Top 5 Canadiens Disappointments of 2023-24 - The Hockey Writers Montreal Canadiens Latest News, Analysis & More (2024)

The playoffs may not have been a realistic goal for the Montreal Canadiens in 2023-24. However, fans still had certain expectations heading into the season, for what was likely still going to be a losing team. For the most part, the Habs met and even exceeded them, even if they can finish in the same spot in the standings two years in a row.

Related: Top 5 Canadiens Feel-Good Stories of 2023-24

After all, if you’re not going to make the playoffs, you may as well put yourself in a position to draft high. Plus, having made some progress in terms of points earned, it’s not like the Canadiens haven’t improved. Considering general manager Kent Hughes effectively threw in the towel a month before the trade deadline by dealing Sean Monahan early, proper context says the Habs were even better than their current record indicates, probably in line for greater success in 2024-25.

Top 5 Canadiens Disappointments of 2023-24 - The Hockey Writers Montreal Canadiens Latest News, Analysis & More (1)

It’s still hard to call 2023-24 a far-sweeping success in its own right, when the Canadiens did lose much more often than they won. The first entry on this list of the team’s top five disappointments delves deeper into that one undeniable fact:

5. The Canadiens’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad January

Perhaps missing the playoffs resonates with many as a sore spot, especially considering at one point in late December the Canadiens were within striking distance. They took advantage of an easy schedule to go 8-4-3 heading into the holiday break, at which point they were four points back of the last Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Top 5 Canadiens Disappointments of 2023-24 - The Hockey Writers Montreal Canadiens Latest News, Analysis & More (2)

It was not meant to be though, as the schedule got significantly tougher. The Canadiens lost their remaining three games in December, before falling further off the pace in January, leading into the decision to trade Monahan when they did. It wasn’t as much their mediocre 5-5-3 record, although the .500 hockey only ended up losing them ground in the playoff race, as they found themselves 10 points out on Feb. 1. It was more so the way they lost:

  • They lost 6-1 to the non-playoff Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 4.
  • They lost 6-2 and 4-1 to the non-playoff Ottawa Senators over a span of just five days.
  • They lost 3-2 at home to the last-place San Jose Sharks on Jan. 11.
  • They got embarrassed 9-4 by the Boston Bruins on Jan. 20, a night the opposition embarrassingly celebrated a single playoff win over the Habs in 1988.

They also won fairly embarrassingly on occasion, all of which ran counter to the culture to compete from whistle to final buzzer head coach Martin St. Louis had seemingly already instilled. For example, on Jan. 25, they nearly let a first-period 3-0 lead over the New York Islanders slip away, before Monahan scored the game-winning 4-3 goal late.

All that to say, Hughes can be forgiven for trading him a month ahead of the deadline like he did, because, based on how the team performed to start the calendar year, they just weren’t going to compete down the stretch, which may have left a sour taste in some fans’ mouths.

4. Justin Barron’s Demotion

Objectively speaking, there’s little shame in being demoted as an up-and-coming prospect. However, tell that to Arber Xhekaj or worse yet Justin Barron, each of whom eventually got sent down after having made the roster out of training camp for all intents and purposes.

In Xhekaj’s case, upon his NHL return a few months later, he seemed to become more of a complete player. Barron still has a lot more to prove in that regard, having recently gotten called back up in response to injuries to Xhekaj and Kaiden Guhle. Considering Barron also plays on the right, where there was much less depth, the decision to send him down in January could easily be misinterpreted as a developmental failure with regard to a former first-round pick (whereas Xhekaj was undrafted).

However, Barron is still just 22. Defensem*n typically take longer to develop. Even though this is still the time to make mistakes, as the Canadiens continue to rebuild, and they could easily be forgiven for looking the other way in the name of “letting the kids play,” they could just as easily be forgiven for taking a different approach and sending him down instead. In other words, there’s still time for Barron to earn a permanent spot. You probably had just wished he had done so before the Habs had no other choice but to keep him up, as he will no longer be exempt from waivers in 2024-25.

