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Monday, September 30, 2013

The Montreal Canadiens Getting Ready for Season Opener... With a Few Questionable Calls

By: SHAWN LAVOIE (@SLavoie54)

Opening night is finally right around the corner, and the Montreal Canadiens are in the final stages of preparation to kick off the season at home against the hated Toronto Maple Leafs.


Here is how the lines look like:



Max Pacioretty
David Desharnais
Daniel Briere
Rene Bourque
Tomas Plekanec
Brian Gionta
Alex Galchenyuk
Lars Eller
Brendan Gallagher
Travis Moen
Brandon Prust
George Parros
Michael Bournival
Ryan White

Josh Gorges
P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov
Raphael Diaz
Jarred Tinordi
Francis Bouillon

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

If the lineup doesn’t change for tomorrow’s game, the team will feature a very balanced top-9 forward group and an extremely physical fourth line. The Pacioretty, Desharnais, and Briere line will be the line who will be most counted on to contribute offensively, with the EGG line as a secondary offensive line. Plekanec’s line will receive most of the defensive assignments while the bottom line will act as a support line. Obviously, Moen, Parros, and Prust will be counted on to swing momentum in the Habs’ favor with their physical play.

The defensive unit has a few question marks however. Gorges and Subban is a solid top pair. They can play in all situations, and should eat up a ton of minutes. Things look shaky after them though. Markov and Diaz isn’t the most reliable pairing. Markov isn’t a top level skater anymore, and Diaz isn’t the ideal partner for him. Diaz hasn’t had a great camp, and hasn’t shown that he can play top-four minutes yet. Tinordi and Bouillon are two defenders who usually play on the left side, so one of them will play on his off-wing. Therrien faces are real puzzle with his defensive corps early on this season with Emelin, Drewiske, and Murray now on the injured reserve list.

Moen-Prust-Parros as a Line, and Markov on Penalty Killing.... Really?

It is understandable that Therrien wants to have a line that can stand up against Toronto’s tough guys, but at the expense of using an actual center on the fourth line? Prust is not a natural center. Yes, he’s already been used their a few times, but he can’t win face-offs as regularly as White or Bournival, who are both natural centers.

If the coaching staff wants to have a physical bottom line so badly, why not us Ryan White at center? He’s an extremely physical player, and he will fight anybody, like he showed by fighting Chris Neil twice against the Senators during pre-season. It is okay to use Parros as he can take care of the fisticuffs if need be, and Prust is indispensible. So why not scratch Moen and dress an actual center? Only the Habs’ coaching staff knows.

Another questionable decision is having Andrei Markov on the penalty killing team instead of Subban. Honestly, why? Why not use the Norris trophy winner on the penalty killing? Why not use the player who was one of the team’s best penalty killers two seasons ago instead of the player who obviously has lost a step and ran out of gas at the end of last season? Again, only the coaching staff knows.

If Therrien wants to maximize his assets and give himself the best chance to win, he will need to use a natural center on his fourth line and use Subban on the penalty killing instead of Markov. The Russian rearguard should now be used as a power play specialist from now on. He shouldn’t see more than 20 minutes a night, while Subban should see 25+ minutes per game, like other elite defensemen. Not using Subban in every situation is a complete lack of logic and hurts the team.

As for the lack of natural center on the fourth line, this is the perfect example of a coaching staff concentrating more on gooning up rather than putting the best team on the ice. It is okay to use an enforcer like Parros when you’re facing a big physical team with a few fighters in their lineup, but you can’t sit down your natural centers and use three wingers to have a tougher team. Even worse, Moen was used at center during a few exercises during practice. This defies any sense of logic and reason. Moen has never played center during his career. Would you seriously want to have Moen take a faceoff? Even if Therrien is smart enough to not use Moen at center, who would you rather have take a faceoff, Prust or White?


