Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Habs Forward Gallagher Says Team Struggled to Find Solutions for Their Struggles

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Habs Forward Gallagher Says Team Struggled to Find Solutions for Their Struggles

Article excerpt

Gallagher: 'We weren't good enough'

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MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens had a feeling things weren't going well from the start of training camp.

They didn't, as the team plummeted from 103 points and a division title in 2016-17 to 71 points to finish well out of the playoffs this season.

As players emerged from exit meetings with management on Monday, many spoke of a season that started badly and never got better.

"I don't think you can pinpoint one thing, but right from the start, you can go right back to training camp, we weren't good enough," said forward Brendan Gallagher, one of the few bright spots with a career-high 31 goals this season. "We were searching for solutions every day.

"That was probably the hardest part. We'd come to the rink every day, talking to you (media), thinking we had the answer and obviously not having it. I am proud of the guys because even when we were out of it we continued to come to work every day, but we failed by being in that situation so long and not finding a solution."

The Canadiens finished with the fourth-worst record in the 31-team NHL. They missed the playoffs for a second time in three years while tying a team record with 40 regulation losses en route to a 29-40-13 campaign. It included a league-worst road record of 11-26-4, where they were outscored 147-93.

The Canadiens put themselves in a hole by winning only one of their first 10 games and were never able to dig themselves out.

"Early on there were definitely some warning signs," said captain Max Pacioretty. "As early as the pre-season, we struggled heavily to score and struggled to win, and it seemed like that kind of stayed with us throughout the year.

"At the moment, you're not getting too caught up with it, but as early as training camp things looked negative and never really seemed to get positive from there."

It really goes back to last summer and some questionable moves from general manager Marc Bergevin.

It started with a promising trade that sent defence prospect Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay for gifted forward Jonathan Drouin, with the hope he could become the productive first-line centre the team has been missing for several years.

But then Bergevin watched as right-winger Alexander Radulov, who made an impressive return to the NHL last season, signed as a free agent with Dallas. Then he couldn't make a deal with 38-year-old defenceman Andrei Markov and lost him to the KHL.

That left Montreal, a rich team, with about $8 million in unused salary cap space and two gaping holes in its roster.

The off-season signing of defenceman Karl Alzner was also a bust, while Drouin struggled to adapt to playing centre for most of the season.

It also hurt that top defenceman Shea Weber injured is left foot in the opening game of the season. While he tried to play on, he was shut down in mid-season for surgery. …

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