The Montreal Canadiens’ playoff lives are teetering on the brink right now, partially due to a massive resurgence by their closest competitors, and partially due to their own offence going the way of the dodo. A shutout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks worsened their playoff odds despite a whopping 48 shots on net, a trend that has emerged in recent weeks.
Now, it’s not over until it’s over, but if Montreal does miss out on this upcoming post-season, it’s not the end of the world by any stretch. This was a team, that, by many in media and among the fanbase itself, wasn’t expected to make much noise, and yet here they are still in the playoff hunt in the final weeks of the season. What’s more is that they are doing it without having sacrificed any major future pieces to get to this point.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have, quite literally, emptied their entire stock of draft picks, and several prospects, to load up on rentals for a potential playoff run. They’re also barely ahead of Montreal in the standings and have struggled since trading for almost every big name available at the deadline. This is where things actually begin to look a lot brighter for Montreal if they should miss the post-season, they still have all their top prospects, and 10 picks in this summer’s draft. Even should they make it and lose in round one, they still have all those same pieces to continue their on the fly retooling.
Columbus, on the other hand, whether they make it or not, and regardless of if they win any rounds or not, do not have that same luxury. The Blue Jackets loaded up to win a Cup, and right now appear likely to run into the juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning and a likely exit in the first round. Then they face a bleak future of having no draft picks, their big trade pieces leaving, and potentially two franchise cornerstones in Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin as well.
Keeping their cards in their hand served Montreal well. This entire season was a lottery ticket, and the team as a whole will only be bolstered by incoming prospects and potential free-agent signings. They might not make the post-season, but it shouldn’t take away from multiple career seasons, and the fact the future is looking bright for the Canadiens.