What’s in a Canadiens Number; 2017-18 edition

The start of the Montreal Canadiens 2017-18 season sees a semi overhaul on defence, and the arrival of top 6 forward Jonathan Drouin.

Gone are Andre Markov, Nathan Beaulieu, Bryan Flynn, Dwight King, and Steve Ott.

#92 Jonathan Drouin

The big splash acquisition in the off season was Jonathan Drouin.  Drouin wore #27 with Tampa, but went entirely with a new # with Montreal.  #92.  The only other Habs player to wear #92 was Steve Ott last season.

#83 Ales Hemsky

Ales Hemsky was a low risk UFA signing.  Hemsky has played with four different organizations.  All four teams (EDM, DAL, OTT and now MTL) he has worn #83.  And Hemsky too is only the second player to ever wear #83.  Eric Bertrand wore it for the 3 games he played with the Canadiens back in 2001.

#32 Mark Streit

This marked the second tour of duty of Mark Streit with the Canadiens.  He played with the Canadiens for 3 seasons (2005-08) when he wore #32.  Eleven different players wore #32.  Claude Lemieux wore if for his six seasons with the Canadens (1984-90).  Travis Moen wore it for five seasons (2010-15).  Streit and the Canadiens have since parted ways as Streit appeared in only 2 games before being released unconditionally.

#53 Victor Mete

Victor Mete was a surprise out of the Canadiens development camp, and he carried over his surprising play into training camp.  Enough to impress GM Marc Bergevin, and Mete made the team.  As with all rookies he was given  a number; #53.  Mete is the seventh player to wear #53.  Ryan White wore it longest for parts of five season (2010-14).

#22 Karl Azner

Karl Azner was the Canadiens big off-season UFA signing.  He opted for #22.  A number worn by 26 players in Habs history.  Most notable are John Ferguson 1964-71, and Steve Shutt 1973-85.  For trivia buffs, before Alzner, the last Habs player to wear #22 was Sergei Sergachev who wore it for the 4 games he appeared in October 2016.

#45 Joe Morrow

Joe Morrow was another depth defenceman UFA signing.  Morrow came from the Boston Bruins organization where he also wore #45.  Other Canadiens to wear #45 were: Gilbert Dionne 1990-94, Aaron Asham 1999-2002.

#21 David Schlemko

David Schlemko was acquired from the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.  The Canadiens is Schlemko’s sixth NHL organization.  And he went with an entirely different number;  #21.  A number worn by 33 other players.  Last worn last year briefly by Dwight King.  Two former Habs captains wore #21; Brian Gionta wore it for his five seasons with the Canadiens (2010-14), as did Guy Carbonneau for 11 seasons (1983-94).

 

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Habs leap of faith

The start of the Montreal Canadiens’ 2017-18 season will be remembered as a season in flux for the team’s defense core.

Gone, by design or not are:

  • Andrei Markov (signed with KHL)
  • Alexei Emelin (lost to expansion draft to Las Vegas and then traded to Nashville)
  • Nathan Beaulieu (traded in off-season to Buffalo for a 2017 3rd Rnd Pick-  Scott Walford, D)

Who would have imagined that after last season, Habs would lose three regulars on defence. Four, if you include Sergei Sergachev, because everyone were anticipating Sergachev would crack the Canadiens lineup this season.  But Sergachev too was dealt in the off-season , to Tampa Bay in the Johnathan Drouin trade.

The Canadiens will once again look to Shea Weber to provide the leadership on the blue line.  In addition, the team will rely of UFA signing Karl Azner to play top-2 pairing.  Along with Jeff Petry and Jordie Benn.

Leaving NHL castoffs like Joe Morrow and Mark Streit (since released by the Canadiens) to partner with David Schlemko, who was acquired in a trade with Vegas Golden Knights.  Schlemko has been on Injured Reserve since gtraining camp.

But one wild card in all of this was the emergence of 19 year old junior player Victor Mete.  Although Mete has looked well in pre-season action and for the most part in the CAnadiens first 10 games, is he ready to grind out a season playing with the big boys?

