Montreal Canadiens Decade: A Season by Season Review

Carey Price, Shea Weber (Photo by TVA Sports)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA — The countdown is on. The ball will be dropping soon signalling the end of the decade. As we head toward 2020, let’s first reminisce on the decade we are leaving behind.

Setting the stage, the year is 2010, Scott Gomez is one of the stars on the Canadiens, Jesperi Kotkaniemi is nine years old, and the Price vs. Halak debate is going strong.

2010

The Canadiens started the decade with a 1-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on January 3rd, 2010.

The Canadiens were without a captain and only managed to go 18-14-7 in the 2010 portion of the 2009-2010 regular season. Regardless of those factors, the Habs landed themselves a seed in the 2010 playoffs.

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In the first round, the Habs faced a large obstacle, the President’s Trophy-winning, Washington Capitals. The Canadiens were the eighth-seed and only accumulated 88 points over the course of the regular season. However, they managed to win game one of the series.

Most people assumed it was a fluke. This seemed to be confirmed when the Capitals won the next three straight. Montreal however did not give up. They battled back in games 5-7 and became the first eighth-seeded team to come back after being down three games to one against a number one seeded team.

After conquering the President’s Trophy winners, there was a glimmer of hope in the hearts of Habs fans. After just squeezing into the playoffs, could they make a Cup run?

Unfortunately for the Canadiens, their next opponent was the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canadiens took game one, and then Pittsburgh took game two. This pattern continued until it was a one-game series to be decided in the seventh game.

Thankfully for the Canadiens, the back and forth pattern of the Canadiens winning and then the Penguins winning, continued into game seven. The reigning Champions were eliminated and the Habs were headed to the Eastern Conference Final.

Next the Canadiens met the Philadelphia Flyers. This was the first time a seventh and eighth-seeded team met in the Conference Final. The Flyers seemed like a much easier opponent than those the Canadiens were tasked with in the first two rounds. That however was not the case and the Habs surprising Cup run was cut short when the Flyers beat them four games to one. The Habs went 9-9-1 in the playoffs and it was on to the next season.

2010-2011

The Carey Price vs. Jaroslav Halak debate had been going on for a while, but it was finally settled on June 17th, 2010. Playoff hero, Jaroslav Halak, was traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Lars Eller and Ian Shultz. Management had made their stance on the Price vs. Halak debate crystal clear. This sparked outrage from fans, many claiming that management had kept the wrong goalie. Regardless of what anyone thought, the Canadiens had made their decision and were heading into the 2010-2011 season with Price as their starting goaltender.

Before the regular season commenced, the Canadiens named a new captain, the first since Saku Koivu. It was announced that Brian Gionta would wear the “C.”

The season was a disappointment. After a deep run the year prior, anything less than the Stanley Cup would have been a disappointment in the eyes of Habs fans. The Canadiens came nowhere close to the Cup, as the Bruins put them out in the first round in seven games. The Habs went 44-30-8 in the regular season and 3-1-3 in the playoffs.

A notable moment from the 2010-2011 season was that on February 5th, 2011, Gomez scored a goal, which ended up being his last for more than a year. His scoreless drought lasted 60 games. It was not until February 9th, 2012 that he finally netted another one.

One of the scariest moments of the decade was on March 8th, 2011. Max Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra (broken neck) as a result of a check by Zdeno Chara. Chara received a one game suspension, so the league conducted a review but found him undeserving of further discipline.

Montreal fans were outraged and ended up flooding the police phone lines demanding Chara’s arrest. Pacioretty spoke out saying he did not wish things to escalate further. A year after the hit, Pacioretty claimed that it made him a better player as it caused him to grow up.

2011-2012

The 2011-2012 season saw the Canadiens’ worst start to a season since 1941. The Habs went 1-5-2 to start the season, having won only a single game until October 26th. Although the Canadiens did manage to temporarily turn things around, the team did not have a good season.

