Losing in the playoffs at the hands of your archrival is always devastating for a team and its fan base. Blowing a 2-0 series lead while heading home to host games three and four pours some salt in the wound. Watching your rival not only come back to defeat you in that series, but go on and win the Stanley Cup? Let’s just say the scenario couldn’t have gotten much worse for the Montreal Canadiens.
Despite the tragic end to their season last year, the Canadiens proved that they had the ability to compete with the best teams in the game, and had a couple of bounces gone their way they might have even been the ones hoisting the Cup. The Canadiens come back mostly in tack from last year and as always, the fans in Montreal will be expecting big things.
Adding to their forward group in the offseason was a point of emphasis for general manager Pierre Gauthier. Montreal struggled to score goals last season, tallying only 213 goals on the year. They tied with Toronto, and finished better than only the Florida Panthers the dismal Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils. What the Canadiens really need is for current players to produce more, but the acquisition of Erik Cole should certainly help. Cole scored 26 goals last season and should fit right in on a team that loves to move the puck up the ice in transition as quickly as possible.
The Canadiens brought in former Colorado Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj to help back up Carey Price. Price was sensational last season, finishing with 38 wins and really affirming himself as one of the top netminders in the league. Montreal will need another big year from Price, but having Budaj as a potential back up to spell him and in case of injury is just another layer of depth that good teams always seem to have.
One of the most important players heading into the season for the Canadiens has to center Scott Gomez. He’s been the talk to many trade rumors and no doubt there are plenty of fans who want him on the next bus out of town. Gomez was absolutely dreadful last season, finishing with career lows in goals and points, and his $7.5 million cap hit certainly doesn’t provide him room for any excuses. Gomez is at his best when he’s distributing the puck, so even if he scores only 12-15 goals, the Canadiens need him to near the 50 point mark this year.
Cole should help the offense a bit but this is still a team that might have trouble scoring consistently. P.K. Subban could take the next step to becoming an elite offensive defenseman this season, and with Andrei Markov returning the Canadiens have a capable defense in front of Price. If the offense improves and the Canadiens are able make the playoffs they should be able to make some noise.