As the NHL season is now just a few weeks away, we continue our look at each team’s offseason and preview the upcoming year. Today, we focus on the Montreal Canadiens.
Last Season: 38-38-6 record (82 points), 6th in the Atlantic Division.
Remaining Cap Space: $855K as per Cap Friendly (Roster Size of 25)
Key Newcomers: RW Bobby Farnham (free agency, New Jersey), G Al Montoya (free agency, Florida), RW Alexander Radulov (free agency, CSKA Moscow, KHL), D Zach Redmond (free agency, Colorado), RW Andrew Shaw (trade, Chicago), D Shea Weber (trade, Nashville)
[Related: Canadiens Depth Chart from Roster Resource]
Players to Watch: D Shea Weber – Given the magnitude of their June trade with the Predators, the focus will squarely be on Weber as many will compare his performance to Subban’s on a regular basis throughout the season (and likely beyond).
Another intriguing thing to watch will be how he fits in with a lineup that plays a much more conservative style than Nashville did. How will that affect Weber’s performance and how will the team adapt to working with a different set of strengths and weaknesses after having Subban anchor their blueline for the last several years? In particular, after having Subban routinely be the one to lead the breakout, how will it change with Weber, a player who often deferred to Roman Josi in that regard over the last few seasons?
RW Alexander Radulov – The off-ice questions about his commitment to playing in North America have been front and center and for good reason having left the NHL twice already. However, after being a top scorer in the KHL, there’s no denying he has the potential to be the top six forward the team has sought for several years. Montreal has tried several different players in recent years to fill that void (Daniel Briere, P.A. Parenteau, Thomas Vanek, and Alexander Semin, to name a few) but have had limited success. Will Radulov be the one to buck that trend?
Key Storyline: After getting off to the best start in franchise history last year, the Canadiens completely fell apart as the season progressed. Despite that, the coaching staff remains largely intact (aside from the hiring of Kirk Muller as Associate Coach and the departure of Craig Ramsay who was a consultant last season). Losing the reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price between the pipes for most of the season with injury problems was widely considered to be the root cause of their collapse but with him being back to full health this year, that crutch won’t be there for management if they get off to a slow start this season.
How much of a leash will Michel Therrien have if the team struggles out of the gate? While it’s certainly early to speculate on how much rope he’ll be given, he has to be considered to be on the hot seat heading into the season.