The Montreal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators last night. It isn’t all that impressive of an accomplishment, but it was a pretty convincing win. They were probably never going to finish with better lottery odds than the Senators anyways, and now they’re presented with some annoying bait that they need to be able to decline.
The Panthers and Leafs both lost last night. The Leafs did so hilariously by losing to an emergency goaltender, who just so happens to be employed as a zamboni driver for their own farm team. It leaves the Habs only six points back of Toronto, four back of Florida, and with a glimmer of hope that third place in the Atlantic could be there for the taking.
But the Canadiens can’t take that bait. Even if they pull it off, it probably isn’t worth it.
Let’s start with the likelihood of pulling it off in the first place. Toronto has one game in hand, and Florida has two. The gap could therefore be as much as eight points once things even out. With only 18 games left to play, the Habs would have a very hard time closing a six-point gap, and that is their best case scenario. It is an incredibly tall order.
They would probably need some help in their lineup to even try it. Marc Bergevin has already said he won’t mortgage the future for a playoff run, and he definitely shouldn’t reneg on that promise. The only thing he could really do is forego selling assets at the trade deadline, and hope that his existing roster can pull off a run at third place.
Now let’s say he does exactly that, and they do pull it off. On what planet does this roster have a shot against the Bruins or Lightning in the first round? Is it worth pushing past the faltering Toronto and Florida teams just to be manhandled in the first round? Can anyone seriously say this is something they’d like to see? Maybe fans of the aforementioned division leaders would enjoy it, but I doubt Habs fans will enjoy seeing the Tricolore fed to the wolves.
Like many Montrealers, I am starving for playoff hockey, so I understand the desire. The problem is that they’re not built to compete with the teams that they’ll face if they get there. Maybe Carey Price could stand on his head and drag them further than they have any business going, but the overwhelming likelihood is that they’d get bounced in four or five games. Their lottery odds would drop to zero, and they’d lose the chance to capitalize on the needs of real contenders.
I’ve said it so many times that it’s probably becoming tiresome to hear this from me; the path to success for the Canadiens is through selling before tomorrow’s deadline. Add for the future, and maybe in the next couple of years they’ll have the kind of roster that can make the playoffs with a reasonable expectation of success once they get there.
The clock runs out on their time to make moves for the future as of tomorrow at 3:00PM Eastern Time. I can only hope that Marc Bergevin doesn’t take the bait, and does the sensible things that he should.