Need For Tanking – Debunked!

By JD Lagrange – Sometimes, we as human being have a pre-conceived idea about something and we’re so sure that we don’t fact check because it’s too obvious in our mind. Further, sometimes what was true a while ago simple isn’t anymore, but we remain stuck with the concept that we’ve had in the past.

They are many who feel like the Montreal Canadiens absolutely must tank and get at least one more high pick in order to compete and become a Stanley Cup contender. Failing to do so this season, according to them, would be returning to mediocrity and they are cemented in that mindset.

So I’ve decided to do some research and see the trend for the past five years of Stanley Cup finalists. I looked at their own picks, which helps determine where they selected (as few get traded) and which ones actually went to the Stanley Cup finals, and how long it took them to do so. Without further ado, here are my findings.

2021-2022

Colorado defeats runner-up Tampa Bay

NAMEYEAROVERALLNAMEYEAROVERALL
Gabriel Landeskog2011#2Alexander Killorn2007#77
Nathan MacKinnon2013#1Steven Stamkos2008#1
Mikko Rantanen2015#10Victor Hedman2009#2
Cale Makar2017#4Nikita Kucherov2011#58
Martin Kaut2018#16Ondrej Palat2011#208
Bowen Byram2019#4Andrei Vasilevskiy2012#19
Alex Newhook2019#16Brayden Point2014#79
Anthony Cirelli2015#72
Mathieu Joseph2015#120
Boris Katchouk2016#44
Taylor Raddysh2016#58
Ross Colton2016#118
Cal Foote2017#14
4TOP-52

ANALYSIS: The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. They “tanked” 11 years prior to winning the Cup, drafting Gabriel Landeskog at number two, then MacKinnon first overall the following year. The following season (2013-14), they won their division. They suffered a couple of hiccups a couple of years apart after that. Let’s touch on the Lightning below.

2020-2021

Tampa Bay defeats runner-up Montreal

NAMEYEAROVERALLNAMEYEAROVERALL
Alexander Killorn2007#77Carey Price2005#5
Steven Stamkos2008#1Brendan Gallagher2010#147
Victor Hedman2009#2Artturi Lehkonen2013#55
Nikita Kucherov2011#58Jake Evans2014#207
Ondrej Palat2011#208Jesperi Kotkaniemi2018#3
Andrei Vasilevskiy2012#19Alexander Romanov2018#38
Brayden Point2014#79Cole Caufield2019#15
Anthony Cirelli2015#72
Mathieu Joseph2015#120
Ross Colton2016#118
2TOP-52

ANALYSIS: They only had two top-5 picks and it took Stamkos 13 long years, and Hedman 12 before winning the Cup. They came nowhere close to a top-5 pick since then. The Canadiens selected Price at number five 16 years prior to reaching the finals for the first time since then.

2019-2020

Tampa Bay defeats runner-up Dallas

NAMEYEAROVERALLNAMEYEAROVERALL
Alexander Killorn2007#77Jamie Benn2007#129
Steven Stamkos2008#1John Klingberg2010#131
Victor Hedman2009#2Jamie Oleksiak2011#14
Nikita Kucherov2011#58Radek Faksa2012#13
Ondrej Palat2011#208Esa Lindell2012#74
Andrei Vasilevskiy2012#19Jason Dickinson2013#29
Cedric Paquette2012#101Denis Gurianov2015#12
Brayden Point2014#79Roope Hintz2015#49
Anthony Cirelli2015#72Miro Heiskanen2017#3
2TOP-51

ANALYSIS: Again, only Stamkos and Hedman were top-5 picks. For the Stars, they got one top-5 pick two years earlier, selecting Heiskanen at number three, and were in the finals.

