The Montreal Canadiens are in the Stanley Cup Final with a chance to win a championship. They will need to defeat the reigning champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning to do so. While this is an exciting time for the Canadiens, a championship for the Habs could be bad for the Senators.
How Could a Habs Championship Affect the Ottawa Senators?
While it might sound crazy to think that a Habs championship could affect the Ottawa Senators, it is not out of the realm of possibility. What I mean is that if the Habs win a championship, it could affect how the Sens management team approaches their rebuild and their perspective on what it takes to win.
Before we get into the weeds of this conversation, I think it’s important to say that I am taking nothing away from the Habs run. After all, what they’re doing is similar to what the Sens did in 2017. They are getting tremendous goaltending and excellent depth scoring while playing a smothering defensive style. They deserve to be where they are now, and there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t win the Stanley Cup.
With all that said, the Montreal Canadiens would not have even had the opportunity to make this run if this were a regular season. They would not have made the playoffs. Since there were different divisions this year, there ended up being nine Eastern conference teams that made the playoffs, and the Habs had the fewest points out of that group. Obviously, things would not have played out exactly the same in a normal season but based on the information we have from this season, they would not have made the playoffs.
Ottawa Senators fans should know better than anyone that an underdog playoff run does not mean you will have future success. It is far more likely that the Canadiens will take a step back next year than it is they will have the same success. With that said, we do not want Pierre Dorion to see this run and start to think that all they need to do is make the playoffs to win a championship.
Making the Playoffs Is Not Enough to Win
Low seeds go on deep playoff runs all the team. Almost every year there is a team that goes on an unexpected run to the Conference or Stanley Cup Finals, but it’s rare that they win it all. In the past 10 years, the Stanley Cup winner had the following seed in their conference: 2nd, 5th, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 1st, 8th, and 3rd. The three teams that were not top 4 seeds were the St. Louis Blues in 2019, the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, and the Los Angeles Kings in 2012.
The Blues were the 5th seed, and they were a team that had been in Stanley Cup contention for years. They were a popular preseason pick after they traded for Ryan O’Reilly and signed Tyler Bozak, but they struggled to start the season. Fortunately for them, they turned into the hottest team in the league as the playoffs began.
The two LA teams were low seeds, but both teams were looked at by experts as stronger than their record indicated going into the playoffs. Not only that, but they acquired Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik at the 2012 and 2014 trade deadlines respectively.
As you can see, teams don’t come out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup. Cinderella teams usually get stopped at some point, and if the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup, they will be the exception, not the rule.
Hope Doesn’t Win Championships
If the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup, the Ottawa Senators are one of the teams that could fall into the trap of hoping for a miracle run. Dorion and Melnyk may see the Habs win and think that as long as they make it to the playoffs they will have a chance, but that would be a terrible mindset to adopt.
The Sens could make the playoffs next season, but if Dorion is satisfied with being a wild card team they will never win. Being a wild card next season is fine, and even the year after, but at some point, the Sens need to become a top-three team in the East if they have any hope of winning a championship. The Sens went on miracle runs to close on the regular season in 2013 and 2015, and they had a miracle run in 2017, and they didn’t win a Stanley Cup in any of those years. They need to be better than that because hope doesn’t win Stanley Cups, great teams do.