What a weird, strange trip it has been for the Montreal Canadiens.
A calendar year that started with repeated beatdowns of the Vancouver Canucks peaked with an impromptu run to the Stanley Cup Final.
What followed was a meltdown of historic proportions that concluded with a 4-0 loss to their former future franchise centreman and his new team, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The kicker? It wrapped up with 13 regulars out of the lineup and on Brandon Baddock’s NHL debut.
How’s that for peaks and valleys. From the top of Mount Everest to the crushing depths of the Marianas Trench.
It’s hard to put into context just how completely out of control 2021 was for Montreal Canadiens fans. It started with a never before seen Canadian division, 56 games played in the cavernous confines of empty arenas. The Habs careers of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson started like they were shot out of a cannon. Jeff Petry was in the Norris trophy conversation going into February. And Claude Julien presided over it all.
By the end of the month, Dominique Ducharme was appointed interim head coach. The team collectively limped their way into the playoffs. There was little to no expectation that anything would come of it. Especially down 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
Then, the climb.
Cole Caufield to Nick Suzuki to the back of the net. Jesperi Kotkaniemi in overtime. Mark Scheifele suspended for annihilating Jake Evans. Sweeping the Winnipeg Jets. Phillip Danault to Artturi Lehkonen to keep the Knights gold-less. Carey Price going beast mode. And through it all, tens of thousands of previously locked down Montrealers celebrating wildly on Avenue des Canadiens as the impossible unfolded in front of their success-starved eyes.
Next, the fall.
The Lightning go back-to-back. Nikita Kucherov took it off and scoffed. Logan Mailloux was drafted and a PR disaster unfolded. Shea Weber’s career came to an end. Corey Perry joined the dark side. Danault walked in free agency. Price’s injury. Carolina got their long awaited Sebastian Aho revenge by offer-sheeting Kotkaniemi. The worst start in the 112-year history of the franchise. Finally, the near decade-long tenure of general manager Marc Bergevin came to an end.
With less than 24 hours left, the Montreal Canadiens are finishing the craziest year in their storied history with a single AHL call-up available to them. Through a combination of the injury bug that cost them Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin last night to go along with a COVID outbreak, more than 60 percent of the Laval Rocket have been transplanted into the NHL.
How was your 2021?
Hopefully a little bit more predictable.
At least 2022 will be.
It won’t be great. Until the draft at the Bell Centre in July.
And then we go again.