Last year was a bounce back campaign for the Montreal Canadiens. After finishing last in the East in 2011-12, the Habs surprisingly won the Northeast Division in the shortened 48-game season. Unfortunately, the playoffs were a different story as they were ousted by the Senators in five games in the first round. With a return to an 82-game season, re-aligned divisions, players seeking redemption, and more, there are no shortage of storylines to follow on 2013-14, including:
GM Marc Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien are in the midst of their first full training camp with the Canadiens and they will be bringing a very similar team to the table this season. Bergevin added four components to the Canadiens this summer. He traded for Christian Thomas(who is likely to see time as a callup) and tough guy George Parros while signing another small forward - Briere - and defenceman Douglas Murray.
On the surface, Briere seems like a redundant piece for the already undersized top-9 forwards of the Habs that already include captain Brian Gionta, Gallagher, and David Desharnais. We may not even get to see this move pay off as Briere's most talked about attribute is his ability to produce in the playoffs but the Habs are far from a lock in the 2014 postseason despite their strong showing last year.
Murray is an addition that has been questioned by many fans and writers for many reasons among them foot speed and declining play on the penalty kill, not to mention all his drawbacks when you look at advanced stats. However, he provides an element of toughness on the blueline, something that only Alexei Emelin (who will miss the start of the year) and Jarred Tinordi (who has just thirteen games of experience heading into the season) can bring to the table. Parros will also help in the toughness department; his fighting skills will come in handy against other heavyweights while taking some of the pugilistic pressure off of Brandon Prust and company.
With very little in the way additions, it comes as no surprise that there weren't many players moving on from last years' team. The most prominent departure is mid-season acquisition Michael Ryder who was not offered a new deal and signed with the Devils. Depth players Colby Armstrong, Jeff Halpern, and Yannick Weber have also moved on, signing in Sweden, Finland, and Vancouver respectively.
It's clear that management and the coaching staff believe that the core of this team is capable of repeating, if not building upon, their success from last season. Will that be the case - resulting in contending for the division once again - or will the Habs be fighting tooth-and-nail as they often have in recent years to make the postseason? Of all of the potential storylines this season, this will be the biggest one to follow.
Intro written by Jonathan Rebelo - September 2013
Alexei Emelin (shoulder), 4-6 wks
Sergei Gonchar (concussion), DTD
P-A Parenteau (concussion), DTD
Jack Nevins (upper body), DTD
M. Nygren (concussion), indefinite