Despite all this, the Montreal Canadiens will show up tomorrow with good chances to win. They have the better offense and the better goaltender heading into the game. The Leafs have a better defense, but in the end the Canadiens’ balanced attack should be able to win the game, as long as the team stays disciplined. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jarred Tinordi Making A Lot Of Noise In Training Camp

The Canadiens have played five pre-season games so far and rookie defenseman Jarred Tinordi played all five of them due to a rash of injuries on the blue line and the fact that he has been the best rookie defenseman by a mile in September. Michael Bournival and JT have been the biggest surprises in training camp for Les Glorieux and both players are making a case for the themselves to stick with the big club come October.

Drafted 22nd overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Canadiens and Trevor Timmins, the 6'6'', 215-lb rugged defenseman has made great strides offensively and defensively since last season. Tinordi played eight games with the Habs in 2012-13, notching two assists, after spending most of the campaign in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. In 67 games with the farm club, Tinordi scored 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 points to go along with 71 penalty minutes. The son of Mark worked very hard on his positioning and his skating during the lock-out with great success.

With Alexei Emelin out at least until December with a serious knee injury and Davis Drewiske slated to miss a least one month with a shoulder injury, Tinordi is bound to begin the season in Montreal, we just don't know his role yet. A left-handed defenseman, Tinordi would be guaranteed a regular spot if he was right-handed with only P.K. Subban and Raphael Diaz as RHD on the Habs' defensive brigade. 

As a result, Tinordi will have to battle with veteran Francis Bouillon and newcomer Douglas Murray for playing time on the left side (assuming Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov are the top-two defensemen on the left side).

While Josh Gorges and Francis Bouillon can also play on the right side, head coach Jarred Tinordi is not convinced the rookie would be able to make such a transition as shown last night against the New Jersey Devils when JT was tried on his unnatural side without much success. With Emelin out of the line-up, Tinordi is the best option to replace the physical element that Emelin Boom gave the team last season before his terrible knee injury. With Subban, Markov and Diaz all offensive-minded rearguards, the remaining four defensemen, namely Gorges, Bouillon, Murray and Tinordi, will be asked to provide toughness and grit in front of Carey Price and play heavy minutes on the penalty kill.

Will Michel Therrien go with the experience and defensive awareness and dress Bouillon and Murray, or will he go with speed and toughness and dress Tinordi? With two exhibition games remaining before the start of the season on October 1st, I'm fairly certain we'll see Tinordi at least one more time, especially if Douglas Murray is unable to go as he is still nursing a groin injury.

I consider Tinordi to be the team's fourth best defenseman already behind Subban, Markov and Gorges, and you where do you see him?

No Foolin' Fred Poulin

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Impressions on the Montreal Canadiens’ Training Camp Thus Far

BY: SHAWN LAVOIE (@SLavoie54)

First off, I was as surprised as anyone when I learned that Leblanc was cut by the Montreal Canadiens. I thought that he was having a decent camp, but as Therrien mentioned, Leblanc was going down early no matter what. Could he have been able to force the team’s hand by having an amazing camp? Maybe, but the team’s idea was already made. Some people are starting to write off Leblanc, but I still believe in the Pointe-Claire native to eventually develop in a decent third liner. To give himself better chances, the forward will need to develop some kind of specialty, like a PK specialist for example.

As for the other cuts, I was at first to see the likes of Reway and Hudon among the cuts, since they were impressive with their talent level. However, it’s logical that they were cut early since they would have never made the team.

Now, about the players that are still here, I had the chance to see the inter-squad scrimmage, see Monday’s game against Buffalo, and Wednesday’s practice. I can tell you that I would make room for Jarred Tinordi on the team. The kid has improved tremendously since last season. He is a much better skater, enough to keep up with most forwards, and is obviously stronger. So far, in my opinion, he looks much better than Murray and Drewiske, who are slated ahead of him in the depth chart.

Speaking of Murray, he is slow, reeeeeeally slow. I don’t know if he really has a lower body injury­­ – which could explain his turtle like pace – but I get the feeling that this is just a cover up because he is in the middle of trade talks since Tinordi has been outperforming him.

