Expectations were high for the Montreal Canadiens going into last season.
In the first month of the 2015-16 season, it seemed like the high expectations were justified, as the Canadiens jumped out to a 9-0-0 start.
They continued their strong play through the month of November.
Price was initially supposed to be out for 6-to-8 weeks, but he never ended up returning. Without him, the Canadiens just weren’t the same team.
“It’s been hard mentally,” Price said last April, per NHL.com. “This has been the most trying year of my career. I feel more tired now than I do when I play hockey,” Price said. “Watching, I don’t know how fans do it to be honest. It’s hard to sit and watch and not be able to do anything about it. It’s the hardest part about this process.
“I think I’ve learned a lot of things in the aspect of preparing myself for a long season. I’ve changed a few things like my diet plans and my preparation for practices. As you get older (Price turns 29 on Aug. 16), you have to do more things like that. And I think I can carry that into next year and it will be beneficial.”
Now, it sounds like Price is back to full health and that can only be a good thing for Montreal. With Price, it’ll be interesting to see if Montreal can find their winning ways.
How high do you expect the Canadiens to finish in the Eastern Conference standings? How do they stack up against the Panthers, Lightning, Red Wings, Bruins, Senators, Sabres and Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division?
Time to vote!
After a miserable 2015-16 season, the Canadiens needed fixing. This offseason, it became clear that Montreal wanted to be bigger, tougher and meaner.
It’s an interesting time to take that approach, especially when the NHL seems to be moving in a different direction.
The Pittsburgh Penguins used speed and skill to their advantage during their 2016 Stanley Cup journey and we should expect to see more teams try to emulate that this season.
But GM Marc Bergevin clearly isn’t interested in following the latest hockey trends.
“Two Stanley Cups in five years,” Bergevin said of Shaw, per NHL.com. “I like guys who don’t like to lose. Everybody likes to win, everybody’s happy when you win. I want guys, when you lose, it gets them inside. It hurts. And then you go back to work the next day.
“Andrew Shaw has it. I was in Chicago long enough to know they don’t take losing with a grain of salt. I want guys who don’t like to lose.”
Again, Subban is no push-over, but he isn’t as nasty as Shea Weber.
“He’s the toughest defenseman to play against in the NHL and I’m glad I don’t have to do any net-front battles with him again … maybe in practice,” Shaw said earlier this month, per the Montreal Gazette. “But I think it’s going to be huge for the team. He’s a good leader guy, a good team guy. He’s got that experience, too. He’s got that shot from the point that will help both on the power play and even strength as well. He’s just that big, strong man in front of the net that’s going to help out defensively as well.”
Clearly, the Canadiens feel that having Carey Price back and playing a physical brand of hockey will allow them to be competitive in the Eastern Conference.
Time will tell if they chose the right approach.
Being a head coach in a hockey market like Montreal isn’t easy when times are good, so imagine how hard it can get when the team finishes near the bottom of the standings.
In his second stint as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Michel Therrien has had success. From 2011-12 to 2014-15, Therrien helped guide the Canadiens to a 125-64-23 record. But the “honeymoon” came to a crashing halt this season.
With Price and Gallagher on the shelf, the Canadiens went through a miserable stretch in December. From Dec. 3 through Dec. 26, the Canadiens played 10 games and won just one those contests. Things didn’t get much better from there.
Without the defending Hart Trophy winner at their disposal, it’s normal that the Canadiens would dip a little bit, but the lack of solutions from the coaching staff was concerning.
The Canadiens also added Kirk Muller as an associate coach, but the rest of the coaching staff remained intact.
“Given what we went through in the last six months, to panic and change everything, I’m not ready to do that,” Bergevin said in April, per CBC.ca. “I’ll look at every aspect of the organization to see where we can improve, but to turn everything upside down? No.
“Last year we had 110 points. I’m not ready to throw people out the door based on what happened this year. Nobody is walking away with a clean slate, but we have to break down what happened. Michel learned a lot. We all learned. We’re not happy. It’s my job to address this team moving forward, but Michel will be behind the bench on opening night.”
With plenty of off-season change and the return of Carey Price, there are no more excuses for Therrien. As loyal as GM Marc Bergevin has been to his head coach during this rough patch, don’t be surprised if a slow start costs Therrien his job.
Therrien has already been fired twice before (Montreal and Pittsburgh), so this could be his last head coaching gig in the NHL.
The pressure is definitely on.
This post is part of Montreal Canadiens day at PHT…
Heading into the off-season, it was clear that the Canadiens needed to address their lack of scoring.
Depending on how things shape up in training camp, there could still be an opening at left wing on the team’s second line.
Sven Andrighetto, who spent parts of the last two seasons with Montreal, might be ready to make the leap and become a regular offensive contributor.
“My personal goal is to be on the roster,” Andrighetto said earlier this month. “I showed last year, I played 44 games and I want to be on the team full-time this year.”
The 23-year-old scored seven goals and 17 points during his stint with the big club last season.
Andrighetto’s greatest asset is his speed, which makes him a good fit for today’s NHL.
After his entry-level contract expired this summer, the Canadiens gave Andrighetto a one-year contract for this season. He’ll need to show them that he’s capable of being an everyday NHLer or he may need to find work elsewhere.
“I played with Andrighetto while Gallagher was hurt and he’s really shown flashes of greatness,” said captain Max Pacioretty. “He’s got tremendous skill. What it comes down to with a player like that is doing it game-in and game-out. We know the skill is there.”
It might be now or never for Andrighetto.