Better luck next year: Not enough talent and too many injuries for the Montreal Canadiens
They did not have the depth to deal with this.
Welcome to Better Luck Next Season. As each NHL team gets eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, and then the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for them. The Montreal Canadiens were the sixth team to be eliminated from playoff contention this past week and it was a brutal combination of a rebuilding team that was also decimated by injuries that did them in.
This was always going to be a major rebuilding year for the Montreal Canadiens, and even though the playoffs were not really within reach when the season began there were still a lot of intriguing storylines with this team.
I wanted to see a full-year of Martin St. Louis behind the bench. He seemed to bring some life to the team when he was hired a year ago, and his career is always going to be fascinating to watch develop because he basically went from zero serious hockey coaching experience right to an NHL job. Not only an NHL job, but an NHL job with one of the most famous teams in league history.
They also had some really intriguing young players in Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and No. 1 overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky just to name a few.
Playoff team? No. But a team that might be worth checking out and keep an eye on? Sure, why not?
For a while, they kind of did that and hovered around the .500 mark for the first two months of the season thanks in part to some decent play from their goalies, with Sam Montembault playing especially well through the early part of December, and some of their young talent making an impact.
Then the goaltending started to regress.
Then the injuries started to add up. Then they never stopped.
Then things got bad.
What went wrong for the Canadiens
They were short on talent to begin with, especially on defense, and that was always going to be a major problem.
But the run of injuries this team has had this season is completely nuts and not only hurt them in the win column, it also hurt the development of some of their top young players in the short-term. Because if a team like this is not going to win many games, you at least want to see its young players make an impact. Montreal fans even got robbed of that for much of the season.
Caufield, their best goal-scorer and one of their top young players, has not played since January due to a shoulder injury that wiped out half of his season. He had 26 goals in 46 games when he went out of the lineup, which is an incredible 46-goal pace over 82 games. That success was not really due to an outrageously high shooting percentage, either. He’s just good. And ever since St. Louis took over halfway through last season his game has taken off the way Montreal hoped it would.
Slafkovsky, the top pick in the draft, went through the normal growing pains you would expect from an 18-year-old making the jump to the NHL, but his season also ended in early January.
Brendan Gallagher, one of their best all-around players, missed half of the season.
Kirby Dach, one of their big offseason acquisitions, missed nearly 20 games.
Other veterans like Mike Matheson, Sean Monahan, Mike Hoffman Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak, Josh Anderson, Jake Evans and David Savard all missed more than 10 games each, with some getting into the 20-game range.
Would they have been a playoff team with better injury luck? No. But they probably would have been a little more competitive.
This was just the perfect storm of a undermanned, young team being hit with brutal injury luck to send them even further down the standings.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Adam's Sports Stuff to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.