2018-2019

St. Louis defeats runner-up Boston

NAMEYEAROVERALLNAMEYEAROVERALL
David Perron2007#26Patrice Bergeron2003#45
Alex Pietrangelo2008#4David Krejci2004#63
Jake Allen2008#34Brad Marchand2006#71
Jaden Schwartz2010#14Matt Grzelcyk2012#85
Vladimir Tarasenko2010#16David Pastrkak2014#25
Joel Edmundson2011#46Danton Heinen2014#116
Jordan Binnington2011#88Jake DeBrusk2015#14
Colton Parayko2012#86Brandon Carlo2015#37
Robby Fabbri2014#21Charlie McAvoy2016#14
Ivan Barbashev2014#33
Sammy Blais2014#176
Vince Dunn2015#56
Robert Thomas2017#20
1TOP-50

ANALYSIS: It took Pietrangelo, a fourth overall pick, 11 years after being drafted before winning his first Stanley Cup. That was the only time St. Louis picked in the top-5. The Bruins’ best overall pick was in the middle of the pack at number 14, twice.

2017-2018

Washington defeats runner-up Las Vegas

NAMEYEAROVERALLNAMEYEAROVERALL
Alex Ovechkin2004#1
Nicklas Backstrom2006#4
John Carlson2008#27
Braden Holtby2008#93
Dmitri Orlov2009#55
Evgeny Kuznetsov2010#26
Philipp Grubauer2010#112
Tom Wilson2012#16
Chandler Stephenson2012#77
Christian Djoos2012#195
Andre Burakovsky2013#23
Jakub Vrana2014#13
2TOP-50

ANALYSIS: It took 14 years to Ovechkin and 12 to Backstrom to reach the Stanley Cup finals. They never came close to a top-5 after them. I don’t think I need to explain Vegas, right?

Current Canadiens

Here is the draft selection on the current Canadiens, trades included:

NAMEYEAROVERALLTEAM
Evgenii Dadonov200771FLA
Jake Allen200834STL
David Savard200994CBJ
Chris Wideman2009100OTT
Mike Hoffman2009130OTT
Brendan Gallagher2010147MTL
Joel Armia201116BUF
Joel Edmundson201146STL
Mike Matheson201223FLA
Josh Anderson201295CBJ
Jonathan Drouin20133TBL
Sean Monahan20136CGY
Christian Dvorak201458ARI
Jake Evans2014207MTL
Sam Montembeault201577FLA
Michael Pezzetta2016160MTL
Nick Suzuki201713VEG
Johnathan Kovacevic201774WIN
Jesse Ylönen201835MTL
Jordan Harris201871MTL
Kirby Dach20193CHI
Cole Caufield201915MTL
Kaiden Guhle202016MTL
Justin Barron202025COL
Juraj Slafkovsky20221MTL
Arber XhekajN/AN/AN/A
TOP-5: 3

Conclusion

People in favour of tanking keep bringing up Tampa (which we’ve debunked here), Pittsburgh, Chicago as examples to try to support their claim that a team MUST tank for several years in order to win a Stanley Cup. The NHL is not the same as it was before. Teams can turn things around in a hurry today, unlike the past trends.

Of course, I won’t come here telling you that adding another top-5 pick would hurt the Canadiens. But there’s a fine balance between instating a winning culture and tanking. Further, the clear conclusion here is that those claiming that the Canadiens absolutely MUST tank and get another top-5 pick are clearly out of touch with the latest trend in the NHL. Even those selected in the top-5 take years before reaching their goals, as proven above.

Dahlin, Svechnikov, Kotkaniemi, Tkachuk, Hischier, Patrick, Pettersson, Matthews, Laine, Dubois, Puljujarvi, McDavid, Eichel, Strome, Marner, Ekblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Bennett, Barkov, Jones, Yakupov, Murray, Galchenyuk, Reinhart, Rielly, Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, Larsson, Hall, Seguin, Johansen… they were all top-5 picks in recent years and never have they raised the Stanley Cup over their head as winners. 