3. Cole Caufield’s Goal Production

When you come within a few goals of 50 in your first 82 games under St. Louis, you generate a lot of hype. Fans came to hope/expect Cole Caufield would pick up right where he left off when he notched 26 goals (and 36 points) in 46 games in 2022-23, before his season got cut short due to injury. As it happens, over the entire 82-game 2023-24, he’s scored just two more (28).

Forget the fact Caufield has produced at effectively the same rate (65 points in 82 games). Fans wanted to see him become the team’s first 40-goal scorer since Vincent Damphousse in 1993-94, maybe even challenge for 50. And it would have been undeniably great to see, putting Caufield’s scoring struggles in competition for top spot on this list.

However, those struggles are overstated. In the grand scheme of things, there’s simply little to worry about when it comes to Caufield, especially when the other aspects of his game, like his playmaking and defensive awareness, have improved dramatically. If you choose to see the signs he’s simply been unluckier than normal, his evolution into more of a complete hockey player is actually a positive that should pay even greater dividends once his scoring touch returns.

2. Just Josh Anderson

With a $5.5 million cap hit through 2027, Josh Anderson must deliver more than the intangibles he does as a speedy forward with size and grit. He has to produce more often than he has… and that arguably goes for his entire Canadiens tenure. He’s never scored more than 21 goals and 32 points, albeit through 69 games.

This season, with nine goals and 20 points in 78 contests, has gone considerably worse, though. Anderson seemingly turned it around in December, when, after opening the season with two assists through the first 1.5 months, he scored six goals and three assists in 13 games to close out the calendar year. However, the rest of the way, he’s scored just three goals and nine points, the amount as in that one month, for which he won the Molson Cup.

The nine points Anderson scored in December were great. However, it’s worth noting ex-GM Marc Bergevin signed him to the long-term contract he did largely in response to the 27-goal, 47-point season he put together in 2018-19 (with the Columbus Blue Jackets). So, he should arguably always be producing at that pace. It shouldn’t be an outlier for which he gets an award.

To be fair, Anderson has spent most of his time on a bottom-six line with Jake Evans and Brendan Gallagher. However, it would be disingenuous to argue he hasn’t gotten his share of chances, after having started the season on the top line with Caufield and Nick Suzuki. For a time, once Kirby Dach suffered his season-ending injury early on, he played the wing on another top-six line with Alex Newhook and Juraj Slafkovsky, which, to pull no punches, sucked.

The latter two have since turned their seasons around, pointing to Anderson as the weak link. There’s zero empirical evidence to suggest otherwise, with Canadiens fans facing two less-than-ideal scenarios to start next season: Either the Habs pay him as much as they do to continue to play a bottom-six role or they give him another chance, presumably on a line with Dach once he’s healthy, in the hopes of salvaging something out of his contract.

1. Kirby Dach’s Lost Season

No one really knows how much a healthy Dach would have changed the outlook of this season. However, it’s fair to say, after a breakout campaign last season, he’d have had a positive impact in providing depth and stability down the middle to give the Canadiens two legitimate top-six centres for the first time in decades.

Now, Suzuki has arguably emerged as a legitimate No. 1 centre this season. Many have speculated in the past that Dach has enough upside to eventually usurp him, which is, forget food, a feast for thought. So, Dach getting injured in Game 2 was a major blow to the team’s prospects for the season, not to mention his development as a now-23-year-old who has already spent significant time on injured reserve. Of the 410 possible games he could have theoretically played over his five seasons in the NHL, he’s suited up for just 212 (mostly as a result of injury).

So, it isn’t just that, with Dach healthy, the Canadiens could have made more of a run at a playoff spot. Especially with the Habs now in line for a higher draft pick, it’s more so the risk that his ceiling has been irreparably stunted.

However, to put it in perspective: Dach is a former third-overall pick who just started to reach his potential. Habs fans will gladly take both, but, if it’s one or the other, they should want a healthy Dach first and foremost. Now, they’ve got to wait until next fall to know for sure that he is (along with their accompanying playoff chances in 2024-25).