Had the Canadiens not been so weak on defense this training camp, Mete would not have received all the attention he’ received.

Mete has already played 10 games this season.  This means he loses a year in entry level eligibility.  The next date on the Canadiens radar is 40 games.  If Victor mete is still on the Canadiens roster come Game #40, Mete’s 2017-18 season counts as one year towards unrestricted free-agency.

In the meantime, Mete was notified to find a home in Montreal.  And his mom from Woodbridge Ontario will move in with him.

Finally, we can conclude, after 5 full seasons as Habs GM, Marc Bergevin has completely overhauled the Canadien’s defense as these are all players Bergevin has brought.  And note, only Victor Mete was a Bergevin draft pick.

 

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Tracking Bergevin’s Draft Picks

The 2017 NHL Entry Draft was Marc Bergevin’s 6th Entry Draft as GM of the Montreal Canadiens.

In total , he has drafted 39 players.

Four current draft picks have are part of the current roster.

Alex Galchenyuk, Michael McCarron, Jacob de la Rose, Artturi Lehkonen.  With McCarron and de la Rose fighting to remain on the 23-man roster.

Two other every-day NHLers have been traded;  Mikhail Sergachev, and Sven Andrighetto.

But heading into the 2017 Canadiens Camp, only one Junior age eligible draft pick was invited to the main camp; defenseman Victor Mete.

Of the 39 players Bergevin selected 31 players remain within the organization.

Elite prospects are few and far between since the Sergachev trade, but Habs fans are hoping that centres Ryan Poehling, and Joni Ikonen will be the Habs future stars.

 

   Montreal Canadiens Draft History      
2017 Entry
DraftNum.RoundPlayerPosDrafted FromRemarks
2017 Entry251Ryan PoehlingCSt. Cloud State [NCHC]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to NCHC
2017 Entry562Josh BrookDMoose Jaw Warriors [WHL]Attended Habs rookie Camp
2017 Entry582Joni IkonenCFrolunda [Sweden-Jr]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to Swedish Elite league
2017 Entry683Scott WalfordDVictoria Royals [WHL]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to WHL
2017 Entry873Cale FleuryDKootenay Ice [WHL]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to WHL
2017 Entry1495Jarret TyszkaDSeattle Thunderbirds [WHL]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to WHL
2017 Entry1997Cayden PrimeauGLincoln Stars [USHL]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to WHL
2016 Entry
DraftNum.RoundPlayerPosDrafted FromRemarks
2016 Entry91Mikhail SergachevDWindsor Spitfires [OHL]Traded to Tampa Bay
2016 Entry703William BittenCFlint Firebirds [OHL]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to OHL
2016 Entry1004Victor MeteDLondon Knights [OHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2016 Entry1245Casey StaumDGrand Rapids (Minn. H.S.)Dubuque Fighting Saints
2016 Entry1606Michael PezzettaCSudbury Wolves [OHL]Attended Habs 2017 Rookie camp. Returned to OHL
2016 Entry1877Arvid HenriksonDAIK Jrs (Sweden)Attended Habs 2017 Development Camp. Returned to Sweden
2015 Entry
DraftNum.RoundPlayerPosDrafted FromRemarks
2015 Entry261Noah JuulsenDEverett Silvertips [WHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2015 Entry873Lukas VejdemoCDjurgardens Jrs. (Sweden)Attened Habs 2017 Development Camp
2015 Entry1315Matt BradleyCMedicine Hat Tigers [WHL]Habs lose his rights.
2015 Entry1776Simon BourqueDRimouski Oceanic [QMJHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2015 Entry2077Jeremiah AddisonLOttawa 67's [OHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp. On IR
2014 Entry
DraftNum.RoundPlayerPosDrafted FromDrafted From
2014 Entry261Nikita ScherbakRSaskatoon Blades [WHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2014 Entry733Brett LernoutDSwift Current Broncos [WHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2014 Entry1255Nikolas KobersteinDOlds Grizzlys [AJHL]Attended Habs 2017 Development Camp.
2014 Entry1475Daniel AudetteCSherbrooke Phoenix [QMJHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2014 Entry1776Hayden HawkeyGOmaha Lancers [USHL]Attended Habs 2017 Development Camp. Returned to NCAA
2014 Entry2077Jake EvansFSt. Michael's Buzzers [OJHL]Attended Habs 2017 Development Camp. Returned to NCAA
2013 Entry
DraftNum.RoundPlayerPosDrafted FromRemarks
2013 Entry251Michael McCarronRU.S. National Development Team [USHL]On Canadiens roster
2013 Entry342Jacob De La RoseCLeksands IF [Swe-1]On Canadiens roster
2013 Entry362Zachary FucaleGHalifax Mooseheads [QMJHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2013 Entry552Artturi LehkonenLKalPa Kuopio [SM-liiga]On Canadiens roster
2013 Entry713Connor CrispCErie Otters [OHL]UFA. Part of Detroit Red Wings organization
2013 Entry863Sven AndrighettoRRouyn-Noranda Huskies [QMJHL]Traded to Colorado March 1, 2017
2013 Entry1164Martin RewayLGatineau Olympiques [QMJHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2013 Entry1766Jeremy GregoireCBaie-Comeau Drakkar [QMJHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2012 Entry
DraftNum.RoundPlayerPosDrafted FromRemarks
2012 Entry31Alex GalchenyukCSarnia Sting [OHL]On Canadiens roster
2012 Entry332Sebastian CollbergRFrolunda HC [SEL]Traded to NY Islanders March 5, 2014
2012 Entry512Dalton ThrowerDSaskatoon Blades [WHL]No longer part of Canadiens organization
2012 Entry643Tim BozonLKamloops Blazers [WHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2012 Entry944Brady VailCWindsor Spitfires [OHL]No longer part of Canadiens organization
2012 Entry1225Charles HudonLChicoutimi Sagueneens [QMJHL]Invited to Habs 2017 Training Camp
2012 Entry1546Erik NystromLMODO Hockey Ornskoldsvik [SEL]No longer part of Canadiens organization. Now in KHL

