The off-season is not over, but by the time late July, early August hits, most of the activities have been done and over with. This year, at the time of writing this, you still have two prominent UFAs who have yet to sign contracts in Nazem Kadri and John Klingberg. One would think that the number of potential destinations have been narrowed down drastically by now and the Canadiens are very unlikely to be in the running.
For Montreal, they would clearly want to unload a bit more cap space in order to sign newly acquired RFA Kirby Dach. Then there are the rumours surrounding Pierre-Luc Dubois that simply won’t go away and in my five decades experience in hockey, there is simply too much smoke for there not to be a fire. Whether it happens or not, or when that could be, remains to be seen.
Too many “ifs”
Looking at the current roster on the Canadiens’ website makes you realize that this team is not very good. Perhaps I’m a little too harsh on them. Let’s just say that a lot of things would have to go right for them to compete in a much improved Atlantic Division. In other words, there are a lot of “ifs” in that line-up.
The Canadiens can have a better season if:
- Josh Anderson stays healthy and can manage 25-30 goals
- Joel Armia has a bounce back season
- Paul Byron is back at 100%
- Cole Caufield is the player he was from February onwards
- Kirby Dach can find another gear under Martin St-Louis
- Evgenii Dadonov can help provide secondary scoring
- Jonathan Drouin stays healthy and rediscovers his game under St-Louis
- Christian Dvorak, like Caufield, plays like he did in the second half last year
- Jake Evans avoid concussions and wins more faceoffs than he loses
- Brendan Gallagher returns to form
- Mike Hoffman can find more consistency and is a serious threat on the power play
- Rem Pitlick continues to surprise
- Juraj Slafkovsky can live up to expectations of a first overall pick
- Nick Suzuki continues to develop and builds on his ironman streak
- Justin Barron takes a big step forward and can play top-4 duties against higher competition
- Joel Edmundson’s back holds up the grind of an 82-games schedule
- Kaiden Guhle and/or Jordan Harris can provide some solid hockey and progress as anticipated
- Mike Matheson can make us forget Jeff Petry and compensate for Alexander Romanov being gone
- David Savard can be counted on for the top-4 on the right side
- Chris Wideman can step up his game from last season
- Jake Allen can stay healthy
- Carey Price returns in good form to play 45-50 solid games this season
Then, there are teams accomplishments. They can have some success if:
- The coaching staff figures out the special teams, power play and penalty kill
- The team can come up with a system to cover the weaknesses defensively
As we can see, a lot of things have to go right. In fact, realistically, too many things have to line-up perfectly to see this team be able to compete. Oh they will have some fun games, some tight games, but one should not rely on so many “ifs” to remain optimistic.
The only way that this management group can help make the Canadiens more competitive is by adding some sure value. An experienced top-4 defenseman would go a long way in allowing the team’s youngsters develop better. My personal preferences would be through trade for Tyson Barrie in Edmonton, or signing UFA Anton Stralman for a couple of seasons. Adding Pierre-Luc Dubois would now instead of later would make a lot of sense as well.