When the Return to Play Committee decided to resume the 2019-20 NHL season with a 24-team play-in tournament, life changed for the Montreal Canadiens. Suddenly, they are in the playoffs. Before the hiatus, they still had a mathematical chance but it was at 0.0302 percent.
If you were hoping to see your team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you got your wish and – forgetting the backdrop of the suffering and death involved with the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s a lucky break for a team whose regular-season record was 31-31-9 (in 71 games). But, in this crazy season, crazy things happen.
Although plans have not been finalized, the way the playoff formula is laid out, the Canadiens will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-five play-in series. Then, unless teams with a bye play a seeding tournament, the winner of this series would play the Philadelphia Flyers in a best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
If Carey Price can stand on his head, it might be all Pennsylvania teams ahead for the Habs. WHile this proposed plan is sorted out, in this post I want to keep Canadiens fans more up-to-date with the news and rumours surrounding the team.
Item One: Shea Weber Admits It Isn’t Fair, but We’ll Take It
Forget the integrity of the game, as Canadiens captain Shea Weber says, we’re in. He admits that his team shouldn’t have a chance to win the Stanley Cup this season and didn’t earn it by their regular-season play. However, from a player perspective, he doesn’t care.
He admitted last Friday in an interview with TSN Radio in Vancouver that, “Do I think it’s fair to the teams that were in the playoffs? No, but at the same time, that gives us a chance to win and I mean, it gives us a chance to keep playing. Obviously, the situation we’re in where we weren’t officially out, but it would have been a tough road ahead to get in. And I think now it gives us a little bit of hope.”
If nothing, Weber is a realist. He’s also honest.
Item Two: Can Xavier Ouellet Earn a Regular Spot on the Canadiens Roster?
Xavier Ouellet’s the type of player I can’t help but root for. The 26-year-old has kicked around hockey for a long time; however, in his second season with the Laval Rocket, he did more than take up space he played lights out. Given the Rocket’s recent history, he was exactly what the team needed, with his stability and production. He was the team’s best defender.
On top of that, the second-round (48th overall) pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft was who head coach Joel Bouchard depended upon to be the team’s captain and a mentor to young players trying to work their way up the Canadiens organizational food chain.
The question now, is what happens to him? Will his hard work earn him another NHL look? He’s played 172 games at the NHL level and has skated in 31 games with the Habs in the past two seasons. Will he move up next season, or does he stay in Laval as the team’s captain?
Maybe Ouellet will have other opportunities. Given these precarious what-happens-with-the-salary-cap times, his $700,000 league-minimum contract, that ends after this season, might make him a sought-after commodity, especially as teams try to figure out how to live with – at best – a flat salary-cap. He is eligible for arbitration as a restricted free agent, so it’s likely the Canadiens will try to re-sign him during the offseason. He’s too valuable a player to let walk.
In his 39 games with the Rocket this season, Ouellet scored nine goals and 15 assists, which put him on pace for a career-high before being called up by the Canadiens. He was, as old Yankee star Reggie Jackson once said, the “straw that stirred the drink” in a mix of young Laval defensemen. He wouldn’t be easy to replace.
Item Three: Former Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey Is Auctioning His Memorabilia
On Monday, May 25, Canoe.com reported that former Canadiens player Bob Gainey will auction off much of his personal memorabilia, including his 1975-76 Stanley Cup ring. As advertised, these “unique and exclusive pieces” that belonged to the Hockey Hall of Famer will be up for auction until June 16. The online auction will be conducted by classicauctions.net.
Gainey is one of the top defensive forwards in NHL history and, over his career, he collected many valuable items. In addition to his Stanley Cup ring, there’s a miniature Stanley Cup from the 1976-77 season, a miniature Prince of Wales Trophy from the 1976-77 season, the Frank Selke plate trophy for the 1979-80 season, and the jersey he wore in the 1977 NHL All-Star Game.
Gainey played for the Canadiens from 1973 to 1989 and returned to become the team’s general manager from 2003 and 2010. Both he and his memorabilia are treasures in a great Canadiens legacy.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
We know that if the issues facing a return to play and a 24-team playoff tournament can be settled, the Canadiens will play the Penguins. We also know that the NHL, from a business perspective, can only recoup some of its lost revenue if it plays games and awards the Stanley Cup Trophy.
From a revenue perspective, someone at the NHL’s office was thinking. The “extra” eight teams in the revised format include those that can generate revenue. Three of these teams include the New York Rangers, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Canadiens who have three of the biggest television markets for NHL hockey in North America.
by adding more teams to the playoff format, more fans will be watching. That’s good news for television ratings, hockey sponsors, and the NHL. Because the salary cap is directly related to NHL revenue, the NHLPA is also desperately interested in partnering to maximize total revenues.
Fortune Magazine reported that, if the 2019-20 season is not completed, regional television contracts would likely return no revenue next year due to clauses in their contracts. Even playing games in empty arenas would help the NHL avoid that extra loss.
That said, Canadiens fans should look forward to their team suiting up sometime soon.