Saturday night in Toronto was scheduled to be an end to what would be the Canadiens third consecutive non-playoff season.   For many, the fact that Covid19 prevented the Canadiens from playing the final eleven games of it’s schedule was a further act of mercy.

The last time the league played a game was March 12th.  Odds are heavily against the league getting back on the ice until October if not later.

In the 71 games the Canadiens did play,  they recorded 71 points. Projected to eighty-two games that would be eighty-two points which means a missed playoff berth by something like fifteen points.

That might be generous. Around the trade deadline the Canadiens thinned out their depth by unloading Nate Thompson, Nick Cousins, Ilya Kovalchuk and defenseman Marco Scandella. In the seven post-deadline games leading up to suspension of play the Canadiens were 2-4-1 including losses in their final three during which they were outscored 12-4. Based on that, and the fact that seven of their final eleven were on the road, a .500 record through a full schedule seems remote.

So what now?

We are told the NHL head office has any number of scenarios on it’s desk including, ridiculous as it might sound, a resumption of the season and some kind of a playoff in June, July or August.

The NHL, along with the NBA and NFL may talk a good game but ultimately any break in the mandated quarantine won’t be up to them. There may be a few outliers but there is no chance that all of the varying jurisdictions in Canada and the US are going to permit their arenas to be re-opened as long as there is even a small chance that Covid19 can be spread further. That means, for the second time in it’s history, a pandemic is going to prevent a Stanley Cup winner being declared.

Knowing this, we move on to another bit of outstanding business – the NHL entry draft.

We know this: the draft will not be held as scheduled at the Bell Centre on June 26th – 27th. Probably it will be replaced by a league-wide conference call.

So long as the league persists in it’s hockey-in-August fantasy which would include potential for changes in the overall league standings, there is no indication when the draft can feasibly take place.

But for our purposes let’s make the assumption the the 2019-2020 season is dead and gone. The league then must settle on a formula to establish draft position.  It’s my guess that there will be some sort of reference made to the shortened end-of-season standings. There may be other options considered but two immediately come to mind.

1) Because on March 12th, teams had played a varying number of games, any attempt to use the standings would have to be based on winning percentage

When the ‘pause’ was implemented the Canadiens were at .500 (31-31-9) – 71 points in 71 games. By percentage, that would leave them 24th in the overall league standings and eighth in the draft lottery just ahead of Chicago (.514) and behind Buffalo and New Jersey (.493).

  1. 2) The Canadiens are one of eight teams who have played a league-high 71 games. Two teams, the Islanders and Carolina have played only 68 games. There is some discussion of evening things up byt dialing back the season to the results of each team’s first 68 games. Since the Canadiens lost all three of their games between 69 and 71, their winning percentage increases to .522 (71pts. – 68GP) and their lottery position drops from eighth to ninth.

No matter what metric the league uses Detroit will be hold down the top spot in the draw with Ottawa second. By percentage, thanks to possession of San Jose’s first round pick through the Erik Karlsson trade, Ottawa will hold third as well.  If the league decides to use a 68 game schedule as their method of settling draft order, that the Ottawa (San Jose) choice would drop to fourth with Los Angeles moving up to third.

And for the chalk players out there: holding eighth the Canadiens have a 6.0% chance of winning first overall and 19.0% of drafting in the top three positions. If the Canadiens finish up 9th in the order their chances of winning are 5.0% and 16% in the top three.

A SUBJECTIVE VIEW OF A 71-GAME SEASON

Canadiens Leading Scorer -Tomas Tatar – 61 pts.

Top Goalscorer –  Tatar & Brendan Gallagher – 22

Most Valuable Player – Jeff Petry – Along with his 40 points, for the second straight season he picked up much of the defensive load as age starts to catch up with the team captain.

Steadiest Performer – Phillip Danault.  Not only did he finish second on the team with 47 points, playing against the league’s top centres he finished the season at a team-leading plus-18.  He also won 54.5% of over 1300 faceoffs.

Biggest Surprise – Nick Suzuki.  He was a 13th overall draft pick so we could expect a solid talent level.  But this good right out of junior………?

Biggest Disappointment –  The obvious choice would be Jesperi Kotkaniemi but he’s only a 19 year old so I’ll go with Max Domi.  Without a strong defensive game Domi is only effective when he puts up points.  A late season surge made his season look better than it was.

Most Improved Player –  I’ll go with Joel Armia.  Always a beast defensively, Armia finally showed some offensive flare with 16 goals and 30 points.

Have a nice summer.  See you in September…………or not.