As another disappointing season comes to a close (who here actually believes this will be 2010 all over again?) and the Canadiens brass get set to dust off their grand Book of Excuses (the End of the Season edition), one has to ask: how much further down the Rabbit hole can this organization fall?
Needless to say, when one thinks of the term "rabbit hole" the first visual that comes to mind is that of Alice in Wonderland. But in the current use of “rabbit hole,” we are no longer necessarily bound for a wonderland. This is no fairy tale with a happy ending (mind out of the gutter please). We’re just in a long, perpetual, free fall, with no clear destination and all manner of inexplicable things flashing by.
Like for example, how a team that added size, scoring and grit, be so inept at scoring goals or so soft along the boards in their one-on-one battles. How did they expect to be successful in this fast-paced, quick transition game of modern NHL hockey with this current group of defensemen? One only has to look at the Leaf's group of d-men, Reilly, Brody, Sandin, and Holl to see what a defense corp should look like in 2021.
Did they seriously believe that a center line with so little experience could withstand so many unfair matchups this season? Especially in a division with the likes of Connor McDavid, Austin Matthews, John Tavares and Mark Scheifele. And what will their center line look like next season, should their most experienced and arguably best two-way center in Phil Danault part ways with the team?
Further down the rabbit hole is the real possibility they will lose their best goaltending back up in over a decade, when the Seattle Kraken get a shot at picking up Jake Allen. Yes, the guy who held the fort while Carey Price had his usual concoction of injuries, bouts of fatigue and psychological challenges. The guy to thank for Price being so fresh in these playoffs, and, frankly, the only legitimate reason this is even a series (or is it) is the stellar performance of number 31.
It's one thing to go down in flames in these playoffs, to look so apathetic, tired, slow and disinterested on too many nights, but to lose while your talented youth are sitting up in the stands, well, that's a whole other level of freefalling.
Can someone tell me how will the current (or future) general manager of the Canadiens, get out of these brutal long-term contracts? Perhaps the Cheshire cat in Alice knows. Weber, Price, Byron and Joe Drouin will continue to be this organization's albatross for many years to come, potentially preventing the team from addressing some glaring issues, like say, the slow-as-molasses defense? Frankly, this entire group needs to be revamped this summer (Dougie Hamilton anyone?). These lousy contracts may also make it harder to resign budding young players like Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield in the future.
In a division stacked with young, talented rosters (Toronto, Tbay, Florida, Ottawa, heck even the Boston Bruins, given their dynamic trio seems to be aging like fine wine, show no signs of slowing down), the Canadiens will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs in the foreseeable future. Has the time finally come for something more drastic than a simple reset? You betcha.
For an organization that has spent the last decade or so reinventing itself, redefining it's team identity on the fly, a management team seemingly with no clear cut plan or sense of direction, perhaps, just perhaps, the following excerpt from Alice in Wonderland does the best job at summing the Canadiens' current situation:
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice: “I don't much know.” The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.”