Canadiens Tank Watch: Habs Trending Toward Good Draft Pick
With just 10 games left in the Montreal Canadiens season, the Draft Lottery implications are getting down to the nitty-gritty part of the schedule.
Fresh off a hard-fought loss versus their historic rivals, the Boston Bruins, the Habs have settled into a comfortable position among the league’s bottom-five teams, aided by a paltry 2-6-2 record in their last 10 games.
If they were to maintain their 28th overall ranking, the Canadiens would have an 8.5 percent chance of landing the first overall pick, as well as an 8.8 percent chance of ending up with the second overall pick.
Their current position in the NHL standings gives them a 24.5 percent chance of drafting fifth, a 44.2 percent chance of drafting sixth, and a 13.9 percent chance of drafting seventh.
In other words, they have very good odds of adding an excellent player in the 2023 Draft, which happens to be overflowing with prospects that possess the one thing the Canadiens dearly lack: offensive talent.
MUST READ: 2023 NHL Draft Mid-Season Rankings
The View From Above
Realistically, only three teams above the Canadiens in the standings present a threat to usurp their current Draft Lottery spot near the bottom of the pack.
The Vancouver Canucks are five points ahead of the Canadiens, but given they also have two games in hand, not to mention the fact that they’ve won 7 out of their last 10 games and have a rather easy remaining strength of schedule, they unlikely to out-tank the Habs this season.
At one point, the Philadelphia Flyers also menaced the Canadiens’ lottery odds, but they too have found their rhythm of late, winning two games in a row to push their recent record to a relatively impressive 4-4-2. They’re four points ahead of the Canadiens, and have one game in hand. They also have a very stretch of games to close out the year.
Reemer lifts us to victory. 🙌#MINvsPHI | @JVReemer21 pic.twitter.com/SHruhLJLH9
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) March 24, 2023
The Arizona Coyotes, on the other hand, could make things uncomfortable. Their strength of schedule is similar to the Canadiens’, but just like the the Canucks and the Flyers, The Coyotes have seemingly made a late-season decision to do everything within their power to forget about drafting in the top 5, as evidenced by their recent 6-1-3 record. Their underlying numbers haven’t matched the great results, but they still haven’t played as poorly as the Canadiens through mid-March.
WE LOVE TO SEE IT pic.twitter.com/KWN9CQ22yl
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) March 19, 2023
Simply put, Habs fans shouldn’t lose any sleep when it comes to any of the three teams beating them in the race to the bottom.
Dig Down, Stupid!
The question becomes, can the Canadiens somehow manage to fall lower in the standings?
It’s incredibly unlikely.
Unlike the last few months, they no longer have the most difficult strength of schedule in the league. They’ll face teams like the Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets, not to mention four teams that aren’t currently in a playoff position.
The Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks are six and eight points behind the Habs, respectively, with 11 games left on the docket. Chicago’s SOS is almost identical to Montreal’s, whereas Anaheim has a tougher stretch of games left this season.
The only thing the Canadiens have going for them in the final battle of the tank wars is their current form, which, to be put mildly, is awful.
They’ve controlled a league-worst 43 percent of the shots in their last 10 games, as well as just 40 percent of the high-danger chances in that stretch, the second-worst result in the NHL.
Consequently, only two teams have produced a worse expected goals for (xGF%) percentage than the Canadiens (43.3 percent).
Unfortunately, one of those teams is Anaheim (40.2 percent).
The usual caveat in these projections always applies: there are no guarantees in sports, that’s why we watch the games.
But all things considered, the Canadiens are headed toward finishing the season with fifth-best odds of ending up with the first-overall pick 2023 Entry Draft.
All strength of schedule information via Tankathon.
All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick.
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So… you’re saying there’s a chance… 😁
Marc, I read and regularly enjoy your articles but I have to tell you I don’t like your use of the term tank when discussing the Habs. I don’t believe that the term applies to the Habs at all. To me it minimizes the team’s efforts on the ice and redefines the meaning of the term tank which I equate to quitting on your effort to win. I am in a lottery watch because of injuries, not a tank watch.