Monday, January 31, 2022

How much worse can it get for the historically awful Canadiens? Plus Capitals, Devils and more

fascinating games? That one’s easy.

It has to have been Saturday’s showdown between the Oilers and Canadiens. Two teams whose seasons have gone off the rails, one of which seemed to be turning things around and still had something to play for. It was Evander Kane’s debut for the Oilers, signaling some new hope to go with all the trepidation that comes along with rolling the dice on a guy like that. Edmonton came in having won three in a row to creep back into playoff contention, but knowing that a loss to the lowly Habs would snuff out any momentum. The Canadiens were looking for something, anything to grasp onto, just a little bit of optimism for a team that’s well beyond crisis mode.

Well, they held Connor McDavid off the scoreboard. There’s that. They still absolutely got their doors blown off, losing 7-2. It got just a little better the next night, when they kept it relatively close and lost 6-3. That was against Columbus, who are supposed to be bad, but nobody is bad against this Montreal team. Not the Blue Jackets, not the Coyotes, not you and your out-of-shape friends, as long as that one guy with the goalie equipment shows up. If not, maybe it stays close.

So where do we go from here? We’ll start with what’s quickly becoming my new favorite tradition down in the bottom five section: the weekly Brutal But Accurate Arpon Habs Headline. This week’s entry is The ‘unwatchable’ Canadiens continue to re-define what rock bottom means to them.

That might be underselling it. Montreal has given up 26 goals in their last four games, lost six straight, and also 12 of 13, and also 19 of 21… good lord they’re terrible. I think I’d actually feel bad for them if I didn’t still have fresh scars.

What’s gone wrong? Pretty much everything. Really, the 2021-22 Habs are becoming the test case for what happens to a team when absolutely everything that could go wrong does, all at once. Most teams eventually have to deal with a string of injuries, or COVID, or their star goalie missing extended time, or their best defenseman being unavailable, or their young stars stalling out, or a key offensive blueliner falling off a cliff, or front office upheaval, or a lame duck coach, or one of the most brutal road trips ever. But all of that happening at the same time? You get this. And this is terrible.

We’re at the point now where you wonder just how bad it can get. The worst season is the 104-year history of the franchise is certainly in play, and I’m sure the members of the 1939-40 team are ready to pop champagne corks for that. Worst team of the cap era? They’re already on pace for that. Worst team in modern NHL history that wasn’t a recent expansion team? That one should be safe thanks to the 1989-90 Nordiques, but they still might have a shot at grabbing second place from a 1983-84 Penguins team that was openly tanking for Mario Lemieux. Oh, and the Habs are somehow doing this in an era where you get points for losing. It shouldn’t even be possible, but here we are.

And sure, maybe at this point you just root for rock bottom. Maximize the lottery odds, clean out as much deadwood as possible, find a new coach in the offseason, get Carey Price back whenever he’s ready, and hope that all this losing builds character for the young kids instead of ruining them. If you break a few records in the process, hey, who’s counting.

Everything on the table. Except for the ping pong balls giving you Shane Wright, of course, because why would anything good happen in a season like this?

On to the rankings. I bet you’ll never guess who’s holding down the number one spot in the bottom five?

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