Montreal had a huge season for their franchise last year but winning the Northeast Division took some luck as they needed the Bruins to lose their last game in order to secure a division championship. Montreal went 7-7 in their last 14 games of the season as they limped into first place of the Northeast Division. This was their first division championship since 2008 and Canadiens fans will be hungry for more success in the coming campaign.
There haven’t been too many moves made this off season by Montreal management. Quebec native Danny Briere was brought in from the Flyers. Briere will surely be a fan favorite but the Canadiens were hoping for highly touted free agent Vincent Lecavalier who was signed by Brieres former club for a lucrative amount of money. Briere is aging and certainly is not the same player he was in 2011 when he scored 34 goals. It will be interesting to see what contributions he will make in the 2013-2014 season. Briere is most likely not a $4 million a year guy at the age of 36. Briere has essentially replaced Erik Cole’s contract instead of using the money saved from dishing Cole to re-sign Lars Eller and P.K Subban. Michael Ryder is gone after being acquired a season ago for Erik Cole. Briere will be tasked with replacing the firepower which Michael Ryder provided. Douglas Murray was added to provide some depth on the blueline. Murray is a good choice for the Canadiens who need some help on the defensive side of the ice. Murray is a solid hitter and will bring size along with shot blocking skills to the fold. The Canadiens got some grit with bruiser George Parros who they signed from the Panthers. They also signed free agent Nick Tarnasky to a one year contract for added depth at the left wing position. Tarnasky was a 2003 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning and scored 26 points in 75 games last season with AHL's Rochester Americans.
On offense, the Canadiens are rock solid. They are loaded down their lines and scoring goals should be no problem this season. Montreal will be hoping their young guns can continue to improve this season and make up for the loss of Michael Ryder. The former Michigan Wolverine, Max Pacioretty continued to improve last season as he ended the season as the Habs scoring leader. Alex Galchenyuk had an impressive rookie season, scoring 27 points while averaging just 12 minutes on the ice per game. He had a plus 14 rating which shows you the talent this 19 year old possesses. Finally Brendan Gallagher, the Habs fifth round pick in 2010 posted as many goals as Max Pacioretty. Gallagher is going to have to be a key contributor for Montreal this season. Lars Eller tallied 30 points last season as the former first round pick of the St. Louis Blues had his coming out party. Hopefully Eller can continue to play at the level he did last season. Whether the Canadiens youth can be productive through an 82 game season is yet to be seen though. The Canadiens durability is definitely a question mark that will be answered in the 2013-2014 campaign.
Defense is the biggest question surrounding the Canadiens. They did very little to address this glaring issue over the off season and they may pay for it in the newly formed Atlantic Divison. P.K Subban is of course their best defender. Subban won the Norris Truphy last year and he will likely have another supreme year. Andrei Markov will be paired with Suban and he posted 30 points last season. Raphael Diaz is a questionable second line defenseman and with Alexei Emelin being injured the outlook only looks grimmer for the Canadiens. Montreal will be starting rookie Jarred Tinordi due to a dominant training camp and preseason. He has the talent and physical presence to be a solid option for Montreal. Francis Bouillon will currently be pairing with Tinordi but will likely be pushed out for Douglas Murray.
Between the pipes Carey Price is the man in Montreal. It's a bit difficult to try to figure out Price who had a .894 SV% in the playoffs. He had a .905 SV% last season which is a career low for him. The Canadiens below par defense certainly doesn't help the cause and they also only killed 79.8% of their penalties last season. If they bring the 23rd ranked penalty kill in the NHL to the new Atlantic Division it's going to be a disappointing season for Habs fans. Price has all the talent in the world but it seems he is having trouble putting it together. Hopefully this season is an improvement for him and shoring up the PK will also help with keeping pucks out of the net.
Being in the new Atlantic Division is going to make it tough for the Canadiens to make the playoffs. They will be battling the Bruins, Red Wings, Senators, and Maple Leafs all season. There are three guaranteed playoff spots in this division and two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. The teams in the Atlantic have powerful offenses and I just don't think the Canadiens have done enough on the backend to prepare for the coming offensive assault. They are going to have to outscore teams consistently to move up the standings. They are going to be in the mix for a playoff spot but it is not going to be an easy road to travel for the Canadiens.
Odds to win Stanley Cup: 20/1