January 2, 2022
settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter).
Similar: settle, sort out, solve, find a solution to, find an answer to, fix, set right
decide firmly on a course of action, firm determination to do something.
After a COVID-gifted lengthy Christmas pause, the Montreal Canadiens were back in action this week. On Tuesday they iced an AHL line-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and miraculously gave the Stanley Cup Champions a run for their money before losing in overtime with a 4-3 score. On Thursday, special teams killed them in a 4-0 loss to Carolina. On New Years Day, the kids held their own despite icing 16 skaters, but ultimately lost 5-2 to the Florida Panthers.
This is the season of resolutions, and if there is any sports franchise on the planet that should be looking to resolve some things, it’s the Habs. I thought I would help Jeff Gorton with his. Here are five resolutions based on the 11th week of action for the Habs.
Jeff Gorton should resolve to clarify and strengthen the leadership group for the retool.
For nearly a decade we listened to Marc Bergevin talk about leadership and character, and at the end of his tenure the team is hard-pressed to identify its next captain.
If you’ve been reading my Captain series, you’ve read me consider a long list of potential captains, with none of them obvious choices to assume the captaincy. I don’t know how that can be considered anything but an indictment of a GM who so preached leadership. It seems he thought he had all he needed in one man, and that man happens to be scouting out west these days instead of leading the Habs.
With the Habs visiting Corey Perry and the Tampa Bay Lightning this week, the leadership void got loud. I’m sure the Habs current situation is not what Perry would wish for in the last years of his career, but how much would guys like Suzuki and Caufield really benefit from his leadership right now? Gorton’s resolutions for the New Year must include finding the right combination of veterans to lead and support the kids moving forward.
We have not heard from Gorton yet about whether the Canadiens will be entering a rebuild phase or a retool phase or a reboot phase or what it will be. Whatever the direction, he needs to be considering the core for the next contention period, and part of that consideration is the leadership group.
Our enjoyment of the World Juniors was brief, but we did get a look at a couple of Habs prospects. Both Kaiden Guhle (Canada) and Jan Mysak (Czechia) were captain of their respective teams. Jordan Harris is captain of his team, the Northeast Huskies. Three skilled assets that should have a place on the Habs moving forward.
The next generation of leadership should not be one guy who is revered and a bunch of subplots. The Habs need a leadership group, and Gorton should resolve to identify his leaders in a youth core that will form the next contending squad.
Jeff Gorton should resolve to build strong relationships with his most important assets.
We will never be able to watch a Hurricanes game without being reminded that the Habs 3rd overall pick in 2018 wanted out of Montreal. His absence might not hurt so much if Phillip Danault had not chosen to walk in the same off-season.
There were a lot of ugly partings during the Bergevin era.
If a guy like Michael Frolik is disenchanted after his departure no one is devastated. But the issue is far more significant, both in terms of the role of the players who left on unhappy terms, and the sheer volume of players. We don’t need to make a list – we all know who they are. Gorton must resolve to make it stop.
Gorton doesn’t need to call in the soothsayers to identify the valuable assets in Montreal who may be feeling a little disenchanted with their development. There is also an asset approaching college graduation that may have doubts about the team that drafted him. As resolutions go, this one is a no brainer.
There is no point to winning lotteries and drafting talent if you don’t have the people management skills to keep them in the fold. Resolve to fix it.
Jeff Gorton should resolve to address the chronic failure to thrive that plagues special teams in Montreal.
An AHL roster was able to play to a nil draw with the Carolina Hurricanes, but it didn’t matter because the Canes were able to score three on the power play and one shorthanded. A second period power play goal was also big for the Panthers in the Florida game. In three games this week, not one goal on the man advantage for the Canadiens. The Habs penalty kill has been up and down, but the power play has been abysmal for years.
Is the power play futility a personnel issue? Is it a deployment issue? Is it the system? Or is it the coaching? The answer is yes. The penalty is less about skill and more about system, positioning, and effort. Is there a logical reason for it to be so inconsistent and mostly bad? The answer is no.
When Gorton met with the media, he committed to talking with everyone – players, coaches, scouts – and we know he’s been in assessment mode. He must resolve to identify and address the holes in special teams. Success there is too important to too many games to let the trend continue.
We know the Habs lack an elite puck-moving defenceman and puck carriers in general. We also know they’ve been lacking a high-end power play quarterback since Andrei Markov walked in one of those ugly partings. The coaching staff has offered no solutions. It’s up to Gorton to fix special teams, and it should be his resolution to do so.
Jeff Gorton should resolve to improve his team with players other teams are willing to let go.
One part of Gorton’s work during these weeks leading up to the deadline, the draft and the off-season is to identify who he is keeping and who he is letting go. But the other half of his job is determining who other teams are willing to let go for something he has. Yes, he’ll be looking for draft choices. But he should also be looking for NHL-ready players who other teams could be convinced to let walk.
Last season the Habs watched their young centres struggling a little down the stretch. Bergevin’s solution was to go fetch Eric Staal for third and fifth round picks. It wasn’t a bad move, and Staal was useful in the playoffs. But it was also apparent to everyone that Danault was playing his last games in Montreal, and while we didn’t foresee an offer sheet, we knew Kotkaniemi was not happy. Would it have made more sense to use the assets on a player that could help long term?
On Saturday, Sam Bennett scored two goals in the 5-2 win over the Habs. Centering the second line, he has 11 goals in 26 games. That’s a pace better than anyone on the Montreal Canadiens. Bennett was available all last season and was ultimately traded to Florida along with a 6th rounder for a 2nd rounder and Emil Heineman, another 2nd rounder. That was a deal the Habs certainly could have made.
Gorton must resolve to find these opportunities. Here is an example of what I’m considering here. It’s time to trade Brendan Gallagher. There are some general managers who would love to have him, but the contract is prohibitive. Is there another challenging contract a team would love to move where the Habs might find some gains? Sean Monahan in Calgary comes to mind. Could he be useful after a fresh start?
There will be others to make a Gallagher trade work, and others available for other players, and it should be the GM’s resolution to find them.
Jeff Gorton should resolve to land the best and brightest to be his GM.
This week during the Carolina game the names of GM candidates due to be interviewed was leaked to the media. The list includes two women, a guy who was a hero as a player, guys growing into executive roles, and agents. Some readers will chirp back about the language issue, but they already have Gorton and there is no reason a strong GM cannot be named from the group of eight, or beyond if necessary.
Gorton must resolve to not be swayed by anything except landing the absolute best candidate. Media lobbyists must be ignored. Gender politics must be silenced. Old school hockey men mentalities must be dismissed. Gorton said he would consider everyone, and that he’s not afraid of anything. His choice must reflect that.
The Habs are taking a week off to recover from a COVID-19 outbreak. Then they have another week before they play again. That’s a lot of time for fans and pundits to obsess on GM candidates. Gorton must resolve to block it all out.
Things will happen fast now. The trade deadline is March 21st. Eleven weeks of action are in the record books, but the real work will occur in the next eleven.
I’m sure Jeff Gorton is not looking to me for his New Year’s Resolutions, but he will have a game plan of his own. I can’t imagine he’s watching this team and not coming to some similar conclusions.