Top 5 Canadiens Disappointments of 2023-24 - The Hockey Writers Montreal Canadiens Latest News, Analysis & More (2024)

FAQs

Top 5 Canadiens Disappointments of 2023-24 - The Hockey Writers Montreal Canadiens Latest News, Analysis & More? ›

The operating income of the Montreal Canadiens franchise of the National Hockey League reached 99 million U.S. dollars in the 2022/23 season. By contrast, the operating income of the franchise was at 116 million U.S. dollars in the previous season.

What is the operating income of the Montreal Canadiens? ›

The operating income of the Montreal Canadiens franchise of the National Hockey League reached 99 million U.S. dollars in the 2022/23 season. By contrast, the operating income of the franchise was at 116 million U.S. dollars in the previous season.

Who did the Montreal Canadiens pick up? ›

Montreal Canadiens Transactions 2024

Signed D Lane Hutson to a three-year, entry-level contract. Signed F Florian Xhekaj to an entry-level contract. Recalled D Justin Barron from Laval (AHL).

Who did Montreal Canadiens trade this year? ›

Canadiens acquired Jacob Perreault from the Anaheim Ducks. Canadiens traded goaltender Jake Allen to the New Jersey Devils.

Who is the highest paid Montreal Canadiens? ›

Montreal Canadiens
Player (23)Pos.Total Cap Hit
Carey PriceG$10,500,000
Nick SuzukiC$7,875,000
Cole CaufieldRW$7,850,000
Brendan GallagherRW$6,500,000
19 more rows

Is Carey Price still getting paid? ›

Price's eight-year, US$84-million contract runs through the 2025-26 season and while he will continue to get paid, he will remain on long-term injured reserve and won't play.

Why are Canadiens fans called Habs? ›

The Montreal Canadiens are an ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL). Their nickname is the "Habs" (short for the French "Habitants", early settlers in Quebec from France). They have won the Stanley Cup championship 24 times, more than any other team.

How much did Geoff Molson buy the Canadiens for? ›

tap here to see other videos from our team. It was June 2009 and George Gillett Jr. had just agreed to Molson's bid, later reported to be $575 million, to buy the Canadiens and the Bell Centre.

Who is 72 on the Habs? ›

Arber Xhekaj (Albanian: Arbër Xhekaj, pronounced /dʒækaɪ/, Jack-EYE, born January 30, 2001) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League (NHL).

What did Habs get for Jake Allen? ›

The Montreal Canadiens traded goaltender Jake Allen to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional third-round draft pick Friday ahead of the NHL trade deadline. The pick in the 2025 draft could become a second-round selection if Allen plays in 40 or more games for New Jersey next season.

What did Montreal get for Jake Allen? ›

Jake Allen was traded to the New Jersey Devils from the Montreal Canadiens on Friday for a conditional third-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.

Who was the goalie traded to Montreal? ›

The Canadiens acquired Allen in a trade with the St. Louis Blues in September 2020 and then signed him to a two-year, $5.75-million deal, his first of two pacts inked with Montreal. Allen was the backup to Jordan Binnington on the Blues' 2018-19 Stanley Cup-winning team.

Which NHL teams are the most profitable? ›

The Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs had the highest revenue out of all the National Hockey League franchises in 2023. In that year, the two teams each had a gross revenue of 281 million U.S. dollars.

What is the operating income of the Boston Bruins? ›

The operating income of the Boston Bruins franchise of the National Hockey League amounted to 57 million U.S: dollars in the 2022/23 season.

What is the NHL operating budget? ›

The average cost of operating an NHL team is approximately $70 million per year.

Are NHL teams profitable? ›

In the 2022/23 season, the National Hockey League franchise Toronto Maple Leafs had the highest operating income in the league. The Maple Leafs, who play their home games at the Scotiabank Arena, reported an operating income of 127 million U.S. dollars in 2023.

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