Well. It's been a long, long offseason so far, but we're still alive, waiting for our Habs patiently. The waiting is painful, and we're all very hasted to see what our favorites are gonna do this year. Well, at least, there are several entertaining questions surrounding "Les Habitants". Will Sundin sign here? How will Tanguay do? Will Laraque have a good impact on the team? Which players are going to improve? To regress? Will Kovalev repeat last year's dream season? So many questions, and so much time before the training camp. But, after all, the most important question is without a doubt : What will the Habs do next year, and what can be expected from them?
The fans' expectations this year are going to be at a very high level with the success the team had as early as last year. This is not a secret : the fans will expect Kovalev to have a 80 pts season once again. They will expect an even better season from Plekanec, A. Kostitsyn. Many of them even say that they expect a 60 pts season from a 21-year-old Sergei Kostitsyn. Well, some of the expectations are realistic, but some others are not.
People have to understand that Kovalev, while being a great player, and an incredible stickhandler, is not young anymore and will likely lose some speed in the forecoming years. Sure his talent and his stickhandling is gonna make him, once again, a dangerous player in the opponent's territory, but the more the years will pass, the more people will have to understand that if Kovalev is slowing down, it's not because he is lazy and all, it's because he is getting older. And let's say it : Kovalev can't have as good of a season as he had last year. So, what can we realistically expect from him? Well, over 70-pts this season should be considered a good season from Alex. Let's not forget that this year, the other teams are going to know what to expect from Kovy, and will likely adapt their match plans to Alex before every other player.
That being said, a couple of players will likely improve this year. Can Saku Koivu have a worst season than he did last year? It's hard to imagine, especially if he plays with Tanguay on his wing (Tanguay will be the best winger Saku's ever had to play with). S. Kostitsyn will be here for a full season, and while many fans expect 60 pts from him, I would consider 45 pts as a good achievement for him. He's only 21 after all. Andrei Kostitsyn will also get better. Let's not forget that he began to play well only at Chirstmas last year. This year - Carbonneau even told it mid-July - , A. Kostitsyn - Plekanec - Kovalev is likely the only line which is going to stay the same as last year. Andrei will have his place on the roster as soon as in the training camp. 60 pts or so is what should be expected from him (I myself predict him to get about 63 pts, including about 35 goals). Chris Higgins is an interesting case. I don't see him doing much better this year. With Tanguay coming in, and Kostitsyn staying with Kovalev and Plekanec, he's likely gonna be assigned to a third line duty, and we should expect about 50 pts this year, that is if he has a good season playing with Chipchura and Latendresse or S. Kostitsyn.
Finally, let's talk about the newcomers. Well, I've got to say that as far as I can remember, I've always been a huge Tanguay fan. Alex is an incredible, gifted player, and he's always gonna let it all on the ice. He's a player Carbonneau will fall in love with, as he can play in every situation. PP, PK, 5v5, he's effective everywhere. I can see him do well with Koivu, but I see him playing with Latendresse and Koivu especially. He's gonna control the pace of the game on his line, as he'll likely be the one who will control the puck. Latendresse would be the one who would go to the net, and Koivu is gonna be a great passing option. The reason why I can't see Tanguay with S. Kostitsyn and Koivu on the same line, is that they all are playmakers, and are all small players. Tanguay and Koivu is going to be a great duo, but they are going to need a big body to go to the net. Latendresse is likely going to be this big body. Tanguay will fetch about 75 pts this year, maybe a little more, and, in my opinion, is going to be the Habs' leading scorer.
Laraque is also going to have a great impact. The Lucic's, the Downie's, the Hartnell's and the Chara's are not going to have fun against us anymore. They'll not get away with everything. Laraque is gonna be the policeman, and I am sure he's gonna be a favorite at the Bell Center.
Of course, this is my take. But everything could change if Sundin joined the Habs. And that, my friends, is another completely different story...