by Marc Dumont, Cara Thorington
1. Carey Price.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding the team, but when it comes to goaltending, the Canadiens can be confident that they head into games with the best goaltender in the world.
The reigning Vezina, Lindsay, Jennings and Hart Trophy winner is the heart and soul of the team, their undisputed leader and the main reason why they managed to win the division last season. Without Price, the team would struggle to qualify for the playoffs.
The Canadiens will go as far as Price can take them.
2. Defensive mobility.
The blue line is littered with mobile defenders who can move the puck incredibly well. With the addition of Jeff Petry at last year's trade deadline, the Canadiens started icing a defense that featured five puck-moving defenders: Petry, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Nathan Beaulieu and Tom Gilbert.
It appears as though this trend will continue through this season with the agile Nathan Beaulieu solidifying his spot in the top-six, indicating the Canadiens will maintain their mobility on defense, instead of relying on a stable of slow skating stay-at-home defenders.
3. Youth movement.
Since he took over the team in the summer of 2012, general manager Marc Bergevin has focused on developing talent from within.Despite rather late draft positions in the last few years, Bergevin (along with the head of scouting Trevor Timmins) has managed to select promising players such as Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Charles Hudon, Artturi Lehkonen, Martin Reway, Jeremy Gregoire, Tim Bozon and Noah Juulsen.
Meanwhile, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, Jacob de la Rose, Nathan Beaulieu and Brendan Gallagher are all yet to hit their prime.
by Namiko Hitotsubashi
Most of the well-documented problems the Canadiens face have their roots in the system the team plays. Watch any power play from last year, and you can see some of the glaring issues. They play a dump-and-chase system, and a collapse-on-Carey-Price-and-pray game. The numbers also show that the system isn't actually as defensively sound as the players and coaches claim. They often get hemmed in their own zone because their go-to method of breaking out essentially hands the other team the puck, via the chip-and-chase.
2. Reliance on Carey Price.
No one is saying that the Canadiens need to apologize for having the best goalie in the world, and for building their team around him. That would be silly. Every team builds around their best player. However, that doesn't mean that the team should live or die on whether Price is superhuman. Having a superstar goalie should be the icing on the cake, not the cake's entire substance.
3. Scoring woes.
While the Habs certainly lack the depth of, say, the Pittsburgh Penguins when it comes to high-end offensive players, many of the team's scoring woes come from the system and baffling lineup decisions.
The Habs had Max Pacioretty (nearly 40 goals), Tomas Plekanec (25+ goals) and the 20/20+ goal duo of Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher at their disposal last season, but the issue resided more in the secondary and tertiary scoring department. They finished the season as the lowest-scoring club to qualify for the playoffs.
1. How will Alex Galchenyuk fare as a center?
2. Will Alex Semin return to his elite goal-scoring levels?
3. Are the Canadiens legitimate Stanley Cup contenders?
BEST CASE SCENARIO
by Marc Dumont
Carey Price continues his dominant ways, completing yet another brilliant season. Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk continue to flourish as young, talented forwards. Max Pacioretty remains healthy and reaches the 40-goal mark. Jeff Petry adds a reliable presence on the back end, removing pressure from P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov.
The newly acquired Zack Kassian provides a quality depth scoring option on the right wing. Alex Semin returns to his former glory, thus ending Montreal's scoring woes. The power play finally breaks out of a three-year funk and the Habs don't have to rely on Price to win the majority of their games. The Canadiens emerge as a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
by Marc Dumont
The team gets off to a slow start. Semin spends the majority of the season in the press box as a healthy scratch. The injury bug returns, thus ending Montreal's incredibly luck streak of injury-free hockey. The Canadiens continue to play a weak possession style, relying on chip-outs to leave their defensive zone, and dump-ins to enter the offensive zone.
Price only manages a "good" season, the team struggles to make the playoffs, with an outside chance that they miss the cut, and the Habs waste another year of prime hockey from their young stars.