If you’re reading this, it’s too late for the Habs season. They were handed arguably their biggest insult of a loss by the Arizona Coyotes for the second time this year, and for the first time in a while it seemed like the team, on every level, had given up. Sure they played the previous night, but they played extremely well in Colorado and decided to just not show up at all in the desert.
So, the tank should be in full swing at this point, and there’s plenty of ways to make it tolerable for fans, and bring added long-term benefits for the franchise.
First and foremost should be to play the young assets the team has, and play them in expanded roles for the rest of the year. Players like Nikita Scherbak, Artturi Lehkonen and Victor Mete deserve the expanded ice time as they seem to consistently be the only bright spots in losses in recent weeks.
If the long-standing rumours about Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk being gone by the deadline are true, Montreal will need to see who they have in-house who can replace them on the ice. Scherbak, Lehkonen, and Charles Hudon are easy options who can step in, and in the case of the latter two, they’ve done well in major roles so far this year.
There isn’t much in the AHL in terms of forwards to recall, but sending down the Rocket captain Byron Froese should be on the docket, as the farm team desperately needs some offensive help.
Call up guys on ELCs and see where they’re at. The worst that can happen is the team loses even more during a season where losing now becomes a positive result.
On defence, the time of Joe Morrow playing ridiculous minutes needs to end. He struggles on the defensive side, and for whatever reason Mete cannot seem to be given the expanded role he had earlier in the year. He’s going to be a cornerstone on the blue line for years to come, and this season is as good a chance as any to open up the ice for him.
While the Habs are at it, find room to get Noah Juulsen some NHL ice time at some point. Even in his rookie AHL season, he’s the Laval Rocket’s defensive leader. The Canadiens brass is extremely high on him, so they might as well see what he can do at the top level.
Finally, while trading players like Pacioretty and Galchenyuk could bring a huge package in return, the Habs need to be 100% sure they’re getting the best deal possible, or their only major trade chips will go for nought, and extend a potential rebuild by who knows how long.
This doesn’t have to be a drawn out rebuild, in fact a retooling is possible, but a lot depends on how the Canadiens choose to handle this spiraling disaster of a season. And that extends from the potential players in the organization to those responsible for assembling and training them.