Well, thank goodness that train wreck of a year is over. As the clock wound down in Toronto two Saturdays ago, those of us pathetic enough to still be watching wondered what more could have gone wrong. It was then that “the best goaltender in the world” answered, fittingly ending the year by whiffing on a clearing pass and granting Patrick Marleau a de facto empty-netter. That’s what they call timing in the comedy business.
Now what? With the retention of GM Marc Bergevin – the man who has likely never made or admitted a mistake in his entire life – all indications point to a retool. Patrick Roy recently stated that the Canadiens strategy has changed over the years from aspiring to win Championships to contending annually for a playoff spot. Bang on, Sir Patrick, and nothing could corroborate his statement more than Geoff Molson’s decision to remain on the road to mediocrity with Bergevin driving the bus.
Notwithstanding the Canadiens’ obvious need for a rebuild, Molson has chosen to retool with the hope of sliding into the playoffs year to year where “anything can happen”.
That is a mistake if they want to bring home a Stanley Cup. In today’s NHL, the middling middle is NO MAN’s LAND. Franchises that are serious about winning draft and develop young players and, in a salary cap environment, supplement their stars with quality role players. With some good decisions and luck, they have a window where they may win a Cup. Once the talent cycle inevitably runs its course, the team must start again.
By failing to rebuild, Bergevin and Molson are, in effect, selling snake oil to the most passionate and knowledgeable fan base in the NHL. Bergevin and Molson are just trading on past and increasingly distant glory for the purpose of making money. As a result, the Canadiens’ brand continues to diminish (their mystique died some time ago).
Eventually, the Canadiens will find themselves in the place the Toronto Maple Leafs were five years ago and they will be forced to rebuild (the Habs may have already reached that point). This past 2017-18 season is not a down year that occurred due to a few key injuries. The lost season was an inevitable result of failing to draft and develop top-end players for years. The injuries and Carey Price’s mediocre season simply highlighted these ongoing failures.
Geoff Molson (preferably with another GM in charge) might as well get on with the rebuild if he is serious about winning No. 25. It is certainly clear now that this group will not win a championship as currently constituted. Montreal fans would be wise to remind Mr. Molson that they are serious about winning, even if he is not.