The Montreal Canadiens were a colossal disappointment in 2017-18. After winning the Atlantic Division two years ago, many expected them to at least make it back to the playoffs, but that didn’t happen. Now, it seems like the team has quietly embraced a different path.
Heading into last year, the Habs were trying to be good. There was no rebuild, reset, or whatever you want to call it. That’s what made the year such a disaster. But based on the offseason the Canadiens have had, it looks like this is going to be a rebuild after all.
GM Marc Bergevin wasn’t willing to use that word when addressing the media on Sunday, but there’s no denying that this is the situation the organization is in right now. The team clearly wasn’t good enough last year and it didn’t get a whole lot better this summer. Sure, they swapped Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi, they added Joel Armia and Xavier Ouellet, but those aren’t moves that’ll put them over the top.
If anything, the fact that they decided to eat Steve Mason‘s cap hit in the trade they made with Winnipeg last week shows that they’re willing to spend cap dollars to acquire draft picks and young players.
This is totally the right decision for the franchise. They have too many holes to fill to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They need a top four left-handed defenseman, they need a number one and number two center, and they could use some added scoring punch on the wings, too. But don’t give management too much credit for going in this direction because they simply had no choice.
They clearly wanted a chance to pitch John Tavares, but he wasn’t interested in hearing from them. They checked in with Paul Stastny, but that didn’t work out either, so here we are. They’ve got cap space, but there’s no one to give it to.
On a positive note, the Canadiens have addressed their long-term center needs by drafting Ryan Poehling in 2017 and Jesperi Kotkaniemi in 2018. Those players are likely a couple of years away, so there’s no rush for the Canadiens to be good right now.
Many have suggested that this isn’t a rebuild or re-tool until they get rid of Carey Price and Shea Weber, but you can still rebuild with veterans. Surround the young players on the roster with quality players that can lead through their experience and preparation.
Also, that doesn’t mean that those players can’t be traded a year or two from now.
The next few years should be interesting in Montreal. With most teams in the division seemingly getting better, it appears as though these next few seasons will be pretty lean for Habs nation, but that might not be such a bad thing in the long run.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.