The Canadiens certainly were one of the most surprising disappoints this season after making the playoffs in 2106-17 but losing in six games in the first round, sights were set on a different horizon then what came to be for Montreal this season.
Montreal finished 28th in the NHL with a 29-40-13 record, 70 points and a 5th place division finish. They ranked 29th in goals for(207) 7th in goals against(258), 12th among power play percentage(21.2), 30th in penalty kill percentage(74.1). It is fair to say the Canadiens had a complete 180 season and have a lot of questions to answer for the long-time and historic Montreal fans.
What went wrong for the Canadiens, well there is a few things, the obvious ones. Lack of goal scoring, inconsistent goal tending, injuries, head coach and no depth on either side of the puck.
What went wrong…
(1) Lack of goal scoring/depth. The most obvious and well-known one. To start Max Pacioretty tallied 17 goals this season in 64 games. Their leading scorer was Brendan Gallagher with 54 points in 82 games, a career high. They had 2 forwards with 20 plus goals and 2 players with 50 plus points. They had 20 players produce 42 or fewer points, and after Gallagher, Paul Bryon, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty there was no one to supplement their top six. They lacked depth scoring substantially and it was easily one of their biggest reason(s) for their poor season.
(2) Inconsistent/hurt goal tending. Carey Price missed some significant time due to fatigue related problems, only playing in 48 games posting a 3.11 goals against and a 16-26-7 record, one of the worst of his careers. Without a healthy Price this team cannot due much and it showed this season.
(3) Injuries, this is usually a poor excuse but the Canadiens dealt with injuries to Pacioretty, Shea Weber and Price. When your three best players are out it is tough to play to your full capability. Weber missed entirely the whole season only playing in 26 games, Pax missed 18 games and Price missed out on 34 games. These three missed a majority of the season and with that came failure as we saw. Anytime a key player goes missing and or under performs it is quite obvious why the team did poorly.
(4) Head coach Claude Julien, has been a storied NHL head coach bringing Boston to the Stanley Cup twice and winning once, as well as going to the playoffs in 9/13 seasons he has been a head coach. He brought Montreal to the playoffs last year with a first place finish in the Atlantic, but he has been on the edge this whole season. Due to his controversial line up moves, the development of younger players and his style of play. In Boston Julien coached a simple, psychical and under your skin style of game, as he tried to do that with Montreal expect Montreal did not have those type of players. Therefore it has been a bit of a rocky start for Julien despite his first year in Montreal.
Will things get better?
I would hope. The Canadiens will get back Weber and Price healthy. Hopefully resign Pacioretty, they also have the #3 pick in the NHL draft this season along with 4 in the 2nd round and three in the 3rd round. The problem the Canadiens have 13 restricted/unrestricted free agent contracts to ponder over the next year and a half. The big names coming up that will need to be resigned are Pacioretty, Paul Bryon, Philip Danult, Jacob De La Rose, Jordie Benn and Mike Reilly. The problem is Pacioretty though as he finishing up his 4.5 mil contract he is expecting and or deserving of anywhere from 6.5 to 8 mil a year, especially after that Evander Kane signing of 7 years 7 mil. The Canadiens have a few questions to answer but overall, with the a solid draft coming up things are on the way up. Next year will be another develop and a re-tool year would not expect this team to finish in a playoff spot but definitely around 18-20 in the league next season. The positive the Canadiens have about 12.3 million left in cap space right now with 35/50 contracts signed, also with a projected cap raise for the 2018-19 season. They will have some money to work with which can benefit them greatly.