The Montreal Canadiens just missed out on the 2018-19 playoffs. What has the team done during the off-season to try and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017? Let’s preview the Habs’ season:
First Key Game: Detroit Red Wings – October 10th
Odds to win the division
40:1 (5th overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
This would be akin to many nights out in Montreal: you think ‘What do I have to lose?’ before you’re ultimately left with no money and even less to show for it. The Habs are a decent team, lead primarily by veterans like Price, Gallagher and Weber. The team should make a run at the wild card if they can stay healthy, but aren’t a serious threat to win the competitive, top heavy Atlantic Division.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
Marc Bergevin’s Cap Space Conundrum: The Habs have over 4 million in cap space as of now, and what exactly GM Marc Bergevin plans to do with it is anyone’s guess, as he likely can’t spend it all on suits and muscle milk. He’s not shy about making moves and God bless him even tried to offer sheet a player, albeit a rather curious offer.
Nonetheless… there may be a deal out there, maybe even to find a top center, though he’d be wise not to tie up too much long term, thus preventing him from signing some key young players down the road, however, fans will expect him to make some sort of move with all this money, particularly if they get off to a slow start.
Player to watch
Jesperi Kotkaniemi: Coming off a solid rookie season where he became the first player born in the 2000’s to lace up in the NHL, much more will be expected in his sophomore campaign. He amassed a respectable 34 points in 79 games at just 18 years of age, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t improve a great deal yet.
Kotkaniemi is a skilled player who’ll get bigger and stronger as he ages. The Canadiens have long needed a top centre so developing one in house would be a huge plus as despite Marc Bergevin’s best efforts; both the RFA & UFA markets failed to pan out.
Limiting the ER visits…The Habs are a team that could legitimately push for a wild card spot in the East provided they can stay healthy and get a full season from Carey Price and Shea Weber. We saw flashes from Carey last year that he’s still among the best in the world when healthy, he just hasn’t been, and Weber’s been right there to keep him company. They’re still difference makers (Weber had 33 points in just 58 games last season while playing solid in his own end) and without them it’ll be another season of more question than answers in La Belle Province.
A top Centerman: This is the perhaps the easiest cut and paste in the NHL… the Habs have needed a top centreman since the days of Jacques Demers. To their credit, they tried to fill the gap with Matt Duchene and even (much to the excitement of many… at least until the saw the figures) unsuccessfully offer sheeted Carolina’s RFA Sebastian Aho.
Perhaps Jesperi Kotkaniemi can develop into one as he had a promising rookie campaign, but until this significant void is filled, they’ll be hard pressed to compete with the best in their division which includes the likes of Matthews, Tavares, Bergeron and Stamkos.
If the Montreal Canadiens were an animal, what would they be?
Wolf: Best when performing as a pack, boast many young pups but are still heavily reliant on several respected older members if they’re going to be successful.