HabsWorld.net -- 

Assuming the CBA gets settled, there are no shortage of candidates to take on
a bigger role for the Montreal Canadiens in 2012-13.  Wednesday’s
announcement that Rene Bourque will miss the start of the year opens up a spot
in the top-6 up front while there are several depth players that are capable of
taking a step forward.  Just who might these players be?

We posed the question on our message board and had several names come up for

Commandant: "I think Lars Eller is ready to take the next step.
However the lineup as currently constructed makes it very difficult for him to
do so.

If the Habs find a 2nd line LW (pushing Bourque to the third line with Eller)…
or if the Habs find someone else to play on Eller’s line (ie Leblanc, Gallagher,
or Palushaj step up)… then he can really provide some nice secondary scoring.
If he ends up on a line with some combo of Armstrong, Moen, and Prust as both
his wingers, it’s going to be tough."

DON: "I would look to those who had no training camp last fall
to showed marked improvement with both Eller and Leblanc coming in bigger and
stronger… But Eller will end up at 2nd line centre by end of season, so he is
the winner.

illWill: "Rene Bourque’s expectations are not very high this
year as many have thrown him under the bus. He has had horrible production since
he’s come to Montreal. There is nowhere to go but up with him, from what we got
last year. With the uncertainty of line up combos just yet, and the ever present
reality of injuries, he could find himself some top line minutes at some point
in the season."  (This was written before the announcement of his

Habsfan84: "I think this is the year Gomez gets out of his
funk. Its just a matter of where he plays. If the sticks with the team I can see
him getting 45-55 points which would be a big step up from the 11 he got last
year. With Therrien at the helm preaching hard work he might find a way… This
is wishful thinking on my part but if he is given the chance I feel that he can
do it."

Kiwihab: "I think Emelin will quietly step up and be Montreal’s
defensive rock. Subban will get all the press, but I think Emelin will be the
defensive stud. We know he can hit, but this year would hope to see him playing
more physical and really clearing the front of the net. My pick is that he will
be first on Carey Price’s Christmas Card list."

I think the expectations for Brandon Prust from many are unrealistic but at
the same time I think he will do more than expected and have a bigger role than
he had with the Rangers.  I know that sounds strange but hear me out. 
In terms of his physical play, I think fans are expecting too much – he isn’t
going to fight 30 times; in fact I would expect the number of fights to drop
compared to his numbers with New York.  But with respect to what his role
will be, I think he can exceed expectations.  I believe he isn’t going to
spend a lot of time on the 4th line like it seems to be assumed; instead, I
figure he will skate on the third line.  That, coupled with seeing heavy
minutes on the penalty kill, should give him a chance to set career highs in
both points and minutes played.  He isn’t going to be vying for the scoring
lead by any stretch but he will be more than a prototypical 8-minute fourth

In terms of returning players, Brian Gionta stands out as a player primed to
do more.  Looking aside from the injuries that cost him more than half the
year, his offensive production was below average for him (under a 40-point
pace).  His spot in the top-6 up front should be secure and assuming he can
stay healthy this year, he should be able to shoulder more of the scoring load. 
Having a second line that actually has more than one consistent offensive threat
on it should go a long way to keeping the Habs out of the basement in 2012-13.