That or it’s Drewiske leaving, once he comes back from that injury he suffered in a weird accident with Bouillon.

Watch out for Galchenyuk. The 19 year old phenom is obviously bigger, stronger, and faster. His talent level is completely insane and he looks confident. Forget the sophomore jinx for him; he will have a great season.

Gallagher also won’t suffer from the sophomore jinx. He’s too much of a hard worker to see a decrease in his production.  Gallagher, Eller, and Galchenyuk could become the team’s top offensive line.

Andrei Markov looks much more comfortable on the ice now compared to last season. Having a full summer to work-out without rehabbing an injury has obviously helped him. He looks quicker and more agile, which can only be good news for the Habs. He still shouldn’t see more than 23 minutes of ice time per game, nor heavy penalty killing minutes, but he should still be the team’s best point producing defenseman after Subban.

Speaking of which, P.K. is a bull! During Wednesday’s practice, Subban and Galchenyuk would battler along the boards, and it was quite the thing to see. You could see their talent level on display, and I can tell you that both of these young franchise players won’t disappoint this season. Subban looks as quick as last year and stronger.

Michaël Bournival is very impressive this year so far. Scoring two goals against the Sabres is good way to impress, but it’s his work ethic and awareness that impresses. He always seems to know where to position himself and he isn’t shy to play the physical game. He may very well have taken Louis Leblanc’s spot on the depth chart and earn himself the right of being the first injury call-up this season.

Even though lots of people compliment McCarron’s game, and with good reason, he still has ways to go before being an NHL player. Yes he skates well for his massive frame, but he still kind of looks awkward on his skates. He doesn’t seem to have a fluid stride like Tinordi has, or his agility. He still has lots of work to do on his skating and his puck skills. However, he does seem to have good instincts on the ice and he uses his large body effectively. I’m looking forward to see how he fares when he goes back in the CHL.

Now let’s hope the Habs start winning some games.

(Photo by Clause Anderson/Getty Images North America)


Follow me on Twitter at SLavoie54

5 Burning Questions about the 2013/2014 Montreal Canadiens

Photo Credit: Montrealhockeytalk.com
Greetings Habs Addicts!!


The start of the 2013/14 NHL regular season is only 10 days away.  The Canadiens have already made some roster cuts - of note, former first round pick Louis LeBlanc was sent down to Hamilton very early - and the final roster is starting to take shape. As baseball season winds down (mind you, as a Toronto Blue Jays fan, it unofficially wound down 3 months ago), my focus is now back where it belongs: With Montreal Canadiens hockey!


Each year there are questions we have about the team.  Last year I had questions like: 
  • Will the players buy into Michel Therrien's system? (Yes)
  • Will Alex Galchenyuk spend the season in the NHL or go back to junior? (NHL)
  • Will P.K. Subban hold-out for a large chunk of the season? (Nope, just a few games)
  • Will Andrei Markov hold up for the whole season? (Yes, but performance did not)
  • Will Pacioretty-Cole-Desharnais be a potent line combo again? (Absolutely NOT)

Everyone has those questions that keep nagging at them. The ones that just keep burning inside your head when you think about the upcoming season. Here are my 5 burning questions about the Habs:


1. With new goalie coach Stephane Waite guiding him, will Carey Price finally meet our high expectations?

Stephane Waite comes to Montreal from the Chicago Blackhawks where he spent ten years as goalie coach. Waite was a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams, and each winning team had a different set of goaltenders (Antti Niemi/Cristobal Huet in 2010; Corey Crawford/Ray Emery in 2013).  Overall, Waite brings over 30-years of coaching experience to the position. During his extensive career, Waite has also worked with Craig Anderson, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jocelyn Thibault, Brian Boucher, Felix Potvin, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Michael Leighton, Patrick Lalime, and Marty Turco.  Some of them are journeymen; some of them are All-Stars. All of them have had a level of success at the NHL level.