So let’s stop with the narrative. It would be nice if the Canadiens get another high pick. But to claim that it’s a MUST is a smoke screen at best. If our beloved Habs don’t select in the top-5 this year, it’s not the end of the world folks. They are on the right track regardless of the “tank nation” is falsely claiming.

More reading…

Chasing the Draft – January 17th Edition

By Bob Trask – The NHL season has now passed the half-way point and the All Star break is the next big event on the calendar. That break will provide NHL general managers an opportunity to get together to discuss a variety of topics including potential trades. This is important because it will lay the groundwork for any player movement prior to the trade deadline and trades will affect the fortunes of teams as the season moves forward. Therefore, looking at past performance to project final standings needs to be taken with a grain of salt as the rosters of some teams will strengthen and others will weaken. But it is all we have.

Habs (Mis)Fortunes

Mike Matheson

It has been another year where injuries have taken key players out of the Habs lineup. At various times Joel Edmundson, Mike Matheson, Kaiden Guhle, Sean Monahan, Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin, Mike Hoffman and Jake Allen have been unavailable for duty. We can now add Jake Evans and Juraj Slafkovsky to that list. With three of their top four defenseman and second line center out for extended periods, it is no wonder that an already thin lineup is down in the standings. The silver lining is the draft position the team now finds themselves in.

Adding to that was the unfortunate schedule which saw a young and probably somewhat fragile team embark on a road trip that lasted from mid-December to early January. I hate to say it, but that smells like the Habs have become 2nd class tenants of Centre Bell. Maybe it has to be that way but the scheduling needs to be tweaked to avoid that kind of catastrophe again. As with the injury situation, the silver lining to the road trip and the losing streak that came with it is an improved draft position. The danger is that a “we can’t win” mentality begins to set it. Marty St Louis is to be applauded for continuing to focus on the positives in an effort to avoid that mindset.

Going Forward

The road ahead for the Canadiens will not be easy. Tankathon rates the Canadiens as having the toughest schedule over the balance of the season with 3 games remaining against Boston and 3 games remaining against Toronto.

The roster is also going to change. As players come off the injury list and trade opportunities present themselves, it is a foregone conclusion that there will be some player movement – we just don’t know who it will be at this point. We can speculate that a defenseman, a center and one other player on an expiring contract will be dealt, but that’s all it is – speculation.

What is almost a certainty is that any trade by the Habs would weaken the team in the short term with a goal of strengthening it in the long term. If that assumption is accurate, the performance of the team over the remainder of the season could be somewhat poorer than the first half performance. That is one of the reasons that first half performance is not a great indicator of second half performance. General Manager Kent Hughes will not overtly pursue a “tanking approach” but he is likely not averse to slightly weakening the team in the short term in order to achieve longer term goals.

In the West, both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are in wildcard playoff spots with Colorado breathing down their necks. They are two teams to keep an eye on as trade rumours continue to circulate.

Taken together, these factors point to the Canadiens remaining about where they are in draft order or maybe even moving up a notch or two. However, other teams will have similar long term goals in mind and will be focusing on the future and trying to acquire top draft picks.

The Outlook

At the moment my draft model has the Canadiens at #6 overall with their own pick and #11 overall with Florida’s pick. The Panthers have slowly been improving their position in the standings but face the Leafs tonight. It will be a good test of how much the Panthers have rebounded and it will be one of the rare occasions where I will be cheering for the Leafs which means they will undoubtedly let me down. The Canadiens face the Jets who have 8 wins and 2 losses in their last 10 games. To say it will be a challenge for the depleted Habs is an understatement.

With half of the teams in action tonight, there will likely be more movement in the standings and in the projected draft order.

My conclusion is that the Habs don’t need to take any special steps to weaken the team in an effort to land a top pick. Circumstances have already taken care of most of that and a trade or two could also help them with both their short term goals and their long term goals. If you look at Seattle and New Jersey, turnarounds can be quicker than expected and I don’t anticipate a 3-4 year wait before the Canadiens are in the thick of a playoff race.

More reading…