Are the Canadiens legitimate contenders this year?
Are the Canadiens a playoff team?
How good will the 2006/2007 Montreal Canadiens be?
The Habs have changed in many ways since last season, but will they be better?
The offseason brought new faces to replace some old and tired players. Jan Bulis and Richard Zednik were a main part of the offence last year. Whether they performed that way or not, they were expected to be some of the top guns up front. Bulis and Zednik are gone leaving holes up front.
They were quickly replaced by Sergei Samsonov and Mike Johnson. Polls on this site indicate nearly everyone believes these replacements to be much better and are expecting big things from them. Especially from Sergei Samsonov who was the ‘big name’ free agent everyone needed to hear we signed. Bob Gainey was attacked by everyone until this deal surfaced. Is Samsonov that big a savior? Had Gainey not signed Sergei Samsonov would the Habs be, for lack of a better term, ‘screwed’ this season? Samsonov is no doubt extremely talented and a very skilled player but can he improve the team on his own?
Mike Johnson will be a surprise this year and at the end of the season possibly be considered Bob Gainey’s best move. The guy is a solid player and contributor, a guy who is hungry to play and fill the role that’s given to him. Johnson also comes in with absolutely no pressure or expectations on him as you can see by the poll to the right.
In theory Samsonov and Johnson should be improvements over Bulis and Zednik. What about the other issues the Canadiens will face?
The Canadiens defence has not improved. The most questionable part of the team. In fact if you remove Andrei Markov from the D you are left with a rather grim looking picture. Craig Rivet’s play improved last year, Mike Komisarek is slowly coming around but far from a top 4. Which Sheldon Souray will show up? Frank Bouillon has more heart than anyone but will his body cooperate? The Habs are still lacking that #1 guy on defence.
The Habs have more depth than they’ve had in a long time. With so many players available a trade for a #1 Defenseman is not out of the question.
Cristobal Huet. Now we see if he is for real or not. Was it a flukey season or will he be able to be a top NHL goalie? Games are more often than not decided by goaltending and if the Habs want to contend they need big things from him. Aebischer is a safety blanket but Huet is the go to guy to start the year. Can he handle the pressure and expectations thrust upon him now as the #1 Goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens?
Another thing to consider is the Habs coaching staff. Guy Carbonneau takes over as Head Coach for the first time ever. Kirk Muller debuts as an assitant coach with no coaching experience whatsoever. The fact they were good hockey players and Stanley Cup winners doesn’t guarantee anything behind the bench. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle to be put in place and the coaching staff will no doubt have their hands full.
On paper and in theory the Canadiens are a better team than they were one year ago.
The only thing left to do is prove it on the ice.
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