The most optimistic fans of the Canadian hope to see their favorite club fight for a place in the playoffs next year and, who knows, take part. Is this realistic from the second year of its reconstruction?

Let’s draw a parallel with three neighboring teams on the rise, the Ottawa Senators, the Buffalo Sabers and the Detroit Red Wings.

The Senators began their rebuilding phase four years ago, in 2018-19, when they traded stars Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene six months apart.

That of the Red Wings, more timid, began a year earlier. In Ken Holland’s last two trade deadlines in Detroit, he has amassed an additional first-round pick, three second-round picks and three third-round picks for Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyqvist, Nick Jensen and Petr Mrazek. Steve Yzerman pushed the rebuild even further when he arrived in 2019.

The Sabers began their most recent rebuild, a third in a row, with the arrival of general manager Kevyn Adams in 2020. Adams continued the team’s rejuvenation phase(s) by trading Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, but his predecessor Jason Botterill had already begun his own rebuild by trading Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane for picks and prospects in 2018.

To simplify things, let’s roughly trace the beginning of the rebuilding of his three organizations to 2018.

Four years later, in September 2022, we aspired in all three cases, especially in Ottawa and Detroit, to a place in the playoffs.

The Senators have taken great steps to achieve this, after five consecutive exclusions. Pierre Dorion gave up his seventh overall pick, his early second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick last summer to acquire Alex DeBrincat. Dorion also offered free agent Claude Giroux $19.5 million for three years.

As he felt his team getting closer to his goal in recent weeks, he gave the Coyotes another first-round pick in 2023 (currently ranked 12th) and second-round picks in 2024 and 2026 for defender Jakob Chychrun.

With four losses in their most recent five games, the Senators are six points behind the New York Islanders and the final playoff spot with two games in hand. But they also have to get ahead of the Panthers, Sabers and Capitals who will face each other a few times by the end, so one or the other will get points.

A sixth consecutive exclusion would not be dramatic for Ottawa since players DeBrincat and Chychrun are aged 25 and 24 respectively and have joined a still very young core; but it demonstrates how much patience is required with reconstructions.

Yzerman also believed the time had come to participate in the playoffs this year. He awarded free agents David Perron, Andrew Copp, Ben Chiarot and Dominik Kubalik $61 million last summer.

But seeing that his Wings were going to miss the playoffs for a seventh straight season, he took a step back at the trade deadline by trading Tyler Bertuzzi (eventual unrestricted free agent) and Filip Hronek for first-round picks.

The Sabers are the only ones who have not made any special arrangements in order to take the next step. But they already had an impressive amount of talented young players. They now find themselves five points behind the Islanders, with three games in hand.

The Canadiens can still surprise us next year. But the reconstruction began only a year ago with the arrival of Kent Hughes, let’s not forget that. And its three rivals mentioned above are a few years ahead in their rejuvenation phase.

Unsurprisingly, Jayden Struble is now a member of the Canadian organization. Struble’s close ties to general manager Kent Hughes helped convince him to prioritize his long-term development over a quick spot in the NHL.

This second-round choice, 46th overall, in 2019, has also signed a second contract, American League, allowing him to end the season with the Laval Rocket. His National League contract will be in effect at the start of the following season.

Struble, a tough but offensively limited defender, will have competition in the coming years. The CH has an impressive amount of left-handed defensemen aged 22 and under in its organization: Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj, Lane Hutson, Adam Engström, Mattias Norlinder and William Trudeau, surprising this winter at the Rocket.

Hughes nevertheless believes in Struble enough to take a long-term bet with him. It leaves far behind most of the other cities above, but you never know…

1- Guillaume Lefrançois offers us the details of the hiring of Jayden Struble.

2- Auditions continued at the Canadiens on Tuesday in Pittsburgh and Alexandre Pratt tells us about the most deserving.

3- Samuel Piette received the warmest welcome Tuesday at the CF Montreal season launch at Club Soda. Justin Vezina was there.