No NHL Players for 2018 Winter Olympics, But Why?

No NHL Players for 2018 Winter Olympics, But Why?

 

Hockey is no doubt one of the biggest sports in the world, along with basketball and football. And it’s the reason why they’re included in the Olympics. However this time, that fact seems to be an exemption.

The NHL is known to give way to the Winter Olympics since it became an Olympic sport in 1998. It stops its games for their players to compete in the global arena.

But things will be different this time around as the 2018 Winter Olympics wouldn’t include NHL players. Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, says that the league wouldn’t take a break for its players to participate in the international competition.

He says it in a very firm way, reiterating that the case is even closed for good.

No Olympics for NHL Players

Every player who is under NHL contract wouldn’t be allowed to join the 2018 Winter Olympics, which is to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In knowing that the NHL is one of the finest (if not the finest) hockey leagues, this means that the best players wouldn’t be able to compete in the biggest sporting event in four years.

Reports have it that even minors players are also unable to participate in the games. This would be the league’s first time in more than a decade not to stop its season to give way for the Winter Olympics.

The last time they did was way back in 1994. Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the NHL, says that the decision is already final.

And that all NHL players who are under active contract will be experiencing the same fate. The players who’ve made two-way NHL contracts, even those that are under minor league loans are included in the current ruling.

The only ones allowed are those players under AHL contracts.

 

The Reason

The NHL’s season schedule is the one to blame. Over the past three Winter Olympic years – 2006, 2010, and 2014, the league didn’t showcase any All Star Game. This was to give way for players to take part in the Olympics.

But it came as a surprise when NHL unveiled its 2017-18 regular season schedule last June. The schedule shows no signs of Olympics break as the 2018 All-Star Game is scheduled on Jan. 28, 2018, which is two weeks before the Feb. 9 Winter Olympic Games.

It would then be highly unlikely for the NHL to mess up its already well-coordinated plan once again.

