The best scenarios for Canadians before 2021-2022
In the interest of full disclosure, no one should realistically expect the excitement of the Montreal Canadiens’ upcoming 2021-22 season to match that of their last playoff series. Barring another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in the playoffs, the Canadiens will undoubtedly be struggling to replicate how much they have captured the imaginations of everyone in town.
Still, there’s no shortage of drama, starting with their fate, rebounding from their five-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here are the top five storylines Habs fans are likely to watch this coming season:
5. In line for the Stanley Cup Final hangover?
Probably the funniest hangover cure is some dog hair. Unfortunately for the Canadians that means reaching the final again, which is easier said than done. Remember, the Canadiens stumbled to the finish line last season and entered the playoffs with the fewest points of any team that made the playoffs.
A return to the Atlantic Division will certainly not help the Canadiens’ chances in that regard. Without doubt the main obstacle on the way to the Tricolore especially as to make a comeback eliminatory appearance, a return to the Atlantic means regularly facing the Lightning, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Don’t forget the Ottawa Senators, who played for the Habs all last season, or the Detroit Red Wings, who did the same last season.
Hardcore Habs fans will be highlighting their playoff success and the fact that they started 2020-21 5-0-2 as proof that there is untapped potential out there. However, there is little doubt that the Canadiens are not the same team they were at the start of last season due to many starts.
4. Danault No longer in the front and center on the top line
Phillip Danault will be missed, but his contractual demands certainly aren’t. The defensive specialist, who finished in the top 10 in the Frank J. Selke Trophy voting in each of the past three seasons, has obviously left for the Los Angeles Kings, sign a six-year, $ 33 million contract. As Danault has never scored more than 13 goals in his career, this is probably one of the best non-signings in the executive career of Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
Nonetheless, Danault was not only the best defensive forward on the team, but also the best face-off player and the center of the No.1 line for all intents and purposes, between Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher. With Tatar also gone, there is obviously a huge hole up front that the Habs have to hope Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi fill, as each presumably comes up in the roster as the squad’s new first two crosses.
It will be more business as usual for Suzuki, who has caught the attention of opposing teams as if he is already the No.1 cross. However, assuming Kotkaniemi is given the second row assignment, there will be a lot of expectations. more of him. How will the team as a whole fare?
3. Savard replaces Weber
For all intents and purposes, Shea Weber is gone for at least the upcoming season due to wear and tear that could end his career. Although his performance last regular season did not live up to expectations, the impact of his potential retirement among Canadians ripple through the dressing room and roster, depending on how much leadership he brings to the table and how many minutes he nibbles on the ice when he’s healthy.
Bergevin signed David Savard to at least take Weber’s place on the right side. We have little choice but to logically deduce Weber’s place next to Ben Chiarot is Savard’s lose too. Nevertheless, the replacement of Weber will probably be done in committee. That won’t stop everyone from constantly comparing the two, questioning why Savard signed with the Habs in the first place.
After all, Montreal isn’t exactly the most indulgent place for Indigenous sons, to whom Jonathan Drouin will attest, the whole situation surrounding his his ability to get his career back on track is another story to watch. Since the sensitive nature of Drouin’s absence last season was never explicitly stated (arguably for good reason), Drouin’s situation narrowly missed this list, for the record.
Either way, Savard should at the very least bring a decent defensive conscience to the role, which is good considering that by the end of last season Weber’s offensive numbers had dropped significantly. If Savard can competently help keep the puck on the outside, he will effectively do what he’s paid for, but that won’t necessarily stop unfair criticism from coming his way.
2. Caufield chases the Calder
Cole Caufield is objectively one of the favorites for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie heading into the 2021-22 season. In reality, Caufield most likely to bring home equipment next season accordingly. That’s not to say it’s a certainty, but how his season unfolds is something everyone will be watching as a result.
To temper expectations somewhat, Caufield just didn’t seem out of place in the top six role he filled alongside Suzuki to end the regular season and playoffs. It has of course demonstrated an inherent ability to contribute to the clutch. However, his five points (four goals) in 10 regular season games and 12 points (four goals) in 20 playoff games are just a good starting point in terms of production. It probably won’t be enough to win the Calder.
If Caufield can take his game to another level, and there’s not much to indicate that he won’t develop further after a summer of training, the rookie race will become terribly intriguing and terribly fast. for Habs fans. After all, Caufield would give them their first Calder since Ken Dryden won the award in 1972.
Granted, it wouldn’t make as much of a story as Caufield joining Dryden as having won the Stanley Cup (and the Conn Smythe Trophy in the latter’s case) before the Calder, but you don’t have to be picky. Ultimately, a Stanley Cup just wasn’t in the cards for this team. As a reminder to point # 5, this makes it all the more remarkable how everyone on the list responds to grief.
1. Bergevin’s last fight?
The answer probably starts at the top and Bergevin’s was not that impressive, all things considered. To be fair, his offseason last fall was always going to be hard to replicate in terms of the success of his every move and to some extent his hands were tied to the demands of Danault’s contract and Weber’s injuries.
However, the Canadiens are still a weaker team now than at the start of the Stanley Cup Final. Add to that the self-inflicted embarrassment of pick Logan Mailloux in the NHL Draft, who owner Geoff Molson called an error in judgment, and Bergevin did not do himself a favor until the last year of his contract.
That doesn’t mean you have to take anything away from him for forming a team for the Stanley Cup Final. In fact, a an extension would be on the table for Bergevin at this moment. The question is whether or not he wants to sign again after 10 seasons, many of which have been difficult, at work in a market that expects his team to compete year after year.
After the Canadiens unexpectedly made it to the playoffs in 2020 and surprised everyone by taking the Philadelphia Flyers to six games in the first round, Bergevin has that success to his name. In truth, a an appearance in the second round would have been enough to potentially set up something special this coming season, before his contract expires.
In this regard, Bergevin was admirably ahead of his schedule. However, if this is his encore, Bergevin could presumably come out with more of a moan than a bang. There is certainly an entire season to play, and anything can happen. While the Bergevin era is indeed coming to an end, which it lacked consistency from year to year, it more than made up for in entertainment value based on the controversial moves alone.
In this regard, Bergevin did not disappoint. If the story is any indication, it has a twist or two before the actual end, whether it’s the season ahead or beyond.