How can the Habs prepare for future success?
Heading into the 2012-2013 season a lot of uncertainty faces the Montreal Canadiens. The organizations fans would have you believe that they are a move or two away from contending for the cup. This however, is not the case.
After a disappointing basement finish, the organization needs to address several needs. The 2011-2012 standings are in no way a fair representation of this teams potential moving forward. This upcoming season will be a much stronger one.
Habs fans know what they have moving forward. The have a great organizational depth being developed in Hamilton. A few highly ranked prospects wait quietly in steel town.
If their prospects reach their potential, the Canadiens could have a very strong team in the coming seasons. In two years the starting lineup could look like this:
Pacioretty Galyenchuk Cole
(Prospect) Plekanec Gionta
Bourque Eller Armstrong
Prust Desharnais White
It is difficult to accurately predict what the lines/roster could look like. Of course a free agent signing could change what we see above. It is safe to assume that many of these pieces are likely going to be playing for the bleu, blanc & rouge.
The 1st line looks like it could score anywhere from 80-115 goals. It could be a very effective line for the foreseeable future.
The 2nd line could be strong depending on how well the prospects develop. Brian Gionta is a warrior and has as much heart as former Habs captain Koivu. He would not be a liability and could be a solid leader on that line. Plekanec is a strong 2 way center and is a necessary component to any cup winning team. If one of Leblanc, Bournival, Gallagher can crack this lineup and be an effective force, the 2nd line would be a tough one to play against.
The 3rd line on this team would have the potential to score goals and be hard to play against. Armstrong remains a big question mark on this team. Armstrong is a warrior and playing against him could turn into an arduous task. Eller might never turn into a 1st or 2nd line center, but he does have the size to play effective minutes on the 3rd line. It would appear that Bourque is no longer a 2nd line winger, but in a reduced role on the 3rd line, he could find some success beside play-making center Eller.
In recent years the Habs have had very feeble 4th lines. With the addition of Prust, a character player with a lot of grit, the Habs could soon find some success on their 4th line. The size and toughness of White and Prust will help alleviate the lack of Desharnais’ size. He could also be used as a trade chip to find a strong defensive 4th line center with some size. Prust and White could be moved to center and a legitimate scary 4th line winger could be added.
As for the defense, Markov will rebound from his past injuries and Jorges will remain a shot-blocking machine. Subban and Beaulieu will form a dangerous high scoring duo, capable of being physical. Emelin and Tinordi could form the most effective shutdown tandems in the NHL. They could inflict fear and pain into opponents.
Pundits would have Habs nation thinking that they are doomed for misery for years to come. Optimists would have you believe that they are two moves away from winning the cup. Realists know that within two seasons these Habs could be a very strong.
Patience could go a long way for the upcoming season. Desperation trades, like the one Pierre Gauthier made for Thomas Kaberle, need to be avoided. Squeaking in the playoffs, only to be swept in the first round, would also prove to be a waste of time.
How can the Habs assure themselves future success? What approach could they take to avoid the same fate as the Toronto Maple Leafs? Would shaking up the roster by trading a few players now, be in the Habs best interest of the team long term? How committed is Geoff Molson to bringing the cup back to this proud organization? With the cost of scouts not counting against the salary cap, why don’t the Canadiens have the most scouts in the NHL? Why isn’t the Red Wing model being copied? What can the team do organizationally to improve and prepare for future success?