Miseries continue to multiply for Montreal Canadiens

On-ice futility and a raging off-ice controversy about maligned forward Alex Galchenyuk have rendered the Habs hapless this season. 

Hello, and welcome to the Weekly Reader, which will run every Friday and collect news and views from around the hockey world on the week’s biggest stories. Seen something worth highlighting here? Hit me at greg.wyshynski@espn.com, or do the same if you have suggestions for the column going forward. Enjoy!

“As the Habs burn”

The Montreal Canadiens are the NHL’s most searing tire fire early in the season, with a 2-7-1 record, the worst offense (1.70 goals-per-game) and second-worst defense (3.80 goals-against average) in the league. Now we can add “raging off-ice controversy about maligned forward Alex Galchenyuk” to this cauldron of suck.

Mario Tremblay, who played for Montreal and coached the Canadiens from 1995-97, has been known for years as an unfiltered (some might say unhinged) pot-stirrer in the French-language media. On Monday, during an appearance on 98.5 FM radio in Montreal, Tremblay claimed that Galchenyuk had been in a substance-abuse assistance program twice, a claim that violates all manner and sort of the confidentiality inherent in a recovery program.

GM Marc Bergevin was asked about this claim at a press conference and didn’t deny it, saying, “I can’t even talk about it, it’s strictly confidential” about the program. Galchenyuk, when asked about it, responded cheekily: “I do not listen to the radio. I have Spotify.”

A Winning Habit offered some advice to Galchenyuk on dealing with these accusations. Arpon Basu of The Athletic had a good piece about how the media call-out culture in Montreal repels players from wanting to sign there. Leigh Anne Power’s post on the Canadiens themselves “eating their young” was a good one too: “Just look at the last 10 years and decide if the Canadiens’ strategy of developing youngsters is working.”

Look, there’s an undeniable curiosity about players who might have substance-abuse problems. Not only because we’re a twisted collection of gossip junkies, but also because we’re dealing with a 23-year-old player who has neither reached his potential and also hasn’t been traded despite constant speculation. This news would, one assumes, explain a few things. So that curiosity is understandable.

This revelation, however, is unjustifiable. Stage 1 of the in-patient treatment program from the NHL and NHLPA involves privacy. There’s no announcement from the team or the league when a player enters it. Confidentiality is an essential part of the program, because without it who would voluntarily seek help?

Instead, Galchenyuk’s privacy was violated in an off-handed remark on a radio station. If true, this is the sort of thing that should only be brought to light by the player or his employer or the NHL, if there’s a violation that warrants Stage 2.

Or perhaps in court. We learn lots of things in court. Like this one time, after an alleged DUI offense, we learned that the accused told the police officer “you can’t do that to me, I am Mario Tremblay!” before saying that the officer was “like a P.K. Subban” who “had no judgment and was being petty.” Because, apparently, some guys just can’t stop maligning the reputation of current players, no matter the venue.

But-but-but wait, it gets worse!

Agent Dana Milstein used the Galchenyuk controversy to pivot into an attack on Canadiens coach Claude Julien for his mishandling of Russian players. Galchenyuk was born in Milwaukee to Belarusian parents, and grew up in Russia.

In a since-deleted tweet, Milstein wrote: “Alex Galchenyuk isn’t a problem but coach is. Has never successfully coached Russian. Took midseason most Russian club. All but one gone.”

Now, this was shortsighted and petty. The Canadiens tried to bring back Alexander Radulov, who chose to sign with the Dallas Stars instead as a free agent. They lost Alexei Emelin in the expansion draft. They made an offer to Andrei Markov, but not for the term the 38-year-old defenseman wanted. Prospect Mikhail Sergachev was traded for Jonathan Drouin because you have to give up a blue-chipper to get one (as potentially ill-advised as that trade might have been). So “all but one gone” needs a bit of context.

More context: Milstein’s client Alexander Khokhlachev was buried by Julien in Boston, and the agent called out Julien in April for “not giving him a chance” and claimed that the Bruins blocked every trade possibility for Khokhlachev, who is now in the KHL. Furthermore, Julien made Milstein’s client, defenseman Nikita Nesterov, a frequent healthy scratch after taking over in Montreal last season. Nesterov is also now in the KHL.

Milstein apologized to Galchenyuk’s agent, Pat Brisson, for commenting on another player, but told Sportsnet: “These are my observations. I represent several Russian players, and I know Alex is not one of them and I’m out of line for commenting because I don’t represent him. But I’m just stating the facts.”

Please join us next week for another episode of “As The Habs Burn” …

Jersey Fouls of the week

Back at my old haunt, we published many, many Jersey Fouls. Seth Rorabaugh, now at The Athletic, was the godfather of them, and we built off his work to create this silly virtual court that judged how fans besmirched or bedazzled the holy hockey sweater. The Weekly Reader will continue this tradition.

We’ve seen our share of Connor McDavid “McJesus” Fouls, which are entirely accurate from a theologian sense — but are, in fact, Fouls. This one features a pair of orange hands clasped in prayer with a smaller No. 97 next to it. Points for creativity.

Also from the Edmonton Oilers comes this Foul, turning “Ifs and Buts” into what might be seen as an Eastern European player at first glance. Is this a clever comment on the slow maturation of No. 98 Jesse Puljujarvi? Or, more likely, is there a “Wurcandeeannutz” walking close by to complete the joke?

Shane Doan joins NHL hockey operations

Former Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan officially joined the NHL’s hockey operations department this week, in perhaps the greatest indication that the relationship between Doan and his former team is about as pleasant as the one between his former team and the Glendale City Council.

On the one hand, every criticism of Doan as yet another guy who frequently crossed the line of illegality getting a front office gig at NHL HQ is justifiable, even if it’s in hockey ops and not player safety. This tweet was a slice of fried gold:

But what I like about this hiring is that Doan is fresh off the ice. He has played against 98 percent of the league, and he has played during the NHL 2.0 era. Colin Campbell, the NHL’s head of hockey ops, last played in 1985 and last coached 20 years ago. Hooray for new perspectives! At least in theory.

Winnipeg Jets star Blake Wheeler appeared on “The Bo Show” and was rather funny, in a “tolerating-the-hyperactive-vlogger” sense. His two items for a desert island: a Chipotle burrito and a sparkling water. Well, maybe you can deflect the sun with the foil to start a fire …

The Stars are an average mess

Luckily for the Dallas Stars, their 5-5-0 start is good enough for a wild-card slot since everyone behind them in the standings is either injured, inconsistent or the Coyotes. Because what a messy start for a playoff predictions darling. Ben Bishop is ticked off at Ken Hitchcock. The secondary scoring has flat-lined. Dallas’ plan coming into the season looks like it needs a rewrite. Again, not a time for panic, but eventually the teams behind the Stars are going to get their acts together. Dallas needs to, as well.

This is not normal

From ESPN Stats and Info, a look at the Vegas Golden Knights:

Meanwhile, The Sin Bin had a good look at the balance the Golden Knights have to strike as a potential playoff contender and as an expansion team building for the future.

James Neal went as Pennywise for Halloween

Suddenly, regressing the mean is no longer the scariest thing about the Golden Knights.

Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn’t read)

Or in this case, didn’t listen. Women’s Hockey Digest released its first podcast episode with Anya Battaglino, Connecticut Whale player and NWHLPA board of directors member, as the guest. Check it out!

In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN

Matthew Coller on the early player trends this season, including the weird plight of Brent Burns, who has 39 shots and no goals through nine games.

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