We know that the Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished off the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 last night in Game 5 to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, will face cap problems and the shortest offseason in history, as it’ll be just two-and-a-half months (so basically one month sober).
The Canadiens will be the more interesting franchise to watch and see what they’ll conclude from all this. At the end of the day, this was a team that finished fourth in a terrible division. Next year, the Lighting will return to the Atlantic, as well as Florida and Boston, with Toronto already there. Depending on how things go this summer, you wouldn’t even bet on the Habs making the playoffs again.
That doesn’t mean the Canadiens don’t do a lot of things right process-wise, which I’ve documented before. But they still lack top end scoring talent, which they just got a face-full of from the Lightning to show them how big the gap is. You can’t keep telling everyone you’re fine with Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli. Cole Caufield has future star written all over him, but he might be the only genuine top-liner they have. All of the teams they’ll be back in the division with next season can boast four or five. Carey Price will get his due, but will be 34 next season. They have some cap space, and could get more if they can jettison one or two of the old, slow defensemen they have. But after this run, will they decide they still have to have Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi?
Canadiens fans will remember this season for a while. But if they don’t recognize the gap up to the Lightning and their contemporaries after this, it might be all those fans have to hang onto for a while.