I think that any fan/player/member of management can understand that the Montreal Canadiens are statistically eliminated from the playoffs. Yes, being seven points out isn't mathematically insurmountable with 40 remaining games, but statistically even a 60% win ratio wouldn't be sufficient to get a spot in the playoffs. Other teams would also need to lose at a greater rate than they are currently winning for us to overtake them.
In other words, the hole is just too deep.
Ironically, the Habs would have to dig under worse teams to get a shot at a lottery pick. They're 14 points up on Arizona and 11 points up on Buffalo. Ottawa, Vancouver, and Edmonton are all mired in their own disasters.
It's hard to imagine tanking hard enough at this point in time to overcome the other bottom-feeders. The Habs are committed to a middling fate no matter what they do. It's actually less probable for them to have a bottom 3 finish than it is for them to make the playoffs. At this point, it's all but impossible for them to finish in the bottom two.
Many people are thinking that now is the time to tank. Just race to the bottom. Sell off every asset and go for the big rebuild. It certainly sounds like a great plan. After all the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Los Angeles Kings all went through dark times and emerged as top teams, Stanley Cup winning teams!
Realistically though, there's many more teams which have failed to get the best out of a rebuild than those who have. The Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, Coyotes, and Sabres have been bad for a long time. The Oilers had signs of life last year before falling back down, while Carolina seems to be very slowly ascending ... after being bad for the last decade or so.
Heck, even the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn't get anything done, and after years of terrible hockey decisions and management were going nowhere fast. While there is no question that Auston Matthews sped things up significantly for them, they've finally turned things around in under two years thanks to an above-average management team who simply committed to building a winning team.
It still remains to be seen whether or not they will be able to win a Cup before they have to start paying all those young players.
Right now, the Canadiens can't — and shouldn't — commit to tanking. They certainly shouldn't be looking to acquire pieces in a misguided and desperate attempt to beat the odds and make the playoffs.
What they should be doing is icing the best lineup they can every night. There are still some solid, young players who need to get experience and veterans that need to be at their peak value when the trade deadline comes.
Because the Habs do need to be sellers, they just need to be judicious about the players they trade and the returns they get. There is no player who is untouchable as long as the return makes the team better.
The Habs' management team needs to allow others to make mistakes for a change. This season is lost, but it's not over. There is absolutely no benefit to giving up, and there certainly is none in trying too hard.
The Habs need to keep trying to find a solution. Try different combinations. Get some young players some time. Winning means that you're finding solutions; losing means that there's still work to be done. If some of the expendable players can showcase their skills during this time, it would boost their return, and that may be more valuable to the team than trying to beat Arizona and Buffalo in a race that's essentially locked up.
In the end, the Habs will be out of the playoffs, but how they perform in the meantime is more important than their final position in the standings.