There might be unexpected good news on the horizon for the Montreal Canadiens. Ken MacMillan from A Winning Habit reported on May 19, that it’s rumoured that the NHL will likely complete the 2019-20 season with only Stanley Cup Playoff games. There are also rumours that, instead of the usual 16-team playoff format, the 2020 Playoffs would include 24 teams.
In other words, the revised format would add another eight teams into this season’s playoff picture and that 24th team would be the Canadiens.
This is still up in the air, and while all possible scenarios are being discussed in virtual NHL offices (likely Zoom meetings), in this post I’d like to help Canadiens’ fans stay up-to-date with any rumours or news items that are emerging about the team.
Item One: If the Canadiens Are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, What about Carey Price?
This season’s iteration of the Canadiens isn’t the strongest that’s ever been iced. However, the team has something no other NHL team has and that’s Carey Price. In a recent NHLPA poll, Price was voted by his NHL peers as the best goalie in the league. He’s steady, talented, and has it in him to carry a team to victory.
That’s the rhetorical question MacMillan’s post asked: How effective will Price be after a hiatus that started on March 12 when the league suspended games because of COVID-19? I say rhetorical because MacMillan’s post was based on a tone of optimism.
He’s optimistic because, as his logic suggests, a 24-team playoff would be like starting a new season, even for the 24th seed. He then considered that the amount of time before the NHL resumes will likely be four months, which is the length of an NHL offseason. He also remembered that the Habs started the 2019-20 season with an 11-5-3 record and wonders if the team could do that again after a long break.
His final argument was that Price would be a huge asset in such a series if he’s on top of his game. He has a history of starting seasons well. MacMillan noted that only in 2017-18 (when the Canadiens had an awful season) did Price not have a good start.
MacMillan suggested that while the circumstances are unprecedented, Price might be up to the task. Still, to pull off a “Stanley Cup Steal” a goalie has to be good for over two months. Is it possible? I think that because Carey Price is Carey Price, anything is possible.
Item Two: Goalie Prospect Cayden Primeau Named to AHL All-Rookie Team
Speaking of Canadiens goalies, this week, prospect and the Laval Rocket’s goalie, Cayden Primeau was named to the 2019-20 AHL All-Rookie team. In his first professional season with the Rocket, the 20-year-old registered a 17-11-3 record with a .908 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.45 in 33 games.
Primeau has emerged as one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey. If he continues his move up the organizational depth chart, he’ll be a steal of a deal after being chosen in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
During the 2019-20 season, Rocket head coach and former NHL player Joel Bouchard began by alternating goalies; however, as the season progressed, he came to depend on Primeau during the team’s push for its first playoff berth since moving to Laval from Hamilton (where the team was known as the Bulldogs).
Primeau is also the first Rocket player to make the All-Rookie team since the team moved.
Item Three: Joel Bouchard and Alexandre Burrows Are a Perfect Pair to Coach Prospects
Speaking of the Rocket, after some mediocre seasons when the team didn’t produce many useful players for the Canadiens’ roster, their AHL affiliate is beginning to move solid prospects up the ladder towards the NHL since Bouchard took over as head coach in 2018.
In a post on May 18, Canadiens blogger Robert Brown suggested why that change has occurred. Brown believes Bouchard and Alexandre Burrows (the former Vancouver Canucks great who is now an assistant coach with the Rocket) provide a coaching tandem that’s ideal for overseeing the Canadiens’ prospects.
Bouchard had success coaching the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to the QMJHL final two seasons in a row. More importantly, since taking over as coach of the Rocket, he’s provided the type of coaching that’s helped prospects like Lukas Vejdemo, Cale Fleury, Ryan Poehling, and Jake Evans become important pieces for the Canadiens’ NHL roster.
He also noted that both Bouchard and Burrows provide trustworthy examples (and inspiration) as players who’ve climbed the hockey ladder to the top. Bouchard, a Montreal native, played 13 NHL seasons with eight different teams. Burrows, also a Quebec native, played 14 seasons with the Canucks and the Ottawa Senators.
Brown believes hiring the duo came at the perfect time because in the two most recent NHL Drafts (2018 and 2019) general manager Marc Bergevin drafted 21 players. The organization also has 14 more draft picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and 11 more in 2021.
In total, the organization will likely have an influx of 46 players between 2018-2021. As a result, the Canadiens’ roster will see huge changes over the next five seasons. It will be an amazing opportunity to watch the team’s retooling become a rebuild.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
Will the 2019-20 season continue for the Canadiens? We don’t know yet. However, if it does, it will be the kind of second chance to redeem a season that usually only happens in movies. If the season does restart for the Habs, can Price lead them on an unprecedented playoff run?
For Canadiens fans, there are things worth waiting for over the next few weeks.