After making it all the way to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, losing in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Montreal Canadiens have had one of the most interesting offseasons of any team. That much roster turnover is unusual for a team that made it that far in the playoffs, but a decent portion of it has been out of their control.
A good portion of Montreal’s starting 12 forwards will look different next season. Gone down the middle are Phillip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Eric Staal. Dvorak will attempt to replace Danault’s shutdown role with a little more offensive touch but less defensive prowess. Kotkaniemi’s third-line role is likely to be replaced by another young center, most probably Jake Evans. Staal’s fourth-line role will likely be comprised of a more defensive-minded pivot in Cedric Paquette. Their group of wingers will look different too, losing out on Tomas Tatar’s two-way play in favor of a power-play specialist in Mike Hoffman. Gone is veteran Corey Perry in the bottom six, being replaced by another veteran presence in Mathieu Perreault.
The team’s defense faces the loss of the team’s captain in Shea Weber. His injury will keep him out for at least this entire season and puts the rest of his career in jeopardy. His absence will be replaced by committee, as youngster Alexander Romanov and new addition David Savard should see more minutes. The left side stays relatively constant from last season, and overseas addition Chris Wideman could challenge for some games as well.
However, a team that barely squeaked into the playoffs last season returns with some question marks. Full seasons of Jonathan Drouin and Cole Caufield help boost the team, but downgrades from Danault to Dvorak and Tatar to Hoffman raise near-negating doubts. The success of youngsters like Evans and Romanov will be crucial if Montreal wants to make a return to the playoffs in 2022, and they’ll need repeat performances from players such as Jeff Petry and Josh Anderson.
So the question to you, PHR readers, is this: has Montreal done enough this offseason to yield a playoff team in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference? Make your voice heard below:
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