game. That could be done by limiting his penalty-kill ice and replacing him by, say, P.K. Subban.
The bottom line is this: Alexei Emelin returns this weekend and either Francis Bouillon or Douglas Murray will be headed to the press box to make space for him. From a numbers perspective, it certainly looks like it should be Bouillon.
3. George Parros
The 2013 playoffs proved Montreal needed toughness. Marc Bergevin obviously agreed, so he went out and got a 6'5", 224-pound fighter.
Well, sometimes in sports, managers panic and make brash decisions without thoroughly thinking them through. It seems that is exactly what happened when the Canadiens general manager decided to acquire tough-guy George Parros.
Sure, Bergevin only gave up a low-level prospect (Philippe Lefebvre) and a 2014 seventh-round pick to get Parros, but at this point the Florida Panthers are looking like the big winners in that trade, just for the fact that Parros isn't on their roster anymore.
Parros began his Montreal career by knocking himself out in a fight against Toronto's Colton Orr (in a game the Habs lost) and promptly missing the next 12 games.
During this span, the Canadiens went 8-4. After Parros returned to the lineup, Montreal lost four straight. He was then sent to the press box for two games, and Montreal has taken three out of four points.
For those of you who weren't keeping track: The Montreal Canadiens are 0-4-1 when George Parros suits up. They're 9-4-1 when he doesn't.
Some might argue that Parros doesn't receive enough ice time to truly impact a game.
While it is true that he only gets about four minutes of ice time per night, Parros has somehow managed to stumble to a minus-5 rating in his limited time.
He has been on the ice for five goals against and zero goals for in his grand total of 21:03 of ice time this season.
Bergevin must realize by now that his big acquisition hasn't worked out and isn't going to in the future. He'd be smart to try and get a seventh-round pick back before Parros ends up finishing his career in the minor leagues.
2. Daniel Briere
After a rough 2013 which culminated when he was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers, Danny Briere claimed that injuries had taken their toll and that he could still contribute at age 36.
The Canadiens took the bait and signed him in hopes that he could revive his career and show some of that offensive spark that made him so successful with the Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres.
So far, it's looking more and more like injuries will define the last stages of Briere's career and perhaps age had more to do with his decline than the Canadiens had hoped.
Granted, Briere has only played in nine games due to yet another concussion suffered early this season, but even when he's been on the ice, he's done next to nothing.
Briere has just two goals as a Hab. One was scored on an empty net and the other, the game-tying goal against Tampa Bay on November 12, bounced off his body and found the back of the net. Anyone could have scored those goals.
He also has just two assists for a grand total of four points this season. Not exactly what general manager Marc Bergevin was expecting out of his $4 million investment.
Currently Briere is being used to center Montreal's third line, a spot formerly held by David Desharnais. The Canadiens have had zero production from this position all season and desperately need Briere to provide a spark.
1. David Desharnais
In his first full season after signing a four-year, $14 million contract extension, things haven't exactly gone as planned for David Desharnais.
Montreal's opening night No. 1 center has just one point (an assist) through 17 games played. He has spent the season dropping down the depth chart and has recently found himself in the press box more often than not.
Things have gotten so bad that Montreal's new mayor-elect Denis Coderre even tweeted that Desharnais should be given a one-way ticket to Hamilton (of the AHL).
Coach Therrien has given Desharnais ample opportunity to break out of his early-season funk, but his patience might finally be wearing thin. The Canadiens are returning to full health and Desharnais simply isn't playing well enough to deserve a lineup spot.
Desharnais watched from the press box in Montreal's latest game against Tampa Bay, as Daniel Briere took his spot as third-line center. It was the second time in the last four games that he has been a healthy scratch.
And don't expect the Canadiens to give the one-time 60-point scorer any ice time soon. Montreal's depth chart is about to become even more crowded as Brandon Prust nears a return from injury.
Desharnais has had as bad of a start to a season as anyone could have imagined. His one point of offensive production just isn't justifying his $3.5 million cap hit. He is undoubtedly Montreal's biggest underachiever so far this season.