Montreal Canadiens fans are rightfully upset with the team’s start to the 2021-22 season, but should they be surprised?
The Montreal Canadiens — last year’s Stanley Cup finalists — are a bottom-feeding team in the NHL through the opening stretch of the 2021-22 regular season. The storied franchise that was on the precipice of glory last spring can’t even muster two consecutive periods of quality hockey today.
Canadiens fans are rightfully upset, but should they be surprised? More specifically, was last year’s postseason run simply a fluke, or are the Habs wildly underachieving through the first 10 games of the season? Both perspectives to the aforementioned question carry real weight.
On one end, the Canadiens limped their way into the playoffs last season, showing little to no signs of life before they went on to defeat Toronto, Winnipeg, and Las Vegas in successive playoff rounds. They went into every series as underdogs and played a low-scoring, physical defensive style that relied heavily on Carey Price’s heroics and reputation. And he delivered, despite the inconsistency he displayed through most of the regular season.
The truth is, among the major sports, hockey has the most parity. A hockey team can essentially go from near mediocrity to greatness in the span of a few weeks, a notion that is so rarely seen in other sports like basketball, for instance. Last season’s Habs were the latest example of how unpredictable hockey can be. Ultimately, the sport’s parity is what draws many fans to it.
Losing team captain Shea Weber, veteran two-way forward Phillip Danault, and Price to start the season for varying reasons meant losing the Canadiens’ anchors of stability, so a regular season dropoff was to be expected. As a result, this year’s offence is being manned by young, unproven talent into unknown waters. So far, Montreal’s key players — namely, Nick Suzuki and Jeff Petry — simply haven’t shown up and met expectations.
Despite the fact the current Canadiens roster barely resembles the veteran squad it suited up during the postseason, there is reason to believe the Habs shouldn’t be as bad as they’ve been. As things currently stand, the Canadiens find themselves situated next to the NHL’s worst teams in the standings, many of which have embraced losing in their hopes of rebuilding.
On the other hand, the Habs are in a unique and dangerous circumstance, one where they fully intend on remaining competitive but are continually failing to tally wins. This team is teetering between mediocrity and success, and considering the fact that they’ve already dug themselves into a near insurmountable hole, at some point Montreal needs to forget about last year’s Stanley Cup run and think towards the future.