In continuation of the offseason evaluations series, the next team I feel is mentionable is the Montreal Canadiens. Last season the Habs finished sixth in the Atlantic Division and 13th overall in the Eastern Conference. Obviously, they failed to make the playoffs last year and like any team that disappoints their fans that badly, they set off into the free agency to try to improve their chances for next season. We will review the Canadiens’ choices this summer and evaluate whether or not they made the right decisions.
Key Offseason Signings
The Canadiens’ moves this offseason have appeared questionable to some, and have surely disappointed a few die-hard fans up north. But they have had some good signings since July 1 that have surely had the future in mind. General manager Marc Bergevin certainly thinks the team is moving in the right direction. So far Montreal has dealt for:
Shea Weber – D
Zach Redmond – D
Al Montoya – G
Alexander Radulov – F
Mikhail Sergachev – D – Draft
Daniel Carr – F – RS
Philip Samuelsson – D
Chris Terry – F
Phillip Danault – F – RS
The Habs have certainly not made the highest number of moves in free agency, but they have made a few moves that could really make the difference next season. For starters, Alexander Radulov being brought back from the KHL to play for the Canadiens this season is a daring move by Bergevin. The 30-year-old has been one of the top players in the KHL in the eight seasons he has spent there, but it is unclear whether or not that skill can translate the NHL style game. For me, Radulov is a boom or bust kind of player.
The team also signed veteran goalkeeper Al Montoya to a one-year deal this offseason, which was a very interesting decision yet again by the GM. They already have superstar goalie Carey Price firmly entrenched as the team’s number one, while also retaining backup Mike Condon. Condon and Montoya, as well as some of the Habs’ AHL goalies, will compete to see who can claim the position of back-up to Price for this season.
One of the most infamous moves of this entire offseason has to be the trade of P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. With this trade, the Canadiens acquired Nashville’s captain of the past six seasons and the winner of the 2016 Mark Messier Leadership Award. Weber is truly one of the top tier defensemen in the league right now, and will surely contribute in a big way to the team’s success or downfall next season.
Key Offseason Losses
As far as losses go the Canadiens fans only have one player on their minds, and probably won’t be forgetting that name anytime soon. As mentioned in the previous section, Montreal traded away their star defenseman P.K. Subban for Nashville’s star defenseman Shea Weber. Now some may wonder how Montreal could ever let go of the heart of their team, and one of the most beloved players to ever play for Canada. Still, others may wonder why they decided to trade him for a guy three years older who puts up slightly less impressive numbers. I’m afraid I don’t have the answers to those questions, but I can certainly help bash the Canadiens for this move.
P.K. is 27 years of age and has played all seven of his NHL seasons with Montreal. In the past three seasons, he averaged just under 55 points per season with above 40 assists in each of those seasons. Aside from the fact that he is the clear defensive leader of the team and contributes to more blocked shots and team wins than anyone else in the Habs ranks, he was also a workhorse on the powerplay for Montreal.
Shea Weber, on the other hand, is 30-years-old and has played all 11 seasons of his career with Nashville. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 50 points per season and just above 30 assists. His goal count is noticeably higher than Subban’s, so that could be a plus for Montreal. Weber’s 20 goals last season would have landed him third on Montreal’s goal-scoring list, behind only Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. The increased goal production from Weber may help the Habs avoid not making the playoffs this year, but then again it may not make much of a difference at all.
Star Players of Next Season
Montreal needs this list to be about ten players deep to make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals this upcoming season, but unfortunately, I only have three for them.
Max Pacioretty led his team in goals (30) and points (64) in their disappointing season last year. He has scored 60 or more points the past three seasons and may need to do even better than that this season.
Carey Price is one of the most highly praised goalies in the entire league, and for good reason. Unfortunately, Price went down with a knee injury early last season, and it limited him to just 12 games. His back-up, Mike Condon, replaced him for the season and suffered a GAA of 2.71 and a save percentage of .903. Luckily Price says he has completely recovered from his knee injury, so fans don’t have to worry about their goaltending being the reason they don’t make the playoffs this year. If he stays healthy for the 2016-17 season, Price should be one of the NHL’s top goaltenders once again.
Shea Weber, the team’s new acquisition from Nashville is my third star player for next season. He needs to be all that and more for Montreal, as he is replacing one of the greats. The 30-year-old certainly has the leadership capabilities to guide his team to victory, but will he be able to adjust to playing with this team up north, and will he be able to fill the very large shoes of the man he replaced. He is sure to be a huge contributor for the team.
When discussing division rivals for the Habs the one team that comes to mind is the Boston Bruins. These teams have hated each other for as long as I have been a fan of hockey, and long before that. The Bruins, like Montreal, have not made too much of a splash this offseason, but have made one very notable signing in David Backes. The 10-year veteran is a great leader, just like Weber, and the Bruins are hoping that he can make an enormous impact on the team’s ability to make a run in the playoffs. Unfortunately, neither the Bruins nor the Canadiens made the playoffs last season, and I see the past repeating itself again this season.
The Montreal Canadiens is a prestigious organization with over 20 Stanley Cups under their belt. They have been the model of perfect hockey play for generations. They have boasted some of the top players in the league, and have developed young players into superstar talent. This season will not be a season worth remembering for this die-hard hockey city.
The acquisition of Shea Weber was a decent pick up for the team, but the player they let go to get Weber has left virtually all of Canada in utter despair. They have Carey Price back for this season so they have a chance to make the playoffs, and might even make it a round or two deep this year, but that’s where their playoff hopes die. This legendary franchise did not make the necessary moves this offseason to put themselves back in contention to win a Stanley Cup.