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The Canadiens may not be so far from becoming competitive

This iteration of the Habs has somehow managed a winning record against a Stanley Cup favourite.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After the last Canadiens loss against the Red Wings, I opined that it was good news for Montreal. It ensured that Marc Bergevin would not be given the hope needed to try and sneak into the playoffs. It solidified something that most Habs fans have known for months; the road to success is through selling off some assets this year at the trade deadline.

And success may be much closer than many of us could have predicted when you consider their results against the Capitals this year.

To explain why the Tricolore could lose four out of four against a brutal team like Detroit is much harder to do when you look at their games against Washington. These Habs can’t beat the worst team in the league to save their lives, but they can take two of three against a team that many expect to be in the finals this year. It is maddening.

But at the same time, it is a glimmer of hope that they may be closer to competing than one may think. They managed to out-attempt, out-shoot, and out-chance an ostensible favourite in the East last night. These Habs, for all of their flaws, are far from being the worst team in the league, even though they lost four times against the team that is. If the brass can execute a liquidation of assets without crippling the team, they could make waves as soon as next year.

An ambitious timeline to be sure, but the proof is in the pudding. They’ve now owned a season series against a team featuring Alexander Ovechkin on a legitimate run for his ninth Rocket Richard trophy. As useless as it is to their dreams of playing hockey through April and into May of 2020, it gives confidence for next year.

If Marc Bergevin makes the right trades, it isn’t unreasonable to think that this team would be in the playoffs next year. He has until this coming Monday to act, after which they can’t capitalize on assets like Ilya Kovalchuk and Tomas Tatar. I’d strongly advocate for him to get on the phones, but I’ve been advocating that for some time.

And while he’s at it, the team has a boat load of draft picks already. I’d start looking at established prospects with a chance to make the jump in the next year or two. Picks are great, but they’re less certain to work out than an already drafted player with a slightly larger body of work. Look at how well the Nick Suzuki trade has worked out, for example. Maybe there’s a player like him out there that a contender would part ways with in order to solidify their chance at a Stanley Cup

These Canadiens, well, they just might be closer to legitimacy than we think. These next four days will determine how close that is.