The St. John's IceCaps concluded their final road trip of the regular season on Tuesday against the Toronto Marlies, and now wind down another disappointing year with a six-game homestand. Although not mathematically eliminated from the post-season, even if they were to win their remaining six games, the IceCaps would need to count on Syracuse, Rochester, Portland, and Hartford to all have an epic collapse.
The IceCaps can realistically not expect to qualify any higher than the final playoff spot in the North Division, which will be won by the team with the highest points percentage, and that includes a potential crossover team from the Atlantic Division.
The current rankings as of Thursday morning, however show that the IceCaps are very far back from securing that final playoff spot.
If the IceCaps manage to win all of their remaining games, and every other team plays for a 0.500 record, it would still not be enough for the IceCaps to qualify:
So although there exists a mathematical chance that the Montreal Canadiens' farm team will earn a post-season berth, the odds are clearly stacked against this possibility.
This means that the Canadiens' AHL affiliate will miss the post-season for a fifth year in a row.
Certainly there are many factors that can be used to explain away this season, including lengthy injuries to key players such as Nikita Scherbak and Michael Bournival, as well a flurry of call-ups to the NHL team. The IceCaps have used 44 skaters thus far in 2015-16, however a counter-argument is that the AHL's best team — the Toronto Marlies — have used even more players, yet continue to find success as the year goes on.
It can also be argued that the farm team prioritizes the development of the individual players over team success, but that would be a counter-intuitive argument, as success breeds development. That the Canadiens farm team has consistently missed the post-season has robbed the Canadiens of playoff-tested prospects graduating to the NHL, aware of the rigours come the second season.
Players who arrived from the IceCaps this season were able to integrate themselves into the roles offered by Michel Therrien on the Canadiens, which on the surface does demonstrate a certain level of positive development. However it's concerning that, save for Nathan Beaulieu, no prospect has earned a full-time spot on the Canadiens roster in the last four seasons. That does indicate a lack, or at least a slowdown, of a development curve in the organization's lower ranks.
This off-season, general manager Marc Bergevin will have a lot of soul-searching to do in order to ensure that the historic collapse by the Canadiens never repeats itself and is quickly forgotten. But he needs to also dedicate some time to correct the problem at the farm team level, as well.
Without a strong and successful developmental system, the Canadiens' organization will continue to struggle finding permanent roster solutions from within.