The season is almost here. As the Detroit Red Wings prepare for their final season at Joe Louis Arena and a 26th consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoff, We look at how they’ll stack up against the rest of the division. Winged Octopus got together with different blogs who cover the teams in the Atlantic Division to put together a proper preview of the Atlantic Division.
Today we have Shannon from Habs Eyes on the Prize to preview the Montreal Canadiens. After an Injury filled season that saw them miss the playoffs, the Canadiens are looking to take the division back and make another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
The season that was:
The Canadiens started the 2015-2016 season on a high note, breaking records and showing just how much talent is stationed in Montreal. Then, well, they simply fell apart. Carey Price proved once again that he is the back bone of this team when, following what ended up being a season-ending injury, the Montreal Canadiens struggled game after game with offensive production, special teams, and team cohesion. The Habs missed the playoffs and fans were left with more questions than answers as we travelled into the off-season.
The trade that rocked the NHL:
The Canadiens made a few key moves during the off-season, namely the blockbuster trade of PK Subban for Shea Weber. This trade has been over-analyzed, so I won’t go into much detail, but it is going to be interesting to see how each athlete responds in their new home.
Additionally and often overshadowed, was the Lars Eller trade that occurred on the Friday evening of the 2016 NHL Draft. Eller was traded to the Washington Capitals for second –round picks in 2017 and 2018. The Canadiens then dealt their two second-round picks in 2016 for Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Aside from the trades, the Habs did make one move that all fans appear to have agreed on when they hired Kirk Muller as an associate coach. Muller was a part of the 1993 cup run with the Canadiens and was named captain during the 1994-1995 season.
The Canadiens also extended a few contracts to some exciting prospects like Artturi Lehkonen and Martin Reway. In addition, they signed Alexander Radulov, who is a bit of a wild card, to a one-year deal.
As much as I hate to admit it, with a healthy Carey Price, things look a little more positive for the Canadiens this season. Though Price looked a little shaky during his debut at the Worlds, which is to be expected after such a long stint away, keeping Price on the ice does wonders for the Habs’ confidence.
Hiring Muller should help to improve the special teams – especially the Canadiens’ embarrassing power play, which ended up ranking 25th in the league at the end of last season.
Where do I think the Canadiens will end up overall? To me, that depends on one key factor: Michel Therrien. If the Canadiens continue to play his dump and chase style of hockey, then I feel the Habs’ offensive production will continue to suffer, and a healthy Price will once again be their saving grace. The most unfortunate part of this safer style is that the Canadiens’ creative players like Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, and newcomer Alexander Radulov, won’t get to shine.
Tuesday, January 3rd – Montreal Canadiens vs. Nashville Predators (in Nashville)
Thursday, March 2nd – Nashville Predators vs. Montreal Canadiens (in Montreal)
Both of these games will be fun to watch for similar reasons. I am more excited for PK’s return to Montreal in March.
Tuesday, October 18th – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens (in Montreal)
The Habs’ home opener is always a spectacle. If there is one thing they do well, it is entertain the fans. Home opener is always electric.
I am loving the budding rivalry between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Canadiens. Having played the Lightning a few years in a row in the playoffs, Habs fans have a newfound distaste for another team dressed in blue and white.
And finally, the Canadiens continue to struggle with western swings, so keep an eye on their California trip in late November and when they visit western Canada in early March.
We would like to thank Shannon for the Preview and the help! Checkout Habs Eyes on the Prize and give her a follow on twitter for everything Canadiens!