It was a tough year for the Montreal Canadiens last season. Finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference and 22nd in the league, a combination of things attributed to this. Key players going down to injuries like Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Jeff Petry to name a few. A team losing morale it was time for a change and Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin did just that. Bergevin shocked the hockey world on June 29th when he traded fan favourite and All Star defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for fellow All Star defenseman Shea Weber. Before that blockbuster trade, Bergevin was busy on the draft floor in Buffalo, New York when he sent Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals and minutes later acquired forward Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks. After playing in the KHL for the past 4 seasons with CSKA Moscow, Alexander Radulov decided to come back to the NHL and signed a 1-year, $5,000,000 contract with the Montreal Canadiens. An offensive backbone they’ve been missing in the past few years. To top it all off the Canadiens added depth in defenseman Zach Redmond and goaltender Al Montoya.
To say that Montreal had a busy off season would be an understatement. The Canadiens have one of the best looking teams they’ve had in a long time but every year they can’t seem to get past the hurdles to go on a lengthy playoff run. Here is 3 things that guarantee success in Montreal:
1. Don’t Overuse Carey Price
Just hear me out. Last year Carey Price had the lengthiest injury of his career and was sidelined for almost all of the season only appearing in 12 games. In those 12 games? The Canadiens were 10-2-0 and Price posted a .934 save%, 2.06 GAA and 2 shutouts. He’s the best goalie in the game and is good enough to win your team games. However, if he’s overplayed he will get injured and your team will not be able to carry the load. The solution? Price now healthy and coming off an amazing performance at the World Cup of Hockey, do not start him more than 60 games this season. He can win you 35+ in those games and not be in major risk of injury. Injuries can happen in any circumstance, but this will help curb that. As mentioned earlier, the Habs signed goalie Al Montoya and have a proven backup in Mike Condon who will be fighting for the #2 goalie spot. If both goalies play well, let them split the remaining 20 games and if each goalie wins 5, you have a playoff team. However, if Price goes down, so will the Canadiens.
2. Secondary Scoring
Only 4 Canadiens forwards scored more than 30 points last season. That’s not even 2 and 1/2 lines. Should Alexander Radulov play a full season, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he scored 60+ points and led the team in scoring. Their top 6 is complete with Alexander Radulov, Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk and new comer Andrew Shaw. With that being said however, the Canadiens lost their premier offensive defenseman in P.K. Subban, so the bottom 6 on the team will have to carry more of the load. Young players on the rise will put some relief on the bottom 6. Sven Andrighetto, 23, is set to play his first full season with Montreal and can put up 30 points with ease. Daniel Carr is another player looking for a full time job and will likely post 20+ points. Plagued by injuries, Stefan Matteau was acquired by the Canadiens at last years Trade Deadline in exchange for Devante Smith-Pelly, who went to New Jersey and scored 13 points in 18 games. Between Montreal, New Jersey and the Devils AHL affiliate Albany, Matteau scored 2 points in 33 games. Unless a new look could overhaul his career, this trade could bite Montreal in the behind. Looking to be on the decline, Desharnais will be Montreal’s third line centre but will be their most consistent bottom 6 player. Paul Byron and Torrey Mitchell will round out the bottom 6 and should Matteau fail to impress, Brian Flynn will slide into that spot. The potential is their but their young bottom 6 will need to step up and perform.
3. Defensive Structure
Acquiring Shea Weber was the best thing possible for the Canadiens. Instead of having two offensive defenseman as their top pair, Markov can play a more risk taking style trying to put more points up. It’s no surprise Subban wasn’t the most reliable defenseman in his own end, Shea Weber on the other hand is. Looking at the two bottom pairs, Petry and Beaulieu are both solid two way defenders, along with Alexei Emelin and Zach Redmond. This team needs to effectively use their blueline and position themselves in the proper direction this season. Last season was god awful and if that is repeated with Price, somebody better be fired. Although, the acquisition of Shea Weber not only solidifies the defensive core, but helps the leadership group immensely. We’re talking about the guy who spent his last 11 seasons in Tennessee. Weber was an outstanding captain and more so a leader, one who leads by example. The Canadiens must utilize all three of their defensive pairs in order to be successful. Don’t be surprised to see Nathan Beaulieu get more and more ice time as the season progresses. With Markov getting older, the Canadiens should try and transition Beaulieu into the role in which he will play in the near future.