I would like to preface this blog with a giant Thank You to PoolDeluxe for taking me in when I started blogging. I appreciate the openness in letting find my voice and writing style and for promoting the blog as much as possible. It was really cool to have as many as 500 readers for a few of the pieces I wrote for you guys! To the readers, I will be moving on, not retiring, so you enjoy reading my opinion on games and other Habs stuff, feel free to add me on Twitter: @kev1586 or simply follow me at www.habsworld.net where I will hopefully bring my writing to the next level. As I leave this site and get accustomed to my new digs, here is one last piece to consider. Thanks again to the guys here for making blogging a very positive experience!
Is the Roster Really Set?
While many fans anxiously await news on Andrei Markov or other free agents they believe might help the Montreal Canadiens, my blog’s focus tonight is about the possibility that Marc Bergevin is unable to add to his roster. What, then, will the Montreal Canadiens look like heading into the 2017-2018 season? A look around the division allows one to remain rather optimistic on the chances that the Habs take part in the Spring Tourney; although an honest look at the Metropolitan Division clarifies that it would take many aligning stars or some serious shopping at the trade deadline to realistically hope for any kind of success in said playoffs.
The first thing to say about the roster, and the most obvious, is that if Carey Price remains healthy, this team can rely on some of the best goaltending that can be offered in the entire league. At the very least, this position is assuredly cemented for the foreseeable future. Should Price miss some time with injuries, expect Charlie Lindgren as many starts as Al Montoya if not more. Lindgren really made a case for himself last season and should continue to make some noise playing for the Rocket in Laval.
On the blue line, there will be some serious competition for a spot on the team’s top 4. Jordie Benn is the likely fan favourite for the role, if he is willing to play on the left side. However, this would mean another defender having to play their wrong side as the 3rd pairing right side would be vacated by Benn’s presence on a higher pairing. In addition to the shifting of sides for multiple defenders, consider that after a first month that made many fans wonder why this guy was even allowed to leave Dallas, Benn did slow down and showed some signs to being a rather pedestrian third-pairing defender. The other option that is likely to get every possible chance to succeed in the top-4 is Czech KHL import Jakub Jerabek. I would assume that if Jerabek were to earn that role, it would be next to Shea Weber who could then act as a stabilizing factor next to the rookie. This way, it would still be possible to play Benn there in tight games with the lead. This would also allow a pairing of Petry-Alzner which should work wonders considering the duos complementary playing styles. If Jerabek were to fail to impress at training camp, one would expect a battle to ensue for the spot between Schlemko, Morrow and Davidson. I would give the edge to Davidson here, simply because he has played with Petry before and knows that he needs to play safe and smart next to the risk-taking Petry. On the prospects list, expect Noah Juulsen to get a ton of preseason action before making his way to Laval. The prospect had a solid development camp and will look to build on that success at the real camp. Once training camp is done, expect Brett Lernout to be the first call-up if injuries start taking their toll.
Up front is where many writers are likely to disagree and things should be interesting. With the addition of Ales Hemsky, I truly believe that Tomas Plekanec is expected to center the third line and to have an ultra reliable third unit, with a second that should threaten with more offense, but be a riskier line that could have some serious off-nights. My third line would consist of Byron-Plekanec-Hemsky; so essentially a third line that could also chip-in with some offense too. This would essentially leave a fourth line of Shaw-Mitchell and then McCarron-Martinsen platooning there. This bottom-6 is versatile, responsible, and capable of chipping in with some offense too. The second line would therefore consist of Arturri Lehkonen-Phil Danault-Brendan Gallagher. Danault gets a chance to build on last season and show that he belongs in a top 6 without the help of Pacioretty and Radulov, while Gallagher needs a season without injury to reset himself and his offensive value. In the case of Lehkonen, any kind of progression from him and he could very well supplant the captain as the top left-wing option on the team. Julien should play his best players together on the top unit with Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Drouin creating one of the most exciting top units seen in Montreal over the last 20 seasons. Galchenyuk and Pacioretty have clicked before, even though I believe both to be better snipers than passers. This belief is likely why I am so intrigued by this line, as Drouin would become the playmaker and setup man on the unit, a role he is likely to be okay with. This offensive set-up does require both Lehkonen to play like he did at the end of last season, and for Danault to take a big step forward, but at some point, the youth of the organization must be tested. Then Bergevin could work to fill whatever spot remains once he knows how Danault and Lehkonen react to being important cogs in the offensive wheel. If any of the proposed second line don’t answer the call, expect Charles Hudon to get a recall and a first real opportunity to show that he belongs in the NHL. Aside from Hudon, prospects remain further out with the forwards, especially with Ikonen and Poehling not attending the training camp to respect their current club obligations. This means that the eyes are likely to be glued to Jeremiah Addison who missed the prospects camp but had a solid Memorial Cup for the Windsor Spitfires, and Antoine Waked who seems to be bulldozing his way up the depth charts since signing as an undrafted free agent. Another player of interest will be the often-disappointing Nikita Scherbak, who has received some criticism from Trevor Timmins recently regarding his dedication to the game.
Do you think this team is playoff bound as is, can they content, or is Bergevin in serious and desperate need to improve this club before October? I think they remain a playoff team, but need more offense to make noise there. And Markov would be a welcome addition to remove some pressure from Jerabek too.
Thanks for reading,