The Montreal Canadiens find themselves at a crossroads. Expecting to compete for a playoff spot this year and beyond after what fans considered a solid offseason in which they traded for sniper Jonathan Drouin , signed veteraen defenseman Karl Alzner away from the Washington Capitals and locked up their star goaltender Carey Price for another eight years, the team has struggled all season, including a recent three-game losing streak to Columbus, Arizona and Saturday’s 6-0 loss to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens suddenly find themselves 8-11-2 with little optimism that things might get better.
In fact, NBC Sports Joey Alfieri writes that it might be time to break up this team now and begin a proper rebuild. Up until now, general manager Marc Bergevin has been unwilling to trade the team’s veteran players such as center Max Pacioretty, but that could change soon as it doesn’t look as the team is a quick-fix away from repairing its on-ice problems. Saturday night on “Headlines,” Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said that ownership and management would soon have a discussion about the direction of the team. Pacioretty would be a prime trade candidate, who has one more year on his contract at $4.5MM.
The scribe looks at their offseason moves and wonders if the team’s big trade to acquire Drouin might be looked as a major blunder as the team did trade away star defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev, who is thriving for the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. He is also quick to point out that it was a major mistake to let go of Alexander Radulov and veteran defenseman Andrei Markov for nothing when the team quite obviously needed them.
- Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette writes that this latest 6-0 defeat to the Maple Leafs could spell the end for not just the current roster, but also for Bergevin, who has been responsible for constructing this roster and look to be going no where. The GM has been running the team for six years now and has little to show for it, but a team heading towards a lottery selection in June next year. The general belief is that if you aren’t competing for a playoff spot by the American Thanksgiving, then you have little shot of reaching the playoffs and the Canadiens aren’t close to competing. The scribe writes that while many feel that the team’s trade of P.K. Subban was the start of the downfall of the team, Todd suggests that Shea Weber is not to blame, but things may not look so bad had the team kept both Markov and Sergachev to form a Big Three. Instead, the team only has Weber to show for it, which falls under Bergevin’s domain.
- Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette writes that the team has always had an identity, starting with their goaltender and then with a solid defense in front of him. Boring, but respectable. Instead, the scribe writes, the team is starting to look like the 2015-16 team that had lost Price for most of the season and finished in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. Now the team has gutted their defense and have removed their identity, which the franchise so often has depended on.
- After a column in which he questioned the health of Price, Stu Cowan tweets that Price was the first out to practice Monday morning.