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Most would say that the Montreal Canadiens were very quiet throughout the off-season; however this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any fresh faces that are contributing. Whether they were in Hamilton last season (Michael Ryder), missed the entire season due to injury (Sheldon Souray) or were acquired via waivers/free agency (Pierre Dagenais, Darren Langdon, Steve Bégin) a few players that didn’t play a big role in the success of the CH last year, are contributing mightily this season.

To say that Sheldon Souray has made a difference this season for the Habs would be an understatement. Souray has come back following a wrist injury that had career threatening potential to lead Montreal in goals, 8, average ice time, 23:24 and he’s also second in shots on goal, 63, and points, 12. Souray currently leads the NHL in goals by a blue-liner. He has contributed all this, while adding a physical presence on the backend that the Habs were lacking all of last year. His 6’4, 227 pound frame has helped clear out the front of the net on most occasions, although if Souray displayed a bit more nastiness, no one would be complaining.


It seemed like a longshot that Ryder would ever make it big in the NHL a couple of years ago as he was dwindling in the ECHL with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of all teams. However Ryder never gave up and was promoted to the Habs farm team at the time, the Quebec Citadelles. He notched 28 points in 50 games and the following season he was able to stick with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Ryder experienced a breakout season with 34 goals and 33 points for 67 points in 64 games. He came up big when the stakes were highest aswell, notching 11 goals and 17 points in 23 games in the playoffs, guiding the Bulldogs to the Calder Cup final, where they lost in 7 games. This season Ryder has continued where he left off last year. He has tallied 5 goals and 8 assists for 13 points in 24 games with the big club, good enough for a tie for third in rookie scoring. Ryder has certainly progressed mightily and the St. John’s native seems poised to become an established NHLer, even if it hasn’t been the most conventional way of doing so.


While other Habs have been questioned for their lack of heart, no one has done so for Steve Bégin, the feisty 4th line Center for the Canadiens. Bégin displays a never-say-die attitude that has quickly made him a fan favourite in Montreal. After spending 7 years in the Calgary Flames organization, Bégin was left unprotected at this year’s waiver draft and Bob Gainey jumped at the opportunity to sign the 5’11 190 pound centremen. Bégin has produced 1 goal and 2 assists in 20 games thus far, but it’s his gritty style of play that has Hab fans gushing. Begin will most certainly play an important role throughout this season for the Canadiens.


Also imported in this year’s waiver draft was enforcer Darren Langdon. Gone are the days of watching Gordie Dwyer and Sylvain Blouin struggle in a bout with one of the league’s legitimate heavyweights. Langdon gives the Habs their first true tough-guy since Donald Brashear. In 13 games this season Langdon has amassed 30 PIM, which includes 4 fighting majors, all against solid competition.


The final new contributor hasn’t been with the big club for very long, Pierre Dagenais. In only 3 games in Montreal, Dagenais has produced 1 goal and 1 assist. He did, however, produce 21 points in 20 games on the farm for the Bulldogs. Dagenais, a free agent pickup from the Florida Panthers has currently been playing on a line with Yanic Perreault and former QMJHL linemate Mike Ribeiro (who was scratched for last Tuesday’s contest but should resume his spot on this line soon enough). Together they produced 133 goals for Rouyn-Norranda in 1998-99. Dagenais possesses much needed size at the forward position, he is 6’4” and 204 pounds, and he seems to be playing with more of a physical edge since his call-up, which had previously been one of his weak points. Dagenais certainly is not a lock to be a part of the Habs future plans but he will certainly want to give it his best shot because this may be his last chance to make it in the NHL.


This season has been a pretty up and down one of the Canadiens thus far, but these new additions should certainly not be to blame. Now if the players who are expected to produce that haven’t been this season could step it up a couple notches, Montreal might just have a playoff team on their hands. Until then, these newcomers should continue among the few bright spots.