Fans and pundits alike have often questioned the decision making of Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien over the course of the 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season and a decision made by the veteran head coach on Saturday might add one more to the list.
According to a report from Montreal Canadiens insider Eric Engels of Sportsnet, Julien has made the decision to place rookie sensation Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the press box for the third time this month. You read that correctly, according to Engels the Habs head coach has made the decision to once again sit one of his most effective players, some suspect because the coach feels Kotkaniemi is starting to show signs of fatigued after what has to be unquestionably the most grueling stretch of play of his entire young career.
It is a confusing decision to be sure especially when you consider both the context of where the Canadiens are in the standings as well as the context of where the team is at this stage of the season. First and foremost the Canadiens are currently tied for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with only 4 games remaining on the schedule, and that is a major problem for the Habs. The Canadiens are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets and 1 point behind the Carolina Hurricanes but both those teams have a game in hand which of course gives them a massive advantage. If both of those teams were to win out for the remainder of the regular season the Habs would not make, so the Habs need to win every game they can and hope for some help from either the Hurricanes or the Blue Jackets on top of it.
The Canadiens will not be getting any walks in the park on their way down the stretch either, they unquestionably have the toughest schedule of the 3 aforementioned teams, making this an even bigger challenge. Add to that the fact that this evening the Canadiens will face off against a very tough opponent in the Western Conference's Winnipeg Jets, and you've got all the ingredients for a heartbreaking finish down the stretch for Montreal. So with that in mind you would think that the Canadiens would go with the guys that brought them this far, but that does not appear to be the case tonight.
11 goals and 23 assists for a total of 34 points in 76 games as a rookie simply has not been enough for Jesperi Kotkaniemi to earn himself a full time roster spot.