Claude Julien gave us a good idea what the team will look like on Oct. 9th after announcing his latest cuts.
Veteran defensemen Karl Dykhuis and Patrick Traverse were sent to
The team will have a new feel this year, with youth slowly taking on a bigger role.
Mike Komisarek should be in the starting lineup on defence, while Mike Ribeiro, Marcel Hossa, Jason Ward, and Michael Ryder will move in to replace Doug Gilmour, Oleg Petrov, Mariuz Czerkawski and Randy McKay who are not returning from last year.
Add to that Sheldon Souray who is back after a long battle with a serious wrist injury, and the Montreal Canadiens have added significantly to their overall size, toughness, and youth.
Claude Julien is implementing a new defensive scheme which aims to reduce the number of shots and scoring chances Jose Theodore will have to face, so the overall defence should also be improved.
And yet major concerns remain.
The Canadiens’ most glaring problem is a lack of offence. Donald Audette and Richard Zednik who have been snake-bitten during the pre-season will have to get going, and Yannick Perreault who scored only 2 goals in the second half last year will have to produce.
The Habs are counting on Jan Bulis to build on a strong year, and will hope Mike Ribeiro & Marcel Hossa will establish themselves and show some consistency.
Health is also a concern. Koivu & Kilger are already injured, Rivet & Souray have a history with bad wrists, Juneau & Brisebois have a history of back problems… this team needs to remain healthy if they want to have any chance of competing for a playoff spot.
Thankfully Koivu is ahead of schedule and might return for the opening game of the season, and Kilger shouldn’t be far behind.
Then there are the “distraction” concerns. Will Jose Theodore be able to perform at the high standards the Canadiens need him to while most of his family is in court? Will the fans’ love-hate relationship with Patrice Brisebois boil over or has Bob Gainey managed to put out that fire for now?
And yet as is the case at the start of every season, everyone is hopeful… and looking forward to a good season.
After staying put all summer, rumour is Gainey is already looking to make a move to strengthen the club now that he’s had a chance to evaluate the team himself during training camp.
There is hope indeed.