Since being drafted 5th-overall in 2005, Carey Price has been a lightning-rod with fans and the media for both praise and criticism.  Price came in with high expectations and thus far in his career, has not truly lived up to them.  In 2007, he led Canada to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships, and finished his junior hockey career with the Tri-City Americans where he won the Del Wilson trophy as the WHL's top goaltender.  At the conclusion of the junior season, he signed his 3-year entry level contract and joined the Hamilton Bulldogs for their Calder Cup winning playoff run.  Not only did Price start, he excelled.  Price won the Jack A. Butterfield award as Calder Cup MVP and capped off his remarkable year by winning the CHL goaltender-of-the-year award.  Expectations in Montreal for Price could never be higher.

Since making the jump to the NHL at the beginning of the 2007/08 season, Price has been wildly inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. No one ever questions the talent, but his desire and dedication has been suspect over the years.  Prior to the 2012 season, Price signed a 6-year/$39 million dollar contract extension with the Canadiens.  Big money for a goaltender who has had an average career to this point.  Price proceeded to lead the Canadiens to a 2nd-place finish in the Eastern Conference with a 21-13-4 record, but finished the year with a pedestrian 2.59 goals-against average (GAA) and a .905 save percentage (PCT). He was arguably outplayed at times by journeyman backup Peter Budaj, who posted an 8-1-1 record in relief, to go along with a 2.28 GAA and a slightly better .908 PCT.  After a disasterous playoff run, ending with a minor knee injury and a first-round elimination at the hands of the Ottawa Senators the question of what kind of goalie Price really is remains.

Marc Bergevin knows what kind of coach Stephane Waite is from their time together in Chicago. Clearly unhappy with the work of Pierre Groulx. Directly unrelated, but still relevant are comments made by former goaltending coach Roland Melanson.  Melanson stated that he has seen Price's skills and technique deteriorate each year since he left the organization in 2009. Consider that a shot at the ability of Groulx by his predecessor. Waite is here to bring out the best in Price. Bergevin expects Waite will successfully work with both Price and Budaj to maximize the use of their skills and improve their overall consistency. No one questions the pedigree Price has nor the talent level he has shown in the past. The burning question to be answered here is whether or not Waite can do for Price what he has done for both Anti Niemi and Corey Crawford. Only time will tell.


2.  Can P.K. Subban play at a Norris Trophy level over a full 82-game schedule?

After holding out of the abbreviated pre-season and the first six games of the regular season, P.K. Subban signed the 2-year/$5.75 million 'bridge' deal offered by Marc Bergevin.  He promptly returned to form and then some, buying into Michel Therrien's system and riding it all the way to a Norris Trophy.  Subban finished the year with 11 goals and 38 pts and an impressive +12 rating in 42 games played.  Most importantly, he cut down on the risky play and continued to improve in his own end.  Subban also contributed 51-hits, many of them of the bone-crunching highlight-reel variety. Often considered cocky and immature his first couple of years in the league, Subban matured as the season went along. 

This past off-season, Subban has continued to work hard to improve. Along with Carey Price, Subban was invited to the Team Canada orientation camp in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Olympic games.  If Subban continues to improve defensively - there's no reason why he shouldn't - his tremendous skating ability and howitzer of a point-shot would be a good fit for a Canadian team aiming for another gold-medal.

Unlike the aging Andrei Markov, Subban's play was consistently at a high level all season long.  At 24-years old, there's no reason to believe his conditioning level will deteriorate.  Subban has a tremendous work-ethic and he's playing for his massive pay-day this season.  Playing a spread-out grind of an 82 game schedule compared to last years condensed 48-game schedule should not affect the young legs of arguably one of the leagues top 5 defenders. Barring injury, Subban should be in the running for a second-straight Norris Trophy and should finish off the year with  a 7-year/$50 million dollar payday. Or something like that.