It was frustrating for the team as well as the fans. On January 10th, 2012, Mike Cammalleri spoke up saying, “I can’t accept that we will display a losing attitude as we’re doing this year. We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So, it’s no wonder why we lose.”

It was suggested that perhaps this was a misrepresentation after being translated into French and then back to English. Nonetheless, his words sparked outrage. Just two nights later, Cammalleri was removed from a game against the Bruins, because the team had traded him to the Calgary Flames. It is not often that a player is traded mid-game, leaving many stunned.

Cammalleri was not the only one who lost their position with the Habs. On March 29th, 2012, it was announced that Pierre Gauthier had been fired as the team’s general manager. The Canadiens finished last in the East with a 31-35-16 record.

2012-2013

The 2012 offseason saw numerous changes to the Canadiens, unsurprising after placing last in the East. On May 2nd, Marc Bergevin was named the team’s new GM, and just over a month later, he had named a new head coach. ‘New’ may not be the correct word however, as Michel Therrien had previously coached the Canadiens from 2000-2003.

After a disappointing season, the Habs had the third overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which they used to select Alex Galchenyuk. 2012 saw an extended offseason because of the lockout. As a result, the season was shortened from 82 games to 48.

The shortened season, as well as the personnel changes, seemed to benefit the Canadiens. The team had a 29-14-5 record, putting them in second in the East, a big jump from their last place finish the previous season. The excitement however was short-lived. The Habs were put out in the first round by the Ottawa Senators (1-3-1).

After being eliminated in the first round, Bergevin headed into free agency looking to improve the team. Bergevin signed Daniel Briere to a two-year contract.

As the season started, the “EGG” line, consisting of Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk, and Brendan Galllagher, was thriving. They combined for 18 points in the first four games of the season.

Unfortunately, while the EGG line was sunny side up, David Desharnais was scrambling. He only managed to tally one assist over the course of the first 18 games. His slump triggered attention from the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coddere. Coddere tweeted, “Hello? Can we get a one-way ticket to Hamilton for David Desharnais please…”

As you can imagine, the tweet received backlash, however, it was clear that much of Montreal had begun to give up on Desharnais. Michel Therrien was not one of those people. The coach took a shot on Desharnais allowing him to participate in the shootout on November 15th, 2013 against the Columbus Bluejackets. Desharnais scored the game winner. He went from zero to overtime hero all because his coach gave him a shot. Desharnais went on to accumulate 51 points in the last 61 games in the season.

With Desharnais and the rest of the team heading in the right direction, Bergevin made a few transactions to bolster them for a deep playoff run. He added Dale Weise, Mike Weaver, and Thomas Vanek, who all proved to be valuable additions.

The Canadiens were red-hot heading into the 2014 playoffs and that continued through the first round. Rene Bourque was the standout as the Habs swept the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the second round, the Habs came head-to-head with their biggest rivals, the Bruins. Game one set the stage for a dramatic series. P.K. Subban scored the game-winner in double overtime. The series was intense, and it took seven games to decide a winner.

The Canadiens emerged victorious and headed to the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in five years. Could this really be the year? It was a very real possibility. Carey Price was on top of his game and all the pieces seemed to be clicking.

The New York Rangers were the only thing standing between the Canadiens and the Stanley Cup Final. The Habs worst nightmare came to fruition in game one, Price was injured and out for the remainder of the series. Dustin Tokarski had big skates to fill, after having played just three regular season games with the team. He however managed to register a .916 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average.

It was the Canadiens offense, or perhaps more accurately Henrik Lundqvist, that led to the Canadiens’ demise. They were eliminated in the Conference Final with a 10-5-2 playoff record.

2014-2015

During the off-season, Subban inked an eight-year, $72 million contract. This made him the highest paid defenseman in 2014-2015. He, alongside Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, and Andrei Markov, were named alternate captains prior to the season commencing. The team however started the season once again without a captain after parting ways with Brian Gionta. This did not seem to hold the Canadiens back as they went 50-22-10. Montreal entered the playoffs as the top-seeded team in the Atlantic Division.

