By JD Lagrange – Fans and media alike may feel like the Canadiens are a few years away from competing again, but don’t tell that to the players, coaches and management of the team. In unison, they believe the playoffs are closer than everyone thinks and they won’t be dissuaded.
At the annual golf tournament yesterday, the Canadiens announced Nick Suzuki as the captain and players were interviewed on different topics. One of those topics was about how competitive players fell the team will be this upcoming season and you will be hard-pressed to find a single member of the Canadiens feeling as negative as some of the fans.
Newly appointed alternate-captain and Stanley Cup champion Joel Edmundson sings a similar song former GM Marc Bergevin was telling everyone who would listen.
“There will be no excuses if we miss the playoffs. We are thinking playoffs and then, everything is possible. We don’t see this as a rebuild”, added the veteran defenseman. “I think that we will surprise a lot of people. Many players arrived to town several weeks prior to camp, we feel the enthusiasm in the dressing room. Last year was the first step. We have things to prove, we want to play in the playoffs.”
His teammates feel the same way.
We will have our challenges, but we will be taking a step forward this year, and another one the following season”, predicted Jake Allen.
“People can think what they want. The guys in the dressing room know what we can do”, added Cole Caufield. “We will believe in our abilities, hope to have a good start to the season and we shall see what happens.”
And what about head coach Martin St-Louis?
“I don’t know if we’re rebuilding or not. The expectations can change throughout the year”, reminded St-Louis who doesn’t want to qualify what the team is doing in one word. “Perhaps in two or three months, we’ll have a better idea where we are”, wisely added the Habs’ coach.
Against all odds
The odds of making the playoffs are certainly against the Canadiens. But never say never. Since the last lockout, only two teams have finished last one season and bounce back right into the playoffs the following season: Toronto did it in 2016-17 and Colorado the following season.
When the Maple Leafs did it, they had Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. When the Avalanche did the same, they had Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
With that said, the Canadiens had two short seasons due to COVID, the worse schedule of all teams, several long term injuries to key players, crushed the man-games lost record by a wide margin. They also had a very short rest due to their Stanley Cup finals surprise push, only to lose to a team $18 million over the cap.
This time, they have benefited from a normal, even long summer to recharge their energy, train properly and prepare for this season. Further, many players will be looking at redemption and some new faces will try to impress. They will have to do all of this without Carey Price, however…