3.  What kind of production will we receive from Daniel Briere?

When the Habs signed Danny Briere to a 2-year/$8 million dollar contract, there was a collective groan from Habs fans, on Twitter especially.  Briere had previously been a compliance buy-out of the Philadelphia Flyers - he signed an 8-year/$52 million contract in 2007 - and had seen his production plummet for a second straight season.  Factor in his advanced age (35 years old) and lack of size (5'10" listed; maybe on skates) and a team plagued with questions about size on the roster just added another little person to the lineup.

Briere also irked Habs fans after signing said bought-out contract with the Flyers, indicating he preferred the anonymity of living in Philly over the public scrutiny of the Montreal hockey life.  Coming to Montreal now sparked a fan reminder of that contract. However, watching the other teams in the league throw money around like it was going out of style (Toronto will regret giving David Clarkson 7-years/$37 million in about a season or two), Briere's contract appeared to be around the league average for a player of his production level.

A motivated Briere might not return to his 32 goal/70 point average but he should aid the power-play and mentor the other scoring smurf - David Desharnais, pay close attention! - while chipping in 20 goals/50 points.  If he can do this, then his contract would be acceptable. If he can return to his previous top-line form, then Montreal got a steal of a deal.  I don't see those 35-year old legs returning to top-line minutes, but if Michel Therrien can keep him around 15 minutes a night, with a large power-play presence, he can surely milk out whats left in Briere for the benefit of the hockey club. Briere's continued strength is his playoff performance. Regardless of how his regular season plays out, Briere always steps up his game when the stakes are higher (50 goals/109 points in 108 career playoff games).  For a team expected to contend again this year, adding a proven playoff leader is worth its weight in .... millions. 


4.  Will adding the size of Douglas Murray and George Parros make a difference on the ice?

Last season, the Habs added Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong to the lineup to provide some grit. While Prust exceeded all expectations with his performance, Armstrong combined with holdover Travis Moen to contribute roughly... nothing (4 goals/11 points combined in 37 and 45 games, respectively). While Armstrong was great for viewers on 24-CH and was probably a great locker room presence, his on-ice performance left a lot to be desired and he was not invited back (he has since signed with the Växjö Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).  Instead the Habs traded for veteran enforcer and Princeton alum George Parros.

Parros is a heavyweight, standing at 6'5" and 222 lbs. Brandon Prust will no longer have to take on the large  Fraser McLaren types; not that he can't handle them. Parros is a respected veteran who understands his role on the hockey club.  He is also great in the community and should endear himself to Habs fans much the way Brandon Prust did last season.  While community involvement doesn't reflect on-ice performance, adding a character like Parros who uses his moderate celebrity to help make a difference is a boon for the city itself.  On the ice, he knows he will be a healthy scratch against skilled teams such as Detroit, Pittsburgh or the New York Rangers. He knows what his job is against physical teams such as Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia. He will contribute roughly the same as Colby Armstrong in terms of offense (2 goals/5 points), just over an 82 game schedule.  But his presence alone should boost the confidence of skilled players such as Desharnais, Briere and Alex Galchenyuk.

Douglas Murray was signed in August to a 1-year/$1.5 million dollar contract to provide some physicality on the blue line.  With the hard-hitting Alexei Emelin out until roughly December recovering from knee surgery, adding the 6'3", 245 lbs battering ram that is Douglas 'CrankShaft' Murray to the lineup should help shore up the Habs blue line.  While fans are clamoring for the equally large, more promising Jarred Tinordi to be in the lineup instead, Tinordi would benefit from another season in the AHL, where he can improve his positioning, offensive skills and consistency in a top-pairing role. Murray is aging at 33 years-old, and has lost a step in terms of speed. He can still effectively clear a crease and help on the penalty kill, however he will provide absolutely no offense, as his career high is 4 goals/17 points.  That is a drop-off from Emelin, who chipped in 3 goals/12 points in only 38 games played last season.  If Murray can hold the fort in front of Carey Price, block shots and play physically until Emelin returns, the Habs have themselves a solid depth signing.