Players’ Reactions Towards ‘Missed Opportunity’

Of course, this surprising NHL ruling would come out as a big surprise not only to the league but to the public as well. Thousands of NHL fans are already showing immense disappointment in social media, saying that U.S. and Canada’s chances of getting medals would decrease.

Some of the biggest names in the NHL, including Carey Price, Connor McDavid, Henrik Lundqvist, and Jonathan Toews, support the people’s plight in disagreeing with NHL’s “illogical” decision. The decision’s announcement was made last April.

And as soon as the word came out, the NHLPA immediately shared their sentiments saying that the league’s decision is “shortsighted.” The player’s association went on to say that the decision was only made by the NHL’s management, disregarding the opinions and desires of its players and loyal hockey fans.

They went on to say that it was a very unfortunate decision they are forced to succumb to.

Future of Olympic Hockey Betting

Due to the apparent absence of NHL players from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, there is no doubt that Canada and the U.S.’s chances of winning medals decrease, and the current betting odds support the daily NHL expert picks not be at the top anymore.

To prove this, Russia just gained the favorite spot as it gets 2.85 odds, overtaking Canada’s 3.65. Sweden takes the third spot with 4.25, followed by the Czech Republic’s 9.25.

Finland goes next with its 7.75, while the once-favorite USA is now down to the 6th spot with 11.5. Slovakia and South Korea are at the bottom of the list with 98 and 728 betting odds.

If the NHL changes this decision, and the league’s top players will be able to join their national teams for the 2018 winter games in South Korea, we are bound to see all these odds changing. Now may be a good time to put a bet on the US or Canada on low odds, and cash in if professional players show up.

What’s in a number; 2016-17 – That’s a wrap for 2016-17

The Montreal Canadiens finished their 2016-17 season on a down note.  Despite winning their division with a 47-26-9 (103 points) record, the Canadiens weren’t able to get through the first round of the payoffs.

This past season, 41 different players dressed for the Canadiens, including 13 new faces.

#6 – SHEA WEBER

The biggest off-season acquisition was Shea Weber who came in from Nashville in exchange for P.K. Subban.  Weber has worn #6 for most of his 11 year career.  And former Canadiens Greg Pateryn relinquished the number.  Some of the Habs that wore number 6 the longest include Toe Blake, and Pierre Mondou.

#8 – GREG PATERYN

Greg Pateryn switching to number 8 was short lived as he was soon traded to Dallas Stars for defenceman Jordie Benn.  Coincidentally, that is the exact number that Jordie Benn opted for when he arrived to Montreal.

#8 – JORDIE BENN

This marks the first time in Jordie Benn’s NHL career that he wears #8.  previously he wore #58 and #24 with the Stars.   Number 8 is one of only 2 single digit numbers not retired by the Canadiens.  it’s a number that not too many players have worn it for many season.  In recent memory, Doug Riseborough wore in from 1975-82.  Since then Mark Recchi and Mike Komisarek also wore #8 during their time with the Canadiens.

#15 – CHRIS TERRY

Chris Terry was an off-season UFA pick up from Carolina.  And this season he appeared in 14 games with the Canadiens.  He was assigned #15.  Bert Olmstad, Rejean Houle and Bobby Smith have worn the number the longest.

#20 – ZACH REDMOND

Zach Redmon is a depth defenceman who was also acquired as a UFA back in July 2016.  Although he spent the majority of the season with their farm club, St John’s Ice Dogs, Redmond played 16 games with the Canadiens this season.  It’s the first time Redmond wears #20.  A number worn most famously by Pete Mahovlich (1971-78).

#21 – DWIGHT KING

Dwight King is another trade-deadline acquisition made by GM Bergevin.  King wore #74 his entire NHL career with the LA Kings.  With 74 used by Alexei Emelin, King opted for 21.  Former captains Guy Carbonneau and Brian Gionta.  And for you trivia buffs, Glen Sather wore #21 back in the 1975 season.

#22 – MIKHAIL SERGACHEV

Mikhail Sergachev is a junior-aged rookie who played four games with the Canadiens before being returned to his junior club.  #22 was made famous by Steve Shutt, the Canadiens all-time leader in goals by a Left-Winger.  Shutt wore #22 from 1973-85.

