The Montreal Canadiens have had a very hot-and-cold start to the 2023-2024 NHL season. With just nine wins in 20 games – only three of which are in regulation – the Bleu Blanc Rouge currently find themselves at the bottom of the Atlantic Division yet again this season.
The Canadiens’ lack of top-line offensive players has hurt them early on, as they have struggled to score on a consistent basis.
It’s clear to see that the team still are several pieces away from being a contending team again, but another season in the basement of the NHL standings isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It would of course be remarkable if the Canadiens could turn their form around and become contenders by the end of the year.
However, the likelihood is that the struggles will continue due to the team’s lack of quality depth. Many of the best legal sportsbooks for hockey betting in Canada place the Canadiens as one of the biggest outsiders to win the Stanley Cup next year. BetMGM, for example, offers the Habs at +25000 to miraculously turn their season around and make the NHL Playoffs.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 20, 2023
Even if the Canadiens were to quickly change their fortunes and get close to contending for a playoff spot this season, they’re likely better suited to leverage the current season for potential longer-term gains.
Their poor season should at least be the trigger to take another step in their ongoing rebuild, shifting their focus to trading off some veteran, making room for more prospects and building for the future.
Another top-10 draft pick
A bottom-10 regular season record across the NHL would net the Montreal Canadiens a pretty valuable pick in what is quickly become a very underrated 2024 NHL Draft.
Who knows, they could even get lucky and win a lottery in the process, despite not finishing dead last, like the Chicago Blackhawks when they were awarded the first overall pick in 2023.
The NHL Draft could be coming to The Sphere. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/MV8nAlkOnj
— theScore (@theScore) November 17, 2023
We know the NHL Entry Draft can completely change a franchise’s fortunes in an instant. If the Canadiens fail to reach the playoffs, but land one of the top picks as a result, it could be the perfect trade-off.
The Canadiens currently have 11 picks in total meaning they could add a wide range of upcoming players to their roster via the draft.
The top of the 2024 NHL Draft includes some very interesting names like Macklin Celebrini, Cole Eiserman, Ivan Demidov, Konsta Helenius, Berkly Catton and Cayden Lindstrom at forward; all expected to go in the top-10.
Given the team’s lack of scoring, adding any one of these youngsters, especially Celebrini or Eiserman, would help the team add a much-needed element to their offensive brigade.
A few of these players already appear to be on the club’s radar to start the season.
Montreal Canadiens Advancing the Rebuild
The Montreal Canadiens sliding out of playoff contention could also trigger a larger sell-off of veteran players, who outnumber the youngsters on the club, to make more roster room and gain some future cap space.
The Habs could be tempted to move the likes of Sean Monahan, Christian Dvorak, David Savard and more for futures, which could benefit them in the future and allow them to go big game hunting with increased cap space in 2024.
There will be interest from rival clubs, and general manager Kent Hughes has gone on record to state that the club would likely be acquiring more draft picks throughout the year, so a minor sell-off should be expected, at the very least.
Moving out certain veterans also frees up roster spots for youngsters like Jesse Ylönen or Joshua Roy to jump into prominent roles in the NHL and breathe some excitement into a club that is in desperate need of firepower.
It may seem like doom and gloom for Canadiens fans at present, but, similarly to last year, a poor regular season finish could be a blessing in disguise. It would be a clear sign that the club isn’t quite yet ready to compete, while allowing management to cash in on certain high-value assets to continue building toward sustainable competitiveness in the future.