A new year with new hope. That is the mindset of many fans after a disastrous 2011-12 campaign that saw the Habs finish dead last in the East and led to the removal of coach Jacques Martin, his successor Randy Cunneyworth, and GM Pierre Gauthier. A new coaching and management staff are in place, led by Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin that has many looking forward to the upcoming abbreviated 2012-13 season.
The Canadiens' offseason was relatively quiet in terms of player movement. Adding grit was the theme as newcomers Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong, and Francis Bouillon all have above average levels of sandpaper in their games. The list of departures is small as well, fronted by Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, and Brad Staubitz. As a result, the core of last years' squad remains intact.
The 2011-12 season was mired by injuries as Andrei Markov, Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Scott Gomez, and several others missed considerable time. Simply being healthy should result in all of these players having better years in 2013. One of the few positives from all these banged up players was that it allowed for others to step up. A new top trio emerged in Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and Erik Cole who all had career years and will be counted on as core pieces this season. Lars Eller followed up his rookie year with a quality sophomore campaign and, armed with a new two year deal, will be expected to continue to improve.
Depth on defence has been a concern in recent years but this shouldn't be the case this time around. A now-healthy Markov joins P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges to fill out the top half of the group. Bouillon and 2011-12 trade acquisition Tomas Kaberle are both useful veterans who can capably fill some roles while Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz both acquitted themselves well in their rookie seasons and can be counted on to take on more of the workload if necessary. Yannick Weber, who showed some versatility last year by spending some time at forward, is also still around.
The teams' greatest strength, however, remains between the pipes. Carey Price is a bonafide franchise goalie who is capable of playing more games than the average starter. That should come in handy with a compressed 2012-13 schedule. Peter Budaj also returns; a former starter in Colorado, he can ably fill in where necessary.
A new young nucleus is forming in Montreal, one that will soon include 3rd overall pick Alex Galchenyuk, perhaps as early as this season. Brighter days are ahead for the Habs.
Intro written by Brian La Rose - January 2013
Lars Eller (head), indefinite
Alexei Emelin (knee), season
Brian Gionta (bicep), season
M. Pacioretty (shoulder), indefinite
Carey Price (lower body), DTD
Brandon Prust (upper body), DTD
Ryan White (upper body), DTD
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