So somebody brought up that the Montreal Canadiens won their division in 16-17 so things shouldn’t be looked at as so bleak. Nobody can take that away from the club. They absolutely did. But anyone bringing it up is ignoring the context that Montreal benefited greatly from the Atlantic division, and were exposed by the Metropolitan division.
For starters, the Montreal Canadiens had a 19-5-6 record against the Atlantic. This season they had a 13-10-5 record vs. the Atlantic, which means they only got 40 more points against 23 other teams. But back to 16-17. Nobody lost less regulation games against their own division. 85 of the team goals that year came against the Atlantic. That’s 38% of their goals. They scored 29 less goals against the Metropolitan division and only played 6 less games.
A better picture is when you break the season up from the 41 game mark on January 10th. Montreal was 25-10-6 with a nine point lead on 2nd place Boston. They led the Atlantic in goals for and allowed the least goals against in the division. After January 10th, for the next 41 games? Montreal was 22-16-3, with the least amount of goals scored of any team in the division while still holding the 2nd least amount of goals allowed in the Atlantic.
In that final 41, the Montreal Canadiens were 16th in the league for points but 25th for goals for and 8th best for least goals against. In other words, things would have been a lot worse if not for the defence and goaltending holding up despite the goals drying up considerably. Think of it this way, Montreal and Colorado were separated by 13 goals and 13 wins.
Now I’m sure someone will say, well this is just cherry picking. Cherries are delicious. Montreal won 25 games in the first 41 and 22 in the last 41. That’s not a big difference! But in the first 41, Montreal scored 121 goals. In the final 41, they only scored 99. In the first 41, they 96 allowed goals. The final 41, only 102. Meaning the difference was allowing 22 less goals but only allowing 3 more.
If you can’t see how the team in the first 41 games was a contender and the team in the final 41 was a mirage, I can’t help you. And overall, it was a team that heavily relied on defeating the teams in its own division over the rest of the league. 35 total losses that year (regulation and OTL) and 24 were outside of their division.
There’s a reason why 16-17 was just another year of Carey Price carrying the team. But there were much greater problems and Bergevin addressed none of them. Instead he focused on getting gritty with the likes of King and Ott, instead of addressing the hole that was created by Julien losing faith in a clearly playing injured Galchenyuk, which I should remind folks had 23 points in 25 games by December 6th, 2016 playing centre with a +9, only to drop to 21 points in his final 36 games and a -14 getting bounced between centre and wing and every line because the team doctors couldn’t figure out he came back too early. You know, the same doctors that allowed Shea Weber to play on a fractured foot and thought P.K. Subban would have been ready to go at the end of 2015-16 if the Canadiens made the playoffs. Funny how Galchenyuk getting hurt and playing hurt and getting moved from centre is pretty much the same time the scoring dropped.
But hey, I just wasted a bunch of words on old news. This is what Bergevin wants back: a team that Carey Price carries with MVP level goaltending to win games that make everyone forget that the scoring isn’t up to par, there’s no real centre due to his ego (everything about Galchenyuk is 100% Bergevin’s ego), and that so long as the team plays well against their own division, they have nothing to worry about.
There is no fixing this. You just have to burn it down.