Overall, these two will provide the physical play asked of them in the roles defined for them.  If they are asked to assume a greater role, the weaknesses in their games will be exploited.


5.  What effect will the Sochi Olympics have on the Habs roster for the stretch run of the season?

As it stands now, 10 current Habs have been invited to their respective national team's orientation camp for the 2014 Sochi Olympic games. The list is as follows:

Czech Republic - Tomas Plekanec
USA- Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk
Canada - Carey Price and P.K. Subban
Swiss - Rafael Diaz
Sweden - Douglas Murray
Russia - Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin (out due to knee surgery)
Slovakia - Peter Budaj

None of these players are guaranteed to play for their country at the Olympics. Injuries always occur and countries such as Canada, USA and Russia have a large talent pool to draw from, they may choose to go in different directions with the roster.  Based on the overall national talent level and barring injury, Plekanec, Diaz, Markov and Budaj are locks to represent their respective country.  Max Pacioretty should get the call for the USA and Price and Subban should both get the call for Canada, as well.  Douglas Murray represented Sweden in the last Olympics, but his age and declining skating ability may not be conducive for the larger ice surfaces.  Alex Galchenyuk could make the USA roster if he shows a strong sophomore campaign and Alexei Emelin may still make the Russian squad if he returns strong from his injury.  All told, at least 7 if not 10 current Habs may be making the trip to Russia in mid-February.

What kind of impact will this have on the Habs lineup for the stretch run to the playoffs if these players participate.  The Canadiens have a very culturally diverse lineup which is great, but it also means 4 of our top-6 defensemen, 2 of our top-6 forwards and both goaltenders will be spending the two-week Olympic break playing up to 6 high-intensity games.  While other teams are sending players, too, most teams will not be sending potentially 10 players off of their 23 man roster.  Instead of using the two week break to recover from nagging injuries and mentally recharge for the home-stretch of the season, our top players will be grinding it out amongst the best players in the world.  Representing your country is a tremendous honour, but how will adding 6 more games and a cross-continent trip affect their conditioning and level of play during the most important stretch of the season?

The Habs slowed down considerably after a fast start to the season.  They limped into the playoffs and were soundly beaten down at the hands of the Ottawa Senators.  Injuries were a factor, but veterans such as Andrei Markov and Carey Price saw their performance level slip considerably.  No one knows for sure how the Olympic situation will play out, but there certainly is a risk of lowered performance when you have that many of your top players adding that  more games to their already full schedule.


So concludes my five burning questions for this years Montreal Canadiens.  Obviously these questions cannot be truly answered until the end of the season.  I will be sure to re-visit them at that time.  Only 10 days to go until we let the games begin!  Bring on those Maple Leafs!

Friday, September 13, 2013

NHL 2013-2014 Conference Previews - Atlantic

In his final conference preview, Paolo Mingarelli looks at the Atlantic Conference, where he has an interesting take on where each respective team will finish.

Despite the addition of the Red Wings, Cup Finalist Boston Bruins remain the team to beat. The most entertaining battle in this division will come from the Canadian Content. Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal are all clubs that are entering a phase in their history where it will be time to add the final pieces to establish themselves as legitimate cup contenders as the rival Bruins have done.







Monday, September 9, 2013

NHL 2013-2014 Conference Previews - Metropolitan

Paolo Migarelli comes east, and takes a look at the not-so-well named Metropolitan Conference.

The old Atlantic has been renamed and re-tooled. Add the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and one of the 2 newcomers in the East, the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Renowned as one of the premier divisions boasting its representation by as much as 4 playoff teams before the merger, they will again be one of the tougher divisions to play in and will make for great fireworks down the stretch.








