The Montreal Canadiens are at the halfway point of the season. They are sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference with an 18-20-4 record, good for 40 points. It was a disastrous first half for the Habs. Still, the Canadiens playoff dream is not completely dead, being seven points out of the last wild-card position. The issue for the Habs is that they need to leapfrog at least six teams to make into a playoff position. They also need to go on a pretty significant run even have a chance of getting into the playoffs. Entering their ‘bye week” the Montreal Canadiens are in no man’s land.
The Montreal Canadiens Are In No Man’s Land
The bigger issue is that the Management of the Canadiens believe that the team needs to make the playoffs. This belief is why the team is in this grey area. Unfortunately, the roster constructed by Marc Bergevin is not a serious threat to challenge for the playoffs, nevermind the Stanley Cup. Similarly, the team is not nearly bad enough to completely bottom out. A decision needs to be made by management to either go for broke or move on to next year.
If the belief is this team needs to get into the playoffs, it was obvious from the start of the season that Bergevin needed to help his team. For the second time in three seasons, the general manager stood still. Bergevin said in October that he believes the solution is in the room. Now here we are in January and the situation is worse than it was before.
Deer In The Headlights
The Canadiens had a completely disastrous season in 2015-16. Carey Price was lost for the season in November and the Habs struggled to be competitive. The Habs needed their GM to make a move help his team but he failed to act. It should have been a learning experience, but it seems that the GM hasn’t learned much.
After having a difficult offseason in which the Habs lost Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov while only bringing in Karl Alzner. It was almost a bigger sin by Bergevin that the Canadiens entered the season (and still have) with 8.5 million in unused cap space.
Bergevin tried to make a mark by acquiring Jonathan Drouin before the draft. Bergevin had hoped that Drouin would blossom into a top-line centre with the Habs. Unfortunately, Drouin is a natural winger. In a press conference on January 7th, Marc Bergevin suggested that in an ideal world, Drouin would be playing on the wing, if the Habs had a number one centre. A comment that should have infuriated the Habs faithful because he has failed to address this issue in his six seasons in Montreal.
The team struggled out of the gate and has struggled for most of the season. It was obvious that the team needed help to become more competitive. Again, Bergevin has failed to act when his team needs him to. He leans on the excuse that trading is hard. It is infuriating for Habs fans to hear that trading is hard. Obviously, you don’t want to make bad trades but the team is looking for the GM to act. He needed to make a move but again failed to act. Unfortunately, it is too late for Bergevin to make a significant move that can save this season. He froze again when the Habs needed him to act.
Accept The Situation
In a press conference on January 7th, Marc Bergevin said he still believes the playoffs are possible. While it is understandable that he could not come out and say the season is lost, but the idea that a team sitting 28th in the league can make the playoffs is a bit ridiculous. For the Habs to have a chance at making the postseason, the team needs to get, at least, 55 points from their final 40 games. That means the team needs to win around 28 games or have a winning percentage of .700. The Canadiens have not shown an ability to go on a run like this so far this year.
The reality is that this season is over. Most fans know it, it’s time the Habs accepted it. There is nothing to suggest that Habs management hasn’t accepted the situation behind the scenes. Still, they need to send a signal to the fan base. The team did move backup Al Montoya, but a more significant move needs to be made. The Habs have some pieces that should be able to land them some young assets to help build this team for the future.
Beyond This Year
As the Habs bye week is coming to an end, they play a significant part of their schedule. They play five games in eight nights. They play the Boston Bruins three times and the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals in that span. The writing is already on the wall, but a bad run here and the season is all but over.
The Montreal Canadiens have a decent enough core. Players like Carey Price, Shea Weber, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk are all solid pieces. The issue is there is not much behind these guys. While a complete blow up of the roster is not necessary, trying to improve your overall depth in a deep draft should be the focus now.
Whether or not Marc Bergevin is the right guy to ‘reset’ this team is up for debate, but he can’t sit still. Sitting still is what landed the Habs in this predicament in the first place.