If there was any club who benefited from the lockout, it would be Montreal. After a disastrous 2011-12 season that saw them finish dead last in the East, a makeover was necessary. Out was GM Pierre Gauthier, and coaches Jacques Martin and Randy Cunneyworth and in came GM Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien.
And the Bergevin-Therrien combination was able to restore the roar in Montreal as the Habs managed to win their division before bowing out in the playoffs to Ottawa. But there are a lot to look forward to with the team this season. They were able to make some additions on the ice and on the bench, and those changes hope to bring the Stanley Cup back to the most storied franchise in the league for the first time in 21 seasons.
Montreal is a good offensive team. That’s something they have never lacked. Last season they were second in the conference with 149 goals. What they did lack was size. While Bergevin wasn’t able to super size his squad overnight, he did manage to bring some quality players in. After buying out Scott Gomez, he added Daniel Briere. While Briere isn’t a big forward by any stretch of the imagination, he can bring more to the table playing the role Gomez was intended to play.
Some of the usual suspect scorers return, including leading scorer Max Pacioretty. Look for him, Briere and Tomas Plekanec to lead the way in terms of offense by putting up big numbers. The supporting cast has less notoriety but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Lars Eller had 22 assists last year, and he’s gonna need to continue that type of production. The same can be said for young players Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk, who combined for 24 goals and 31 assists.
If there’s any players who will need to produce more, it would be Rene Bourque, David Desharnais and Brian Gionta. The power play unit was pretty effective last season, finishing fifth at 20.7 percent success rate.
Montreal fans are sure glad they didn’t give up on P.K. Subban too quickly. The big defenseman was the best player in the first season post-Lidstrom era as he won the Norris Trophy. He is a game changer on the ice as he’s able to provide top-notch offense (he was second on the team in scoring behind Pacioretty) in addition to playing solid defense.
While Subban does deserve a lot of the praise, the biggest surprise was that the often-injured Andrei Markov played all 48 games for Montreal. When you have one of your top defenseman healthy for an entire season (shortened or not), it makes a difference. Depth can be a question once you go beyond Subban and Markov, but they do have a platoon of troops that include Josh Gorges, Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin. The lack of depth on the penalty kill could be a reason they slipped from 2nd in 2011-12 to 23rd last season.
You would think Carey Price would have played more comfortably and with less anxiety once Jaroslav Halak was shipped off but that wasn’t entirely the case. He still gives up the untimely bad goal and still had the late season struggle last year. Hopefully that all can change when Bergevin brought in new goalie coach Stephane Waite. The success of the team as a whole will depend on the success of Price. Once Price takes his game to the next level, then you can consider the Canadiens a Stanley Cup contender.
It’s difficult to call them a playoff team right now considering who they acquired in their division. I could see them snagging either the third automatic playoff spot from the division, or contend for one of the two wild card playoff spots. Like previously mentioned, the success of this season is dependent on whether or not Price can take his career to the next level.