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Monday, November 28, 2022

Young stars make the Montreal Canadiens happy, even if the results are not

Young stars make the Montreal Canadiens happy, even if the results are not

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The Montreal Canadiens are a very bad hockey team.

Shocking, I know. The Habs became the first team in NHL history to finish 32nd last season, a year after a shocking Stanley Cup final. Most fans seemed to agree that the 2021-22 season was going to be tough – with the exception of the team’s management, who did little to address the team’s issues and were eventually sacked , as is head coach Dom Ducharme. The Canadians eventually clinched the first overall pick and took Juraj Slafkovsky, allowing the rebuild to take full effect.

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And now they are here. Always bad. He still won’t make the playoffs. And that’s good if you’re a fan of blue, white and red.

As with any rebuilding team, the focus is on what happens next, even if the definition of “next” does not include the near future. In the case of the Canadians, they’ve done a great job racking up draft picks and building a base they can work on long term, especially with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield up front. The youngsters play, especially in defense with Kaiden Guhle and Arber Xhekaj. Suzuki and Caufield are putting pucks in the back of the net and even Slafkovsky is starting to look more comfortable.

Canadians are like a car wreck – it’s not great, but you can’t take your eyes off it. And that’s because the Habs have enough young talent to intrigue you. After all, you know they’re doing everything they can. And when they find personal success, it’s exciting. You want your future stars to keep growing, but you need to focus on the bigger goal: landing Connor Bedard.

It’s not about the defensive systems or the chemistry of the line or the Corsi or the Fenwick or the dipsy doodles or the possession of the puck by the first six. There’s no need to nitpick mistakes on the ice. The Habs are a bad team. It’s not worth fighting against that. Embrace it and build for the future is the name of the game. Players will never agree to tank, especially those looking for new contracts. They want to show what they are capable of every night. If they’re bad, they’re bad, but they won’t start playing terribly for the sake of it. So when you have players playing well, but the team isn’t good enough to pick up wins – helping you get a better draft pick – that’s a good thing.

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Looking at team stats, Suzuki, Caufield and Kirby Dach are 1-2-3 in points. Dach has been an important part of the team’s core since arriving from Chicago, where he struggled to find his groove. Of the three, Suzuki – the team captain – is 23 years old. Guhle and Xhekaj, two of the club’s best defenders, are 20 and 21 respectively. The fact that the team is 18th in the standings doesn’t slow these guys down, and that’s what matters.

Frankly, the Habs could afford to lose a little more right now. They are 5-4-1 in the last 10 games with an overall record of 10-9-1. They are ahead of teams like St. Louis, Minnesota and Edmonton, tied with Calgary and just one point behind defending Presidents’ Trophy winners Florida. It’s much better than everyone expected, but they’re still too often outclassed and outclassed to give you any illusions of stability on the ice.

When you’re in a rebuild, no matter the stage, it’s about celebrating the small wins. The wins along the way are nice, and you don’t want to be completely embarrassed. But when the focus is on the future, seeing those coins you rely on for success is precisely what you want to see.

So Habs fans, take this season for what it is. The playoffs probably aren’t in the cards, and they shouldn’t be. Another high pick could do wonders for Canadians. There are still plenty of questions to be answered, including who will handle the long-term crease, but the team has a bright future. Montreal has a good crop of prospects and the young core is improving.

Take the season for what it is. If you don’t try to microanalyze everything in a non-playoff year, you’ll have more fun.

Recently by Steven Ellis



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