(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)
Last Season: 50-22-10, 110 points, second in Eastern Conference and NHL, bounced by Lightning in Round 2.
2014-15 Season, In One Tweet
Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?
The off-season for Marc Bergevin was more about opening the pocketbook to current Canadiens, bumping the team right against the cap, than it was massive roster shake-ups. The team is relatively the same with a few changes.
Bergevin traded one of the most annoying players on earth, Brandon Prust, to the Vancouver Canucks for another pest in Zach Kassian. Kassian is an RFA after the season, and Bergevin takes on slightly less of a cap hit.
The most reconizable free agent to don the bleu, blanc et rouge is Alexander Semin. The once heralded Semin was bought out in Carolina, allowing him to explore other opportunities. As one of the bigger names in the FA pool, Semin took until the end of July to ink a one-year, $1.1-million contract with the Habs. Good, low-risk deal for the team.
Montreal bought out the remaining two years of P.A. Parenteau’s contract. They allowed center Manny Malhotra and defensemen Bryan Allen and Mike Weaver to walk.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Carey Price, G
Carey Price won all the trophies in the off-season - literally all the trophies he could have won, he won - except for the one he really wanted, La Coupe Stanley. The question with most players after a tremendous season is if he can do it again. With goaltenders, this is always a tricky question. Price was and will likely continue to be a workhorse for the Canadiens. He played in 66 games posting a 44-16-6 record with 9 shutouts this past season and 1.93 goals-against. Can he stay healthy enough to put the Habs on his back and do it again?
2. Max Pacioretty, F
Rumors are Max Pacioretty is the odds-on favorite to become the next captain of the team. The captain in a hockey-mad market wears a heavy burden, especially when you don’t speak French. (And he’s an American?! SACRE BLEU.) Why giving the ‘C’ to Max makes sense is because he’s a skilled and consistent player - with an even temperament - whose numbers keep getting better. He led the team in scoring with 67-points (37G, 30A) with 10 game-winning goals. For whatever you put in the statistic, he lead the league in plus-minus at plus-38. If/when he does get the ‘C’, the test is whether his play can stay steady in the bright, hot spotlight of the Montreal media.
3. P.K. Subban, D
And then there is PK. The 26-year-old defenseman tied Tomas Plekanec in points with 60, good enough for second on the Habs, and earned a second Norris nomination in his young career. He’s the captain of the fans’ hearts and a media darling (when he wants to be). He’s even learning French because he loves Montreal and will be there for the next seven years. Everyone knows what P.K. can and will deliver. The thing to watch with him is the relationship between himself and coach Michel Therrien. If Subban loses his faith in the coach, he has the power over the dressing room - regardless of who wears the ‘C’.
4. Tomas Plekanec, F
From the ‘13-’14 season to the ‘14-’15 season, Plekanec posted a 17 point improvement, placing him second on the team in scoring. Reaching the 60-point plateau was the highest he’d recorded since ‘09-’10 when he scored 70. He has one year left on his current deal and there has been no contact between the two sides regarding an extension. Best guess is Bergevin is waiting to see if Plekanec’s resurgence is for real before going above and beyond the 32-year-old’s expiring six-year, $30-million contract.
5. Alexander Semin, F
This could be Semin’s last shot in the NHL. The forward is only 31-years-old. By no means is he a dinosaur in the league, so are his best years really behind him? He has the opportunity to once again resurrect his career. Should he be counted on in important situations? No. Could he make an already dangerous offense more lethal? Yes… if he’s back to old form.
Potentially The Best Thing About This Team
Carey Price can make up for miscues by the defense and the offense can pummel their opponents into submission.
Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team
The myriad of centers Bergevin has stockpiled can’t compete against the Anze Kopitars or the one-two punches down the middle around the rest of the league.
Dream 3-on-3 OT Group
P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, and Tomas Plekanec. Defense be damned! All they have to do is score first and never let the other team touch the puck. Ever.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
Eight-ish. Marc Bergevin’s end of season press conference wasn’t an all out vote of support for Michel Therrien, but more of a neutral-ish ‘he won’t be fired tomorrow’ kind of statement. Therrien’s job has been in jeopardy for what feels like years. This might actually be the season he goes should he lose the buy-in of the players, or if he lasts the full year, falls anywhere short of the Stanley Cup.
As for the fans at any moment of adversity during the season, we should look to Spinal Tap for the rating:
Awkward Old School Video Break
Their Best Case Scenario Is …
Price stays healthy the entire season. He repeats his monster performance in the regular season AND through the playoffs. As long as his team can score one more goal than he lets in, the Habs cruise.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is …
The players lose patience with Therrien early and dig a huge hole. Even after a coaching change, the team is too far behind to come back and make a play for the playoffs. OR Price gets injured.
The Cup window is small with this group of players. Team is good enough to make it to Eastern Conference Finals, but relying on Price too much wears him down. No Cup means no job with the Habs for Michel Therrien.
PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators
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