The Montreal Canadiens are one of just three teams that have already hit the 20-game benchmark this season. Their campaign is already a quarter complete – and they have 12 points to show for it. The reigning Stanley Cup finalists are tied for 31st in the NHL with a .300 record in what can only be described as a nightmare start to the year. The team is spending beyond the salary cap on a roster chock full of long-term contracts for players in the primes of their careers. They certainly did not expect to be in this spot, especially after last season’s playoff success. So where do the Canadiens go from here?
There are essentially three schools of thought when a team reaches a crossroads during the season, and that point in time does not need to be the trade deadline. They can buy, they can sell, or they can stand pat. All three strategies have merit, but the Habs would be wise to pick one and stick to it this season.
The team could certainly try to fight their way out of this funk. It would not be the first time in Montreal history that an underperforming team found a way to turn it around and make the playoffs only to hit their stride in the postseason. The Canadiens just made a surprise run last season and, at least on paper, have the pieces to do it again. As bad as the team has been so far this season, there has to be regression to the mean coming for their numerous talented scorer and stout defenders, right? There is also the potential for a Carey Price return and improved health across the roster to bring a boost to the team. However, if the plan is to compete then Montreal cannot just wait around for a spark. They need to shake up the roster and make a notable addition or two in the near future. It’s certainly a risk, but the reward for the team and its fans alike is the end to their current misery.