Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens crushed by the Seattle Kraken

It’s a four-game road trip through the west coast of the United States for the Montreal Canadiens. It starts with the first game in over 100 years in Seattle for the Canadiens as the Kraken played their second game in their new home at Climate Pledge Arena in the shadow of the Space Needle.

Montreal now has only one win in its first seven games as the Canadiens were humiliated yet again — this time by a score of 5-1. It’s getting extremely concerning that this season could be a disaster.

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Wilde Horses

With another convincing loss, it is difficult to fill this section, but there were some encouraging performances. Cole Caufield had his best game of the season for Montreal. He still remains at zero for goals, so this Calder Trophy hopeful season looks more like a campaign of growth, rather than arrival and stardom. And this was a game of growth. Caufield looked better overall. He had the puck more. He took more shots. He broke into the zone effectively. He handled his defence well.

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Mike Hoffman was the best forward for the Canadiens on the night. He’s a goal scorer and he scored a goal again. That’s two goals in two games for Hoffman.

Nick Suzuki also held his own in this one as he continues to try to get more comfortable facing the best lines in the league instead of the second-best. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is huge. Match-ups are everything, and Danault not handling the hardest ones has been an eye-opener for Suzuki. It’s going to take Suzuki a while to be the number one centre for the club. In fact, it might be a challenge too hard for him overall. You have to be among the top 15 centres in the league to be effective to handle the other teams’ best lines. In this one, he looked better, but expect ups and downs in this battle.

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Wilde Goats 

The Canadiens are extremely difficult to understand right now. They are the worst team in hockey. The talent level is so much better than the way they are playing. They are lost out there: poor line changes, odd-man rushes given up regularly, poor finishing around the net, backing into their own goalie all the time, not physical enough, undisciplined penalties, suspect goaltending, horrendous special teams.

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They have so much wrong with their game, they don’t resemble a well-coached team at all. Heck, they don’t resemble a coached team at all.

The players themselves are not even close to this bad. Offensively, they are way better than this. Defensively, they are likely better than this. On special teams, they are certainly better than this as Montreal is near last in the league in both the power play and penalty killing.

The supposed best line on the team — Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson and Christian Dvorak — were minus three each on the first three Seattle goals. That’s your best line against an expansion team getting schooled.

Look at the players’ histories for proof. Mike Hoffman regularly scores 20 goals per season. Tyler Toffoli also pots goals regularly. A lot of players on this squad have 20- and 30-goal seasons. Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki, Jonathan Drouin — these are players we all know as talented. So where is it?

The offence, with seemingly only one-goal-per-game potential every night but one against Detroit, is struggling horribly. The defence we knew had holes and they are definitely getting exploited.

This is beginning to look not like a blip but the actual tenor of the season. It does not appear at all that the Canadiens have the potential to win more than they lose this campaign.

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This is actually looking like a long season already.

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Coming into the season, it was said that the Canadiens would have to get through the first 20 games facing several challenges: dealing with injuries; getting comfortable with each other after so many changes to key players; and having younger players who need to learn in their new roles. But the team didn’t make it through five gives, never mind 20.

There are 75 more games. The head coach just received a three-year contract extension. He is not going anywhere. Where are the answers going to come from? Will everyone accept a season of this? Can Joel Edmundson’s return make that much of a difference overall?

Is there any difficult organizational question that anyone feels certain that they can answer yes to?

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Being serious, the only one that comes to mind is the 31st-ranked power play and penalty kills will be better than this. The habit of getting one goal per game should be replaced by a habit of getting two goals per game. This should mean a handful of more wins, but not many more.

This is a grim Wilde Goats. It would be nice to eat all of the words of it for the sake of Habs fans.

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Wilde Cards

Jonathan Drouin accidentally caused a bit of a stir in Seattle on Tuesday. He mentioned that Shea Weber is retired from hockey. This was a surprise to everyone who quickly announced it as if this were some form of formal news. However, all Drouin was saying is philosophically he is retired, and he has likely played his last game.

That’s fair. We all knew this already. It is just that when this comes from someone who has been in close contact with Weber and who is a friend, it made it sound official.

Canadiens public relations director Paul Wilson, who clearly has his ear to the media’s doings each and every day, quickly issued a release that Weber has not retired from the NHL and no papers have been signed to indicate anything of the sort.

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There would be no reason for Weber to sign those papers and relinquish the $12 million that he still has coming to him in the contract that he signed ages ago. This is terrific news to the Nashville Predators who would be on the hook for a massive salary cap recapture penalty if Weber were to make it official and retire.

As it is, Weber remains on long-term injured reserve and therefore is a cap exemption for Montreal. General Manager Marc Bergevin has indicated that he has plans for Weber when he does make it official. In fact, Weber has already done some scouting.

I’m not sure what Weber is interested in himself, but the man is a leader and it is easy to see him become an outstanding coach, if he has that desire. He has the ability to get the most out of people. He truly is an amazing leader who has the respect of his teammates like no other. Imagine the leadership skills as a coach.  There’s a spot for him in hockey should these injuries not heal sufficiently for him to ever return.

It will be interesting to see how it develops. After Luke Richardson’s excellent work behind the bench in the Canadiens playoff run when Dominique Ducharme caught COVID-19, there is a head coaching job in the future for the now boss of the Canadiens blue line. It’s easy to see Weber handling those duties in the future for the Canadiens.

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