The Montreal Canadiens have been the NHL’s worst team over the last two months. The Habs’ hot start to the 2015-16 campaign is the only thing that’s keeping them from the true basement of the NHL. Today, the most historic franchise in hockey finds itself sitting in 20th overall in the NHL. Exactly two months ago today, the Canadiens were first overall in the league, as they led the second place Dallas Stars by only one point.
The Canadiens fanbase is in full panic mode, and rightfully so; Habs fans haven’t seen a team this unsuccessful in…well, a long time. In 2011-12, the Canadiens finished in 27th overall, and went on to have a big off-season – most notably because they drafted Alex Galchenyuk 3rd overall in that summer’s Entry Draft. That summer, there were major administrative adjustments made, as Marc Bergevin was hired along with a team of hand-picked managerial staff. After a horrendous 2011-12 season, the Montreal Canadiens improved to 4th overall in the league in 2012-13. This article will explain why Habs fans don’t need to panic as their beloved team continues to lose.
Look at the Bright Side:
Habs’ management does not need to blow up the team this off-season. The Canadiens have a few good core players – but are missing one or two. The likes of Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Alex Galchenyuk and Carey Price are the constituents of a good hockey team. That said, the Habs need to add a player or two to this core in order to turn this team into a serious competitor. It seems that the Habs have always struggled to score, so adding a young scorer would be ideal.
Possibly the biggest bright spot in the organization is young forward, Alex Galchenyuk. As mentioned earlier, Galchenyuk was drafted after a very disappointing 2011-12 season. The season after drafting Galchenyuk, he, along with young up and comer, Brendan Gallagher – helped the team rise to one of the top in the NHL. Presently, the Canadiens have a few young forwards developing in the AHL. Some of these forwards (notably Sven Andrighetto, Mike McCarron, and Charles Hudon), could be ready for the NHL as early as next season. Along with the talent up front, the Canadiens defence is also fairly young; with the exception of Andrei Markov and Tom Gilbert – the rest of the Canadiens defencemen are all under 30 years old.
Another bright spot in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization is the contractual situation that the team finds itself in. Max Pacioretty and Carey Price are under contract for the next few seasons, while Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban are locked up long-term. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2017, and will be restricted after that season, which means the Canadiens will have a very good opportunity to re-sign the talented forward.
What to Look Forward to from the Montreal Canadiens:
The most obvious thing for Habs fans to look forward to is the return of all-star goaltender, Carey Price. Price will definitely not be rushed back from injury, though – so it seems that the Canadiens’ playoff hopes are bleak. This season may not end the way that many fans envisioned it after the 9-0 start, but the Canadiens will be back at it next year. Habs fans can look forward to watching a better team in 2016-17. How can that be said with such confidence? Well, it can’t get much worse. If all goes as planned, a healthy Carey Price will be back in-goal to start next season, while the core-four (Pacioretty, Subban, Gallagher, Galchenyuk) will be back.
Another thing that Habs fans can look forward to, is the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. If the Canadiens continue losing at their current pace, they’ll guarantee themselves a high pick in the 2016 draft. Considering the pool of talented forwards in this year’s draft, losing might not be the worst option. The Canadiens biggest need is a talented, young scorer. Wouldn’t it be great to snatch exactly what the team needs without having to give up any roster players or future picks? Whomever watched the most recent World Junior Hockey Championship got a full display of this year’s draft class. A group of talented Finns are eligible, along with the prospective first overall pick, Auston Matthews.
Montreal Canadiens fans love trades. Trades could be yet another thing to look forward to in the off-season, as GM Bergevin will likely look to improve his team by acquiring at least one top-six forward. Though trades are often difficult to predict, the Canadiens are in desperate need of a move for a top-six player, so it is very likely that a trade occurs in the off-season if nothing is completed before the trade deadline.
In 2011-12, when the Canadiens finished 27th, the team brought in Marc Bergevin, and later hired Michel Therrien. Some fans may be looking forward to seeing the 2012 off-season replicated – with a high pick and new management and coaching staff. Unfortunately, fans don’t always get what they want. It would be extremely surprising to see a management change in the off-season, though a coaching change would be much more likely. GM Bergevin recently said that Michel Therrien is safe until the end of the season, but a move could come in the summer. If the team continues on their current path, it could be expected that Michel Therrien would be replaced.
Everyone Remain Calm…
Let’s look at the two possible scenarios from now until the end of the season for the Montreal Canadiens.
Scenario A: Carey Price returns, the team starts winning – then they make the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen.
Scenario B: The team continues to lose, Price’s return is delayed – and the team misses the playoffs. Then, after not making the playoffs, they earn a high draft pick, and get better going into next season. They start 2016-17 with their new prospect, with a healthy Carey Price, and with their core still under contract.
Both scenarios are good for Habs fans, though scenario B may be a little more realistic. The Canadiens will improve over the off-season. This off-season is almost guaranteed to be an entertaining one, and since the team hasn’t been too entertaining, Habs fans deserve it. Ultimately, it can’t get any worse than what we have seen over the last two months. Habs fans shouldn’t panic, as everything is looking up from here.
I’m a Montreal Canadiens columnist and lifelong Habs fan. Follow me on Twitter (@gregkatz19) for all kinds of hockey talk, and to be up to date on my newest articles. I previously wrote for Too Many Men on the Site, a part of Fansided NHL.