So maybe the Montreal Canadiens will not win the Stanley Cup this year, and maybe not for a while, but it certainly has been an interesting off-season. The more I look at this new, revamped roster, the more I try to forget the anger I felt for Bob on June 30, when I found out that he had mortgaged our future to acquire an overpaid, small centerman to replace the beloved Saku Koivu. It didn’t become apparent to me how much our team may have improved until I came to do my July pre-season predictions, in which I found my usually pessimistic self picking les Glorieux to finish 2nd in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins. Now you may all say, laughing out loud, what about the big bad Bruins that embarrassed you last year? Well I’m sure many of you same people were equally critical of those who didn’t pick the Habs to win the Northeast division last year after a great 07-08 campaign. The fact is, last season, everything went right for the Bruins, and everything went wrong for the Habs. The balance of power will have to swing back in the opposite direction.
Think about it:
-Might not have Phil Kessel, a key first line winger last season
-Will still have a small #1 center, much like we do, in Marc Savard
-Can’t possibly find the same chemistry between Krejci, Ryder, and Wheeler that they found last year, much like the Habs couldn’t recreate the potent Kostitsyn-Plekanec-Kovalev line from the year before
-Don’t have much depth at defense, with the losses of Steve Montador and Shane Hnidy
-Won’t have Manny Fernandez to help out Tim Thomas when he undoubtedly fails to deliver the same type of Vezina-esque campaign that he did in 09.
-Have upgraded their first line with a 39-goal scorer, a renowned play-maker, and his former 38-goal playmate.
-Will receive better years from Tomas Plekanec, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn who were all dreadful and should bounce back
-Will be able to achieve all this because of a new structured coach in Jacques Martin, who will help in player development
-Will have better goaltending from Jesus Price, who with the help of a new head coach and goalie coach, will be able to start fresh and shoot down all of those annoying bandwagon hoppers who claim that he sucks
-Have Travis Moen, who is an upgrade on Tom the Bomb,
-Now have a top six defensemen among the league’s best, with size (Gill and Mara), skill (Markov, Spacek), and reliability (Gorges, Hamrlik)
-Don’t have all of the distractions from last year, far less pressure to succeed, no talk of pending UFAs, less Centennial hoopla, and hopefully no ownership or internal issues
That is all why I am proud to say that I feel as though the Montreal Canadiens will surprise the hockey world and not only make the playoffs, but win the Northeast division. What happens in the playoffs is another story…
Kudos to Bob, I apologize for going from fully supporting you on June 1st to almost giving up on you on June 30th. I still don’t feel that you will be able to take us to the Promised Land, but at least you can give us a sense of optimism, it’s more than we can say about so many other General Managers.