Cornwall Ontario – Last season was a bleak year for Canadian hockey fans as nary a single franchise made it to the play offs from North of the border.
The Habs had an historic and epic fail after goalie Carey Price was injured. Some murmured about giving up or tanking for the season and many knew that Habs GM Marc Bergevin was going to trade star D Man PK Subban in what has been an utterly villianized trade.
It’s not that Shea Weber is chopped liver, but factoring age and contract in the Salary Cap era and it was as boggling as deal as the NJ/Edmonton deal that saw Taylor Hall get swapped for a mid grade D man. In 2016 how you manage your assets can be life and death for a GM, and franchise.
The good news is that when the pick drops to start the season between Ottawa and Toronto the prognosis for Play Off hockey in Canada is much stronger with as many as four of our six teams targeted to make the second season.
GM Marc Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien took a lot of heat for the team’s epic fail. If the team didn’t tank it would be interesting to know owner Geoff Molson’s reasoning for giving these two another season?
Bergevin made a strange comment about Chicago Black Hawk culture and wanting to instill that. Last checked the Habs were the NY Yankees of Hockey with more Stanley Cup banners than any other team in league history. Added to that is that the Chicago turn around truly started when one Scotty Bowman joined the team and of course their GM is his son Stan.
One might posit that it is in fact Old School Hab Culture that’s been missing and this season is the acid test for Mr. Bergevin’s career.
I wrote during the off season that Montreal needed to reach out and sign Alex Radulov and sure enough the Habs signed the talented Russian, sadly though for only one season. This could be an expensive issue if Radulov puts up 25 goals and 50 points as expected along with some grit and character.
Two 2rd picks for UFA Andrew Shaw? That seems pricey, and then Shaw was given a lucrative contract. He essentially was swapped out for enigmatic Centre Lars Eller who I think the team will greatly miss on defence. Eller had a narrow range of offensive success and seems to be one of the types of players that really needs to have chemistry with his winger to put up points.
Stymied from getting home town big winger/centre Pierre Luc Dubois who was drafted by Columbus, Montreal settled on another Russian in Mikhail Sergachev. The big d man has made the team and is considered the heir apparent to Andrei Markov.
Montreal is invested strongly in Russian players now and the pick will probably turn out to be a better one than Dubois in a few years.
Montreal really couldn’t finish worse than last season. Carey Price is back, although missing the first game because of the flu.
Les Boys will have to replace what Subban brought to the table, but they also will be harder to play in their own zone. Weber and Emelin in the same back end will keep a lot of players from skating with their heads down.
Price will play 40-50 regular season games and lead the Habs back for the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Tomas Plekanec will have a big year regardless of who he plays with, although it’s looking like Radulov and Galchenyuk have already found some chemistry of their own. Expect a 50-60 point season from the veteran centre.
Break out year for Galchenyuk. I expect big points, and like Subban before, a very expensive bridge deal result.
David Desharnais, team whipping boy, will rebound and put up over 40 points playing mostly on the 3rd line with some PP time. He’ll again struggle in the play offs.
Al Montoya is the perfect back up for Price. Good enough to start if needed, and veteran enough to be his back up as he did in Florida the last few years under Roberto Luongo.
Jeff Petry is already hurt, again. Even with a healthy Petry the Habs D still is missing a top 4 regular to be a cup contending team.
Max Pacioretty seems to be under a black cloud, as though somehow he’s to partially to blame for Subban being traded?
Add in the off season mayhem of it being reported that his coach thinks he’s not a great captain and John Tortorella comments during the World Cup and this season “Patches” needs to notch 35 goals and show leadership, especially as his cap friendly contract is up soon.
The Bottom Six is a hot mess. Bergevin seems to like finding “deals”, but the deals don’t seem to always mesh.
Cap management. Montreal has some very bad contracts. It also has some situations that could lead to costly mistakes.
Pacioretty and Price are due up soon. Radulov and Galchenyuk too. In the cap age you can’t afford to get saddled with bad deals.
This team has the potential to get out of the first round. Short of hitting career years for key people it’s not a cup contender. The squad has holes, but Bergevin may be able to trade his way into filling some of them.
If it looks like the team may miss the play offs expect a short leash for Michel Therrien, especially as his replacement is on the bench in Kirk Muller.
The odds makers have actually downgraded Montreal’s chance to win from 14:1 to 16:1 since the off season.
The team has seen improvement, but still a ways to go.
What do you think Hab fans? You can can post your comments below and stay tuned for predictions for all six Canadian teams!