Montreal Canadiens 2008 Offseason Report
Montreal broke the 100 point mark last season for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup back in 1993. Everything was looking good at the end of the season as they finished first in the Eastern Conference and had the third best record in the league, but all for nothing. After a disappointing early exit out of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round, the Canadiens will go into next season with many more expectations.
The coming up 2008-2009 season will be the 100 th anniversary of the franchise and the owners, staff, players and fans want it to special by doing one thing. No, it is not the cool addition that Montreal Canadiens legends (Maurice Richard, Guy LaFleur, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden to name a very short list) will all be playable in the new NHL09 video game; but winning the Stanley Cup during the historical year.
One the keys to last season’s success was the rejuvenation of Alexei Kovalev. Finally he stepped up and played to his potential by scoring 84 points including leading Montreal to the leagues best power play (nearly 25%) with his 17 PP goals. The Habs had seven players with over 50 points while finishing with a single goal less than Ottawa, as the leagues top scoring team. On top of Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec had a break out year while the Kostitsyn brothers both proved that they are ready for the NHL.
Adding to the offense, Montreal added Alex Tanguay from the Calgary Flames in a draft day trade. He should fit perfectly as a second line winger and allow the other stars to rest during the man advantage. The organization has been very interested and even offered a contract to free agent Mats Sundin. Though Sundin is still undecided who he will sign with, Montreal is apparently a serious possibility.
To help players feel protected, the Habs also signed Quebec born Georges Laraque. This small team all of a sudden got much bigger and tougher and the offensive will only improve with their new security guard.
With the offensive producing, the defense provided solid efforts in their own way. Andrei Markov and Mark Streit combined for 120 points while Mike Komisarek was a beast on the blue line on a physical level. With Streit leaving for a well deserved raise with the Islanders, there a large gap to be filled as his replacement.
Jack Adams Nominee, Coach Carbonneau has a bundle of young defensemen in the system to take a chance on to take Streit's position. He can also throw proven veterans Roman Hamrlik or Mathieu Dandenault if needed to hammer some slappers in.
There was a little goalie controversy until the now 22 year old Carey Price’s unbelievable play completely took over for Cristobal Huet and Jaroslav Halak. With the departure of Huet to the Capitals at the trade deadline it was evident who the franchise had chosen to be their future. For good measure, the team signed Marc Denis to the back role sending Halak down as the third stringer.
Thinking that Montreal will not have a repeat season in 08-09 is a big mistake.
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Notable top players staying for the Montreal Canadiens:
Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, Sergei Kostitsyn, Andrei Kostitsyn, Steve Begin, Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek, Josh Gorges, Roman Hamrlik, Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens - Players added via free agency & trades:
Alex Tanquay, Georges Laraque, Marc Denis
Montreal Canadiens - Players lost to free agency & trades:
Mark Streit, Micheal Ryder, Mikhail Grabovski
What Montreal has:
Well rounded offense. Montreal does have Kovalev and Koivu as their primary scorers but after them, there are at least seven very talented secondary threats.
A demanding coach. Coach Carbonneau never lets his players off the hook. His drive for success only allowed the Habs to go on one three game losing streak last season. Sadly, it came in the playoffs.
Speed and grit. This team is fast. Very fast with an intense gritty style.
What Montreal needs:
A Carey Price repeat. The organization is now in the hands of a 22 year old. Montreal needs a repeat performance to have any hope to go as far as they did last season.
Two-way defenseman. Streit signing with the Islanders is a huge loss, especially when Streit stepped in for Sheldon Souray’s departure the year before.
The Cup. A special season needs to finish in a special way.
Expectations for the Canadiens next year:
There is no doubt that the Habs will be in the playoffs. Montreal should win the Northeast Division outing Ottawa and Boston for at least finishing as the Eastern Conference third seed. I had them in the finals last year and I was let down. With Price’s new found experience, he will lead his team to the Stanley Cup finals where they will lose to Detroit.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Director of Content
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