BROSSARD - Just two years removed from boasting one of the top five power play units in the NHL, the Canadiens power play continued to decline last season down from 20.7% in 2012-2013 to 16.5% in 2014-2015. Despite an impressive second place finish atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Canadiens power play, the 8th worst in the league last season, was struggling and in need of some modification.
After practice in Brossard Wednesday morning, Coach Therrien announced that assistant coaches J.J. Daigneault and Dan Lacroix would be switching special teams roles. Daigneault, who previous ran the Canadiens penalty kill will now in charge of the power play, while Dan Lacroix will take over control of penalty killing duties this season. “I have never been afraid to make that kind of change in my coaching career. We were not satisfied with the results we had last season on our power play. New voices, new ideas,” clarified Therrien. “Jean-Jacques is a guy who is creative offensively. I am convinced that he will bring good ideas to the team.”
In addition, Therrien announced that Craig Ramsay, who joined the team as a coaching consultant earlier this summer, will assist Daigneault with running the power play. Known across the league for his power play expertise, Ramsay brings over 20 years of coaching experience in addition to 1,000 games as a player with the Buffalo Sabres. As Tomas Plekanec noted, the Canadiens could learn a lot from the veteran coach. “He’s got so much experience in the league, he’s been around for so long and he’s seen it all. His influence is important for us and the coaching staff” noted Plekanec, who ranked third on the team with 16 power play points last season.
Ramsay and Daigneault have been tasked with restoring the Canadiens power play back into one of the league’s most feared units. According to Plekanec, who played on some of the most lethal Canadiens power plays in recent years, the key to success is overall chemistry. “We had players in the right spots at the right time and we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. We were on the same page most of the time. We had some setup plays that were tough to defend and we took advantage of it.”
P.K. Subban, a key component of the Canadiens power play, stressed that the players recognize the need for change and are committed to working on improving the power play. “With JJ, I know that he’s excited about the opportunity, but it’s not just him, we all share that. [We have] the opportunity of making our power play better than last year. I don’t think it was good enough and, I know that we all have to be better to make sure that it is better this year,” offered Subban, who pointed out that Daigneault brings a unique perspective as a former penalty kill coach who previously strategized how to shut down the opposition’s power play.
In addition to a new voice and a potentially new system, the Canadiens power play will be helped by the arrival of sniper Alexander Semin. “I’ve been hit with one of his power play shots before, and it’s not fun. Knowing that you have that weapon out there, and he can shoot the puck like that, it’s great to have,” described Subban, who is excited at the prospect of adding Semin’s 65 career power play goals and 181 points to the mix.
Moreover, Subban recognized that the Canadiens power play last season lacked a key ingredient; another right hand shot. “Having another righty too is a good thing to have. People underestimate how important it is to have the right handed shot in certain situations. I think we missed that a little bit last year,” explained Subban, who has been forced to become more creative on the power play as penalty killers have zoned in on his signature one-timer from the left point.
With preseason action underway and the regular season opener fast approaching, fans will be eagerly watching the Canadiens restructured power play with high hopes.
Jared Ostroff is a writer for Canadiens.com
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Camp Notebook - September 20