Canadiens: Rock Bottom and Then Some After 5-2 Loss to Coyotes

Nov 29, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

If there were ever an NHL award for most pointless game of the 2021-22 season, the Montreal Canadiens Monday afternoon matchup against the Arizona Coyotes would win it, hands down.

In reality, there was absolutely no reason for anyone to tune into the Canadiens 5-2 drubbing at the hands of a decrepit and dilapidated Coyotes team, but alas, there I found myself, tuning in as I was reminded time and time again, of why this game was ultimately pointless. As you may or may not be aware, I haven’t posted anything in a while as I’ve been occupied with my studies and some personal artistic projects. I just simply couldn’t find much to write about as the past month wore on and on with little improving or changing.

I had already discussed the Habs misfortunes in a prior piece earlier in the season, but Montreal has now officially hit rock bottom as they sit dead last in the entire NHL, now three points back of those very same Coyotes. The NHL’s basement this season is a familiar and unsurprising site for many, though the Canadiens admittedly carried more expectations going into this season than most. For the most part, the Ottawa Senators, Seattle Kraken, and Coyotes all largely fit the bill of your typical NHL basement dweller.

Young, rebuilding rosters with little talent (and in certain cases, upside) playing to spoil other team’s fortunes and build for a hopefully promising future through trading and the NHL Draft. Kraken GM Ron Francis for some reason passed on every single freebie the NHL had given them over the course of the off-season, and as such the Kraken have been completely and utterly pathetic, struggling to attract fans as both Francis and head coach Dave Hakstol’s future have already come into question.

In that same sense, former Habs GM Marc Bergevin had made a number of moves to build upon what was an immensely successful season in 2020-21, and it looked as though this Habs team could put up a decent playoff push a la 2018-19 Canadiens. Instead, everything that could’ve gone wrong, has gone wrong, and now the Canadiens have nowhere to go but well, nowhere. For every time the Canadiens have gone through a lost season over this tumultuous past decade and beyond, I’m reminded of an excerpt from author Andrew Podnieks regarding former Canadiens goaltender Andre Racicot in his 2004 book “Players: The Ultimate A-Z Guide of Everyone Who Has Ever Played in the NHL”.

"“He did, however, get his name on the Cup because he was around during the Montreal improbable run in 1993, but since then, Racicot has been buried in the minors so deep he can’t see the sky for the soil.”"

While Racicot hasn’t played professionally since 2001-02 (last we heard he was working for a mining company in the Laurentians), Montreal has now found themselves similarly buried deep within the NHL’s basement, and it doesn’t seem as though their fortunes are going to be improving anytime soon. One can make the argument that the Canadiens have just as little going for them as the Coyotes and can’t be blamed for the numerous injury troubles and Covid-19 outbreaks that have led to anyone and your mother making their Canadiens debut, and to an extent, this is true.

The Montreal Canadiens have officially hit rock bottom and then some after a 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday afternoon.

Montreal has been just one of many victims of the NHL’s less than ideal Covid situation, which they seem content just ignoring until the season basically revolves itself. Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Brandon Baddock, and Cameron Hillis have been just a few of the unexpected faces to make their NHL debut for the Canadiens, and for a while Montreal’s roster looked more akin to the Laval Rocket than anything resembling an NHL team. Yet, that, is when the Canadiens have not been healthy, and, admittedly, at their worst, they’ve resembled the Coyotes in many aspects. Yet, rather unfortunately, Montreal is no longer at their worst (at least roster-wise) which makes that little number 32 attached to their record, all the more disconcerting, and disappointing.

When you take a look at the Canadiens roster at face value, putting aside all the injuries and issues with Covid, and you see that the Canadiens, on paper, have a number of talented pieces at their disposal, and can dress a roster which should, at the very least, put up a solid fight with the rest of the NHL. Arizona, in contrast, doesn’t have that, which makes the Canadiens 5-2 loss on Monday sting all the more. Mike Hoffman, Christian Dvorak, David Savard, Josh Anderson, Jeff Petry, and Brendan Gallagher are just a few of the talented pieces Montreal has at their disposal, yet, in one way or another, every one of them has missed the mark.

Hoffman, Dvorak, and Savard have shown glimpses of potential here and there, but their totals aren’t indicative of the type of players they can and indeed, should be. Dvorak’s -18 rating is worst on the team, and Savard and Hoffman’s -15 ratings don’t look much better. Petry, Gallagher, and Anderson were just a few of the Canadiens core pieces that remained from last seasons Stanley Cup Finals run, but again, just haven’t been able to find their groove both offensively and defensively.

I had already discussed Petry’s immense struggles in my last piece, but even as his numbers have improved slightly to 1-3-4 totals over 30 games, last season’s Norris Trophy Contender is a -8 and can’t seem to escape the noticeable mistakes and penalties he’s made his trademark over the course of this season. Anderson and Gallagher’s consistency struggles are reminders of the less-than-ideal stretches they went through over the course of last season, and all in all, these issues point out both exactly why the Canadiens have struggled this season, and the reality that there was potential for a far more competitive team here.

In almost every facet, the Coyotes have both literally and figuratively, nothing. They’re in jeopardy for next season with the lack of a true home arena, struggled to pay taxes related to their current arena over the course of this season, and well, don’t really have a team. Aside from Phil Kessel, Clayton Keller, and Shayne Gostisbehere (their top three scorers) Arizona’s roster is a mix of random overpaid veterans and players that will likely be moved come this season’s trade deadline (Lawson Crouse, Jakob Chychrun, etc.). While this still doesn’t excuse their terrible performance this season, it does explain it, which is something Montreal just doesn’t have barring in mind the NHL’s league wide Covid struggles.

You can make the argument that the departure of Shea Weber and Carey Price has had a massive effect on this team all you want and to an extent, it has. However, as I had mentioned in some less-than-ideal Twitter arguments, the Canadiens don’t need anymore excuses right now (regardless of how good any one excuse is). What they need, is wins, and that’s the one thing they haven’t been getting. Will things improve over the course of this season? No. No, no they wont, and no amount of maraschino cherries on top will change that.

As long as the 2021-22 season continues to rage on, the Canadiens will continue to free-fall and pray that a Shane Wright or Matthew Savoie will fall into their laps come the NHL Draft. While that’s a likely possibility, it still doesn’t mean the Canadiens struggles are over. Far from it, and as we reach the second half of another tumultuous NHL season, it seems as though yet another pointless Canadiens game, will give way into yet another pointless, Montreal Canadiens, season.

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