Thursday, September 5, 2013

NHL 2013-2014 Conference Previews – Central

Paolo Mingarelli dives into the next conference out West, the Central, home of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

The Central division, as it stands, could be the host of the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks and Blues are expected to make post-season appearances and will do so while making the seasons challenging for their division rivals. Much progress is being made by teams who have recently finished in the bottom tier of the NHL standings, of which 3 teams are located in the Central.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Analysing Habs’ Depth Chart

BY: SHAWN LAVOIE (@SLavoie54)

With training camp now just around the corner, let’s take a look at the Montreal Canadiens’ depth chart.







FORWARDS

LEFT WING
CENTER
RIGHT WING
Max Pacioretty     (6’2” 219)
Tomas Plekanec    (5’11” 196)
Brian Gionta            (5’7” 173)
Alex Galchenyuk  (6’1” 196)
Lars Eller                 (6’2” 209)
Brendan Gallagher (5’9” 178)
Rene Bourque      (6’2” 213)
David Desharnais  (5’7” 177)
Daniel Briere           (5’10” 179)
Brandon Prust      (6’2” 195)
Ryan White            (6’0” 193)
George Parros         (6’5” 228)
Travis Moen          (6’2” 218)
Gabriel Dumont    (5’10” 186)
Mike Blunden         (6’4” 214)
Christian Thomas (5’9” 170)
Louis Leblanc         (6’0” 190)
Patrick Holland       (6’0” 175)
Nick Tarnasky       (6’2” 230)
Martin St-Pierre    (5’9” 188)
Steve Quailer          (6’4” 209

Joonas Nattinen    (6’2” 187)
Stefan Fournier      (6’3” 210)

Michael Bournival (5’11” 191)
Sven Andrighetto   (5’10” 180)

DEFENSEMEN

Josh Gorges          (6’1” 203)
P.K. Subban        (6’0” 216)
Andrei Markov    (6’0” 204)
Alexei Emelin     (6’2” 219)
Francis Bouillon   (5’8” 197)
Raphael Diaz      (5’11 197)
Douglas Murray  (6’3” 245)
Davis Drewiske  (6’2” 220)
Nathan Beaulieu (6’2” 194)
Greg Pateryn      (6’2” 219)
Jarred Tinordi      (6’6” 218)
Morgan Ellis       (6’1” 202)

Magnus Nygren (6’1” 192)

Darren Dietz       (6’1” 205)

GOALIES

Carey Price         (6’3” 209)
Peter Budaj        (6’1” 195)
Dustin Tokarski (5’11” 198)
Robert Mayer    (6’1” 199)
Peter Delmas     (6’3” 188)

*All players’ heights and weights taken from where they played last season.

I have placed the top five forward lines and the top four defensive pairings in the order I believe they should look once the season starts. Michel Therrien may very well have different lines in mind, but I think these lines maximises the Habs’ assets. As for the bottom of the depth chart, I placed the players in the order of the ones I think are the closest to the NHL to the ones we might not see for a while. I won’t write about much about the goaltending position, as there is not much to say. Now let’s look at the team’s strength and weaknesses.

Strengths

The Habs have a talented top-nine forward group and a good physical bottom line. The top-six features a group of players who are effective at both ends of the ice. The second line can potentially be a lethal scoring threat, with both Gallys and Eller. The Habs’ third line could be a very effective exploitation line that can take advantage of the opposition’s weaker players. As for the fourth line, it will get under the opponent’s skin and shift the momentum of the game.

The Canadiens’ biggest strength among their forward group is its speed. The team features a bunch of very fast skaters and they will have to use this to win games, since they don’t have the most physical team. We can also see that the team is extremely strong on the left wing as Bourque, Galchenyuk, and Pacioretty are all big players who are very strong skaters who can score goals in bunches. The team also has the luxury of having skilled as well as physical players in the AHL, with guys like St-Pierre and Thomas bringing skill, while Blunden and Leblanc are more physical and defensive minded. Dumont is eligible for waivers so he will probably stick with the big club.

