The worst team in the 98 year history of the Canadiens was the 1938-39 version. Under coach Pit Lepine, despite a strong start to their season, that team won only ten of 48 games. The current edition of the team appears to be walking down the same road.
The 1938 Canadiens started it’s season 4-0-1. After ten games they were 6-2-2. And then they fell apart, winning only four of the season’s remaining 38 games.
The current version of the Canadiens seems to be walking down a disturbingly similar path. A 9-0-0 start. 19-4-3 after 26 games. And then… 4-15-1 since early December, the worst 20 game stretch in the seventy-seven years since that ’38-’39 team which, at it’s worst went through a 1-18-1 twenty game stretch. No Montreal team since has come close to that level of frustration.
After the 5-2 loss in Chicago Sunday night, the Canadiens now have lost their last four games. They still have a toehold on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but few would be willing to bet they will still have it by the All-Star break.
In January 2012 Pierre Gauthier traded away Mike Cammalleri in the middle of a game because he honestly spoke of the “losing mentality” that was permeating the Habs dressing room at the time.
Saturday, after the Canadiens blew two leads in St. Louis only seconds after they took them, and then lost the game in overtime, captain Max Pacioretty said “good teams win that game…..average teams win that game.” Whether he meant to state the Canadiens are beneath an average team or not, we can draw the inference. At least he didn’t mention ‘losing mentality’ although there is no question that is exactly what has infected the Canadiens dressing room over the last seven weeks. I’m pretty sure Marc Bergevin is not going to go the Cammalleri route on Pacioretty for stating what is obvious to anyone paying attention to the mess the hockey team has become.
It happened in Chicago again Sunday night. The Canadiens drew to within a goal of the Blackhawks with ten minutes remaining and then, for the second game in a row shot themselves in the foot by giving up the clinching goal just over a minute later.
Even at the best of times the Canadiens would have been hard-pressed to beat the Blackhawks Sunday night. It was their second difficult game in 24 hours and the Hawks are the league’s hottest team. It’s simply the body of work over the last forty-five days that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and indicates this team is closer to 1939 Habs and the 2016 draft lottery than a team that has pretensions of playing hockey beyond April 9th.
The current state of the team has little to do with the absence of Carey Price. This is all about what is happening away from the goal crease. Over the last twenty games they have scored 38 goals, which averages out to 1.9 per game. No team can contend for a playoff berth with that kind of offense.
Pit Lepine was fired at the end of the 1938-39 season and general manager Tommy Gorman brought in coach Dick Irvin and the modern era of the Canadiens began.
At the moment there is no Dick Irvin available to present-day Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.