The Montreal Canadiens could make the playoffs via the NHL restart plan but it could likely come at the cost of being in the 2020 Draft Lottery.
As the days click by, we’re getting closer to confirmation of the NHL returning only to head straight to the playoffs with 24 teams playing. As the numbers would have it, the Montreal Canadiens would be included getting an opportunity to contend for a Stanley Cup.
The Habs were heading towards another season without the playoffs and made the appropriate moves to focus on the draft. Marco Scandella and Ilya Kovalchuk were moved out for picks while the team sat 24th in the league which likely would’ve given them the 8th overall pick. If the team continued to fall, perhaps they’d “overtake” Buffalo, New Jersey and Anaheim to get into the bottom five. Who knows what could happen in the Draft Lottery if they ended up there.
The last two lotteries have shown how crazy the event can be. New Jersey won with the third-best odds while the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks got an upgrade as well. Even the Montreal Canadiens have benefitted from the beauty of the lottery win as they won the third lottery moving from fourth overall to third overall in 2018 to select Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
And here is the rub of it all.
With the NHL extending the playoffs, the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens getting anywhere close to the top prize of Alexis Lafreniere. The same goes for second-ranked prospect Quinton Byfield who would likely go first overall if Lafreniere wasn’t available. It comes down to the NHL trying to make things “fair”.
Management groups around the league don’t want a team to win the lottery and have a chance at winning the Stanley Cup. Some may look at the Habs and thing, “What chance could they have, their regular season was horrible and they can’t score.”
A couple of things about that. The Canadiens were a top team in generating scoring chances this season, injuries took out some of their offensive weapons while players like Max Domi – despite a better turnaround towards the end – and Jesperi Kotkaniemi had poor years. Additionally, Carey Price is still a part of the organization.
Yes, Price hasn’t looked like himself this season. But if he decided to turn things around and the Montreal Canadiens managed to keep things secure in front of the crease, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them advance at least past the ‘play in’ round. Perhaps the stars align and the Habs continue to move on and on until their in a Stanley Cup Final.
Now how ridiculous would it be for Montreal to make the Final and then move up to second overall? Teams like the Ottawa Senators or each of the three California teams (besides the San Jose Sharks) would be livid.
That’s the payoff. The Montreal Canadiens make the playoffs and they can’t win the draft lottery. Therefore the debate that’s happening amongst fans on social media isn’t worth fighting for. It’s not as if teams can vote and say, “No we choose to be in the Draft Lottery instead,” but what if there was an option for that?
Marc Bergevin would jump at the opportunity to get the team in the playoffs. He’s been trying to do that since 2017 despite the push for prospects. Fans want the lottery because they know what it can mean for the organization long-term. These draft lotteries help teams (for the most part) and a lottery win like this could’ve done wonders for the Montreal Canadiens.
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However, the NHL has revenue in mind, and because of that, the Habs get into the playoffs. And because of that, they can’t be in the lottery. The best they can likely do is fourth overall and if that’s the case, they’ll select a great player.