The panic button has been pressed with irreverent gusto in Montreal.
Last week, it was the trade with Carolina that brought Tomas Kaberle to the Canadiens, this week, it’s the firing of Jacques Martin, the Habs coach for the past two seasons.
I’ve gone over Montreal’s struggles this season (13-19, 5th place in the Northeast Division) in detail on this space before, coming pretty much to the conclusion that Montreal has fallen off the cliff because a team so dependent on their powerplay scoring hasn’t been getting powerplay scoring this season.
There are a lot of complaints about Martin’s coaching style in Montreal. Complaints that he’s too defensive, that he relies too much on his goaltender, and that his team shuts down when they have a lead. These are complaints that are somewhat valid. The team’s most memorable post-lockout season was probably the 2010 playoff run, a run that was square on the shoulders of Jaroslav Halak, not Martin’s coaching schemes that gave the 8th-seeded Canadiens upsets over the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Consider that, last season, Montreal was the 8th best team at controlling possession at even strength with the score tied. Up by one, the Habs slipped to 19th, a large drop-off that was also evident in the systems of other defensive-minded coaches Jacques Lemaire and Barry Trotz.
With the powerplay, we’ve decided that the Habs’ problems are mostly percentage-driven and not really hinging on good coaching or not. They’ve been getting their shots and their chances, but pucks haven’t been going in the net. It’s cost the Habs quite a few goals in the first bit of the season, and the drop-off is quite noticeable in the point totals of Michael Cammalleri and Scott Gomez, players who tend to get their points with the man advantage. The trade for Tomas Kaberle has evidently sped along the regression process, the team having scored a powerplay goal in each of their three games since Kaberle’s arrival.
Randy Cunneyworth, who will take over for Martin in the interim, has pretty easy fixes to make. The team is already very good at possession and have a good goaltender to back up the numbers. Martin had his issues, no doubt, but this is a pretty good hockey team he is leaving behind. The worrying aspect to me is that General Manager Pierre Gauthier has shown an inherent ability to make knee-jerk, reaction moves in panic situations.
In other Satruday hotstove news, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun broke the news that Ottawa had indeed acquired Kyle Turris from Phoenix in exchange for David Rundblad and a 2nd round draft pick.
This is an interesting trade for several reasons, the first being that Rundblad was considered a key piece in Ottawa’s prospect core. It was rumoured that the Senators were so angry they missed out on drafting him in 2009 that they made the 2010 draft day trade, acquiring Rundblad for the pick that St. Louis used to select Vladimir Tarasenko.
For Turris, he’s had his downs since being made the third overall pick at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, scoring just 19 goals in 137 NHL games, coming off a not-too-well-publicized holdout this training camp before eventually signing a 2-year, $2.8M contract.
We really have to do question Ottawa’s direction with this play. It seems to me that they’re giving up too early on Rundblad, who has not repeated his form as a 50-points-in-55-games defenseman that he was last season with Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League. He has a single goal and three assists, and is a minus-11 this season.
That aside, Rundblad’s possession numbers have been quite steady. He leads all Ottawa defensemen in Corsi, a shot-differential metric used to determine where the puck was when a player was on the ice. He hasn’t had to play the toughest of minutes (his quality of competition metrics are below average, and he starts 61% of his shifts in the offensive zone) rookie defensemen, particularly rookie offensive defensemen, aren’t typically put in tough situations but Rundblad’s numbers are still pretty good.
What’s more telling about this trade is that Rundblad has the lowest PDO among defensemen who have played more than 20 games this season. PDO is simply the addition of the team’s shooting percentage when a player is on the ice and even strength plus its save percentage.
For Rundblad, just 5.2% of Ottawa’s shots have gone in while he’s on the ice, and his goalies behind him have made just 85.8% of saves. Combined, the two are both unsustainably low percentages that are bound to rise at some point. A few bad goals let in while Rundblad is on the ice makes a significant dent in his traditional plus/minus rating.
So that will probably pick up for him. It seems like a lot to give up for Kyle Turris, a player who takes fewer than 2 shots per game despite being placed in the easiest of situations to succeed. This might be different if Turris had ever, in his NHL career, showed off some of the potential that he had when he was drafted, but that has yet to manifest itself.
The best thing we can say about the deal is that it switches players who were having rough outings in their own organizations, so a trade may have been natural. The 2nd round pick that goes Phoenix’s way is definitely their insurance in this situation. Despite a small lever, Coyotes General Manager moved a rather large stone, and picked up a young puck moving defenseman for a piece he didn’t really want anyways.