#37 – ANDREAS MARTINSEN

Andreas Martinsen was acquired at the trade deadline from Colorado for Sven Andrigheto.  Martinsen was given #37, a number worn by six different goalies in Habs’ history.  Steve Penney wore it first back in 1984.

#38 – NIKITA SCHERBAK

Nikita Scherbak is another top prospect in the Canadiens origination, who made an emergency appearance during the 2016-17 season.  He’s the 10th player to wear number 38.  The longest tenured Habs to wear #38 Vladimir Malakhov 1995-2000, and Jan Bulis 2001-2006.

#44 – BOBBY FARNHAM

Bobby Farnham was a UFA signing to provide depth to the Canadiens farm club.  Farnham appeared 3 games with the Canadiens.  #44 was made famous by the Canadiens last 50-goal scorer, Stephane Richer.  Sheldon Sourray also wore #44 during his seven seasons with the Canadiens.

#47 – ALEXANDER RADULOV

Alex Radulov was the steal of at the UFA frenzy last summer.  Radulov wore the only number he ever wore in the NHL (previously with the Predators).  Only 6 players have worn #47 with the Canadiens.  The longest was Stephane Lebeau 1989-94.

#88 – BRANDON DAVIDSON

Brandon Davidson was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers prior to the trade-deadline for poplar forward David Desharnais.  Davidson has always worn #88.  And in Canadiens history, Davidson joins only two other players to wear the number; Xavier Delisle and Chris Higgins.

#89 – NIKITA NESTEROV

Nikita Nesterov is a depth defenceman acquired during the 2016-17.  Nesterov previously wore #89 with Tampa.  And with Montreal, Nesterov became only the 2nd player to don the sweater.  The other being Ryan Johnston who first wore in during the 2015016 season.

#92 – STEVE OTT

Steve Ott was acquired at the trade deadline (acquired from Detroit for Montreal’s 6th round pick in 2018 NHL Draft) and #92 is one and done!  Steve Ott is the only player in Canadiens history to ever wear #92.  In his 16 NHL seasons, Ott always wore #9 or #29.  When he was acquired by the Canadiens, he consulted his youngest daughter on what number to wear since both #9 and #29 have been retired by the Canadiens.  Following the conclusion of the 2017 playoffs, Ott announced his retirement as a player, and will join the coaching staff of the St. Louis Blues as an assistant.

Montreal Canadiens Legacy Trades

As we kick off the 2016-17 Canadiens hockey campaign, all eyes will be on the Canadiens biggest acquisition this past summer; Shea Weber.

Weber was acquired in a one for one trade with Nashville in exchange for fan favourite PK Subban.   The trade is seen as winning it now, despite the fact that oddsmakers have given the Canadiens the 22nd best odds of winning the Stanley Cup.

Immediately following the trade back on June 29, listening to TSN690’s Mitch Melnick, he called it a legacy trade for Habs GM Marc Bergevin, four years into his tenure as Canadiens GM whereby Bergevin will always be defined by this trade.

So I decided to go back in time … past four decades to see the legacy trades of prior Canadiens GMs.

Pierre Gauthier (2010-2012)

In his brief tenure as Habs GM Pierre Gauthier made what was the strangest deal I could remember.  He traded Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames, while the Canadiens were playing a game!!!  Ordering Cammalleri off the ice after the 2nd period and to wait for the trade call back at the team hotel.

Bob Gainey (2003-2010)

Prior to the 2009 free agency frenzy, Habs acquired Scott Gomez from the NY Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins (F), Ryan McDonagh (D), Pavel Valentenko (D), and Doug Janik.  Obviously McDonagh was the steal in that trade and a throw in for that deal because Gauthier was unimpressed with his college development until then, despite the fact that Gomez was starting to slow down in his career.  McDonagh is currently the captain of the NY Rangers.  All the players Habs acquired in that trade are no longer in the NHL, and Scott Gomez retired prior to the start of this season.

