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They’ve gone 10-20-2 since then, tumbling from first place in the conference down to three points out of a playoff spot.
But it is just three points. There is hope. And of course, there’s the hope that the reigning MVP and top goalie in the NHL will ride in and literally save the season.
It’s hope that the Canadiens have helped create by being coy with Price’s status. GM Marc Bergevin said in January that Price would be out at least another month – bad news in the context of the initial prognosis, but good news in the sense that he’d be back.
But La Presse reports on Friday that this is basically a ruse. Price is still suffering from an injury to the MCL of his right knee. They didn’t opt for surgery, but rather for rehab. It’s hasn’t worked, and the chances are “slim” that he’d be back for the end of the regular season or the playoffs.
From Richard Labbe:
Sources say team is no longer hoping for his return to action, as Price has been out since November with right knee injury, still not confirmed by team. At this point, the optimistic scenario appears to be for Price to return by season's end, maybe in time for playoffs, if the team can make it that far in April.
"The team doesn't think he'll be back for the regular season at this point, wondering whether it is really worth it to try and push for him to come back, said an unnamed source with knowledge of the situation. They can's say that publicly, they want to keep any hopes alive, however small. They don't want fans to quit on their team. There is a marketing element to this."
There’s some validity to this, as empty seats have been seen at Bell Centre during the team’s swan-dive down the standings.
But like many teams, the Canadiens seem to underestimate the appetite of their fan base. Many have written off the season. Many have written off the coach. Many have decided that it’s better to shut down Price, enter the lottery and try again next season with a fresh start.
If they’re marketing hope, the fans have already brought it. Just not the brand the Canadiens are currently selling.