It was an entertaining offseason, to say the least.
Following a season that was filled with key injuries, bad luck, and the worst collapse in franchise history, the Canadiens were set on changing several aspects of the team. They identified a slew of intangibles as the cause of their demise, and went on to address them in spectacular fashion. Leadership, locker room chemistry, attitude, and similar issues were the reasons given by the team for their miserable failure. Unfortunately, they did not seem to identify any tangible problems.
They proceeded to trade the face of the franchise, P.K. Subban, for Shea Weber, sending the entire fanbase into an emotional tailspin. They also sent Lars Eller to Washington, and acquired the super pest known as Andrew Shaw. Instead of addressing the lack of adjustments by the head coach as the team comically dropped in the standings, they were hell-bent on turning the Canadiens into a team that’s "tough to play against". Over the course of one summer, the Habs changed their identify from a skilled and speedy team to a gritty club that won’t be intimidated on the ice.
The good news is that their savior, Carey Price, is back in action, and his mere presence should be enough to drag the Canadiens into a playoff spot this season. They also added a very talented winger in Alex Radulov, who should provide an intense presence in the offensive zone. Finally, the team seems intent on giving Alex Galchenyuk first line centre minutes, which is long overdue in his particular case and should bring an appreciable increase in team scoring.
The fact of the matter is that no one knows where the Canadiens stand entering the 2016-17 season, but we do know it should go a long way in answering whether or not the Habs front office, and the franchise itself, is on the right track following a slew of changes.
- Can Alex Radulov provide the goal scoring the Canadiens desperately need from a top-six winger?
- Who will play with Shea Weber and maximize his value on the first pairing?
- Can Artturi Lehkonen earn a spot and make an impact?
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Carey Price returns and immediately provides the confidence the team was dearly missing last season, by posting a .930 save percentage or higher. Montreal receives constant production from Alex Radulov. Kirk Muller, with the help of Shea Weber, fixes a power play that has been struggling for over 3 years, and the Canadiens can manage to win one-goal games with regularity. Max Pacioretty scores at a high rate, erasing all the "poor leadership" narratives that have been building over the summer.
The first line of Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Brendan Gallagher establishes themselves as one of the best trios in the NHL. The Canadiens qualify for the playoffs with relative ease, and put the disastrous 2015-16 season behind them.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
The Canadiens are plagued with injuries once again, and without P.K. Subban driving the majority of the offense from the back end, they encounter major goal scoring problems. They miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year and once again fail to acknowledge that their coach is a poor communicator who lacks the ability to adjust his strategy during games.
The collapse is once more blamed on intangibles, and they continue rooting out their best players in an attempt to rectify a leadership issue that clearly stems from the coaching staff. Carey Price counts down the days until his contract expires.