Along the way, Canadiens’ alumni were a focus during the season. On November 8th, 2014, Guy Lapointe’s number five was retired and hung from the rafters. Then, in December, there was very sad news in the Canadiens’ family. Mr. Jean Beliveau had passed away at the age of 83. Mr. Beliveau was a man known for his tremendous skill and for displaying utmost class. The hockey world mourned his passing.

Mrs. Beliveau watched as her late husband’s team headed into the playoffs. Montreal won their first three games of the postseason. They were on the verge of sweeping the Senators, but they pushed back. It took the Habs six games to move onto the next round. The second round against Tampa also lasted six games, but this time it was not the Canadiens moving on.

At the end of the 2014-2015 campaign, Price received a number of awards. He had played remarkably all season long, perhaps the best hockey by any goalie in the history of the league. There was certainly no questioning that he was the best goalie in the world.

Price was awarded the William Jennings Trophy (fewest goals allowed), the Vezina Trophy (best goalie), the Ted Lindsay Award (M.V.P. voted by NHL Players Association), the Hart Trophy (M.V.P. voted by NHL Professional Hockey Writers’ Association). Price became the first goalie in NHL history to receive all four individual awards in the same season. He also won the Lionel Conacher Award as the best Canadian athlete and the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete.

2015-2016

In September, after a player vote, Pacioretty was named the team’s 29th captain. The Canadiens were headed into the 2015-2016 season with a new captain and Price at the top of his game. The Canadiens had their best start to a season in the team’s history, going 9-0-0.

This hot start, however, quickly flamed out. After seeing their greatest start to a season in history, the team went on later that season to see their worst slump since 1939-1940. The season was a story of a team plagued with injuries.

On October 27th, the Canadiens suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks – losing 5-1. The big loss however came two nights later, when Price suffered a lower body injury that kept him out of the line-up until November 20th. Just five days after returning to the line-up, Price re-aggravated his injury and missed the remainder of the season with an MCL injury.

Brendan Gallagher was also out for six weeks after attempting to block a shot and taking the puck to the wrist. Subban’s name was another added to the team’s long list of injuries. He collided with Alexei Emelin on March 10th, sustaining a neck injury that would keep him out for the rest of the season.

This ended up being Subban’s last game in a Habs jersey as he was part of a blockbuster trade that shook the hockey world. On June 29th, just days before his no-trade clause kicked in, Subban was traded to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Predator’s captain, Shea Weber. This trade was extra shocking as Subban had made a pledge to raise ten million dollars over seven years to the Montreal Children’s Hospital less than a year prior.

2016-2017

Starting the 2016-2017 season, people were eager to see how the players would perform after returning from injury and how the Subban-Weber trade would pan out for the Canadiens. Alexander Radulov and Andrew Shaw had also joined the team over the offseason so there was lots of anticipation.

The team however was hit with another round of injuries. Galchenyuk, Desharnais, and Gallagher all had extended stays out of the line-up with various injuries. The team had started the season on another hot streak, but the injuries were hurting them. The Habs only managed nine wins in their first 21 games of 2017.

On Valentine’s Day, Marc Bergevin decided that a coaching change was the answer. It felt like a flashback in time, as for the second time, Michel Therrien was fired as head coach of the Canadiens and replaced by Claude Julien. The team seemed to perform well under their new coach, winning 9 of 15 to close out the season. This hot streak solidified them the Atlantic Division title for the second time in three years.

The Canadiens went 47-26-9 during the regular season but were eliminated by the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. This stung a little extra as the Rangers were also the ones who cut the team’s 2014 playoff run short.

Bergevin had a busy offseason. On June 15th, Jonathan Drouin was acquired from the Lightning in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev, who was one of the Canadiens’ best prospects. Nathan Beaulieu was also traded for a third-round draft pick and Emelin was lost in the expansion draft. The Canadiens had the 25th overall pick at the 2017 entry draft and selected Ryan Poehling whose NHL debut would be a highlight of the decade, but more on that later.