Andre Savard (2000-2003)

Andre Savard’s biggest trade was in 2001 trading away team leader Trevor Linden to Washington Capitals for Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis. To be fair to Andre Savard, he came in to fix the disaster that Rejean Houle caused prior.

Rejean Houle (1995-2000)

The trade everyone still talks about to this day, and how it set the Canadiens back for a generation, trading away Patrick Roy to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky, and Andrei Kovalenko. And to boot, House threw in team captain Mike Keane in the deal too.

Serge Savard (1983-1995)

Although Serge Savard is the last Stanley Cup winning GM in Canadiens franchise history, and although his deals acquiring Kirk Muller, Vincent Damphousse and Brian bellows were instrumental In the 1993 Stanley Cup championship season, it was the trade Savard made in 1990 off season when he traded away Norris trophy winner Chris Chelios to Chicago for Denis Savard.  Serge Savard was under pressure to trade Chelios more so for off-ice reasons.  However Denis Savard’s career was winding down playing only three seasons with Montreal.  Whereas Chelios went on to play for 23 more seasons and win two more Stanley Cups!!!

Irving Grundman (1978-1983)

Irving Grundman’s 5-year tenure as Habs GM did cause a few ripples to be felt especially when he traded away a future Norris trophy winner Rod Langway to the Washington Capitals along with Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis, Craig Laughlin, for Ryan Walter and Rick Green, who played pivotal roles years later in the 1986 Stanley Cup winning run.

Mario Perrazzino

Fresh Faces for the 2016-17 Montreal Canadiens

 

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Fresh Faces for the 2016-17 Montreal Canadiens

by Joe Messineo, Special to GOHABS.com

The Montreal Canadiens’ have been very active in both the trade and free agent markets in the past month and Canadiens’ Exec Marc Bergevin is at the center of the activity.  There’s a lot of new faces that Bergevin believes will push the Canadiens’ back into serious contention to win the Atlantic Division and hoist Lord Stanley in 2017.  Let’s get to know them.

The first major move occurred  just before the 2016 draft in Buffalo, NY.  Bergevin swung a deal with the Chicago BlackHawks’ to obtain the negotiating rights for forward Andrew Shaw.  The Habs only gave up two second round draft picks for the upcoming 2016 draft.  Bergevin acted quickly, inking Shaw to a six year deal, securing his services to pester the front of the net with opposing goalies being the victims.  During his career Shaw has 70 goals and 67 assists for a total of 137 points in 322 career games, with two rings as a member of the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks.  He is an upgrade which will add intensity and toughness lacking with the Canadiens.

The second major move occurred just after the draft with a straight trade occurring involving the Nashville Predators.  Montreal says goodbye to P.K Subban and in return they receive 30 year old Shea Weber who has several years left on a monstrous contract that may have cap implications down the road.  Weber brings 166 goals, 277 assists, for a total of 443 points and immediately will fill in the top pairing for Montreal.  Many hockey experts are critical of the deal due to age of both players ( Subban is 27) with one former Habs analytics consultant Mark Pfeffer imploring management to keep Subban instead of trading him.  It will be a good two years to get an actual gauge on who wins the deal, but for now the jury is out.

Other moves made during the free agency period seem to be more ancillary in nature.  The Habs signed former Colorado Avalanche blue liner Zach Redmond to a two year deal worth $1.25 million.  During the 2015-16 year he tallied six points with 22 shots on goal with a plus -5 rating and will compete for the bottom pairing role on the blue line.  Bergevin looking to add competition, signed free agent goaltender Al Montoya to a one year $950,000 deal and if he stays with the club, should provide solid backup to phenom Carey Price who will recover fully from his injury plagued 2015-16 campaign for the Canadiens.

A curious move was the signing of Alexander Radulov who was not in the NHL for awhile.  The one year $5.75 million price tag raised some eyebrows as the knock on Radulov is a load of talent and scoring ability yet short on work ethic and bringing his “A” game every night.  The press in Montreal might give management a hard time if this does not work.

Marc Bergevin has been in Montreal for five seasons now and he seems to be staking his job on some of these moves that can get Montreal right back in the mix.  The collapse last year can be attributed to the loss of Price, but if the woes continue, there may be some changes on the horizon at Bell Center Central.

