Imagine being told back in January that the following things would be true about the Montreal Canadiens with just eight games to play in their 56-game 2021 regular season:
- Tyler Toffoli would be in the top five in the NHL in goals
- Josh Anderson would be second on the team in goals
- Corey Perry would not only end up working his way off the taxi squad and into a regular spot in the lineup, he’d make such an impression on and off the ice that he’d end up wearing an A on his sweater
- Joel Edmundson would be close to leading the league in plus/minus
- Jake Allen would prove to be the capable complement to Carey Price that they hoped he would be
And yet, while Marc Bergevin would get good grades for his offseason moves, they don’t tell the whole story of this year’s team.
It’s great that Toffoli and Anderson have been filling the net the way they have, but it often feels like they’re the only guys on the team who ever score. Brendan Gallagher, who hasn’t played since April 5, is still third on the Habs with 14 goals. Jeff Petry, a defenceman who hasn’t scored since March 13, is fourth with 11.
While many of the new guys have impressed (with the exception of midseason acquisition Eric Staal), the list of returning Canadiens who the team has not gotten enough from this year is a long one.
- Tomas Tatar, their leading scorer with 61 points in 68 games last season, has just 30 (10-20-30) in 46 this year
- Phillip Danault infamously took nearly two months to score his first goal this season, and still only has four
- Jonathan Drouin had scored just two goals in 44 games before taking an indefinite leave from the team on Tuesday
- Shea Weber has struggled at both ends of the ice and may very well be having the worst season of his career
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi has just five goals and 20 points in 48 games, including just one point in his last 11 games and no goals in his last 16
- Joel Armia has just six goals and 13 points in 33 games, including one goal in his last 17
We could go on, but you get the idea. Far too many players on the team just don’t score. It’s one thing to ask Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to carry a team offensively, but Toffoli and Anderson could probably use a little help.
Montreal has lost nine of its last 13 games. Even as Toffoli has continued scoring at an impressive rate, potting six goals in the last eight games, the Habs have scored more than twice in regulation in just two of their last 14 games. Gallagher’s a good player, but losing him should not cause a good team to completely fall apart, nor should they expect him to be the saviour come playoff time.
Bergevin’s offseason moves were a vote of confidence in his team. After their showing in the bubble last year, he felt they were a team worth adding to. He was betting they were closer to that team than the team that finished 24th in the overall standings in the regular season. Almost all of the core players from that team have let him down this year. A coaching change has done little to help.
Despite their best efforts, the Canadiens are still likely to hold on to their playoff spot. If they do, they’ll probably to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. The Habs’ recent play, and their most recent game against the Maple Leafs, Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at Bell Centre, has provided little reason to think it would even be a competitive series.
If their trip to the postseason this year is quick and ugly, or if they collapse badly enough that it doesn’t happen at all, Bergevin may be looking at his core in a much different light this offseason.