2017-2018

In 2017-2018, the Canadiens had a rather unremarkable season, finishing 6th in the division with a 29-40-13 record. The team, except for one player, missed the playoffs. Plekanec had been traded to the Leafs prior to the trade deadline and was an impact player in the Leafs playoff run. Plekanec’s time as a Leaf was however short lived. After a first-round exit with the Leafs, he signed back with the Canadiens.

In the 2018 entry draft, the Canadiens had the third overall pick after such a disappointing season. The team surprised many by picking Jesperi Kotkaniemi rather than Filip Zadina.

Next, was free agency, during which the Canadiens lost two key players. Alexander Radulov signed with the Dallas Stars and Andrei Markov headed back to Russia to play. Another notable move by Bergevin over the offseason was signing Price for another eight years. Price had earned himself an $84 million contract as one of the best goalies to ever play the game.

2018-2019

Just when Habs fans thought Bergevin was done, he traded Pacioretty to Vegas in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a second-round pick. After Pacioretty was traded, the Habs named Shea Weber the club’s 30th captain. Weber however did not join the line-up until the end of November because of injury.

First round draft pick, Kotkaniemi, impressed management during the preseason and made the line-up. He continued to impress all season long. Kotkaniemi excelling was a sign that the Habs roster was shifting toward the younger generation. On November 11th, long-time Montreal forward, (although he detoured to the Leafs very briefly) Tomas Plekanec, hung up his turtleneck and retired from the NHL.

Over the course of the season, the Canadiens posted a 44-30-8 record. They finished the season with 96 points, tying the NHL record for most points by a non-qualifying playoff team.

Although the team missed the playoffs, their last game of the season was a memorable one. Ryan Poehling made his NHL debut against the Leafs and it was one for the history books. Poehling scored a hat trick in his NHL debut and then also went on to score the shootout winner.

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2019-2020

The Habs had the 15th pick in the 2019 entry draft and used it to select Cole Caufield. The team is halfway through the season but there have not yet been many notable moments. They are in a tight playoff race with a large portion of the Atlantic Division. Time will tell whether they miss the playoffs yet again or manage to sneak in.

Regardless of whether or not they make the playoffs, it is clear that the Canadiens have a bright future ahead of them; players such as Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi cement that notion.

2020 and beyond

Over the course of the decade, the Canadiens made the playoffs six times, where they landed themselves in the Conference Final twice, the Conference Semi-Final once, the Conference Quarter-Final three times, and failed to qualify for the post-season on four occasions.

In the decade prior, the Canadiens also missed the playoffs four times. In the 2010’s however, the team seemed to be trending in the right direction. They had not managed to make the Conference Final in the 2000’s, but managed it twice during this decade.

From the 2009-2010 to the 2019-2020 season, the salary cap has jumped from $56.8 million to $81.5 million, exceptional careers have started and ended, and a new generation of fans have sworn their allegiance.

The decade has seen numerous highs and lows. There have been deep playoff runs where fans felt like they were on top of the world and times that brought them to their knees in tears. The coming decade is sure to be filled with more of these moments, but that’s why we love the game so much.

One positive that fans can look forward to, is the Habs have promising, up-and-coming prospects that are sure to make the team fun to watch for years to come. Although it is largely unpredictable what this decade holds for the Canadiens, I can almost guarantee echoes of, “who won the trade?” will still be heard.

Fans have many unanswered questions as we head into the new decade. Will Kotkaniemi turn into the top-line centre man the Canadiens have tried so desperately to draft? Will the Habs finally win their 25th Stanley Cup? Will the Habs find a suitable backup goalie?

Price was the one constant bright spot during the previous decade and although we look forward to many more great seasons from him, in the 2020’s, he will likely have to pass the torch to someone else. That is likely to be the story of the decade.

Wishing you all happiness, health, and lots of Habs wins in the New Year!

By Caitlyn Golem, Staff Writer.
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