Even though I’m still not too thrilled about Briere’s addition, he still brings some solid offensive support to the team. He and fellow French Canadian David Desharnais have the talent to create havoc against the enemy’s third pairing defensemen. With Bourque creating space for the diminutive forwards, the Montreal Canadiens have one of the most talented third lines we’ve seen in a while.

As for the defensive corps, Les Glorieux have a good mix of offensive and defensive defensemen, with the top six featuring an even split. Diaz, Markov, and Subban will bring some strong offensive support and puck moving skills while Bouillon, Emelin (when he returns from his injury), Gorges, and Murray will take care of the physical defensive play.

Having the reigning Norris trophy winner is obviously a luxury every team would like to have, and the Habs are fortunate enough to have him with P.K. Subban. The superstar defender will hope to repeat last season’s success and be a dominant force on the Habs’ back end and help in every aspect of the game.

Andrei Markov is another player who will hope to have a great season. Even though he seemed to run out of gas at the end of last season, he showed that he can still be a force on the power play. He and Subban should continue terrorizing the opponent’s penalty killing team.

The Canadiens also have the luxury of having a good selection of rearguards in Hamilton with different skill sets. Drewiske, Pateryn, and Tinordi are good defensive-minded defenders while Beaulieu and Nygren are both offensive-minded defensemen who can help on the power play. Ellis and Dietz are good all-round players, but they still need some seasoning before earning a call-up.

Weaknesses
Like I mentioned a bit earlier, Les Habitants are not a physical team. With Dumont as their 14th forward, six of the team’s 14 forwards are below six feet tall (I would actually say seven, as Prust once said he is 5’11”, but for some reason he is listed at a generous 6’2”), and eight of them weigh less than 200 pounds as of now, with five of them playing on the first three lines. I would like to see Marc Bergevin trade maybe a small body or two and replace them with bigger bodies.

Another weakness is the lack of true power forwards. As of right now, only Bourque seems like the closest to match that definition. Some say that Pacioretty is a true power forward, but I think he’s more of a big bodied sniper rather than a power forward, as he causes more damage from the face-off circles and high slot with his lethal wrist-shot in my opinion. Power forwards, for me, are players who are strong in the corners and thrive in front of the net with their big bodies. The Habs don’t really have a player like this and I think they need one.

The last weakness I will point out about the team’s forward group is the lack of a top-line right winger. I have nothing against Brian Gionta, as he is a fantastic leader and has the heart of a lion, but he’s not a first line player anymore. He’s more of a 2nd/3rd line forward now. Gallagher looks to be his successor, but he’s not ready to see first line minutes yet. Gionta has been slowed down by injuries and isn’t the scoring threat he used to be.

As much as the Habs’ defence is well balanced, it still lacks nastiness and isn’t as strong as it should be. Yes, Montreal has the latest Norris trophy winner, but after him there is a significant drop in talent. Markov has obviously lost more than a step in his game, Gorges is a second pairing defenseman playing top pairing minutes, and Emelin is injured and still hasn’t established himself as a top-four defender. Bergevin signed Douglas Murray, a huge physical rearguard, but he is a depth defenseman with cement feet.

Montreal would have needed a mobile two-way defender to play along Markov. As much as Markov still has elite on-ice vision and puck skills, he is now a below-average skater and can’t play over 22 minutes a game anymore.

As for the lack of nastiness I mentioned, except the Douglas Murray (still having trouble believing this guy is Swedish with that name), none of the Habs’ defensemen are 6’2” or more and below 220 lbs. Only Emelin and Murray are real physical threats, and one of them is injured till Christmas. Tinordi will come in next year to help in that department, but that will likely come with Murray’s departure. Bergevin will need to bring in at least another physical presence on his blue line.


The Montreal Canadiens are obviously a team that will make the playoffs, but they lack the physicality and defensive corpse I believe is required to aspire for the Stanley Cup. They will get better as the team’s top young players improve, and with a few tweaks, will be big contenders for Lord Stanley’s hardware. As of right now however, I don’t think they have what it takes to win it all, but they are getting there.