 

It’s Time For The Canadiens To Stop Falling Short of Expectations

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It’s Time For The Canadiens To Stop Falling Short of Expectations

by Joe  Messineo, Special to GOHABS.com

Last year, there was arguably no better team in hockey than the Montreal Canadiens, through about six weeks of the season. Then Carey Price went down and never came back. Montreal went from 17-4-2 to 38-38-6 and finished sixth in the Atlantic division. 93 points was good enough to make the postseason out of the Eastern Conference, but the Canadiens fell well short of that mark with what turned into a hole at goaltender and uneven offensive and defensive production.

93 points is a light year though. The season prior, it took 98 points to grab the eighth seed in the East. There is no telling where that benchmark will fall ahead of time. But assuming something in the range of 90-95 points is necessary to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a wildcard, do the Canadiens have enough to challenge for a spot in 2016-17? The answer is yes with a caveat.

First off, the P.K. Subban trade for Shea Weber isn’t as big a travesty as everyone is making it out to be. Weber is still an elite defenseman in the NHL. Perhaps he won’t age well; he is already close to four years older than Subban. But for this coming season, Weber can be just as good, if not better, than Subban. He is coming off of seven straight 40-point seasons (not counting the strike-shortened 2012-13 season where Weber played all 48 games). Weber has also tallied at least 15 goals in all seven of those seasons, a plateau Subban has reached just one time in his seven-year career.

Not only is it possible Weber provides an upgrade over Subban’s production for this coming season, but Montreal also made a number of other additions this offseason. The Canadiens signed  wingers Alexander Radulov and Andrew Shaw, and defenseman Zach Redmond. And, of course, there is the indisputable advantage of having Price return healthy to goal.

A lack of Price wasn’t the team’s only shortcoming last season, but it was the main one. This is a guy who’s already won a Vezina and a Hart trophy and led the league in wins twice. He was 10-2-0 last season before going down for good. It’s easy to make a case that Price is the best goaltender in the sport. Adding that to a team automatically makes them a playoff contender.

Other than a goalie upgrade, Montreal will need to improve in some other areas. They were a middle-of-the-road team in goal production and well below that in power-play conversions and shooting percentage. But there are positive signs that those areas will see upgrades regardless of personnel changes. The Canadiens were eighth in hockey in Corsi For Percentage last year, which measures a team’s puck possession. It sounds basic, but the more often a team possesses the puck (and takes aim at the opposing goal), the more likely it is to win. Montreal was pretty good at possessing the puck. Over a large enough sample, that will result in more offense.

Last year, the Atlantic was the far easier division in the East. Only Florida would have even finished in the top four of the Metropolitan, and only two teams even topped 93 points. That won’t necessarily translate to how these teams finish next season; Tampa Bay should be good again; Boston may rebound, etc. But the door is open for Montreal to make a move up the standings. A higher producing offense, combined with a healthy return of Price, should result in a playoff berth for the Canadiens come next spring. After all, this was the best team in hockey to start last season.

The Carey Price Injury: What Could Have Been

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The Carey Price Injury: What Could Have Been

by Joe  Messineo , Special to GOHABS.com

When the Montreal Canadiens traveled to Vancouver to prepare to take on the Canucks on October 27 of the 2015-16 NHL season, they sat at 9-0-0; the best team in the league. At that point, goalie Carey Price was himself 7-0-0, with backup Mike Condon handling 2 of those wins.

A month later, on November 25, the Canadiens sat with a still marvelous record of 17-4-2. Price had missed a string of games in November in which the team went 4-2-2, but he returned to win three straight for the club. With a record of 10-2, November 25th was the last game Price would play in the ’15-’16 season.

He wouldn’t be completely shut down with his MCL injury. Instead, his possible return lingered through the spring as Montreal collapsed without his services. From that 17-4-2 mark, the team finished 21-34-4 to crumple to a 38-38-6 season and a sixth-place finish in the Atlantic division. It cycled through four different goaltenders outside of Price, trying to find some consistency that was out of reach. In just 12 appearances, Price’s two shutouts led the club, as the team only managed to earn one other shutout late in the season with Condon in the net.

