The Montreal Canadiens are entering the second full year of their rebuild, and the early projections for the final 2023-24 NHL standings aren’t as encouraging as some may hope.
Before we get into it, let’s make it clear that 2023-24 is, in fact, the second year of the rebuild. The actual teardown began midway through the 2021-22 season, but it would be unfair to say Kent Hughes had a chance to properly evaluate his roster, reach out to 31 other general managers, and figure out his exact game plan in the last few months of the season.
If anything, he had a slightly longer grace period for the first year of the rebuild.
2023-24 NHL Projected Standings
Two different outlets have published (very) early projections for the final standings in 2023-24. Of course, things can and will change, but it does give us a decent idea of how the standings could shape up by the end of the year.
Sportsnet believes the Canadiens will finish 27th next season, one spot higher than they finished in 2022-23.
They expect the Atlantic Division standings to look as follows:
- Toronto Maple Leafs – 1st (4th in NHL)
- Boston Bruins – 2nd (6th in NHL)
- Tampa Bay Lightning – 3rd (9th in NHL)
- Florida Panthers – 4th (11th in NHL)
- Buffalo Sabres – 5th (14th in NHL)
- Ottawa Senators – 6th (19th in NHL)
- Detroit Red Wings 7h (22nd in NHL)
- Montreal Canadiens – 8th (28th in NHL)
As you can see, there’s a significant discrepancy between where they think the Senators will finish among the overall NHL standings and where they think the Canadiens will eventually land.
ESPN is slightly more bullish when it comes to the Habs’ chances, as they expect them to finish 26th in the NHL, but once again, they expect them to be the last-place team in the division.
Their Atlantic Division predictions are as follows:
- Boston Bruins – 1st (5th in NHL)
- Tampa Bay Lightning – 2nd (8th in NHL)
- Florida Panthers – 3rd (9th in NHL)
- Toronto Maple Leafs – 4th (11th in NHL)
- Buffalo Sabres – 5th (13th in NHL)
- Ottawa Senators – 6th (17th in NHL)
- Detroit Red Wings – 7th (19th in the NHL)
- Montreal Canadiens – 8th (26th in NHL)
I have to say, this feels like they’re overrating the Lightning and Bruins, while they’re underestimating the Maple Leafs and Panthers, but we once again see a chasm-wide gap in terms of projections between the Canadiens and the rest of the division.
Some may be discouraged by the projected standings, and nothing is written in stone, but when it comes down to the situation in the Atlantic Division, the last-place finish for the Habs should not come as a surprise.
The rest of the division is engulfed in an arms race, which is the perfect time for a rebuilding team like the Montreal Canadiens to tank and acquire yet another talented first-round pick. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to compete in a strong division at the best of times.
But not all hope is lost.
There’s also the matter of the variables in play. We all remember how the Canadiens had more injuries than the yearly cheese-chasing event, and there are few things that impact a team’s overall play more than injuries.
If the Canadiens manage to stay healthy, there’s a non-zero chance they could climb out of the basement of the division.
But for now, fans should prepare themselves for another season in which wins are few and far between.