Last off-season general manager Marc Bergevin made some interesting and questionable moves that were critiqued throughout the 2013-14 campaign. The signings of a barely NHL calibre defenceman in Douglas Murray, ageing, declining and small forward in Daniel Briere, and the acquisition of fourth-line plug and over-the-hill enforcer George Parros puzzled many.
None of the above players panned out for the Canadiens, and none of them will be back for the 2014-15 season. PHENOMENAL.
Marc Bergevin appears to have learned from his mistakes, and is making smart, analytical moves that have really made the team better, faster, and younger. I want to take a look at Montreal's possible line combinations, should the season start today (assuming Lars Eller and PK Subban resign).
This is what I currently have for Montreal’s depth chart for forwards.
|Montreal Canadiens forward line combinations|
Now, before people start freaking out saying I am “disrespecting Plekanec” or I am “overrating Lars Eller”, hear me out!
I want to give P-A Parenteau a shot on the first line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty as I think it will help spark his offensive abilities and rebuild his confidence after a shaky season last year. This line will be used during sheltered minutes, and mostly offensive zone starts. I can see this line being a very quick and lethal line that will threaten the opposition shift after shift.
I decided to reunite the “EGG” line as I believe last season all three players really grew into their own and developed substantially. Eller has proven he is talented at both ends of the ice, while both Galchenyuk and Gallagher have proven to be offensive weapons. I think this line would be used in different scenarios and they have the ability to be momentum changers.
For the third line I decided to place Tomas Plekanec with Jiri Sekac and Rene Bourque. Both Plekanec and Bourque have the abilities to play in both ends of the ice. Plekanec is one of the best two-way centres in the NHL and it is shocking how little credit he receives. This line will be a solid shut down line with a surprising offensive upside. I do not know what Sekac will bring on the defensive side of the game, but my understanding is that he is able to use his body well, and put the puck in the net. I believe that it would also help Sekac transition by playing with a player from his home country (Czech). Both Plekanec and Bourque are able to put up offensive number as well, and I believe this line could surprise people. Mostly defensive zone starts for this line.
Newly acquired Manny Malholtra is a fiend in the face-off dot. He was second in the league last season in face-off percentage at 59.0%. Brandon Prust and Dale Weise are extremely good at fore checking and maintaining pressure. They can all use their bodies to their advantage and are able to play all over the ice. This line will see most of their zone starts in the defensive or neutral zone.
Michel Therrien likes to roll four lines and this team is built to play that way. All four lines can play both sides of the puck and can be relied upon to put the puck in the net. I view the second and third line specifically as two second lines. They will play very similar minutes in different scenarios. I would be very content to see this type of set-up for Montreal this upcoming season.
On defense there is really only one decision to be made for this roster. Which kid gets the chance to play full time?
Now that Josh Gorges is gone, Alexei Emelin can slot back into his natural left side position. The way I have this set up is so that each pairing has an offensive defenceman and a stay at home type defenceman.
First pairing is one that has obvious chemistry after being relied upon so heavily during power plays. I like this combo because Markov has enough experience and hockey sense to be able to cover Subban when he is dominating offensively.
The second pairing is one I like for even strength usage. I would love to see Emelin have a turnaround season after showing some struggles last season. Gilbert is the new face here, and he has the ability to chip in offensively. If Emelin ends up struggling with his game, I would not hesitate to slot Beaulieu into this top four spot in his place.
The third pairing I like simply because Weaver is a stud defensively and it would allow Beaulieu some leeway to take some risks offensively. It would be nice to have a rock on D beside the rookie to give him some confidence.
Finally, the goalie situation.
I still have Peter Budaj ahead of Dustin Tokarski. I would much prefer to have Budaj shipped out, and have Tokarski as the full time back up. He proved to Habs Nation that he deserves to be in the NHL after his stellar performance during the playoffs in the absence of Carey Price. I would feel more confident with Tokarski getting 15-20 starts next year over Budaj. This would allow Price some much needed rest sometimes, and Tokarski some killer experience moving forward.
Overall, I am happy with the players Montreal has on their roster. It is now up to Michel Therrien to create some stellar line combinations to enhance each players strengths.
Let me know what you think of my line combinations, or what adjustments you would make!
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Thanks for reading!