Season Preview: Montreal
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com
The Montreal Canadiens are a storied and proud organization. Finishing last in
the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference with a 31-36-16 record did not
sit well with ownership and major changes were implemented once the season
ended. Former NHL defenseman Marc Bergevin was hired to be the team's new
general manager. Scott Mellanby was brought in to be the Director of Player
Personnel and veteran NHL coach, Michel Therrien, will be the new man behind the
Montreal was busy wrapping up most of its free agents before the lockout as they
signed 12 players for the 2012-13 season and beyond. They added Colby Armstrong
from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Francis Bouillon from the Nashville Predators and
Brandon Prust from the New York Rangers.
At the 2012 NHL Draft, the Canadiens held the third-overall selection and chose
American-born Alex Galchenyuk from the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League
and signed him to a three-year entry-level contract.
There is obvious concern with who will put the puck in the net for Les Canadiens
this season. While they'll look for offense from Erik Cole (35 goals in
2011-12), Rene Bourque, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, captain Brion Gionta
and last season's leading scorer Max Pacioretty (65 points), there are too many
questions surrounding the overall scoring depth of this club. If Alex Galchenyuk
cracks the roster, likely as a winger, the Habs could benefit from his eye for
On the blueline, P.K. Subban was fifth in team scoring with 36 points last
season. Once signed, he will be ready to have a breakout offensive season and at
23 years of age, this should be the year when he begins to assert himself as a
true scoring threat. He has scored 21 career goals, with 14 coming on the
powerplay. After Subban, the offensive well is relatively dry. The big question
from the backend will be whether Andrei Markov has fully recovered from a
devastating knee injury that kept the Russian out of all but 13 games last
season. If healthy, and he seemed to be fine in playing in the KHL, Markov could
return to be the Canadiens' best defenseman.
In goal, Montreal will continue to place its fortunes on Carey Price. The 2012
All Star Game participant averages 54 games per season and has amassed a career
.916 save percentage to go along with a 2.56 goals-against-average. Last season,
Price was depended upon to make the big save too many times. He is an elite puck
stopper but needs a stronger defense in front of him to help clear rebounds,
block shots and keep the front of the net clear of opponents in order for the
25-year-old to get a clear view of the shots from the blueline. Price's backup,
Peter Budaj, is a capable netminder, but has appeared in 20 or more games in a
season just once during his seven-year career. If Price were to suffer an injury
that would keep him out of the lineup for a long period of time, the Habs may
need to make a deal for a starter in a hurry.
The addition of Armstrong should be a boost to both ends of the ice. Brandon
Prust will provide toughness, as will Bouillon, however, after finishing 13th in
the Eastern Conference in goals-scored, questions remain as to whether the club
can significantly improve in that department. The Habs are in dire need of
improved play from its blueliners or there will be some long, difficult nights
for Price. Sadly, for fans who flock to the Bell Centre, this could be another
long season (regardless of it's 48-game schedule). Expect the Habs to finish
last in the Northeast Division again.
3 Players to Watch
The Habs are counting on Pacioretty to have the equivalent of another 30+
goal season this year. Montreal hasn't had too many proven snipers over the
years and Pacioretty has all the skill to light the lamp on a regular-basis.
If the Canadiens want to make any noise this season, they're going to need
Plekanec to find the magic he had in 2009-10 when he tallied 70 points. The
Habs are thin in the offensive category and having a rejuvenated Plekanec
will help their playoff chances.
Gorges is the rock of the Montreal blueline. The Habs, especially Carey
Price, need him to be a strong leader on the backend.