It was announced today that the Canadiens will not be taking to the ice until at the earliest March 30th. While it goes without saying that it is the express desire of all that Montreal return to play as soon as possible, none would agree more than their GM Marc Bergevin.
Bergevin was spared having to watch his team play against the Oilers with key players missing. Yet bountiful as this may have been to the standings, the delay will rob him of valuable games to assess his roster.
Coming into this season it was all but mandated that Bergevin had to make the playoffs this year. Despite an up and down season he can claim so far to have delivered.
His offseason acquisitions have worked out fairly well. While the team may not be leading the league anymore it is still sitting fourth in the division. That is good enough for a 65.9% chance of making the playoffs with half the season over.
Yet, despite these fairly positive outlooks, questions remain for Bergevin.
For while the Canadiens experienced success in the season; they often did it in a polarizing fashion. One that can be best portrayed through the tale of literary characters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The team began as Dr. Jekyll did, a brilliant entity on the verge of accomplishing great things. Yet despite their flourishing start they slowly fell prey to their own inner demons and became a monstrous version of themselves a la, Mr. Hyde.
The 2020-2021 version of the Habs can be best summarized as:
"Talented, but lacking a clear and consistent identity."
Much like our fictional reference point.
From the start of the season the Canadiens surprised the league with the type of team they were. They came out of the gate in top form and the general consensus was that they had become a tough, hard nosed defensive team. A team that was able to run a high octane offense. One that saw them average over 4.0 GF/game. Something typically unheard of in Montreal.
The team was thriving.
Then, for what appears to be inexplicable reasons, that team disappeared.
They simply regressed. What started as a slow trickle of lackluster and botched plays, became periods of botched plays and disorganization. Slowly, but surely, Dr. Jekyll gave way to Mr. Hyde. The tough defending and blistering offense that saw them storm up the standings in the beginning of the season was gone.
In its place Bergevin was left with a team with a hollowed out identity. It comprised of a swiss-cheese defence and pop-gun offense by the mid point of the season. The team seemed manically out of sorts with their previous identity.
Goodbye Dr. Jekyll. Hello Mr. Hyde.
Fans were left dumbfounded and Bergevin was forced to make a decision.
Enter the coaching change.
Claude Julien was relieved of his duties and Dominique Ducharme was given the reigns. This seemed to right the ship just enough. For prior to the halt Ducharme had managed to coax a 5-3-5 record for a total of 15 of a possible 26 points. The change was by no means earth shattering. The team did not match their early season success, but they played well enough to seem to be on their way to it. Mr. Hyde appeared to be slowly giving way again.
Which has to lead to a fair dilemma for Bergevin as he determines which team is the one playing for him. Is this team going to slowly round into form?
Or will Hyde return at the most inopportune time?
Despite whatever team emerges from the break, Bergevin may find his hands tied. For barring any substantial roster overhaul, Bergevin will not have a lot of flexibility for a big time move. With the cap being as it is, it would take some finessing to get something done.
In the grander scheme of things Chariots assignment to LTIR could make things interesting. For alongside the new cap space Bergevin would have a bevy of picks to play with.
The risk in that however lies in the timeline of Chariots return from injury. It may work against Montreal. Yet it can't be denied that Montreal needs help on the backend.
Which leads us to the last and most likely of options. Standing pat, going from promotion from within or some draft deals. all viable options, but each with their own potential likelihood and gain.
Promotion from within could be interesting given Cole Caulfields performance, but it would lead to a year burnt off his ELC. As for defensive prospects Jordan Harris and Josh Brooks, I don't think either of them will offer a vast improvement at this junction of their career. Neither of which really appear super ready, unlike Caulfield.
So what do you think? Do the Habs have what it takes to get to the playoffs? I will be creating a Pt. 2 that will look at some of the players that potentially could be had at a bargain alongside possible 1 Vs 1 (hockey)trades. In addition I will look at the merits of of calling up the prospects.
Thanks for the read