To Tank or Not to Tank?
About an hour ago, the Montreal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime by a score of 2-1, off a goal from Ilya Kovalchuk. This win finally snapped an 8-game losing streak, the second such streak of the year. The Canadiens are one win below .500 and are seven points out of a playoff spot. During the latest skid many Canadiens fans and media have been calling for the team to place dernière pour Lafrenière. So as always, your faithful Canadiens analyst is here to pick apart the question: should the Canadiens tank?
My thorough, well-thought-out analysis: No.
While the prospect of top draft pick Alexis Lafrenière feeding the puck to le petit tireur Cole Caufield may have fans salivating, it’s not worth it to tank. First of all, the Canadiens have been struggling largely due to injuries. Allow me to list Canadiens players who have missed time this season: Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, Paul Byron, Victor Mete, Ben Chiarot, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ryan Poehling and Matthew Peca. None of these players are out for the season, so it is safe to assume that all of them will resume play before the Canadiens’ last game against the Maple Leafs. Now, with all of the aforementioned players in the lineup, specifically Drouin and Gallagher, the Canadiens are a very decent hockey team. Therefore, the Canadiens can’t tank, because to tank, a team needs to be bad. After all of the currently injured players come back, the Canadiens won’t be bad anymore, at least not as bad as the Detroit Red Wings or the Los Angeles Kings. Their only option is to make a push for the playoffs.
The Canadiens could, theoretically, ensure that they still suck by trading their players for picks and prospects at the trade deadline. However, we all know that GM Marc Bergevin is not going to do that. ‘Bergy’ is on the hot seat, that is to say he is on a short leash. If he doesn’t get his team into the playoffs, team owner Geoff Molson will tell him, in the great words of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, to “Fuddle Duddle”. Some fans in Montreal have satirically called this season “year eight of Bergevin’s five year plan” to make Les Boys a true contender. If the plan extends to year nine, there will be intense pressure from the fan base to oust Bergevin. I’m talking protests in front of the Bell Centre. On a team with key veterans like Carey Price and Shea Weber, patience is waning. Bergevin knows this, though he may seem calm and composed publicly. Sometimes the camera pans on him when he doesn’t realize it during a hockey game, and the stress on his face is clearly visible. Poor guy. If the Canadiens were to show that they are tanking, and that the fans will have to wait until next year to see the Canadiens in playoff action, then bye-bye Bergy. As far as Marc Bergevin is concerned, the Canadiens have nowhere to go but to the playoffs.
I think Twisted Sisters put it very well when analyzing if the Canadiens should tank:
We’re not gonna tank it
No, we ain’t gonna tank it
We’re not gonna tank it, we’ll just score
Whaddya mean, those aren’t the lyrics?
Other Canadiens Notes:
· The Canadiens’ shiny new toy, Ilya Kovalchuk, scored the game-winner a little while ago off a blistering wrist shot from the top of the circle. That puts him at four points in four games with the Canadiens. I wrote a column a long time ago saying that the Canadiens should never sign Kovalchuk. However, that was before half the team got injured. Now I have no problem with the signing, though I must admit I had no idea he was going to be point-per-game.
· What happens if the Canadiens make the expected playoff push, but fall just short or get knocked out early? Then they’ll have a crappy pick at a draft that they’re hosting. The answer is simple. Chief prospect analyst Michael Herman has proposed that Bergevin will trade up for a top-five pick at the draft table. Normally these picks would cost a lot, but this upcoming draft is so deep that the talent drop-off from pick number 4 to pick number 15 isn’t very large. Therefore, it wouldn’t cost that much to move up. So there you go, all you pro-tankers out there. It is possible to make a playoff push and still draft an elite forward or puck-moving defenseman.
· Top pick or no top pick, the Canadiens will be really good next year. Top prospects Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov are both expected to make the jump to the NHL next year, and we could see Caufield this year. Finally, someone other than Weber who can shoot on the power play.
· Nick Suzuki is quietly on pace for the best Canadiens rookie season since Michael Ryder in 2003-04. What a beauty, eh?
And on that uniquely Canadian note, I sign off what is an absurdly long article.
Go Habs Go,
Signed, Le Bo