clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Atlantic Division Preview: Montreal Candiens

Change is is needed to move the Habs in the right direction. Their off-season wasn’t a promising start.

Florida Panthers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

What They Did in 2015-16

Division: 6th

2015–16 Record: 38-38-6

Points: 82

Goals For: 221 (16 out of 30)

Goals Against: 236 (21 out 30)

What They Did This Off-Season

  • Traded their franchise player, P.K. Subban to Nashville for Man-Mountain Shea Weber.
  • Traded two second round picks for Andrew Shaw then gave him a dumpster truck full of cash to sloppily roll around in.
  • Signed Alexander Radulov formerly of the Nashville Predators and KHL to a one year $5.75 million deal.
  • Wisely drafted puck moving Windsor Spitfire’s defenseman Mikhail Sergachev 9th overall in the first round of this year’s draft.

2016-17 Outlook

It’s been tough go for the Habs. Now 23 seasons without a Stanley Cup, the longest drought in the most-storied franchise history.

It could be argued the franchise has found itself bronzed, unable to break out—in coaching style or management, or team promotion. The Canadiens seem plumb in the past. The biggest question of countless this season; will they finally move toward to the future?

The pieces are there.

Max Pacioretty; a pure goal scorer, often hemmed in, whose power and speed is little utilized in coach Michel Therrien’s paint-by-numbers system. If he breaks free, their captain will be a consistent 40 goal scorer and could reach elite heights.

Alex Galchenyuk is as promising a young forward as it gets. He got off to a solid start in his first season at center but bounced around so many line combinations at reduced minutes, it took time to get comfortable. Finally, ol’ Michel’s lightbulb clicked and paired him with Pacioretty but only after an injury to David Desharnais elevated him to top line. Chucky took off, scoring 11 goals and 17 points in his final 17 games.

We know plucky Brendan Gallagher is a pest, but an effective one, who plays his role well, finishing pucks down low and at times seems to be the only forward comfortable playing under Therrien.

And there’s solid old Tomas Plekanec, who wears cool turtlenecks and a mean goatee like it’s 1999. (I secretly think he’s Jagr’s age).

They signed Andrew Garbage Pail Shaw to a contract that damn near made Justin Abdelkader blush. Shaw has little skill but it’s adding a slightly taller, scary looking version of Gallagher. To my earlier point, that seems to be the lone style of forward consistently prospering in Montreal’s offensive system.

Of course, there was P.K.. A defenseman who at times ran both the zone-exit and entry for Montreal. He drove the powerplay and much of the offense from the back end. Yes, Subban, the face—for some, the wrong color—of the franchise, the bilingual, charismatic, philanthropic, photogenic, telegenic, all-star, warrior of a freaking hockey player is gone.

He’s inexplicably gone for a player three years older, significantly slower, significantly worse with the puck. He’s gone for a hunk of granite named Shea Weber.

(Author’s note: I suggest you pause, read all of link in the first sentence of the above paragraph by Matt Drake from fellow SB Nation blog Habs Eyes On The Prize because it’s succinct and perfect.)

Subban was not the problem.

The problem is Bergevin. The problem is the uber conservatism by him and Therrien. The idea the Habs will survive by continuing to dump and chase the puck, grind in the corners and play to protect a tie game no matter the actual score. Belief is if Price is healthy the Canadiens will be a Stanley Cup contending team. Corsi has taught us if you're routinely out shot and out possessed eventually it will catch up to you. When Price has been injured, the Habs have been a gaping wound.

You can’t run a system that shies away from the puck then expect your goalie to bail you out again and again like Herb Brooks running a ladder drill.

The Canadiens’ former head of analytics, Matt Pfeffer, was recently let go after fighting with the front office over trading Subban. It is not publicly known whether the role has been filled since.

Montreal will likely exploit a weak Atlantic division with a healthy Carey Price and scoot into the playoffs as a 3-6 seed. Price will always play a significant roll in their success, but unless they pair Pacioretty at wing with Galchenyuk at center regularly, or add speed at the deadline, I see them fizzling out and breaking the already tender hearts of a nation eager to erupt into a celebration that’d make Mardi Gras look like bingo night.

Bergevin did make one good signing this off-season. High-scoring Alexander Radulov is back in the NHL from the KHL on a one year, low risk-high reward deal. Funny though, an organization that seemed to have such "character issues" with Subban had no trouble signing Radulov who was ironically run out of Nashville for being such a locker room cancer. Still, he’ll help Pacioretty, Galchenyuk, Gallagher and Pleckanec as long as they aren’t split up to play with Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell, which they probably will be. You know, you need those glue guys.

The Habs have the individual talent. They scored themselves a great draft pick in skilled Windsor Spitfires defenseman, Mikhail Sergachev who could make an NHL impact sooner than later. Galchenyuk is set to be a star and Pacioretty a supertstar. We know Price is a generational talent.

This incredible franchise can best honor the past—as they’re obsessed with—by progressing with the game to win. Bergevin, Therrien and the franchise as a whole need to embrace change.

This season is a pivotal one, they’re not off to a good start.

Be sure to visit Habs Eyes on the Prize for fantastic, in-depth, analysis and opinions on "Bleu Blanc et Rouge" OLE!