Not many people remember that the 2013 Montreal Canadiens overtook the Boston Bruins for the Northeast Division title. What most do remember is their crazy 5 game series with the Ottawa Senators in which they were outscored 20-9 and the two teams combined for 375 penalty minutes.
Habs' general manager Marc Bergevin, who came from the Blackhawks' front office, made a few moves in order to improve his team. He signed Danny Briere to a two year deal after the Philadelphia Flyers bought out his contract. He acquired Christian Thomas and George Parros via trades with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers respectively. He also thought it would be a good idea to pay money for Douglas Murray. Woof!
I am sure the way last season ended has left a bad taste in the mouths of Habs fans. What improvements have been made to get the Canadiens deeper into the playoffs this year?
Honestly, not much has changed. The signings were Danny Briere, George Parros, and Douglas Murray. It’s doubtful they’ll have much of an impact. There’s always a lot of talk about how the Habs are small and skilled and lack toughness, but they were pretty much the only team in the East that convincingly showed they could hang with Boston during the regular season. The Ottawa series was very frustrating because the Canadiens dominated in terms of possession and scoring chances, but ended up losing in five games. There’s not much you can do in the offseason to improve what essentially boils down to puck luck. The problem this year is that the division is pretty tough—Detroit and Boston are locks to make the playoffs, and then you have Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and possibly one of the Florida teams battling it out for two spots.
Goaltender Carey Price is locked up for the next five seasons but his numbers have been declining over the past three years. Do you still believe Price is the goalie to lead the Habs to the hockey promised land?
It’s really nice to be able to say, these days, that the team in front of Price gives him the chance to win every night, instead of him being their only shot at a win. It wasn't that long ago that he felt like the only elite player on this team (remember the Andrei Markov injury years) but now this core seems pretty stacked. So it wouldn't just be Price leading the Habs to the promised land—It would be Price and P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller and the Gallys and is it October 1st yet? I’m pretty excited to see what Carey can do now that he’s abandoned that disastrous technique experiment from last season.
How do you rate the job Marc Bergevin has done so far as the Canadiens' general manager?
This one is hard because the previous regime made enough bad decisions that simply not repeating them would have made Bergevin look like a genius. I would say we’re definitely in B territory, mostly because of the David Desharnais and Francis Boullion extensions in the middle of the season for no fathomable reason, as well as this Douglas Murray signing. Otherwise I think we’re okay with his work so far.
How much will the return of a healthy Alexei Emelin help the Habs blue line?
BOOM. No, seriously, his nickname is BOOM. He’s definitely one of the more physical defensemen we have, but unlike Douglas Murray, he can keep up with the rest of this team. I can’t wait to have him back in the lineup.
What are your realistic expectations for Danny Briere in Montreal?
He’s likely to get a lot of time on the Desharnais-Pacioretty line, as well as on the power play. I think he’ll definitely have a better season than his last one in Philadelphia (which was pretty hideous, but the Flyers were a shit show to begin with), but to expect him to return to his prime at this point is a huge stretch.
Can Alex Galchenyuk continue to progress and become an elite point producer?
I think it’s pretty safe to say that if he develops according to expectations, he could be one of the top scorers in the league in a few years. Barring any career-altering injuries, I would be surprised if he doesn’t. He’s definitely one of the most skilled players we’ve seen here in a little while.
We will end with one of your favorite subjects; tell us why P.K. Subban is better than Erik Karlsson.
Sigh. That is not up for debate. Only Senators fans think it is. Pro tip: don’t listen to Ottawa Senators fans.
Thanks again to Laura for helping us out with our preview. Be sure to follow her on Twitter during the season @theactivestick. The Blackhawks and Habs will renew their Original 6 rivalry in Montreal on January 11th and again at the United Center on April 9th.