Twenty-six games into the season, and the Habs have recorded 35 points (15-6-5).
At first glance, it appears the Habs are performing nicely for their 100th anniversary, but dissecting the Habs' play will surface, for the most part, frustration amongst their fanbase.
That's not to say the Habs are playing poorly, but current indications suggest the Habs are not Stanley Cup quality.
The Habs' biggest problems stem from the following:
Lack of offensive defensemen
Beyond Andrei Markov, who do the Habs have on the team who is capable of generating offense on the back-end? GM Bob Gainey underestimated the impact of Mark Streit and Sheldon Souray, but it's nothing he can't fix. While calling-up AHL Hamilton Bulldogs' offensive defensemen like Yannik Weber and Mathieu Carle may fill the void, their impact come playoff time will come in question, and considering the Habs are going for the Cup this season, that's a risk they can't afford at the moment.
Lack of an elite forward
This season, Saku Koivu stands as the Habs' top point-producer with 22 points in 26 games. This is no disrespect to Koivu, but the Habs need a better offensive leader -- Koivu is a great leader, and those who watch him will never question his impact on the team, but offensively, it's time for a new face. And no offense to Alexei Kovalev, but the 34 year-old is inconsistent and cannot be depended on to lead this team to their 25th Stanley Cup.
I think Gainey will be considerably more active come the NHL Trade Deadline. Whether the pressure from the Habs' centennial season will prove to be beneficial or not is the question, but in a season like this, it's best for Habs fans to buckle up and follow the ride -- wherever it's going to take them.
All that said, here's my proposal to shape this club into a Stanley Cup caliber team:
Trade Kovalev and Higgins (and some prospects if need be).
I won't mention potential players in return, but acquiring a top-4 defenseman and an offensive forward should be Gainey's top priorities at the Trade Deadline. If he has to package prospects to sweeten the pot (which he would most likely have to do), so be it. If it means bringing Montreal a Stanley Cup, I’m sure the fans would oblige.
In unloading two forwards, the Habs' top two lines would look like this (ignore the line combos):
Tanguay - New Player - A.Kostitsyn
S.Kostitsyn - Koivu - Plekanec
Not to mention Markov would finally have a capable offensive defenseman to pass to on the PP.
This is just an idea, but one thing is for certain, Gainey will have to do something if he wants to reward Habs fans with the shiny silver Cup at season's end.