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Stu Cowan: Deadline deals haven t boosted Canadiens fortunes

Stu Cowan: Deadline deals haven t boosted Canadiens  fortunes
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Instead, the GM decided to tinker with his fourth line, acquiring Jordan Weal, Nate Thompson and Dale Weise, along with defenceman Christian Folin. The Canadiens held the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference at the Feb. 25 trade deadline, but have gone 4-6 since then to fall out of a playoff spot. With 10 games left in the regular season, the Canadiens have only an 18.9 per cent chance of making the postseason, according to sportsclubstats.com.

You have to wonder if Bergevin might have been better off doing nothing at the trade deadline.

Montreal Canadiens’ Nate Thompson, left, Artturi Lehkonen and Jordan Weal, right, huddle before a faceoff during first period against the Detroit Red Wings in Montreal on March 13, 2019. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

The Canadiens got off to a surprising start this season, showing that Bergevin’s offseason moves fixed what he called a bad attitude in the locker room last season and there seemed to be great team chemistry. The players didn’t give up and really fought for each other. Maybe adding four new faces to the locker room and into the lineup — meaning other players had to sit out — might have hurt that chemistry. And if media members and fans were left shaking their heads after Weal logged 19:04 of ice time — including 3:48 on the power play — in Saturday night’s 2-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, you have to figure some of the players in the room were doing the same.

Not surprisingly, head coach Claude Julien insists that’s not the case.

“It’s not an easy thing for guys not to play,” Julien said after the Canadiens practised Monday in Brossard in preparation for Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia against the Flyers (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). “Teams go through that everywhere. We’ve done it in the past and … what’s happening right now has nothing to do with the new guys that have come in. Absolutely nothing.

“When you look at our team and where the struggles are at times, it’s not really those guys,” Julien added. “Right now, we’ve just got to be confident, we’ve just got to look ahead and not look at the past. I started this interview really focused on letting you guys know that we’re not dead. We practised hard today, we’re going to go to Philly and we’re going to give it everything we have, and that’s the bottom line. To me, it has nothing to do with anything else that we’re worried about as far as is it the players fault, is it the chemistry? Nothing has changed here. Chemistry is still good. The guys that have come in are great guys that have been well accepted by everyone.”

Weal has 1-1-2 totals in six games with the Canadiens, Thompson has 0-2-2 totals in 16 games, Weise is pointless in nine games and Folin has 0-3-3 totals in nine games. None of them is a game-changer, but Julien said he likes what they’ve brought to the lineup.

“Thompson, I think it’s pretty obvious he’s been great on the PK,” Julien said. “He’s been great on faceoffs (winning 56.1 per cent). Although he hasn’t scored, he’s given us the experience that we didn’t have on that line. I think Weal, it’s pretty obvious how well he’s played. I think he’s made a difference on our power play as far as controlling the puck and making some good decisions there. We’re spending more time in the (offensive) zone, getting more chances, although we’re not finishing. The other guy, Folin, he’s been good. Good first pass, just big, strong. He’s been giving us a little bit more jam back there and a little bit more, I guess, presence around the net area as well.”

While Weal might help the Canadiens control the puck on the power play, he hasn’t helped them score. The Canadiens are 1-for-16 on the power play in the six games he has played.

Like Julien, Brendan Gallagher — not surprisingly — said the addition of four new players didn’t hurt team chemistry.

“To be honest, this is an awesome group,” Gallagher said. “I’ve played with teams that some of them just don’t click. This one gets along. I think we really enjoy seeing other guys have success, which is important. When guys are in and out of the lineup, it’s not like you’re rooting against guys. I think guys still want to see each other have success. When you’re in, you want to do the job for your teammates. That’s just part of the business, I guess. There’s going to be guys sitting out — good players that could probably help us as well sitting out. But everyone can’t play. I think the guys that are in just have to do the job and, like I said, just have that accountability towards your teammates.”
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