Tuesday, September 13, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Montreal Canadiens

Another year, and another head scratching ending for the Canadiens and their fans. They went to OT in game 7 with the eventual Stanley Cup Champs, even though they looked decent throughout the series. Now, with the East getting better and better, can the Habs keep up with the pack?

Strengths: They are led by Carey Price is net, who had a career year in the face of the criticisms that he wasn't as good as Jaroslav Halak, but he fought back and squashed everyone's gripes. He may need to do that again this season in order to keep the Habs involved in the East. They do have some good veteran players right now, and they include the electric Mike Cammalleri, who was the Habs leading scorer a season ago, Andrei Kostitsyn, who is another dynamic scorer, and of course, Scott Gomez, who has a lot of pressure on him this season to perform big. Erik Cole comes in to help score more goals, as they were 22nd in that department last season, despite having a Top 10 power play. On defense, P.K Subban is one of the most exciting young defensemen in the NHL right now, Hal Gill is a decent veteran, and Jaroslav Spacek is a Habs mainstay on the blue line.

Weaknesses: They lost some good players from last year's team in free agency this season. Roman Hamrlik went to Washington, Brent Sopel packed up and went to the KHL, and James Wisniewski was traded to Columbus. These losses may prove to be bigger than many think on the blueline, and they do need some more help in that area because of depth concerns. Offensively, they should be OK, but they have to have some of the major players live up to high expectations, and possibly to exceed them in order to continue to have success.

Any Help Coming? Nathan Beaulieu was the Habs draft pick this year, and he can become a QB on the power play very soon for the Habs, and they may need one quickly. He is well rounded, and projects to be a top 3 defensemen soon. Yannick Weber is another defensemen that has potential and flashed it in his Habs stints a season ago, but needs to play more in the NHL to realize his potential. RW Danny Kristo could become a speedster winger although he is undersized.

Outlook: It seems that the Habs are in a precarious position this year. With the East much better than it has been in the past, they have a lot of work to do in order to maintain a playoff spot, and there is doubt that they will do anything past getting into the dance. This could be a year of surprises, or another one where it ends with Habs fans scratching their heads and wondering what could have been.

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