Arena: Bell Centre
GM : Marc Bergevin
Coach: Michel Therrien
2015/16 Record: 38w 38l 6otl -82pts. 6th in Atlantic Division.
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
The Canadiens enter the 2016/17 NHL season looking to atone for last seasons collapse with new faces and a familiar one back between the pipes. Montreal will have Carey Price returning fresh off a standout performance at the World Cup. Other new faces this season include Shea Weber, Alexander Radulov and Andrew Shaw. This is the make or break season for the Bergevin/Therrien regime. It’s now or never. A slow start out of the gate will have Therrien looking over his shoulder from the get go. Built for a high tempo game with the focus on skill the Habs will be counting on Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and the aforementioned Alexander Radulov to put enough pucks in the net to pull out wins. The defence returns Andrei Markov who still possesses a decent offensive upside. Shea Weber will keep the front of the net clear allowing Price to see and stop pucks.
Coach: Michel Therrien is walking a thin line. After being the driving force behind the Subban/Weber trade and failing to adjust the teams style of play during Prices absence last year he is going to be on a short leash this time around. Should the Canadiens falter out of the gate Therriens shelf life will quickly expire as Montreal fans won’t have the stomach for a repeat of last season.
Forwards: The Canadiens return much of last years group and will again count heavily on Pacioretty and Plekanec along with Radulov to supply the offence. Is this the breakout season for Alex Galchenyuk? The slick center has yet to show consistent play at the NHL level although he has not be given a shot at the number one center position which is where he could shine brightest. Any offensive improvement from Galchenyuk would be welcomed. Brenden Gallagher, Andrew Shaw and Torrey Mitchell will hound, annoy and pester opposition forwards on a nightly basis but won’t supply much on the offensive end. Montreal continues to be on the smallish side at forward and will need some prospects to challenge for roster spots. As a group the Canadiens forwards are average at best.
Defence: Shea Weber arrives in Montreal on one end of the puzzling and shocking PK Subban trade. A monster in from of the net the heavy hitting defenceman still brings a decent offensive upside to his game and should log tons of minutes. Andrei Markov is aging but still efficient with the puck. Great working the point on the powerplay Markov should put up decent numbers again this season. The rest of the Canadiens defence appears to be throw aways and spare parts. Jeff Petry and Alexander Emilin are workable NHL defencemen but are average at best.
Goalie: Carey Price returns to the Montreal net this season and is the best reason for optimism in Habland this season. If Price returns to his Vezina form, and judging from his World Cup performance he has then Montreal may be able to find enough wins to sneak into the playoffs. Al Montoya and Mike Condon will battle for the job of opening the gate on the Habs bench.
Prediction: 90 points, 7th in Atlantic Division. Montreal will want a fast start to rhe season to erase the taste of last years disaster from their mouths. Slowly but surely there is a changing of the guard in the Atlantic Division. Buffalo and Toronto continue to improve though shrewd trades and the draft while the Canadiens seem stagnant and unsure of how to proceed. The return of Carey Price will allow some stability but undersized and underskilled forwards will leave the Canadiens a lottery pick team. Montreal fans are usually spoiled with a contending team and the boo birds will be out early if the Habs struggle. I think Therrien will be gone by American Thanksgiving with Bergevin joining him by Christmas. Canadiens management, in my humble opinion is the worst in the NHL. Unable or unwilling to make a trade or adjust coaching style both Bergevin and Therrien left the Canadiens and their fans hanging out to dry last season and both will pay the price for it this year. Personal conflict or dislike of PK Subban led to the trade with Nashville. While Shea Weber is a workhorse stud defenceman he is also six years older, has more term left on his current contract at a higher rate of dollars than Subban. The trade didn’t make sense to me when it happened and it still doesn’t now.
It’s going to be a long season in Montreal, but it’s always darkest before the dawn. The Canadiens need changes, more size more grit and more heart. I just don’t see Marc Bergevin being the architech of a successful rebuild.
The ghosts of Canadiens past must be turning in their graves, and that is how I see it, from the bleacher seats.