Well, after a long anticipated wait, where we endured CBA talks, league and division structure and realignment, the puck is ready to be dropped on a rather different and unique NHL season.
Marc Bergevin probably had one of the best off-seasons in his tenure as the general manager, and seemed to do what he should have done all these years, plugging holes that needed to be filled.
There are six new additions to the club and every new player brings with them skill, experience, grit as well as their expertise. Let’s start in goal and work our way up the lineup.
Welcome Jake Allen:
For the last couple of seasons, the Canadiens struggled to find a reliable backup that could service Carey Price when he needed a break. The Anaheim Lake, BC native was averaging 50-60 games a season, not including when the team made the playoffs.
There was Antti Niemi, Keith Kinkaid and Charlie Lindgren, but none matched the level needed to be a number two goalie in the NHL. Allen, who took over from Jordan Binnington last season, proved he could be relied on and had one the best seasons of his career.
Bergevin made it clear the way his team had performed in the Toronto bubble, upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins and pushing the Philadelphia Flyers to six games, that they mean business heading into the new season.
He decided to opt for what Columbus did two years ago and go all in on this shortened season. History wise, the last time the Habs played a shorter season was back in 2014 coming out of a second NHL lockout. Montreal went all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, and if it wasn’t for Carey Price getting injured, who knows what would have happened.
You’ll see two new faces on the back-end this season; Joel Edmundson and Alexander Romanov. Edmunson was acquired from Carolina and his reviews from training camp in Brossard are quite good. He won’t be on the scoresheet, but he brings size, grit and is an experienced defensemen.
Romanov, on the other hand, is the Habs draft pick that has been highly touted as the next big defensive superstar. He played in the KHL for SKA St Petersburg, and apparently quite committed to the team, as he is always the first person on the ice and the last person off of it.
The Canadiens have quite a few new pieces upfront and every new winger brings experience, speed, skill and goal scoring abilities to Montreal. Let’s start with Josh Anderson. He was acquired from Columbus for Max Domi, and quite honestly, he was a bit of a question mark.
He only played 27 games last season and scored one goal before suffering a shoulder injury. His reviews from camp are actually quite shocking, his fellow teammates have all agreed he’s the fastest player on the ice. The crazy part is he’s six-foot-three and over 200 pounds.
The Habs used to have a style, small forwards and tall defensemen. Well, that’s not the case anymore, with the new team height currently averaging six-feet. Next up is Tyler Toffoli. Brought in as a free agent to add size and score goals, he was instrumental in Vancouver’s run last summer in the bubble.
Corey Perry is the next player to look at and another depth move made by Bergevin incase of injuries. In mid-November last season, the Canadiens lost Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron and Shea Weber, which sent the team crumbling. Bergevin’s plan became simple: find some depth players to keep in case of emergency.
Perry is fresh off a run with the Dallas Stars that took them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Perry is a seasoned veteran that has played in the Olympics, IIHF World Championships, and all the while is a proven winner. He’s also known to be quite the pain in the butt and that’s one of the reasons the Canadiens signed him.
Michael Frolik was the last player brought on, and this move, once again, is pure depth to ensure of any injuries. He will be on the taxi squad incase of emergencies.
Another seasoned veteran, he brings skill and speed, even at his age, and can be good on a third or fourth line if needed.
The Scotia North Division is where the Habs will play, thanks to the US-Canada border remaining closed. It took a while to confirm play in all seven cities, but upon successful negotiations between both the federal and provincial health authorities, the season will go on with no fans permitted into Canadian arenas.
That means that each team in Canada will play each other 9-10 times, and to avoid constant travel between provinces, they have adopted the MLB style of playing two-three game sets.
This means a team will play a mini series, just like in baseball, which means a more playoff-like environment. Only four of the seven teams will make the playoffs, and the first two rounds are division play, meaning one Canadian team will make it to the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
I have been studying this team quite close, and I can honestly tell you in the 25 years I have been watching this team, I have never seen a stronger lineup in my life. I have this feeling that they can play against any team in Canada and cause trouble, no matter who it is.
My prediction is that Montreal will win the division and successfully advance past both divisional rounds. From there, not knowing how it will play out, that’s as far as I’m able to predict.
Enjoy the season.