Though Montreal couldn’t overcome his nearly year-long absence, it begs the question, where would this team have been had Price not gone down? It’s a fool’s errand to truly examine what-ifs in the world of sports, but with the way the Canadiens started the season, it remains interesting to explore.

In those 12 Price games, albeit a small sample size, Montreal killed off 39 of 44 opponent power plays. That 88.6 percent mark dwarfed where the team finished with less reliable goaltending backing up the penalty kill. Even more interestingly, the Canadien offense wasn’t too shabby all year despite the weak record. Based on Corsi, which measures a team’s puck possession by calculating all shots plus misses plus blocked shots, Montreal finished with the eighth-best mark in the NHL. It ranked ahead of Stanley Cup finalist San Jose in both offensive opportunities generated and CF%.

The real undoing of Montreal was not an underachieving offense or unreliable special teams, though the latter certainly took a hit. It was goaltending through and through. The Canadiens ranked 25th in the league in team save percentage even factoring in Price’s unbelievable beginning. This wasn’t a one-man team, but the team lost the one man it couldn’t succeed without.

Price had never started fewer than 38 games in a season prior to last year. He was also coming off of the very best season of his career when he went 44-16-6 in 2014-15, with a minuscule 1.96 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. It was so good a year, Price not only won the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL; he also won the Hart as the league’s MVP. Then he began last season somehow with a save percentage even better and a GAA right in line with where he left off.

It’s impossible to know for sure what would have happened with this team had it had a healthy Price because, the fact is, it did not. However, he was on his way to challenging yet again for the mark of best goalie in the sport. That possibility surely fills Canadiens fans with disgust at the way the season turned out, but fortunately, Price will be ready to yet again pick up where he left off for this coming season.

email: Joe Messineo

 

Latest Habs Rumours and News

Latest Habs Rumors and News

by Alex Chambers, Special to GOHABS.com

There’s no denying that the Habs had a truly disappointing season – having started the season with a glorious 9 game winning streak it was little wonder that the Habs were the team most backed to win the Stanley Cup this year. But, almost overnight, the team went from glory to failure and were the team to have gained the least points since December. It was no surprise really when the team lost all hope of Stanley Cup contention in March after their loss to the Rangers.

To come back from such disappointment the Habs will need to work on their team before next season with new signings and returns from injury. Here are all the latest team rumors:

 

  • The Habs are desperate to get outstanding KHL scorer Vadim Shipachyov out of SKA St. Petersburg and the KHL league and into a HABs jersey. Shipachyov, 29, has had an outstanding 60-point season. Although other NHL teams have shown interest, it has been rumored that the Habs and Shipachyov are getting closer to signing a deal.

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However there may be a clause in Shipachyov’s contract that means that he’ll have to play another year in Russia before he can come to the NHL.

  • It’s looking more and more likely that the Habs will lose Bud Holloway to the KHL before the start of next season. Although the 28 year-old was only signed last year as a free agent, he has only played one game for Montreal this season so is likely looking overseas for better success.

 

Russian website Championat.com has reported that Holloway has signed a deal with CSKA Moscow, however nothing has been confirmed with the Habs yet.

 

  • Martin Reway is set to take up a Habs jersey next season after signing a 3 year contract with the team. Although Reway plays mainly center – where the Habs are pretty full – he can also play wing which could be useful for the Habs. Particularly useful as a secondary scorer, he is also an impressive passer.

 

  • Jeremiah Addison has just completed his fourth year of junior hockey with Ottawa 67’s and it was an impressive season for the defensive forward. He had a career best with 26 goals and 27 assists in just 66 games. If the Habs decide not to sign Addison this year it is likely that he’ll play an overage season with Ottawa.

 

  • Injury wise, all injured players – including the much missed Carey Price – are likely to return fully fit for next season. It’s no coincidence that the Habs began losing after Price was put out for the season so his return will be a much needed boost for the team.