USATSI_9094612_154158418_lowresTo say the Montreal Canadiens have imploded would be an understatement. With a weekend contest against the Edmonton Oilers to come, the once unstoppable Habs will be in tough.

They’re currently 24-24-4, good for fifth in the Atlantic Division. On Wednesday, they dropped a game to the lowly Buffalo Sabres and are now 1-8-1 over their last 10. They sit out of the playoff picture along with fellow Canadian teams like the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers.

So, all of them.

The Canadiens were supposed to be Canada’s hope this year. They were the only team worth anything, especially after such a raring start that saw them win piles and piles of games before you-know-who went down with an injury.

And since the injury to Carey Price, which has been the linchpin of this season’s decline into awfulness, the Canadiens haven’t found footing. Prior to his downfall, Montreal was playing magical hockey. No question about it.

But now that they’re staring down a horrible skid and have waved goodbye to their playoff hopes, the finger-pointing has begun. The team has been, as some are fond of saying, “exposed for what it truly is.” Without Price, these Habs are “nothing.”

To an extent, that’s true. The Canadiens are weak up the middle and play a brand of hockey that most teams see coming from a mile away. Without Price to hold the fort, their run-and-gun tempo is stifled and creativity falls with it.

But other players have collapsed under the pressure, too, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Tomas Plekanec has 35 points in 52 games, but the foundation for those deceptively impressive numbers was built when things were rolling. As of Friday’s reporting, he’s had just seven in his last 21. Or there’s Jeff Petry, recently lambasted by Georges Laraque of all people for his lack of interest and his “terrible play.”

Alexei Emelin is another expensive piece to a puzzle that doesn’t work right now, while David Desharnais’s production has also cratered.

Blame has also fallen to the coaching, with every loss leading to rousing calls for Michel Therrien’s job. General manager Marc Bergevin has said he’s standing by his man no matter what happens, but that hasn’t helped quell the rage from the sidelines. And it makes sense: prior to Price’s injury, the Habs had won more games than any other team since the 2012-2013 NHL lockout.

This is a frustrated hockey team and a frustrated fanbase, but there are no easy answers. Things will not turn around because a coach is fired or because a player is traded. And Montreal lacks for options right now, especially when it comes to filling the gaps they have.

Right now, the best thing for this franchise to do is wait for next year. Price should be healthy to start the 2016-2017 season and the team can look forward to selling some deadweight when the trade deadline rolls around. They can still salvage something in this wreckage and point the Habs ahead to start anew next season.

Advertisements