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Reasons Why Canadiens Began Their Rebuild With A Head Start

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Montreal Canadiens defenceman Arber Xhekaj

Fresh off a three-game winning streak, the Montreal Canadiens currently find themselves in a playoff position.

Of course, most Canadiens fans know it probably won’t last.

In most cases, a rebuild signals almost a half-decade of poor results tied into the hope that the process will eventually catch up to the potential.

After all, he who wants a mule without fault must walk on foot.

But there’s something to be said about the importance of keeping fans entertained while building for the future, and the Canadiens have tapped into the rare combination that will, at the very least, make the rebuild feel a lot shorter than originally anticipated.

Lead By Example

When the Canadiens signed Nick Suzuki to the richest forward contract in team history the expectations were that he’d eventually provide great value based on his consistent growth.

But few people expected Suzuki to quickly establish a 100-point pro-rated scoring rate.

It will be incredibly difficult to maintain a 27 percent shooting efficiency throughout the season, and Canadiens fans are well aware of the probabilities, however, Suzuki’s sudden uptick in scoring has allowed the aforementioned fans to catch a glimpse of what the future may hold.

Regardless of whether he hits the scoresheet, there is not a single game that goes by without Suzuki actively driving both the offence and the defence.

It’s also worth noting that Suzuki, who is just 23 years old, happens to be the elder statesman of the first line.

Suzuki isn’t just the leader of the team, he’s the lynchpin that allows fans to receive good value for their hard-earned money at a time in the rebuild when entertaining results are usually few and far between.

American Sniper

Cole Caufield‘s ascension from struggling prospect to one of the best 5v5 goal scorers in the league has been well documented and given his chemistry with Suzuki and Kirby Dach, it stands to argue that the best is yet to come in his case.

He currently sits second in the NHL in 5v5 goals, but even more impressively, he’s among the top 10 players in the league in overall 5v5 production.

His evolution has been particularly fascinating because he can fill the entire Bell Centre with the electric atmosphere that reminds the Canadiens faithful of the legends of the past.

You can always tell which players have earned the most gratitude from fans by the number of jerseys present at various events.

That title used to belong to Carey Price, but Caufield’s No.22 has quickly overtaken No.31 as the most popular jersey in the building.

Hold The Fort

The top line has received the lion’s share of the credit this season, but without the excellent play from goaltenders, particularly Samuel Montembeault, their impressive scoring rate would be all for naught from an entertainment point of view.

Montembeault, who currently sits among the best goaltenders in the league from a statistical standpoint, has kept the Canadiens in games that should have resulted in a lopsided blowout.

He’s also offered the four rookies on the blueline a healthy grace period to get adjusted to the challenges involved in facing players such as Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews regularly.

Jonathan Kovacevic, Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj, and Jordan Harris are enjoying solid rookie seasons on their own merit, but there’s no doubt Montembeault and Allen have acted as an insurance policy when mistakes are inevitably made.

Consequently, the goaltenders have made life a lot easier on head coach Martin St-Louis, who is tasked with the difficult job of balancing current results with long-term potential.

More To Come

It’s never wise to count your chickens before they hatch, but it’s also impossible to ignore the early returns from the 2022 Draft.

Players such as Juraj Slafkovsky, Filip Mesar, Owen Beck, and Lane Hutson, among others, are already starting to bear fruit for the organization.

The prospect pool has reached levels unseen in recent team history, and given Kent Hughes‘ modus operandi, there are healthy chances it will continue to improve in the near future.

With that in mind, Marc Bergevin may not have left Montreal as the most popular general manager, but it’s only fair to point out that many of his decisions have paid off handsomely, especially since he rarely mortgaged the future for short-term gains.

Now that Hughes has established a clear long-term plan, acquired several first-round picks, and invested in a proper development system and a healthy support network for his players, the organization is well-positioned to maintain their current entertainment level while also improving the mechanics within the team.

But for decades, fans were told they would not tolerate a rebuild.

It turns out they aren’t just tolerating it, they’re actively endorsing the rebuild because it has come with a clear blueprint as well as flashes of brilliance.

Investing in the future while providing fans with a cascade of entertainment is exactly what the doctor ordered for a hockey-crazed market like Montreal.

After all, the NHL is a business, a business that sells entertainment as its flagship product.

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