The reason: the team is still alive. Their situation has greatly suffered of late, sure. There have been ugly losses. But giving up on the season makes little sense. I feel the arguments from the other side are hollow and clutching at straws, like this via Mike Boone:
A postgame rant from the pressbox a few games ago:
"I hope they don't make the playoffs. That way, they can spend the off-season cleaning house and getting their s--- together.
"If they make the playoffs, that will just camouflage everything that's wrong. Maybe they'll win a couple games or fluke off a round and everyone will say 'Great! This team is on the right track.'"
No, the ranter wasn't me. It was a veteran beat reporter who has seen the Canadiens rise and fall through many more games than I.
Hope the team doesn't make the playoffs? Clean house and get their s--- in order?
The outlook is as knee-jerk as they come. And I don't care how many games this reporter has seen the Canadiens rise and fall through. My main question to him would be: "What do you expect Gainey will be able to in the off-season that he wouldn't be able to do if they made the playoffs?"
In my mind, there's absolutely no added benefit from missing the playoffs. None.
Nothing is preventing the team from making the identical changes they would make come a playoff exit as they would in the event they don't make the playoffs. Would the public outcry be harsher? I'm not sure – out in the spring is out in the spring to this and many fans. The only thing that has the power to gloss over Habs fans demands are Stanley Cups, not second round charades in Philadelphia. The season will not be forgotten, and a playoff round lost will only accentuate any feelings.
The only time it does make sense to lose is when you are going to do it properly and get the rewards of a sure thing draft pick like Tavares or Hedman. However, thanks to the pitiful efforts from Long Island, Phoenix and Atlanta (yet again), it's too late for that. In our situation, picking 20th is not going to be that different to picking 13th, I'm afraid. Deep drafts are the stuff of mythology. Guaranteed goods beyond pick 3, let alone pick 12, don't happen, ask Benoit Pouliot and Gilbert Brule.
Losing more now, besides placating the "guru" quoted above, would achieve nothing at all. It angers me that someone would utter the words, even more so that he be revered for it.
This year's chances in context
Personally, I think this year's team will have better chances than any team we can assemble for next year, or probably even a few years. Sure, the team has slumped hard since mid-January, but if we let Tanguay, Kovalev and Schneider go, who does reporter A see coming in to replace these guys?
Our rookies don't have a 20-goal man among them (maybe Pacioretty one day in the distant future), much less a Kovalev or a Tanguay. Our defencemen are regressing, will they be better than Schneider in a season?
What's more, we're not the only team to bid in this year's UFA market. The Islanders (armed with the additional jewel that is Tavares or Hedman) will also have almost all their space to play with. Other teams like Toronto, Ottawa and others will all be there to play with money. Going into July 1 in hope of coming out with one useful piece is bad enough, to think you'll replace 3 or 4 is far too optimistic for the perennial bridesmaids in Montreal. Last time I checked we had Hamrlik, not Rafalski or Timonen; Lang, not Hossa.
Think of the season like a game
I find that this approach helps. To win the "game", a team must place in the top 8 in their conference, nothing more, nothing less.
Yes, it is disappointing that we all thought we'd be taking a few games off watching this team by now, singing some "Na, na, na, nas", but the game is not over. In this analogy, we blew the 4-0 lead we had coming out of the first, but we are still tied going into the last 5 minutes of the third. Perhaps it is a miracle that we are tied, perhaps there have been a few posts or wrongly disallowed goals, but a draw it is. No one complains about saves from the posts after a win.
The really funny thing is, just like a game, this is exactly the type of drama we all really crave. The scoreboard watching. The meaningful games. This is edge of the seat stuff. Everyone's favourite moment of last season was the 6-5 comeback. Everyone's favourite playoff series of late the 3-1 series turnaround. Nobody is harping on about the 5 goals we gave away to the Rangers cheaply or the 3 games we could have competed better for in 2004. And, let's face it, for this year the jubilation of clinching in game 82 will be a long-awaited OT-winner compared to the empty netter to go up 3-0 that the Bruins just scored with their clinch.
In my mind, the goal for this team hasn't changed: get into the playoffs. We'll worry about the rest later.