It’s technically two steps forward and one back for the Montreal Canadiens. That’s progress, right?
After rattling off two victories against the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, scoring 13 goals in the process, the Habs appeared listless on Thursday night, losing 6-3 to the Minnesota Wild. As it stands, they are the worst team in the Eastern Conference at 4-8-1 and seven points out of the playoffs rights now. That’s the bad news.
The worse news? Teams that are four points out or worse past November 1 have a spotty record when it comes to rebounding from bad starts to make the playoffs. So, it may be just past Halloween, but the Canadiens continue to play dress up as second-rate versions of themselves and dig their own graves as they do. They’ve got one foot in as we speak.
There is good news, though. Other teams have been in similar situations and gone on to find success… even win the Stanley Cup! Okay, maybe they should learn to walk before they run… and then skate. They’re far off, is what I’m saying.
There is always starting point, though. The starting point right now? Find hope wherever they can get it, starting with these five teams:
5) 2009-2010 Montreal Canadiens
The Habs don’t have to look too far for inspiration. The 2009-10 edition of the team barely snuck into the playoffs, as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
They were tied for the lowest amount of points (88) of any playoff team heading in and faced off against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in the first round. They even trailed three games to one… before storming back and winning the series. They similarly shocked the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2, before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers.
What’s just as impressive here is the seventh-seeded Flyers were the other team with the lowest point total in the playoffs. While they eventually lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, they did all right for themselves despite stumbling in to the postseason as well.
The lesson: Everyone may write you off, but, as long as you stick to the game plan, things will work out in the end. Granted, that game plan was like 95% “let Jaroslav Halak do everything as Carey Price sits on the bench,” but still… the Habs persevered (until they didn’t).
4) 2014-15 Ottawa Senators
The exploits of the 2014-15 Ottawa Senators have been well-documented. In late February, they were 22-23-10 and headed for an early spring. They then went an unbelievable 21-3-3 over their remaining 27 games to squeak in as the first wild-card team in the Eastern Conference under the latest playoff format.
The lesson: The Habs aren’t eliminated from playoff contention until the fat lady sings. They just need a hot goalie, seeing as they relied on third-stringer Andrew Hammond and his .941 save percentage to get in. Price can be that goalie (even if he posted one of .933 during his Hart Memorial and Vezina Trophy-winning season).
Hammond amazingly posted a 20-1-2 record with a 1.79 goals-against average to will the Senators into the postseason. He then fizzled out just as quickly, as the Habs won the first three games en route to a six-game series win.
3) 1937-38 Chicago Black Hawks
The (then-)Black Hawks started off the 1937-38 season at 2-6-2… and didn’t get any better. At arguably their lowest point, they were 8-20-7. They then “improved” to go 5-6-2 the rest of the way (including three straight losses to end the regular season) and stumble into the playoffs.
They proceeded to capture the championship nevertheless… well, technically not, as the Stanley Cup wasn’t even in the building at the time, as president Frank Calder didn’t think it would be possible for them to win. To this day they remain one of the biggest underdog stories in, not just hockey, but all of sports.
The lesson: Habs fans take note: You can still suck and win a championship.
2) 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks
The 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks started their season with an eerily similar record to that of the Habs through the first 10 games (2-7-1). Starting off at 1-7-2, they rebounded to not only make the playoffs, but win the Pacific Division with a 46-25-11 record.
The lesson: Firing the head coach is not always the answer… even though Bruce Boudreau got shown the door at season’s end after losing to the Nashville Predators in his latest Game 7 defeat. The Ducks went on to win a seventh game last spring against the Edmonton Oilers with Randy Carlyle back behind the bench. Take from that what you will.
1) 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers
Misery obviously loves company, so Habs fans can find solace in how the Edmonton Oilers are also struggling right now… and just as badly. At 3-7-1, the Oilers are two spots higher in the Western Conference at No. 14, but with two fewer points.
Most everyone had been predicting that the Oilers, led by phenom Connor McDavid, would pick up where they left off last season, as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t happened that way. Even though McDavid is leading his team in scoring, he’s far off the pace of the league’s leading point-getters with 13 in 11 games.
The lesson: Not every superstar is carrying his team on his shoulders. Many are underperforming, just like Carey Price. How many expect McDavid not to find another gear soon, though? If he can, Price can too.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.