It’s one of those certainties in life, horrible preseason predictions, pertaining in this case to the Montreal Canadiens. How about something slightly different, a review of those same predictions that in hindsight look off base… mostly:
5. Montreal Canadiens Will Finish with a Top 5 Power-Play
Yes, this was an actual prediction made by yours truly. Instead of finishing in the top five, Montreal finished much closer to the bottom five with a 16.5% success rate (ranked 23). Even if this were golf, I’d be wrong.
It would seem a team that comprised such offense-capable defensemen as P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Tom Gilbert (in theory), Nathan Beaulieu (in terms of potential), Sergei Gonchar (since early in the season), and Jeff Petry (since the trade deadline), just couldn’t make it work.
Now, that’s six defensemen in all that have experience working the power play, all of whom are still technically Canadiens and finished the season together. And, yet, Montreal’s power play during the playoffs was even worse, scoring just two goals. That’s at least close to a hole in one, right?
4. Tomas Plekanec Will Get Traded by Mid-Season
Obviously, Plekanec remains a Canadien. However, if you’re to believe the rumors, that’s only because a finalized trade has yet to be announced.
Granted, if you’re to believe general manager Marc Bergevin, it’s unlikely that he would trade away a center at this stage of the game, with Alex Galchenyuk not yet ready to assume the position in Plekanec’s place (if he ever will be).
That was essentially the thought process behind this prediction, that Galchenyuk would force Therrien and Bergevin’s hand into dealing their most expensive forward in order to make room for him.
Ultimately, Galchenyuk, who got his shot for about a 10-game stretch during the season, didn’t impress either one enough to justify dealing Plekanec… At least that’s the story they’re telling right now. Considering Montreal’s precarious salary-cap situation and Plekanec’s $5 million cap hit, a plot twist might be in order.
Maybe next season? It’s going on the list.
3. P.K. Subban Will Lead the Team in Scoring
Technically, I never specified that P.K. Subban would lead the team in scoring during the regular season. And, seeing as he led the team in scoring during the playoffs for the second straight season, this prediction is at least worth partial credit, especially seeing as the argument made was really that Subban is too good of a player to crumble under the pressure of his new eight-year, $72-million deal.
Ultimately, finishing in a tie for second in team scoring with Plekanec, Subban did nevertheless secure his second Norris Memorial Trophy nomination as one of the league’s best defensemen. Call it a wash?
2. Carey Price Will Get Nominated for Vezina Trophy
After goalie Carey Price’s spectacular 2013-14 season, this wasn’t that bold a prediction. After he finished fourth in voting for the Vezina Trophy last year, Price was arguably due, many felt… not for any kind of recognition, but to take that next step, especially after winning a playoff series (two) for the first time since 2007.
Really, the only argument to be made that Price wasn’t going to have a stellar season this year was because up until 2013-14, his career had been defined by an atypical pattern characterized by one great season followed by two mediocre ones.
That was it. And, while “insanity” was once defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, in 2013-14 Price wasn’t just great like he was in 2010-11 and 2006-07. He was so insanely good that his picture might very well now be beside the word in the dictionary instead.
This year? Not only was he nominated for the Vezina (check), but he’s the odds-on favorite to capture the award and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Words cannot describe.
1. Montreal Will Win Atlantic Division
This could have been dismissed as a homer prediction by readers, but it was based on the logical argument that the Habs were Atlantic Division favorites because they improved the most last summer relative to the Tampa Bay Lightning and especially the Boston Bruins, who won the division last year, but missed the playoffs this one.
The irony of the situation is had Montreal lost out on the division title, Tampa would likely have been the beneficiary of that failure and faced the upstart Ottawa Senators in the first round instead. If that happens, maybe Montreal is still alive right now.
It’s obviously impossible to predict how that hypothetical Ottawa-Tampa series would have gone, but one has to at least believe Ottawa wouldn’t have faced another sweep after three games under a completely different set of circumstances.
In any case, what’s happened has happened, and, while Montreal was proven to be the better regular-season team relative to Tampa (at least excluding games between each other), Tampa was proven to be the better team overall. Maybe eventually in the entire league. There’s no shame in losing to the best, just motivation for next year.