Montreal Canadiens

It’s Montreal Canadiens day on PHT

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Welcome to the start of our offseason initiative — 30 teams in 30 days.

From now until Aug. 14 we’ll be dedicating each day to a new team by recapping the offseason and looking ahead to 2012-13.

There’ll also be a series of posts looking at key stories, player profiles and burning questions regarding each squad.

Today, we begin with one of the most storied franchises in hockey history, the Montreal Canadiens.

Les Habitants are coming off a disappointing campaign that saw them finish with 78 points — their lowest total since the lockout — and a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Following the season, sweeping changes were made. Marc Bergevin became the 17th GM in club history and he proceeded to overhaul both the coaching staff — most notably by hiring head coach Michel Therrien — and the front office.

Bergevin also added toughness to the lineup with free agent acquisitions Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust, and extended the contract of starting goalie Carey Price.

So, what does the future have in store for the Canadiens? Stick around PHT today to find out.

Montreal Canadiens are Day 2’s unofficial draft winners

Sebastian Collberg

Day 2 of the NHL Draft was somewhat lacking in drama, but what it did have was the Montreal Canadiens doing well enough to wow prospect watchers.

The Habs cleaned up getting the No. 3 overall European skater, forward Sebastian Collberg with their second-round pick, 33rd overall, and following it up by choosing rugged defenseman Dalton Thrower later in the round at 51. We highlighted both of those players in our draft preview and could be considered steals in the second.

In the third round, Montreal selected forward Tim Bozon (No. 42 North American skater), son of former St. Louis Blues forward Philippe Bozon. The Habs then followed that up with forwards Brady Vail (No. 38 North American skater) in the fourth round, Charles Hudon (No. 95 North American skater) in the fifth, and Erik Nystrom (85th European skater) in the sixth.

For GM Marc Bergevin and Montreal’s Director Of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins, it could turn out to be a draft that helps turn around an organization that was lacking in prospects. By aiming to take the best player available each time they picked, Montreal has hope once again. Now they’ll just have to hope these kids can live up to their billing.

Are the Montreal Canadiens as bad off as they seem?

Jacques Martin

It’s no surprise that the Canadiens fired GM Pierre Gauthier. He made a number of controversial decisions and the end result was simply not satisfying. When you look at the Montreal Canadiens right now, you see a team that’s grossly overpaying several players and in the Eastern Conference basement. The next general manager will have a very difficult job because the 2012-13 squad already has over $44 million in cap space tied to 13 players and that’s not including Carey Price or PK Subban, who will both be restricted free agents this summer.

Still, as former Canadiens coach Jacques Martin recently pointed out, this team isn’t exactly devoid of talent. There’s a good young core of players that includes Subban, Price, and David Desharnais. They also have a couple of forwards whose roles could increase in the coming years, including Louis Leblanc and Lars Eller. Throw in a healthy Andrei Markov and, according to Martin, this franchise might be better off than you think.

“The team has to add pieces,” Martin said. “But the key elements are in place.”

It might be more complicated than simply adding pieces, given how bad their cap situation is. Still, it is true that the foundation for a competitive team is already there.

Martin, by the way, is interested in returning to the Canadiens as their general manager. However, it seems unlikely that Martin will go from being fired as the head coach to being selected as the same organization’s general manager in less than a year.

The Montreal Canadiens have a new approach to fighting

Staubitz Fight

Interesting piece from the Globe and Mail on what Brad Staubitz represents for the Montreal Canadiens.

Staubitz, 27, was claimed off waivers from Minnesota at the trade deadline. Prior to joining the Habs, Staubitz had eight goals, 10 assists and 432 penalty minutes in 196 career games — and upon donning the bleu, blanc et rouge, he racked up 17 more PIM in his first game against Tampa Bay.

In case you were wondering, those penalties weren’t for hooking and/or interference. Staubitz likes to chuck knuckles — he’s fought 45 times since making his NHL debut in 2008-09 — and his Habs debut featured him defending teammate Alexei Emelin (who was jumped by Tampa’s Ryan Malone) and a spirited tilt with Lightning tough guy Pierre-Cedric Labrie.

“That’s a big part of my game,” Staubitz said. “I’m going to stick up for my teammates.”

The Staubitz acquisition represents a change in Montreal’s approach to on-ice retribution. The team hasn’t employed a legitimate enforcer since Georges Laraque was released midway through his three-year, $4.5 million deal — Travis Moen has been the de facto fighter ever since, but he’s a middleweight at best.

Head coach Randy Cunneyworth sees the value in retaining a heavyweight.

“Nobody will admit it openly, but I think I can admit it makes a team more cohesive when you’ve got that element,” he explained. “Players can back up certain actions on the ice. The other team knows, players of that nature can even out things or just not allow things of that nature to go on.

“It makes everybody a little bit more physical, a little bit braver to some extent. Nobody’s going to admit that personally, but I think I’m allowed to, and that’s the element we’re trying to create, but it’s more about a team toughness.”

GM Pierre Gauthier wouldn’t go as far as Cunneyworth (calling it “an adjustment” rather than a philosophy change) but several Habs players were on board with the increase in team toughness.

“I love it, I think [Staubitz is] a great acquisition,” said RW Ryan White. “He does his job well.”

Video: Montreal Canadiens pay tribute to Gary Carter

Gary Carter

Prior to the game between Montreal and New Jersey, the Canadiens took some time to honor the memory of Gary Carter, who passed away at the age of 57 on Thursday.

Gary Carter was taken by the Montreal Expos in the third round of the 1972 amateur draft. He went on to play in parts of 11 seasons with the Expos and represented them in the All-Star Game seven times. In 1985 he joined the New York Mets, where he participated in another four All-Star Games and earned a World Series ring in 1986. Carter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

The Canadiens had Carter’s No. 8 on the back of their jerseys as they participated in their pre-game warmup. Those jerseys will be auctioned off to help the Gary Carter Foundation.