Montreal Canadiens: Habs Loss To Sens Proves Habs Need For Forward Help

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators
Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators / Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photo/GettyImages

On Thursday night, the Canadiens were completely outplayed by the Ottawa Senators in a 6-2 loss.

It was evident throughout the game that the Senators' forward group was ahead of the Habs. Yes, the team is missing two key forwards, so the lineup isn’t what it will be next with Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook healthy. But the forward talent doesn’t match the talent on defence - both on the team and in the system. 

Montreal has added some great talents during the Kent Hughes-Jeff Gorton era. Juraj Slafkovsky, David Reinbacher, Filip Mesar - I can keep going. But they are a top-line winger away from making some noise.

Joshua Roy and Jesse Ylonen will be given auditions to play top-six roles, but Hughes knows the teams' needs best. I would argue that adding a high-talent, high-potential forward would make the most sense for the Canadiens. I try to sort of put myself in Hughes's shoes, but we aren’t the same size.

Are The Habs A Lottery Team Or A Wildcard Team?

With two dominant showings against the Avalanche and Oilers, the Canadiens looked like a team on the rise. But the struggling Ottawa Senators put a stop to that in dominant fashion, by a score of 6-2. With inconsistent play, I am leaning toward the Canadiens benefitting most from a higher draft pick than a likely first-round exit.

Now, the difference in draft range for a bottom 16 team and a top 16 playoff team is significant. If the Canadiens stand in the doorway with one foot in and one foot out, the rebuild stalls. What I’m getting at is that you can trade the assets now and get future help, either prospects or draft picks or play one round of playoff hockey. 

I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced that this team will do well in the playoffs. The team plays well in front of Samuel Montembeault, but with Cayden Primeau or Jake Allen in the net, the team looks so different. And offensively, the weight that is on the top line is too high. 

I’m all for the young guys getting to play in the playoffs, and I think that the experience is invaluable. But at the cost of having a high pick, which could set the top six, I’m not sure I want to miss out on a valuable puzzle piece. One that could slot into the top six alongside a healthy Dach and Newhook, and set off the top six. 

The 2024 Draft has some nice options at forward, and I believe the Canadiens will be an improved team, with one added to their repertoire. Hughes has the trade assets to acquire another pick or two, and along with his own first, he could do some damage. There's the option to try and trade up in the first round, leveraging multiple picks, if Hughes makes a trade before the deadline.